Google Instant: Implications for E-Commerce Search

Mike BatesPublished: Updated:

Last week Google rolled out their new “Google Instant” search platform to web users in the US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Russia. The launch represents another step in Google’s efforts to provide a more dynamic, predictive search environment. Google Instant updates, in real-time, the search results displayed on the page with each additional typed character entered by the user. Instead of requiring the user to click “Search” or press “Enter” after typing their full phrase or choosing from the list of popular search terms, the results are instantly displayed on the page below and update dynamically with each additional character typed. Google instant also incorporates local information, which will mean some variation in the real-time results displayed depending on the location of the search user.

 

The change promises to make a typical web search via google much less tedious to the user, and more of an exploratory endeavor. As Tom Krazit describes in his review for CNET;
“Instead of search as an outcome, Google is trying to get people to think of search as a process in which you constantly refine your query without actually ‘searching,’ or hitting the button to produce a concrete result.”
Google has been quick to point out via its Webmaster’s Blog that Google Instant has not altered the search ranking process, and could have the effect of increasing the overall number of search impressions because of the relative ease of obtaining a search result in the new platform.

User Distraction and other Potential Impacts

Google Instant may have the impact of distracting potential customers who would otherwise be entering a full search query. As the search user begins typing an extensive phrase, they will be displayed a host of search results during the process which are likely to draw their attention away before ever completing the full query. The more extensive the originally intended phrase, the more of a potential impact this distraction factor may have for the site whose visibility is geared for that exact phrase. (Never mind the fact that I already have way too many tabs open!)

 

This will present a new challenge for small sites or those running their own search optimization, because click-through and impression rates are likely to favor the top few positions in the paid and organic search results. It is also likely to benefit sites which have a lock on more generic terms. (This is due to the fact that page 2 seems infinitely farther away when you are in mid-search scrolling down the page to look at results.)

 

Google Instant may also generate a new wave of competitive efforts to optimize for search results based on single letters or other otherwise nonsensical phrases, purely because of their appearance sooner in any given search attempt. The introduction of this “time component” to what has previously been primarily a competition over vertical ranking, may become a big factor for optimization experts. (Think optimizing for ‘boo’ — is that user looking for a Halloween costume** or a book on Amazon?) These earlier results, though less optimized for the originally intended search phrase, could draw customers away from e-commerce sites whose competitors optimize more effectively for the time factor introduced by Google Instant.

 

The bottom line at this point is that enterprise e-commerce professionals would be wise to keep a close eye on their sites’ search performance and analytics in coming weeks. Be ready to identify and take advantage of opportunities found through testing Google’s auto-complete suggestions, and begin optimizing for more general phrases.

 

Of course, once you get potential customers to your site, you still have to convert them! Contact HotWax Media today to learn more about how we can help you build an enterprise e-commerce site that is feature rich on the front and back ends, and makes it simple and enjoyable for site visitors to make a purchase.

 

** If you are looking for a Halloween costume, skip Google Instant, visit the online leaders at www.anytimecostumes.com, and use coupon code HOTWAX for a 15% discount!

Mike Bates About Mike Bates
Mike Bates founded HotWax Systems in 1997 and is our chief executive. His career in web application sales, marketing, design and development spans two decades, and he is a long time open source software advocate. He has led high-profile web software projects for numerous national and global brands and has taught web development courses at the graduate level. Mike joins other HotWax employees and advisers in periodically posting thoughts here related to HotWax Commerce, OFBiz, digital commerce, and other topics.

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