Will Google Instant Change the Complexion of Search?

9thSep. × ’10

Google’s introduction yesterday of Google Instant – suggesting search terms as you type – touts a time savings of 2 – 5 seconds deducted from type time for every search as a primary benefit.  But this new feature has a disruptive potential, that is, to significantly change the nature of the searches we do.

Most search terms are short and generic, using one or two words, such as ‘insurance’.   Short tail search terms tend to comprise 50% of search engine website traffic, but a disproportionately smaller share of  conversions.  The other 50% of search traffic are due to long tail search terms, consisting of phrases three, four, five word, or more in length.  Now, watch what happens when I try to search ‘car insurance’ with Google Instant:

Before I have even finished typing the word ‘insurance’ I am presented with a number of suggested searches.  Since I’m in Florida, I might choose the third suggestion; or since I am looking to replace my auto insurance policy, maybe I’ll jump to option four.  The point is, the 50% of searchers who are typing the quick and dirty one word searches are now bound to opt, sometimes, for the more precise longer tail terms.*

It has always been important for insurance agencies to have many different web pages, each optimized for different topics (keywords).  Blogs are great for this, but so are individual web pages for each of your insurance companies (take a look at suggested query four).  Now, with Google Instant, long tail search may become an even bigger factor.

*The reverse could also happen – people setting out to type very specific, long tail search terms, will be presented with shorter, more generic search terms before they are done typing – so some formerly long tail searches could be turned into short tail terms.  It seems to me this will happen less often, however, as someone with a precise search query in mind is less likely to jump to a suggested term before they are done typing.

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