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Google Instant: Changes in Google searches

Google launched a new service that may change the way we use Google for search. Since 8th September, results in a search engine (www.google.es) are shown instantly during typing, there is no need of pressing [enter]. Google suggests 4 most popular searches that refer to written phrase showing complete results (including maps, sponsored links) for the first suggestion.  Users see various listings depending on the following words or letters written (results may not show if we write fast). In Spain feature is available for users logged into Google account.

How may it influence searches?

  • More visits for general sites:

Users may stop typing if suggested, more general (popular) phrase satisfies them. It makes a new opportunity for big and popular competitors ranked high (in natural and sponsored, paid Google results) including hotel directories, aggregation sites (Expedia, Tripadvisor) etc.

  • No change for determined users:

People who already know the hotel (use direct hotel-name related phrase), paste hotel names into Google or write phrases quickly – Google Instant will probably not affect them.

  • More searches, more visited websites:

If Google Instant really saves time for search, it may implicate that people will search more – visiting more websites. If general searches do not bring satisfactory results, they can easily examine suggestions. Opportunity for both directories and official hotel sites.

  • More visits to websites ranked high in Google:

Drop-down suggestions move all search results down. It means that search results that are on lower positions are less visible (below the fold – below the screen that is visible for user without scrolling down). Top 3 results (both Google natural and sponsored links) are likely to be clicked more often  and become more valuable. It may impact more competiton and investment in search engine marketing to reach top positions.

Another opportunity for bigger sites and directories.

  • More visits to Google Adwords (sponsored links):

Fast changes of search results during typing may result in spontaneous clicks on a top results before finishing the proper phrase. If user notices something interesting (discounts, known website etc) – it promotes  sponsored pay-per-click results as they appear above natural search results with texts that bring attention.

These are just presumptions. In general, most users already learned how search engine work and their queries are precise, they are used to typing and pressing enter – for many people new feature might not change anything. The more uncertain the user is (beginning of the accommodation search process) the more probable he will choose a big competitor (like Booking.com). But knowing address, hotel name, domain – he will not be misguided by new feature (if hotel page is optimized properly).

How Google Instant works?

Typing a query in Google, we can see results after making a short break (without pressing enter). For example – the phrase “luxury hotels in madrid”:

  1. Begging the search with l – Google suggests most popular phrase “la caixa” but it is not what we are interested in…
  2. .. so we continue typing. Before finishing word luxury, we can see “luxury hotels” among suggestions (and results for the word luxury). Now the user may click on results or navigate by keyboard to the phrase “luxury hotels” (arrow and tab key).
  3. google instant luxury

  4. Phrase “luxury hotels” is too general, we want Madrid. After adding  “in” we can see more suggestions. Unfortunately Madrid is not among them, we need to write.
  5. Perfect, for written phrase “luxury hotels in m” we get a proper suggestion, although we get search results for the most popular phrase – hotels in Menorca
  6. Choosing “luxury hotels in madrid” or typing one more letter brings us the results of a phrase we wanted.

luxury hotels in madrid

Meanwhile we could see other results, not always relevant. For general or popular phrases, Google Instant can save time and help user choose a suggestion based on most popular searches. For specific, niche phrases it is harder for Google to suggest properly.

Google Instant runs fast but if someone has a slow internet connection, it turns off automatically, it can be turned off in settings as well. According to official Google blog, new feature may save 2 to 5 seconds per query. For an average phrase, 5 up to 7 Google search results might be shown under the new feature.

Google Instant is next step for making search more usable. Google Instant is not an improvement in search accuracy, results are the same. It is about speed and time saving. Are customers interested in speed or relevance of search results? Hotel search is mostly about relevancy, not speed.

How may it influence user behavior or marketing in search engines? Analysts and Google itself are calm in predictions, it is probable that most users won’t change their queries and learned search behavior. Most of suggested results would be only previewed without clicking. Especially for travel sector, where decisions are made over certain period of time including visits of many websites, Google Instant seems to be a neat feature without a big impact.

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