With the Launch of Yahoo! Direct Seán de Cuirtéis considers the impact of instant search results on advertisers Paid search and SEO activities.
Google have a habit of springing product launches and product innovations without much fanfare (Google Android 2.2 update in May of last year, Self Driving Cars in October) and the same happened with Google Instant back in September.
Touted by Google as ‘Search before you type’, the insight behind the engine’s revision is that people want to have the most likely search result displayed before they finish typing their full query. I’ve been using Google instant for the last couple of months and I’m a fan. It took me a bit of time to get used to the full search results appearing before I finished typing; almost like somebody interrupting before I've finished speaking. Rude. Although not as instant in my forgiveness as Google are with their results, I’ve not only accepted this impoliteness I now prefer the experience.
Using Google instant I have noticed typing less - (one worries that a lack of typing will lead to fat fingers). The main advantage of Google Instant, according to the company, is time saved. Google cite time savings of between 2 and 5 seconds per search inquiry which combined, works out to be 11 hours saved every second. Not only are they saving hours, days weeks, months, years and lifetimes…combine this with the launch of Yahoo! Direct and they very well might make a break in the Space—time continuum.
As mentioned above Yahoo! Direct has now launched and if indeed, imitation is the greatest form of flattery, Google should be blushing. I wouldn’t exactly call Yahoo! Direct an exact copy but certainly a variation on a theme.
In addition to quicker results and less typing one thing that Google Instant and Yahoo Direct have in common is censorship. Neither will display search results for certain words. Upon Launch Google decided to manage the user experience on some specific keywords and for example, if one types the word ‘ass’ (followed by a space) Google Instant becomes tongue tied and displays a blank results page. Donkey lovers beware, Google Instant does not appreciate asses of any kind in the query box. Yahoo! Direct on the other hand is flexible on donkey related keywords and seems to have less blocking even on somewhat more risqué terms. If you’re interested to see what Google deems unworthy of an instant response you can check out a Google user blacklist here but be warned, there are some rather choice keywords included in this list. There doesn’t seem to be a similar blacklist available for Yahoo at the moment.
Of course advertisers are interested in how this new search experience impacts their marketing. Having talked with some search experts their advice was as follows…
- Look at extending the length of keyword phrases and focus on long tail queries.
- Be careful when using CTR as a benchmark. Search engines credit an appearance in instant results as an impression and so with more impressions and the same number of clicks, CTR could drop.
Search Engine Optimisation
- With results appearing automatically against fewer, un-typed keywords it is as important as ever to focus on core, highly relevant search terms and their optimisation.
- SEO strategies should allow experimentation with page titles and snippets of keywords. The way that people are searching will change with the appearance of Instant results which will in turn impact on keywords that sites use. The ways users search will see a move from single keyword to phrase based strings of keywords.
Although the impact of Instant search on advertising results hasn’t been fully realised, it is safe to say that users search experience has changed (if only slightly) and a broader gradual shift is happening in search. These revisions benefit the user experience and maintain relevance. I’m a fan of instant and think well done Google on the innovation and congrats to Yahoo for copying. Having attended a Google conference in HK earlier this week I think we can also look forward to additional developments around personalization, voice and the mobile search experiences over the coming months.
Sean de Cuirteis