Google Instant Search Explanation & Case Study

Google Instant Search Case Study and Explanation

We have had  a tremendous amount of questions surrounding the topic of Google’s new instant search. Most of the questions  seem to relate to expectations that the business executive should have on the impact of traffic and conversions.

Now that we’ve actually had a week and a half to monitor some phrases that we personally rank for and check the impact of instant search on those keyword phrases, we figured it it would be best to share them with our customers and, of course, you.

I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other about instant search.  It’s almost like in some areas it will be a detriment and others a positive, so it’s almost a wash.  But read below, and I’ll explain why.

How It Used To Be

Before instant search, the default by Google was to offer suggestions in a drop-down fashion as the user would type their query into the search input box. However, no results would be displayed until the user pushed enter or click the search button.

A good example, which we are using in this case study, is the phrase “home value”. As you would type “home value,” you would indeed see suggestions drop down. They would not be that great of an influence, but may give you a few good ideas.

How Google Instant Search Changes Search As We Know It

Google automatically displays the results for the phrase "home values" when a user may be trying to search for "home value."

Now, you’ll notice that by the time you get to the letter “v” in the phrase “home value,” Google has already displayed the searches for the plural term, “home values.” so, “what’s the big deal?” You ask. The big deal, for us anyway, is that our website doesn’t rank on the first page for that  plural term. It does, however, rank for the singular term. So, if Google instant search is followed by the user 100% of the time, then we’d have just lost all of our organic traffic from Google for the term “home value.” In our case, this could literally mean hundreds of dollars every day in revenue.

Google instant search results automatically promoting Home Depot

In this "instant search," the user could be looking for a small business that sold home products and is then distracted by "Home Depot" all over the page along with maps, etc.

Let’s think about a small town hardware store named “Home Store.” Imagine yourself going to Google and searching for, “home store.” Once you type in the first “m,” you have Home Depot staring at you in the face along with a great shiny map. I believe, this small-town store may just lose some sales as a result of instant search.

I’m not stating an opinion one way or the other, only that it’s definitely something that needs to be thought about by the small business owner moving forward about the organic search (and paid search for that matter) marketing that is being done for an organization.

What Our Data Shows About Instant Search Surprised Me

My initial reaction when I saw that Google was automatically displaying the results for “home values,” as you were typing in the phrase “home value” was one of true despair. I assumed that having the results automatically appear for a different phrase would be so much of a distraction that people would automatically flock to them.

This is not what we found out in our data however. I go over this in great detail in the video above, but here is a synopsis.

  • Google instant search was launched on September 8, 2010.
  • We compared two different sets of data. Both  datasets were individuals searching Google for the phrase “home value” who landed on our page that ranks for that term.
  • In the national search results, we have consistently been ranked at number three during the entire time frame of our datasets.
  • We compared Wednesday, August 25, 2010 through Sunday, September 5, 2010 to Wednesday, September 8, 2010 through September 19, 2010. This gave us an accurate day by day comparison, because search volumes vary greatly during different days of the week.

The results?

Google Instant Search Case Study Chart

18.64% increase in search traffic from Google after instant search distracted users away from our tested phrase.

We found that even though users are defaulted to search results we do not appear in, we actually saw an increase in traffic from Google of 18.64%. To be honest, I can’t logically explain it.

One of the few things is happening. Either Google is showing different instant search results to different people, and the phrase “home value” is one of them or people are disabling Google instant search. The only other explanation would be that the results are simply being ignored. Maybe the average Google user, who doesn’t live in this stuff every day like we do, is almost seeing them as advertisements and doing what they want to do anyway.

We’ll see how this affects things in the future, but as for now… I’m not nearly as worried as I was 12 days ago.


Q&A With Internet Marketing Speaker Michael Temple


Over the last few weeks, we have been meeting several people on the internet marketing public speaking scene. Since nearly every internet marketing speaker has a slightly different approach to how they tackle the process of online promotions, we wanted to take the time and pick the brains of some of the experts we’ve met.

The first internet marketing speaker we had the chance to sit down with was Michael Temple. Below is the transcript of our awesome conversation.

Q: Why did you get into Internet marketing?
A: I had a bit of a rough trip through the dot com bubble back in the late 90s and early 2000. I worked for a dot com that had a very good product and great concept, one of the few that was proven successful in the long term. Unfortunately we didn’t market very well and we ended up going under from lack of capital as so many other dot com companies did during that time. When the company failed like so many others my stock options became worthless and I lost a lot of money. I vowed I would learn everything I could about Internet marketing and the next company or project I was involved in would not make the same mistakes. I believe I have kept that promise I made to myself so long ago and I believe my clients all benefit everyday from my hard won experience.

