How Does Google Instant Search Impact AdWords?

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Google Instant Search
On September 8 Google announced Google Instant. It’s one of the most significant UI changes we’ve seen in a while. The concept behind this enhancement is efficiency. Google claims that Instant will shave 2-5 seconds per search, and save the collective search world 11 hours per second.

How does Google Instant work? Instead of entering a search query and hitting enter, you begin typing and Google “predicts” your most likely search query before you finish. The predictions (shown in light gray text) adapt as you type in more characters. You don’t have to hit Return to see results. And, as you enter more characters, the results, both organic and paid, change to reflect the predicted query.

Google Instant’s Impact On PPC

Google Instant does not change the way ads are served, or how the AdWords auction is conducted. The biggest potential impact for AdWords advertisers is the number of impressions we may see. Prior to Google Instant, an impression was counted if a user completed a search and your ad appeared on the page. With Google instant, impressions will be counted if:

  • searcher begins typing a query and clicks anywhere on the SERP.
  • searcher selects a query by hitting Return, clicking the “Search” button or selects one of the predictions.
  • searcher stops typing for three or more seconds.

Things to note:

  • Google Instant is available in the US. It will soon be available in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia.
  • Google Instant is available for modern browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.
  • Google Instant’s autocomplete will pass the search term referrer as the full predicted keyword, whether the searcher finishes typing it in or not.
  • Google Instant is “family safe,” meaning it won’t predict porn queries.
  • Google Instant is not yet available for mobile devices, but Google says it will be rolled out soon.
Anastasia HoldrenAnastasia Holdren is one of two Authorized AdWords Seminar Leaders for Google, Inc. She teaches advertisers how to use, understand and profit from the advertising platform.

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  • “Google instant is family safe” … not really

    “Can Google fix their lesbian problem?” via @rustybrick

    In my opinion, Google Instant is Google’s way of driving up PPC Ad revenue by pre-packaging queries so that more volume is driven to specific ad campaigns causing the bidding of keywords to go up. This also greatly reduces the 25% of searches that Google has never seen before. With both Google Personal Search, and Google Instant Search we’re going to get a very 1 dimensional perspective. One might question if it’s the same search engine it was before. While the Google algorithm has typically good suggestions eliminating the possibilities largely cuts down on innovation and exploration.

    With Bing just overtaking Yahoo! today (literally) I think we’re going to start to see a shift in the search market as many get frustrated. While Bing’s search quality certainly isn’t there yet Google seems to be making some big mistakes that businesses won’t soon forget.

  • That’s a great summary, thanks, Anastasia. And timely–I’ve been wondering what the pros are saying.

    I’ve seen one opinion that seems valid: pre-populating results are distracting from long tail keywords. The most popular links will become the ONLY noticeable choice, with no context. People who aren’t used to pursuing long tail searches are more likely just to hit “return” and be fed the top 1-3 results.

    I’m assuming that those links really are the most popular organic results, right? Or should we all be pushing to the head of the line, just to be considered.

    For a client like mine, the third keyword is crucial and that concerns me.

    And, just for fun, try typing in the author’s name “Disch,” as I did last night. The initial results–including image results–were NSFW, believe me.

    Thanks again, I’ll be looking forward to your insights to come…


  • I’d like to see a response to Adam H’s comments.

    What do you think Raven folks?

  • Great Post!!! Google Instant will not change the way ads are served. However, it does give a new meaning to “impression” in online marketing business.

  • What do you guys think about the impact on long tail keyphrases? Will searchers get fatigued by new results every time they add a word to their query that they’ll abandon the search or look for a quick way out? My gut tells me that the number of impressions on longer keyphrases (4 words and up) will decrease with Instant. But only time will tell 🙂