Since Google began rolling out Google Instant a week ago, the web has been dancing with all sorts of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) personalities coming out of the woodwork to claim everything from "the death of SEO" to "no impact on SEO whatsoever." The truth is more on the side of the latter, but we'll delve into that in a minute. If you're unfamiliar with Google Instant; in a nutshell, Google attempts to guess what you're searching for as you type your query into the search box. The result is a near-real-time return of search results while you're typing. Additionally, it provides a few suggestions in a drop-down box when you pause/stop typing (almost like Google Suggest did, but with far fewer suggestions now). So, just what does Google Instant mean for you, anyway?
The primary consideration for Google Instant, searchers are now empowered to find what they want to find faster than they would have found it before Google Instant (by 2-5 seconds, according to the Google-created graph below). The idea is to allow you to leverage search in a much more productive way. For those of you who do intense research and make use of advanced Google queries, Google Instant may very well feel like more of a headache than making headway. Luckily, you can disable Google Instant either in your preferences or via a trigger just to the right of the search box.
Put simply, Google Instant will not affect your rankings. Traffic, yes. Rankings, no. Google addresses this specifically in a Q & A section on the Google Instant home page(disregard the question's typo currently residing on the page):
Monitoring your traffic should be your priority for a while and making adjustments to your keyword priorities as necessary. Usually, updates that Google implements are transparent to your clients, but if you see a significant drop in traffic for your monthly report and you accurately narrow it down to Google Instant, don't scare your clients, but level with them. This is exactly the reason why your SEO work should *always* be done with the caveat that nothing is guaranteed -- or guaranteed to last, at least! I know clients don't want to hear that and to win business, you have to walk a fine line between making promises and being realistic, but I imagine some of you out there have churning stomachs because of what you're going to have to report for September's numbers. =) Lastly, I want to direct you to an excellent post on SearchEngineWatch.com regarding Google Instant. The most interesting point to me is point 7 where they detail how to track Google Instant behavior through Analytics. Very helpful!
If you're paying someone to implement SEO for you and you're in the habit of receiving monthly traffic/ranking reports, expect to see a dip in traffic and maybe even a wild fluctuation in relation to longtail keyword traffic. As I noted above, keyword rankings themselves aren't affected by this, but the likelihood that someone will find you based on a longtail keyword search has most likely been decreased. Ask for an explanation, but don't prod too much or immediately lose faith in your campaign goals or SEO if the explanation is something to the effect of, "this is because of something Google did."
As I noted earlier, it is for reasons like this that absolutely *NO* SEO can guarantee sustainable results. With that said, great SEO agencies/consultants will analyze, adapt, implement, overcome and contribute just like they always have. Since my aim for this blog is to stay as SEO-centric as possible, I'm not going to delve into the SEM (Search Engine Marketing)/PPC (Pay Per Click) ramifications of Google Instant here. Chances are, if you're reading this and wondering why I didn't cover those bases, then you're already up to par about as much as I am with the industry-wide discussion on those topics. If not, start here.
In conclusion, I'd like to say that although the exact ramifications of Google Instant are yet to be fully analyzed and documented, Google Instant absolutely is not the death of SEO. Nor was the "Mayday update." Nor was the update before it or the update before it and so on and so forth. For every random opinion touting the death of SEO, there's an SEO who analyzes, adapts, implements, overcomes and contributes. SEO just becomes more of a specialty due to requiring more focus and hard work to do it right... at least on the research and analysis end of things, that is. What do you think? How has Google Instant impacted you as a searcher? How about as a Web master, client, or agency? I would love to read your thoughts!