Last week, Google rolled out Google Instant, a new search feature that predicts users’ queries as they type and shows and updates results as they continue typing. According to Google, its instant search provides faster searching, smarter predictions, and instant results for its search engine users. Prior to instant search, Google users had to type in a full search term and click the search button to view search results.

In the aftermath of this announcement, the internet was abuzz with talk of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – the process of improving the visibility of a website or webpage in organic search results – being dead as a result. Many, like Steve Rubel, expressed this belief by arguing that “optimizing will virtually be impossible” because Google users will now be able to tweak their searches in real-time and will no longer see the same search engine results pages (SERPs) for a query.

How SEO will change

Pre-Google Instant, users would enter in search queries and browse through the SERPs until they found what they were looking for. Now, most users will likely tweak their query a number of times before they see what they’re looking for in the instant search results. This means that sites listed at the bottom of SERPs will likely not be seen. However, in contrast to Rubel’s bold statement that SEO is dead, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, said Google Instant will change, not kill, SEO. Although Cutts acknowledged that instant search will drastically impact the way people search, in his blog post last Wednesday he said, “…SEO is in many ways about change. The best SEOs recognize, adapt, and even flourish when changes happen.”

How SEM will change

Google’s instant search will also change Search Engine Marketing (SEM), the process of improving the visibility of a website or webpage in SERPs through SEO and paid methods. Most notably, instant search will impact Google Adwords ad impression. Before, an ad impression was measured by an ad being displayed on a SERP after a user ran a query. Now, an impression is counted if the user begins typing a query and clicks anywhere on the SERP, hits the search button, or stops typing for more than three seconds. 

How to adapt to the changes in SEO

  • Look at the different search terms that are predicted for the keyword being typed.
  • Use less competitive keywords that are predicted for the more competitive keywords being typed in.


So, if you are a website owner, fear not about losing the ability to use SEO and SEM to improve your website’s visibility in unpaid and paid search results. Seek the services of experienced and knowledgeable practitioners like Atomic Design & Consulting. SEO is still alive; the rules of the game have just changed.

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