Google instant is a game changer in a few ways. First in the old pre-instant world you could reason that when people searched they would see the same results. This is what made stuff like focused SEO successful. With the rise of real time and instant results one major thing has changed.
While you are typing you are getting active feedback. Feedback changes actions and behavior. I’ve already found myself doing this automatically with searches I do on Google. As I type I can see the results and then I start drilling down. Usually I would have clicked search and probably looked at the top 5 results. If you’ve searched with Instant have you noticed something similar?
Why Is That a Game Changer?
Imagine that you are training for the Olympics as a javelin thrower (I know a very useful skill). Let’s say you have two coaches. One coach doesn’t watch you line up, throw, or even watch the javelin fly. He simply looks at where it lands. From that position he then gives you advice on what you should do and it probably goes something like… throw it farther. Thanks coach.
Now the next coach watches you every step of the way. From the way you hold the javelin, your stance, your breathing, your release. Even better she guides you through the process correcting little things here and there. Not only does this coach use where the javelin lands she sees the whole picture and you’re better off for it as you take her feedback to win the gold.
The old Google search used to be like your first coach. That lazy guy who sat down range and yelled back “throw it farther”. The new search is like your second coach, she sees your faults and corrects them. When you are searching with instant or real time search you are the coach essentially giving yourself the feedback.
But It Goes Further
Let’s say there is a group of javelin throwers all trained by the same coaches above. Old search was like the first coach. He could sit down range and see where all the javelins fell. He then yelled his standard response “throw it farther” (search again).
While the second coach individually helps out each person with the specific tips they need to improve (real time feedback).
In old search each person could reasonably get real similar results. With Instant search each person can reasonably expect different results because of the feedback loop. While a minor point it actually has big implications.
What Does This Mean For You?
There is no point in optimizing for instant search but here is how I look at it. Since inherent in the search process is feedback I would start thinking about behavior and search. Go through the process of what your target market would search. How do they drill down with feedback?
Most experts that I’ve spoken with believe you will also see a dip in organic traffic. Mainly because of the main points I explained above. More relevant feedback and less clicks to find what someone is looking for.