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Why Google Instant Makes Local Search More Important Than Ever

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.

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