Oh dear. The Net is alive with stories about SEO dying just because Google has introduced Instant, which many of us have been playing with over the last few days as the beta became available to more and more people. (Un)Luckily I am on the road and suffering a slightly abnormal disconnectedness so I haven’t had full play time with Instant yet but I did get some time with it over the weekend so …. allow me.
For years (in my case, 15), the term “SEO” has been a bit of an issue anyway. Anyone offering SEO needs more than that string to its bow, and SEO was never the be all and end all of Internet marketing. The growth of social media has reinforced the importance of thinking beyond the search engines; hopefully, more people *get it* now.
But, today, we have had a shedload of people who don’t “get” search engine marketing looking at Google Instant and suddenly declaring SEO dead. Pah. Not only has it put the shivers up spines of SMEs etc, it also seems to have scared those who claim to be SEO experts. Personally, if it wiped out 3/4 of those who spend all their time clogging up the organic results with their spurious claims about SEO, I will be happy, but what it is doing is once again giving our industry bad press and negative PR, needlessly.
What is Google Instant? Well, allow me to be a total cynic but right now it’s an opportunity for people to spend hours coming up with alternatives to googlewhacking or to declare a specific niche section of industry (SEO) dead. Oh, and for Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) to suddenly be hailed as the new Steve Jobs, which for the Google Groupies will undoubtedly cause celebrations all round.
However, there are some slightly harsher realities that bear looking at with Google Instant. Firstly, if you had become used to Google’s seemingly intuitive guesswork / drop down menu, offering suggestions for what you might be looking for – we’ll go into the failings of that in a moment – your options have now been reduced from 10, often obscure and irrelevant but 10 nonetheless), to 4.
In addition, bearing in mind the world and his lobster are operating more and more on mobile, smart phones, iPads etc, the options given on Instant eat up most of the above the fold real estate, whilst working on a seemingly LESS RELEVANT algorithm for searchers. I say this advisedly, but I don’t want second guessing Instant to give me AJAX created results, which have to date caused Google problems, and deprive me of the actual page I am looking for.
Further, and I’m very glad you can turn this instant feature off in search settings, I am one of the many who type in AT LEAST 4-5 keywords to begin my search, and then refine, frequently adding other words. The last thing I need as I type in anywhere up to 10 keywords in my search terms is that constant flickering of possible websites I might be interested in (No, no and no or I’d have typed in just 2 words!), or distracted by, filling my screen. I hate to say it, but I’m very glad I know how to turn it off. However, this is like an opt-in/opt-out/replacement browser/early Facebook privacy settings issue – many people will have this on by default and not have a clue how to stop it.
I also need to cover a usability issue. Three days ago, I was sitting next to someone who has been online for about 7 or 8 years. I have never had qualms about their proficiency online UNTIL I watched them using a browser.
“Why are you typing thedomain.co.uk into Google? You know the domain, put it in the location bar..”
“Where’s that?” (Yep, I stared bemused, askance, discombobulated etc at them)
“Are you serio….? Oh, you are. OK, see where it says Google.co.uk up there? Type the domainyouwanttovisit.co.uk up there”
“Really? I never knew that”
Google know damned well that the one of top search terms in the search engines for well over 10 years right now is google.com. What this means is that people do not know what the location bar is nor how it works. We can make other assumptions about user behaviour. For instance, how long has it taken for Internet Explorer to be replaced on computers where it came ready bundled? Many people think that is their only option for getting online, particularly when they are NetNewbies, until they learn that “OOOOh, I have choices and can change it”.
The truth is that Google, Facebook etc are playing on the ignorance of users constantly. I am looking at Google Instant, hoping that PPC ads are not shown on a CPM impression basis or that would be a crass corporate capitalistic approach that Bing would rub their hands about as it is now changeover time for Yahoo etc folk.