Short keywords win out on Google Instant

Short keywords vital to gain high priority on Google's new search feature

Early critics have called Google’s new instant search feature the death of search engine optimisation (SEO) and traditional search rankings, while others have been more moderate in their outlook that the feature simply demands a reassessment of how SEO is done. However, one SEO expert told Computerworld Australia that the feature may be a boon for some.

Brent Hodgson, an internet marketing consultant with Melbourne-based Market Samurai, said sites that already ranked highly for high traffic keywords would likely receive more coverage as users were likely to see the same search results than before.

“Google begins suggesting sites the moment you type in a letter (type 'a' and you'll see Amazon, add a 'p' and you get Apple, etc),” he said in an email. “Sites that rank well for short search strings will get seen more often, and will get clicked more often.”

He also pointed to Google Suggest - another feature that automatically suggests phrases as the user types - as being more tightly integrated with Google through Instant, which in turn would entice users to follow the suggestions more often.

“Also, the new page layout means a typical user will see fewer results ‘above the fold’ - so not only are these top few spots more valuable, there are fewer of them,” he said.

“As a result, it's going to be even more important that you do your keyword research, find the search phrases that are likely to be suggested when people are looking for your site, and rank well for those phrases.”

The launch of the feature publicly this week in the US, sparked international debate over what impacts the new search process might have on SEO and rankings, a key aspect internet-based marketing, ad sales and increasing website traffic.

In a release issued shortly after the feature’s launch, head of SEO at Greenlight, Adam Bunn, largely agreed with Hodgson’s assessment of the feature, in that it would potentially see a drop in rankings for websites using long keyword strings in favour of those who ranked highly with one or two keywords.

Google’s local response was short but moved to qualm concerns.

“As with all changes  to search, there will always be people who work to optimise their pages to fit the Google experience,” a spokesperson said. “But it's important to note that there are no ranking changes with this enhancement and as always we continue to focus on showing users high-quality, relevant queries and search results.”

While Hodgson said it wasn’t a catastrophe - as some have suggested - it would need a reassessment by key stakeholders.

“When it comes to keyword research, now that results are displayed the moment you enter a single letter, we're going to need to rethink what a ‘search’ or ‘impression’ is!

“If we use the old definition, ‘e’, ‘n’, ‘r’, ‘s’, and ‘t’ will probably be the most popular keywords. It will be interesting to see what constitutes an "Adwords Impression" now.”

The feature isn’t available on the Australian Google domain yet, but can be accessed locally by visiting the search giant’s ”no country redirect” page.

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