Today Google launched a new feature to its search interface – Google Instant – displaying search results as you type. The controversy on whether this feature has killed or will kill SEO has already started, as one would expect.
Google’s claim for this enhancement is that it radically improves the speed of search whilst not losing the relevance of the results – see their post on the official Google blog here. While their claim on speed is undeniable, I do disagree on the relevance factor, for Google has omitted one very important aspect of this search “enhancement” – its business purpose.
While I was impressed by the speed and the actual display of technology behind the feature, I immediately noticed that it completely changed my search behaviour and, more relevantly, the way my eyes cast the screen and visualise the displayed results. The majority of us don’t touch-type, and as you enter your search query your eyes are immediately drawn to the results present at the top of the page. You now probably start to get my point. These top-of-the-page results are all Sponsored links, i.e. paid advertising. From this perspective, nothing has changed, Google sponsored links were always displayed at the top of the page however I believe that the user’s propensity to click on them will exponentially increase with the introduction of Google Instant. This is reinforced by the fact that screens are getting smaller – not bigger as one would think – as laptop ownership now exceeds desktop. A smaller screen will immediately display the results that are right at the top: the mighty Sponsored links. And to further cement my argument, it is certainly not serendipitously that Google hinted coming improvements to its Google Adwords interface for advertisers. Below is a screenshot of the results displayed on 13″ laptop screen. Note the prevalence of sponsored links over “natural” results.
It’s important to remember that Google is not a public service. While I think that, given the monopoly it has acquired over search and search marketing, Google should be regulated as such, it remains a public company which purpose is to raise its market value, which it does through blatantly abusing its monopoly on worldwide search. My advice? Use Bing instead, it has better functionalities.