Last week the web was supposedy dead; this week seo is rumored to be dead, killed by the launch of Google Instant. As you can imagine, I am just about as impressed by this week’s claim as I was by last week’s.
Google Instant – The Nuts and Bolts
Google Instant provides instant results by predicting what it thinks you are searching for when you start typing into the search box. An autofill response is provided in gray type, which can be tabbed in if correct. If not, you can keep typing. Or, you can arrow or scroll down to any of five prepopulated possible results below the search box. This is AJAX-based, and promises to provide search results that are 2 to 5 seconds faster. No big deal, you say? Well, Google estimates that this will save you 11 hours in search time. It also estimates that 350 million hours of users’ time will be saved in the next year.
Google Instant was rolled out over various servers in the US today, and will be rolled out to the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Russia next week. For now, you have to use the Google home page, but it should be available in browser bars within the next two months. It should be rolled out to Japan within the next few months, as well as other countries. Later this fall, it should also be available for mobile use.
If you want to use the search button, it still works like it always did. And if, for whatever reason, you decide you just don’t like Google Instant, you can turn it off easily, although it appears that the default is for it to be on.
How Will Google Instant Affect SEO?
This was a question asked more than once at the press conference held by Google today. Twice, the audience was told that “ranking stays the same,” but that user behavior may change over time, as search will be more fluid, and more queries can be made at one time. It was also stated that there would be no change in personalized search.
There will be no change in the way that ads are served, but a 3 second pause has been added to impressions.
The autocomplete feature filters for violence, hate, and pornography, and thus, some search terms may be inadvertently omitted. I was able to successfully search for the term [breast cancer], but if you are looking for [rape treatment center], you are prompted to hit the search button after typing the first four letters. Both [AK47] and [kalashnikov] came up without difficulty, though. Commerce trumps the filter?
The cache updates as the web is crawled.
One of the final questions asked of the Google panel, which included Sergey Brin, was “How much privacy are we giving up for this?” The answer was, basically, that Google values the privacy of user data, the most personal and sensitive of which is g-mail content, and this is “no less a concern.”
The conclusion really is that we can’t really know how this affects SEO until we have some experience with it, and some data from it. One of the panel members commented, “Our user behaviors my change over time, but I’m sure that our SEOs are smart and can catch up with us.”
Ready, set, GO!
Across the Web
Here are some links to other opinions of people more famous than I am:
Matt McGee – SearchEngineLand (be sure to read the comment by George Revutsky)
ZDNet (comments are interesting – and somewhat hilarious)
Final comment: Perhaps this was all a plot to compete with mobile apps…
This was the somewhat astonishing assertion of the cover story at Wired magazine this month. The story makes the point that the web, as we know it, is changing. The internet, of course, is not going away, but apps are becoming more important, and content is being distributed in new and different ways. (Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Pandora, etc, etc). It’s increasingly becoming a download world.
This is hardly news, especially if you own an iPhone. But…does it mean that the web is dead? Has someone been overly influenced by the artist formerly known as Prince, who recently announced “The internet’s completely over,” and pulled all his music away from any internet portals. Downloads will no longer be available.
“The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet.”
Not surprisingly, this provocative headline spurred a good deal of response and discussion around the web. One of the more amusing articles was posted at PC Mag.com, where Michael Miller pointed out that over the years, OS/2, the PC, and Apple have been declared dead. Point taken.
The Wired story was accompanied by a lively “is the web dead?” debate between Wired editor Chris Anderson, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media, and John Battelle of Federated Media. The gist of the debate centers on the tension between closed and open platforms, particularly in the fights over data and for advertising dollars.
I must say that I have to agree with the sentiments of John Battelle, who concluded the debate with this:
“As a last word, I’d like to say that if the scope of the piece was really just about the web as a viable model for “professional content” as we see it, then splashing “The Death of the Web” on the cover might be, well, overstating the case just a wee bit…”
Indeed. Perhaps it’s more a case that the web is dead as a viable replacement for newspapers or other vertically integrated media monopolies, but for the rest of us, I think it is hardly on life support. Rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.