Sam Crocker, one of our lead SEOs in London has been researching what proportion of searchers are seeing Google Instant. This has a potentially significant impact on the various research being published on how Instant affects average query length. Here’s what he has found:
There has been a great deal written about Google Instant since its release and some very interesting studies about the impact of Instant on search behaviour. These studies have analysed the number of keyphrases of a certain length, the average length of searches, and even gone so far as to point out that the overall impact of Google Instant has been smaller than the impact of the average update to the Google algorithm in terms of search traffic and the length of keywords.
Whilst we can glean some information from this data I want to be very careful to point out that we should not be too hasty. The most important point to make about the referenced studies is: none of these studies claim to have segmented out the data from just Instant traffic. If this is the case, any implications of Instant’s impact on search behaviour does not accurately measure the impact of Instant, but rather the observed change on overall traffic driven by search since Instant has been released – and this differentiation is absolutely essential.
When Google updates its algorithm it impacts everyone but usually will not change user behaviour or experience in any drastic way. However, changing the “Google” experience as significantly as Google has done with Instant- has the potential to change the way we search, rather than SEO performance and this is extremely important to bear in mind.
There is a difference between search behaviour and performance of a website in the search engines. Search behaviour refers specifically to the way people search, whereas performance in the search engines refers more generally to how the search engines rank particular sites for a given word.
Looking simply at “before” and “after” Instant results in analytics does not accurately account for the potential impact of a change in the user experience of this magnitude.
We have taken a stab (given the data available to us) at segmenting the data and analyzing the true impact of Instant on searchers behaviour, rather than the broader impact on search volume and changes in analytics data pre/post the introduction of Google Instant. And, as you may have gathered from above, our results look very different than some of the other studies out there.