Car crash on SEO Boulevard? Assessing the impact of Google Instant

Much wailing and wringing of hands amongst the SEO community accompanied the launch of Google Instant this month. Instant, according to Google, will take between 2-5 seconds off a typical web search by incrementally presenting users with updated search results as they type. SEO-types are worried that this will devalue their investment in search terms and reduce the effectiveness of this form of online advertising. So is this a ‘fast lane’ for searchers or a car crash on SEO Boulevard? Hmm. It would be hard to see Google shooting itself so comprehensively in the foot were this to be so. (Although the search giant has been known for a degree of foot mutilation in the past – Wave, Lively, Buzz privacy, etc etc) In reality, searchers are likely to see more, not fewer, ads as they surf the evolving search surface (try saying that fast after a drink). Google estimates that between 5-7 times as many results pages will be served for the typical search. So impressions will rise, click throughs may fall. How will this affect ad visibility to users – already, if we are to believe the eye tracking studies, pretty marginal? There’ll also be some instability in the search term environment, but this should settle down in the medium term.

What is interesting is how this will change online search behaviour in the longer term, as Google sets its sights on more and more effective anticipation of searchers’ goals and as Instant is made available on mobiles from the autumn. But don’t forget, this still has to be a sustainable revenue model.

See BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones’ report (viewable in UK only).