Q: What types of projects and work do you do now?
A: The aspect of Internet marketing I find so fascinating is how much effect it has on almost every industry and company. I have never found a company that couldn’t benefit from doing some type of marketing online. Because of that philosophy I have been very fortunate and been able to work with companies in a variety of industries. I help clients in B2B set up lead generation online systems, eCommerce for B2C firms, and a variety of other projects like copywriting and search engine optimization. I am also a passionate entrepreneur so I spend a lot of time working on my own projects and web sites. I now have several different web site projects that earn an income for me and I am constantly tweaking them to make them better. Finally, I travel the country working as an Internet marketing speaker and training companies and associations how to use Internet marketing to build up their businesses.

Q: What do you think makes you different as an Internet marketing consultant?
A: Two things, first, I am not afraid to talk about and learn from my failures. I doubt there is a marketing person alive who doesn’t have failures. Unfortunately too many people are afraid to talk about or acknowledge those failures, which is unfortunate because I almost believe you learn more from them than your successes. My dot com failure back in early 2000 was big learning experience for me and while I certainly didn’t have control of the entire company I did still learn from that failure. Second, I am an entrepreneur out doing my own projects every day. The strategies and ideas I provide to my consulting and speaking clients are ideas I have tried with my own money and time. I didn’t just read about them on web site or in a book. I have actually tried and continue to use the strategies that are most effective. In addition, I am an adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Toledo and have the opportunity to do a lot of research and writing in my role with the University, which my clients get the advantage of.

Q: What great insight can you share with your readers?
A: Being successful in Internet marketing is about marketing – not fancy technology. I think one of the critical mistakes made during the dot com era was that people focused too much on creating marvelous technological advances without asking the fundamental question of who will buy this and why? I still see it today. Too many web developers focus on creating fantastic web sites that nobody ever visits. The technology is wonderful, but it is like building a 3D Imax Theatre on a dirt road, nobody will ever find it. You have to answer the fundamental marketing questions before you decide which technology tools to use. Technology is a tool, nothing more. It is a means to an end, not the end in itself.

Q: Can you give our readers a good tip on how to improve their marketing prowess on the web?
A: Yes, focus on the concept of direct marketing. Direct marketing involves writing powerful copy and persuading someone to take action. It is measurable and causes the proverbial cash register to ring. Remember nothing happens in business until somebody buys something so focus on the one area of marketing that has consistently produced money making results for decades and that is direct marketing tools and strategies.

About Michael
Michael Temple is an Internet marketing consultant, speaker, and entrepreneur. In addition to his consulting practice Michael also is a professor of marketing for University of Toledo teaching Internet and direct marketing to the next generation of marketers. He is the owner of several different businesses both on and off the web and is passionate about helping his clients achieve measurable and effective marketing results. If you need a consultant or a speaker for your next event you can learn more by visiting his web site at


Attention Chief Executive Officer


Dear CEO:

I want to thank you for the opportunity to reach out to you today, I know that you are busy… I will try and keep this brief.

Your web presence is poor, non-existent, incognito, losing you money and quite honestly….sucks! It lacks the true meaning behind having a website and that is to increase your profits, yes that is correct….increase your profits! Now you are asking how do I know this?? Well, it is quite simple…..your potential buyers (prospects) cannot find you, which means you do not exist in their eyes, which means they will never have the opportunity to buy from you, which means you are losing money.  Feel free to continue to spend your hundreds of thousands of dollars on trade shows, trade journals, print advertising, TV commercials, Radio Spots, direct mail and the many other traditional forms of marketing available. Meanwhile, realize that 90% of all buying research and decisions takes place through the internet.

I know what you are saying, we are doing SEO, SEM, Social Media and some other forms of Internet Marketing Services and I have to stand right up and tell you… are not! You might be dabbling in it, playing around with it, testing things, increasing traffic and perhaps feel that your outsource firm or internal efforts are maximizing your potential, when the truth is due to their uneducated, lack of knowledge….you are losing money. Your Internet Marketing campaign must be conversion and profit focused and most external and internal teams do not have the experience or knowledge to make that happen……so you keep losing money.

You see I have been through this with your marketing department, sales manager, IT department and various other executives within your company and they seem to have this fear that you will deny this need even though it is a MUST HAVE. I have strongly demanded that I cannot believe you would take this approach since this is such a missing link to your overall marketing strategy and one that cannot be ignored any longer. Perhaps, you should re-engage your marketing department and various other execs showing them your support of such an initiative.

See my job is to take your online presence to a whole new level that you cannot even comprehend and I know that sometimes there is not even a budget established. Not having a budget is truly not a good enough reason to lose an enormous amount of potential income especially for a strategy that is so precisely trackable. Go find out how many people viewed that TV Commercial you ran or saw the full page magazine ad you placed in that trade journal…..not gonna happen, is it?

Well I have taken up enough of your time today and I will follow this letter up with repeated phone calls and contact points until you see the error of your ways and want to start making a difference and increase your companies profits. After all, you would not want me to start reaching out to the owner and/or board of directors…now would you?

Make it a great day!


Your Best Shot At Internet Immortality

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