Will Google Instant Make It Impossible to Game Search Traffic?

Perhaps Arianna Huffington and co. should be concerned

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The dark art of search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on getting a website to appear prominently in search results. And since a number of websites live or die based on how much Web traffic search engines send them, Google's new update to search, Google Instant, has some worried. Should they be? Yes, according to Steve Rubel, a Forbes columnist and Internet marketing guru. He says the introduction of Google Instant, which instantly provides search results as you type, is a game changer:

Here's what this means: no two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results. That's what made search engine optimization work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors. Think about it. When you push a door and it doesn't open quickly, you push harder. When you try to drive a car up a hill and it doesn't go as fast as you would like, you step on the gas. Feedback changes your behavior. Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible. Real-time feedback will change and personalize people's search behaviors.

Is Rubel right? His blog post really got netizens talking:

  • Hold on There, writes Larry Dignan at ZDNet: "Is Google Instant really the end of SEO? It seems too premature to make any quick judgments about Google Instant... I suspect this will be another one of those love-it-or-hate-it types of tools."

  • SEO Is Actually More Important Now, writes Kelvin Newman at SiteVisibility: "For natural search, SEO becomes even more important, as the suggested searches push down the paid and natural results. Suddenly, if you're outside of the top three you're unlikely to ever appear above the fold; bad news for people in fourth place." Alan Patrick at BroadStuff agrees: "I would have thought more people will hit the same phrase on the toggle thus reducing variability on what people see, and SEO will be key to get your website onto that first Googlepage, which will now be more samey so the ante will be upped. As always, on the Internet 'the death of' is usually somewhat exaggerated."
  • SEO Strategy Will Change in Some Important Ways, writes Kelvin Newman: "For instance, if you start searching for "eco driving", when you've typed "eco dri" the Fiat Eco Drive page comes up (as well as a lot of watches). If you carry on to type "eco driving", Fiat is nowhere. Maybe Fiat will pick up lots more traffic based in this interim state of the results, and maybe SEOs will start optimising for the first few characters of common search queries."
  • It's a Minimal Change to SEO, assures Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of Search Products and User Experience: "With Google Instant, search becomes easier but it's still search, you still type your...queries, we still rank the results. Overall, what happens here is the ranking remains stable, so for people who have optimized their site to achieve a certain outcome, that's still the outcome when users do those queries. So we really think that it will be a smaller change for the SEO community."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.