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.


And the Rocket’s Called…

As you may have heard, we here at ProspectMX are sending Matt Cutts to space.

Well, ok, not the REAL Matt Cutts… and not really into space, but…well watch the video if you haven’t heard.

ProspectMX is Sending Matt Cutts to Space! from Dave Conklin on Vimeo.

That’s right, we had a doll of Matt Cutts made and we’re going to send it on various adventures in the coming months. Hopefully, other prominent members of the SEM community will be on their own adventures, too.

Joe Latrell, a fellow employee, also happens to be a Rocket Scientist (isn’t everyone?). He volunteered to build us a 10 foot rocket to help Matt on his journey.

But there was one critical piece left that we didn’t have for the launch next week.

A name.

So, we polled the community and got a couple great suggestions as to what to call this magnificent beast of a rocket. After much deliberation, crying, voting, and tallying - we have reached a consensus. The rocket will be called…

Drumroll please…


Yes, the rocket will be called Spam Blaster. And what better name for the rocket-fueled-speed-machine that will hold Matt Cutts on that fateful day? A phrase that not only encompasses a giant rocket but also Matt Cutt’s day to day responsibilities at Google?

We’re quite pleased with the name and would like to thank everyone that suggested names and voted.

So it’s the final countdown. We have a rocket. We have Matt Cutts. And we have a name.

There’s less than a week left until the launch, so we hope to see you all back here next Monday at 2pm to see how it all goes down.


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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SEO Content Writing Part 2

As promised, here’s Part 2 of my SEO Content Writing series…check out part one here: SEO Content Writing Part 1.

SEO Content Is Under Appreciated…

Typically, most clients don’t understand just how much SEO content can help their rankings. It’s really all about the terms you want to rank for. SEO’d content helps you rank for more long tail terms. And typically, long tail keywords send more relevant traffic to your website. By relevant I mean people who need what you offer and are more likely to convert to leads, sales, etc.

We’ve seen time and time again how many long tail keywords a site can rank well for just by having the right keywords sprinkled throughout their content.

Of course, I’m in NO way saying that SEO’d content is all you need to rank. There are tons of other factors that go into getting your site ranked for various keywords…SEO content writing is just one aspect of it, but an important one when it comes to long tail rankings.

A Few More Tips For SEO Content

I did promise a few additional tips, didn’t I? To get the first few, go back and read my other post (it’s fairly quick and painless, I promise.)

A few other things to keep in mind when writing content for SEO:

  • Use your main keywords in your <h1>, <h2> and <h3> tags…and even <h4> if you got ‘em. Google sees this as a headings, and will usually see them first - they hold a bit more emphasis then body text.
  • Bold the use of your keywords once or twice through out your copy.
  • Include keywords in the file names and alt tags of any images.
  • ABOVE ALL: make sure your content is genuinely useful and relevant information - that’s really what Google is looking for!

Cool SEO Content Tools & Resources

When I first started writing optimized content for clients, I used a very cool tool from SEOmoz called Term SEO Content Writing ToolTarget, that would basically give you a letter grade on how well you optimized your content for a chosen keyword. You basically put in the url of your content, enter the keyword you were targeting, and hit the button to run.

Within seconds you get a “grade” and suggestions on how to improve your grade. Once you’ve run this enough times, you basically memorize what your pages should include to get a good grade, but it’s an awesome tool if your still learning the ropes.

As a newbie in the world of web copy (for both SEO and sales/marketing stuff) I lived and breathed They’ve got a couple great posts about SEO copywriting that really helped me grasp the concept to begin with. While there are other blogs that may have more comprehensive info on the subject, CopyBlogger will always be near and dear to my heart!


Back to the Basics of SEO Content Writing Part 1

Many people don’t realize how important optimizing your content can be for your SEO. While link building with relevant anchor text is one of the major factors, proper on page optimization, including SEO content, is crucial to your organic rankings.

The first question any business owner/CEO/SEO/marketer should ask themselves when entering the wide world of search engine optimization is “what are the best terms my site should rank for and why should I rank?”

In our experience, most people would reply “I want #1 rankings for the keywords that get the most searches because I want tons of site traffic!”

And as an SEO content writer, I would have to humbly disagree. All the traffic in the world isn’t going to help your site if it doesn’t lead to more business.

You see, the key word missing from their reply is “relevant.” What you want are rankings for RELEVANT keywords that send RELEVANT traffic. From there you can actually write RELEVANT SEO content! After all, if you sell Christmas decorations, you’re not going to see much in the way of relevant traffic if you rank #1 for just Christmas or just decorations. People searching those terms individually could be looking for just about anything!

Relevance in SEO Content Writing

Once you understand the importance of relevance, it’s time to gather a list of the MOST relevant keyword searches with the MOST amount of traffic. You should only focus on one keyword silo per page – so for instance, one page would focus on the silo “Christmas decorations” while another could focus on “holiday decorations”.

By keeping these silos on different pages, you can more easily tell the search engines what you think each page should rank for, and plan your content and SEO accordingly.

So using various keyword research tools (I love the Google Adwords Keyword Tool myself, but the Search-Based Tool and Wordtracker tools are good too), you want to collect a list of all keyword terms containing both words “Christmas” and “decorations” and sort by search volume.

Take your top 5-10 most searched terms and voila! You’ve got a list of keywords you want to use in your SEO content.

More to SEO Content Writing Than Meets the Eye

Of course, there’s more to optimizing SEO content then just throwing keywords all over the content. For one, keyword stuffing is definitely a no-no in Google’s eyes, and secondly, it makes content REALLY rough to read. So there’s a balance.

Write enough content (400-600 words is typically ideal) so that you can comfortably use combinations of your top 5 keywords without it looking unnatural or stilted.

There’s certainly some more goodies I can share about writing SEO content, but I think I’ll stop there for now. As you can see, this is only Part 1! Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next couple weeks, and in the meantime, feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in my next post!

SEO Content Writing Recap

  1. Conduct keyword research to find relevant keywords to rank for (think about what prospective customers would search for).
  2. Pick one keyword silo per page of content (or 2 REALLY closely related ones).
  3. Incorporate the top 5 or so most searched for terms in different combinations within your content.
  4. Do NOT keyword stuff - 400-600 words should make it easy to naturally tie in 5+ keyword combinations.
  5. Come back sometime in January to see my follow up post and learn more about optimizing your SEO content.