Digital selection: red in bits and bytes
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Digital selection: red in bits and bytes

In its relentless march towards creating personalised search results for Internet users, Google has now released Google Instant in select countries.

Google Instant is a “search enhancement that shows results as you type.” It appears to be an advanced form of the existing search auto-complete.

To some this means the death of SEO. No longer will your site be found using carefully crafted long-tail meta-tags. Now, generic phrases and half-words should become your focus; good luck being found in this mess.

Don’t change a thing on your website

Google Instant works before a user hits search, your website’s meta-tags, content, back links and more still matter a great deal. Google still has to return results for every search. To do so, they need sensible meta-tags as well as fresh and relevant content supported by strong back links.

What has very likely changed is how people search and your website’s position on any one individual’s search.

Search behaviour is always changing

For a long time now the search auto-complete has affected how users search. For our clients’ websites, leveraging existing auto-complete results has been part of our online marketing toolbox for a long time. Google Instant merely forces website developers to do what they should have been doing already–paying attention to how users search.

If you’re not part of the past, you’re less likely to be part of the future

Since Google Instant is a feature that you have to turn on; it is safe to bet that your search history will become a more important part of the search algorithm. Great for users: this means that Google will be able to intuit your search before you’ve finished typing it.

This will affect novelty. If a website’s search term wasn’t part of a user’s search history, that website is now even less likely to become a part of it in the future. That isn’t good. A “lazy” user who relies on generic terms is likely to return only the most generic, or heavily advertised, results.

More generic search terms favours big ad budgets

Dave Davies: “If there is a segment that should be concerned about [Google Instant] it is small business owners with limited organic or PPC budgets. Google Instant – because it puts preferences to more generic phrases – clearly favors businesses with larger budgets.”

Sounds reasonable and time will tell if this holds true.

For the moment, since 1/5 of search phrases are entirely new to Google there are enough searches that are sophisticated (and likely very specific) to justify development of brand-focused and niche search terms.

Your search ranking has always been changing. Google is always tweaking its algorithm. For once website developers can see how that algorithm has changed.

The Internet is a living environment changing from moment to moment. Within it websites struggle for survival in a form of digital selection. Sometimes the environment is changed in increments, at other times it is changed through cataclysm. Google Instant is likely somewhere in the middle; and as always, websites that are adapted to the new environment end up being the fittest to survive.