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Everything You Need to Know about Google Instant Search

If you’re an SEO marketer or simply interested in having your business rank on Google, it’s important to understand how Google Instant search works.

Google Instant, once known as Google autocomplete, is Google’s way of speeding up the user experience when typing queries into their search engine.

While Google Instant might make for faster searches, there’s also a wealth of opportunity when it comes to generating SEO-friendly content that can help businesses grow and rank on the search engine.

What Is Google Instant Search?

Google Instant was a feature implemented onto the search engine back in 2021. The aim of the feature was to speed up the user experience by offering search predictions based on the user’s location, global and local trending topics, and the user’s search history.

In short, it was an enhanced version of Google autocomplete, which was first launched on the search engine back in 2010. While Google autocomplete was once synonymous with generating bizarre and often downright offensive suggestions, Google Instant is markedly more intelligent. Google itself has put work into improving the feature, eliminating offensive search predictions.

Why did Google implement this feature?

Google’s key motivation for introducing this new feature was to increase the speed of a typical Google search, in doing so enhancing the user experience. By eliminating the manual work of clicking through to Google’s first page of search results, a typical search could take just 2-5 seconds, depending on the accuracy of the autocomplete suggestions.

How does Google Instant search work?

Google Instant worked by offering popular search results to users based on their location and search history. For example, a user in France typing the letter ‘A’ into Google might be suggested the French health insurance service Amelie, while a user in the US might be suggested ‘Amazon.’ Again, these suggestions would depend on the user’s own search history and current trending topics.

Google Instant vs. SEO

So, why is Google Instant important for online marketing and SEO? Put simply, Google Instant makes it difficult for SEO marketers to make use of long-tail keywords, or “low hanging fruit” keywords in their SEO campaigns. (Long-tail keywords refer to search queries that are 3-5 words long, and tend to be much less competitive than short keywords. As they’re less competitive, they’re easier to rank for.) 

When creating an SEO strategy for businesses, agencies often make use of long-tail keywords to help their client break onto the first few pages of Google, within their specific niche. With Google Instant redirecting users to generic keywords, this can become tricky. 

Despite being less competitive, long tail keywords are actually more user-friendly. By searching for specific niches (without being immediately redirected to a generic keyword), users were more likely to find content relevant to their search queries.

Google Instant vs. PPC

Another reason Google Instant remains controversial is its impact on PPC and PPI advertising (pay-per-click/pay per impression.) Typically, Google’s revenues per ad were calculated by the number of individual clicks or views on one particular advertisement. However, with users actively discouraged from using the search function, what did this mean for the future of PPI and PPC? 

In response to similar queries from advertisers, Google quickly amended the conditions of their PPC and PPI ads programme. Now, if Google suggests an ad when a user is typing out their search query without pausing, Google won’t consider it an impression. However, if a user stops and pauses while writing their search query (presumably to view the advertisement) Google considers it a valid impression.

Using Google Instant for SEO

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, many SEO experts use Google Instant as a free keyword research tool.

While nobody still truly understands Google’s predictive algorithm, the instant feature still allows users to gather information generated by Google, and in turn obtain key insight on popular long tail keywords related to their business niches. Here are just some of the ways Google Instant can be beneficial for SEO:

Authentic insight 

Given that Google’s suggestions are based on real data, SEO experts can study the suggestions generated by Google, and are able to see what users are searching for within their specific niche. While the algorithm isn’t 100% reliable, the data is useful in seeing where the search engine is redirecting its users. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

When you Google a popular question and click through to the first page of search results, you’ll most likely find a “People also ask” section at the top of the page. This feature gives you some insight into variations of the question you’ve asked Google, as well as related topics.

 When Google Instant was first rolled out, many predicted that impressions on misspelt or grammatically incorrect keywords would plummet. However, the ‘people also ask’ section seems to balance this out, as it often includes popular misspelt or grammatically incorrect phrases relating back to the original keyword or search query. You can make use of these questions by incorporating ‘FAQs’ into your on-site content, as this type of content is highly likely to rank on Google if answered correctly.

Topic research 

Anyone who knows SEO knows that Google loves cluster topics. If you want to rank highly for competitive content, it’s vital to create a high volume of relevant content on and around your chosen niche. The ‘around’ part is often the most difficult – how can you find hundreds of pages of on-site content about just one subject? 

This is where Google Instant comes in. With their drop-down suggestions and “people also ask” feature, marketers can get a rough idea of cluster topics to add to their on-site content. They can also get a lot of location-based content, with phrases such as “near me” “in London” and “open on Sunday” proving to be popular tag-on search queries in certain locations.

Google Instant: Understanding the limits

While Google Instant does offer valuable information on long tail keywords, having access to these search queries alone is not enough. SEO is a complicated business, and is becoming more competitive than ever as more businesses move away from PPC and switch to organic growth strategies. 

If you want to use keyword research to grow your business, you’ll also need the help of expert SEO consultancy services who can help you use the information that you gather in an efficient way.

 It’s also important to not forget that not all Google users like to be redirected to generic content. Google’s algorithm isn’t always reliable, and it’s estimated that only around 20-24% of users click an automated suggestion.

Is Google Instant Here to Stay?

Whether Google Instant is here to stay or not, it’s clear that organic growth is becoming the most popular way to grow new businesses online. 

For SEO strategists, it’s better to consider Google Instant a free keyword research tool, rather than consider every new search feature a setback. 

Like any technology, Google’s data isn’t always 100% reliable. And users aren’t always going to be swayed into searching for generic content – long form key words still create results. The best way to grow your business on Google is by creating the highest-quality content, understanding your business niche, and getting SEO experts on your side to do the hard work for you.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.