Google Instant: Search at The Speed of Thought

Yesterday Google began rolling out a new feature for its search function. ‘Google Instant’ is the snappy name for a new way of finding what you are looking for more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Building on the predictive search feature brought in some time ago, the new system does not just predict what you might be likely to type based on previous popular searches, but it also offers real time search results that change as you type.

Begin typing in the search box and Google kindly completes your search term for you in an unobtrusive pale grey typeface. This prediction changes as you add characters. With each new subtle variation on the search term, Google will provide list of dynamic results which alters in tandem with the predicted search term without having to press enter.

What does this all mean for the layman? While this is a nifty function which may be seen by some as small step closer to the ‘semantic web’ as prophesised by Tim Berners-Lee grand daddy of the internet and cyber-culture theorist. But will it significantly change the lives of casual internet users?

The ability to see live search results without the labourious task of hitting the enter button may save a few seconds here and there, but more importantly it should offer a richer, more effective user experience. Rather than entering a word or string of words, hitting enter and selecting results from one results page, multiple pages can be viewed rapidly simply by adding or deleting characters in your search term rather than entering an alternative term and starting a new search.

More interestingly, instant search will have a number of implications for internet marketers because “search” forms the very core of their business. SEO Engineers may also find that their role gets more complicated because the waters of web optimization have been muddied. Currently everyone sees the ‘same web’ when they enter common search terms. Now users will be editing their searches on the fly depending on the feedback they receive from Google. So, for example, keyword research will be made more challenging. Rather than taking a word-by-word approach, SEO engineers may have to think one character at a time to pre-empt (or maybe second guess) when users will stop typing.

Google instant is current live in the U.S and is soon to be rolled out across Europe. If you are an SEO engineer or Internet Marketer, how do you think this will impact on your job?