Google rolled out a new feature for their online search pages. It is called Google Instant and it predicts what you are looking for while you type in your search phrase.
Google made the announcement on their blog, but also provided a video that demonstrates the new feature and an About Google Instant page that answers a lot of questions.
Google claims that the new Instant feature can save 2 to 5 seconds on every search. They refer to the new technology as “search-before-you-type.” While it does not actually search for web pages, it does stream a list of related search phrases just under a Google search box and does a pretty good job of suggesting the search phrases you may be considering. If you start to type a phrase and you see the actual phrase you intend to type–or a more relevant phrase–you can select that phrase and save the typing time.
Once a phrase has been entered or selected, the actual search results related to the search phrase are not altered, but they are still subject to personalized search modifications based upon a user’s past searching history.
One possible negative impact that we see with Google Instant is how it affects long tail searches, which are phrases that are not used in searches very often, but often do provide significant traffic for sites in a competitive market. Google Instant will likely suggest only the most common search phrases, which means that people who use the feature are less likely to search using long tail phrases. This can also impact AdWords advertising costs and keyword selections, because it may drive more people to the highly competitive and more expensive keywords.
Another negative is that Google Instant clearly favors well-known major brands. When you type in an A, Amazon and AOL appear. With a B, it’s Bank of America, Best Buy and Bing. That could put your site at a disadvantage if it is not a major brand or a highly searched-for brand in your area.
Google Instant does appear to accommodate localized searches in the suggestions. This is important for businesses that provide local services. We began a search for “air conditioner repair.” Upon entering the word “air”, Google suggests phrases such as “airline tickets, airlines, airtran.” As soon as we typed in “air cond”, it correctly identified the search phrases related to our intended search, including one localized search phrase that included the word “Phoenix.” Once the final phrase was entered, several localized search phrases were suggested, including the localized words Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale. This could actually be a valuable tool to use for targeting localized search phrases that are used most often in searches.
All in all, the new feature does appear to be interesting. Try it out and see if you like it. If you do not, and wish to turn off the feature, you can do this in your Google Preferences. Instructions can be found in the About Google Instant link that we provided at the top of this review.