Google Instant, the new auto-fill search query process, could impact traffic to ecommerce sites. We asked four ecommerce merchants how Instant, which Google launched on Sept. 8, is affecting their traffic and how they plan to react to it. Their responses are below.
Traffic Up by 20 Percent
“In comparing Google organic referrals to our top two websites during a similar timeframe before and after September 8, we see a 20 percent increase in traffic to our main website and a 16 percent increase to our second largest site. Our search referrals generally increase in September, so the actual increase from Google Instant is probably slightly less that those percentages, but the change is statistically significant. Another significant trend we will track closely is that the top referring keywords for both sites are now quite different than they were prior to September 8. It’s too early to determine what the conversion impact will be, but it will be something we watch over the coming weeks.
“I certainly believe that Google Instant will direct searches to the suggested keywords Google favors. In the long run, that will have a significant impact on long tail keywords and benefit companies that rank highly in broad terms and brand names. Google Instant may also impact pay-per-click advertisers that are not in the top three listings, as people will be less inclined to scroll down the page where the other PPC ads are located. Ultimately, that will lead to higher advertising costs for us and more revenue for Google.
“Interesting change in our business; not sure if it’s good or bad yet.”
Founder and President
Beaded Impressions, Inc.
Test Keywords in Instant
“As far as it affecting our business, it is too early to really tell as our business can be cyclical. I think we will need more time to really tell its true impact on the business, and our SEO efforts. However, I can tell you that we have changed our SEO strategy as far as how we target keywords. Instead of solely relying on what our customers would typically search for (based on on-site search records) we will now start typing the keyword into Google to see the first result that Google offers up. It is still speculative if the Google user will use the first result or choose one further down the list, which matches more closely to what they were originally looking for. Time will tell.”
Emphasize Brands, not Search Traffic
“Honestly, I haven’t thought too much about Google Instant. I think it’s cool. I like it. I don’t think it will affect my business too much. In fact, I don’t think it’ll affect anyone’s business with much severity. This isn’t an algorithm update. It’s a user interface update. People aren’t stupid. If you’re searching for ‘aluminum owls’ and you start typing ‘aluminum’ and a bunch of unrelated suggestions are offered, do you really think searchers are going to say, ‘Ah, Google! You’re so smart! Yes, aluminum oxide is what I really meant!’ The person selling aluminum owls isn’t going to lose business to the top five suggestions for ‘aluminum.’ Of course, I could be completely missing something monumental here.
“I think any major search engine change should be another reminder to all merchants to build their brands. You cannot rely solely on organic search results because they can go ‘poof’ at any instant. However, your brand will be mostly immune to changes from search engines. Any expenditure related to building your brand is an investment. Money spent toward search engine optimization is like paying rent. At the end of the day, the only thing you might have to show for it is your receipt. Just my two cents.”
Founder and President
Long Tail Queries May Decrease
“Overall, we have not seen any significant change in traffic so far, since
Google Instant has only been live for a few weeks. However, it is something we are monitoring very closely.
“For longer tailed search queries, impatient users may end up clicking on results that are much different than the full string. For example, we rank much differently for the term ‘model car’ compared to ‘model car kits.’ Because of that, we will continue to work on optimizing organic results for instances like this.”
We invite merchants to email their thoughts on Google Instant to firstname.lastname@example.org.