Google recently introduced a new approach to displaying search results. Now more than ever, it’s imperative for your site search capabilities to be able to handle granular, detailed searches.
Google recently introduced Google Instant, a new search interface with a new approach to displaying search results. Instead of users typing in a search term and hitting return to get the results, the results (natural and paid) are displayed and updated in real time as you type each character in your search term. In essence, Google Instant takes Google Suggest and Google’s search-based keyword tool to the next logical step with SERPs that are dynamically generated in real time.
There’s been a lot of discussion about why Google has done this. The main user benefit they seem to emphasize is that it saves two to five seconds per search. (I’m not sure what we’re all going to do with all that extra time.)
However, there’s little doubt that Google’s main motivation is to wring more revenues faster from its search technology. Google Instant does this by compacting the number of queries into a smaller set of keywords, both to deliver actionable search results faster and to increase the bidding on head terms.
In essence, they’re shortening the long tail search terms and encouraging users to click on the first couple of words their typing suggests. One person compared this to eBay getting more people to bid on fewer products.
Not that trying to maximize revenue is a bad thing; it’s no different than SKU rationalization in the retail world. But I wish they’d just admit it rather than making it sound like this is a completely altruistic, user-focused move on their part.
Google has also given assurances that they’re not changing their search algorithm, so there’s no effective change to SEO practices. I’ll take them at their word about the algorithms, but as many commentators have observed, Google Instant definitely affects user behavior. If Google Instant works out the way Google wants it to, people will select a “hit” (natural or paid) from the SERP earlier in the query creation process.
If you’re in e-commerce, the major potential effect is that, in essence, Google is outsourcing long-tail search to you. You can no longer rely on your customers typing in their entire long-tail search term in order to find your long-tail-optimized content. Instead of Google steering customers to your specific product or product family, they’re steering them to a higher-level, more general category. That may lead to a landing page or a sub-section on your site, or your home page, or it may lead to your competitor.
It’s up to you to investigate what effect Google Instant will have on the terms you’ve optimized for and make any adjustments needed to optimize for higher-level terms. And now more than ever, it’s imperative for your site search capabilities to be able to handle granular, detailed searches. If you have a parametric search engine, that’s great. But remember that parametric search is only as good as the content it indexes.
Managing your product content in a product information management (PIM) repository can give you the means to enrich your basic product data with attributes, marketing copy, and other search-friendly content that makes the products on your site more findable. If you’d like to read more about this, you’re welcome to download our white paper, “Accelerate Your Site Search with Better Product Data.”