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Posts Tagged ‘Google Instant’

Why Google Instant Makes Local Search More Important Than Ever

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Nadia Romeo

Google is known for its visual simplicity – a plain white homepage, with a simple logo and one search box in the center of the page.

But don’t confuse Google’s simplicity with simple-mindedness. Everything about Google’s visual presentation is carefully – even obsessively – designed.

In one famous anecdote reported in the New York Times business section, Google tested 41 different shades of blue to see which one made people click most on a particular toolbar. This isn’t as picky as it might seem – clicks are how Google earns its money, and Google gets them in such volume that even a tiny percentage change can make a major difference in revenue.

So, at first it seems surprising that the visual design of Google Instant* may be distracting users away from paid search ads, Google’s bread and butter. Some initial eye-tracking data (and this is backed up by our own anecdotal experience) suggest that users’ attention may focus more on the constantly-changing words just below the search box than on the paid ads to the right.

However, this may be a calculated sacrifice on Google’s part, because Google Instant guides people toward higher-volume, more expensive search terms. Google’s paid search ads may receive fewer overall clicks, but each click will be worth more to Google in advertising revenue.

The jury is still out until more data comes in, so stay tuned!

What is certain about Google Instant is that it pushes organic (unpaid) search results farther down the page. Searchers used to see links to four or five websites before having to scroll down for more, but now they see only three or so. (We use newspaper jargon to describe this – the search results you can see immediately are “above the fold”, while those that you have to scroll to see are “below the fold”.)

The implications of this change are obvious: it’s more important than ever to dominate the search results for the search terms that are relevant to your business. For service businesses, it’s especially vital to have strong placement in local search. Whenever a searcher types in a town or city name along with their search (i.e., “plumber Burlington VT”), the local search results will appear first – and now, they are often the only thing searchers see above the fold.
Fortunately, iMarket’s local search strategy is designed to do just that, and we encourage you to contact us to find out more.

Next week: Google Instant Preview: a game-changer?

*Google Instant is Google’s new auto-completion feature that offers suggestions for search terms based on the letters or words you’ve already entered – see our other blog posts on Google Instant for more information.

Google Instant: The Rich Get Richer, But So Can You!

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 by Nadia Romeo

Last week, we talked about Google Instant, and our belief that Google Instant is designed to increase Google’s revenues by guiding searchers and online marketers away from “long-tail” search terms and toward more popular, high-cost search terms.

It’s not only rich Google who will get richer in this scenario. Wealthy companies with big advertising budgets will be able to afford to compete for the high-volume search terms, edging out the little guys who can’t.

Except…

We don’t think Google Instant will significantly inflate the price of local search terms.

In fact, we believe that Google Instant will probably push more people toward local results, and that’s great news for contracting companies.

Searchers these days are pretty smart. If they want a plumber in their local area, chances are they won’t just type in “plumber”. They’re going to type in “plumber” plus the town or county or neighborhood they live in, or their zip code. For naïve searchers who don’t specify a location on their own, Google offers two important prompts to guide them to local results. The Local Search map appears, providing searchers with a visual guide for choosing a plumber close to them. Plus, now Google Instant will suggest search phrases that include the town where the searcher lives, i.e. “plumber burlington vt”.

Of course, this feature of Google Instant makes it important for local businesses to be competitive for the search terms that are most popular in their local area. But in most markets (and certainly in non-metropolitan markets) we don’t believe that Google Instant will lead to a huge increase in competitiveness and pricing for local search terms.

Here’s why:

  • There are only a few reasonable ways for people to search for services in their local area: by town, county, region, zip code.
  • There is a natural limitation on the number of people who want a given service in a given region, and this in turn leads to a natural limitation on the number of people who offer that service. Google Instant is not going to increase the number of people with broken pipes in Burlington, and it’s not going to increase the number of companies that offer plumbing services.

That means that in most local markets, the search terms that are being used, and the number of companies competing for them, are already established. Google Instant won’t do much to change them, which means that the price for local search terms won’t increase.

The only thing that Google Instant will change is the number of people who search for local results.

All this makes us at iMarket extremely confident that iMarket’s unique “town by town” strategy is the perfect way to take on the new challenges and opportunities offered by Google Instant. Our core philosophy has always been to make our clients’ online marketing as cost-effective as possible by bypassing the big-ticket search terms and focus on the local search terms that bring real leads to contracting businesses. Google Instant is going to funnel more people to the local search terms iMarket’s system is designed to dominate.

Yes, Google Instant does make Google richer. But if you’re a strong competitor for local search terms, it can make you richer, too.

Google Instant: The Rich Get Richer?

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Nadia Romeo

In September, Google introduced “Google Instant”. You may have seen Google Instant in action already: now, when you type in a search term in Google, text pops up below the box where you’re typing, giving you suggestions for search terms that might be appropriate. The suggestions come from the most popular recent searches using the letters or words you’re typing.

You may also have noticed that as you’re typing, organic search engine listings and pay-per-click ads flash immediately onto the screen – only to be replaced instantly by different listings and ads if your search term changes significantly as you keep typing.

This is certainly a pleasant increase in response time, though Google was already pretty speedy and users’ lives are unlikely to change much as a result of the improvement. (As The Daily Mash noted sardonically, “the average user performs 12 searches a day, meaning they will soon have more than nine extra seconds to devote to work or leisure interests.”)

But speed is not the reason Google introduced Instant Search. While users do benefit a little from the convenience, the real advantage goes to Google.

Here’s why:

For the past several years, most well-designed SEO strategies have included what is known as “long tail search”. To understand what is meant by this, imagine the most common/popular search terms about a given subject being the head of a comet, while the more detailed, specific, or offbeat searches relating to the subject trail behind as a “long tail”. Long tail search has become increasingly important as people have become savvier about using search engines and have realized that longer, more descriptive searches yield better results.

Long tail search terms have been a good deal for online marketers. Leads from long tail searches are often highly motivated, meaning that a well-designed website will have a good shot at converting these leads into customers. And the lower popularity of individual long-tail search terms means that it is easier and cheaper to compete for top placement for each term, both in the organic results and the pay-per-click bidding. As a result, most current SEO strategies involve competing for and bidding on a wide array of affordable search terms, rather than spending money on big-ticket search terms.

Here’s an example of what we mean by “long tail” search: If you just type “mortgage” into Google, that’s a broad, generic search. You’ll notice that only large mortgage companies can afford to compete for this high-volume keyword. But many people get more specific, and search on “mortgage refinance” (still quite broad and expensive), “mortgage refinance Vermont” (getting more specific), “mortgage refinance Burlington Vermont”, or even “mortgage refinance no-doc loan Burlington Vermont”. This last is a classic long tail search: it’s really focused, it’s not that competitive (there are only a limited number of companies that offer no-doc loans in Burlington, VT), and it will probably deliver an incredibly motivated lead, because the searcher is clearly someone who has already thought quite a bit about the kind of mortgage they’re looking for.

The only one not to benefit much from long tail search is Google. Google isn’t that interested in having people bid and click on long-tail search terms that bring in maybe 10 cents a pop. Google wants to channel people toward the more popular terms that go for several dollars per click. In our view, this is what Google Instant is designed to do. Google Instant guides users to popular search terms, and steers them away from creating their own, long-tail, not-very-profitable-for-Google search phrases.

Voila! Instant increase in revenue for Google, as more expensive terms get more clicks. The rich get richer with Google Instant…but what happens to the rest of us out there in the online marketplace who have been relying on long-tail search? If you’re a service business, the news may be better than you think – and that’s what we’ll talk about next week.


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