Google Instant highlights just how marvelous human beings are: we can search for something at the same time as we read the results, without our heads exploding.

Instant is the result of 15 new technologies which, according to the people at Google, will help our searches return faster and more accurate results. An unprecedented act of generosity that will help us save five seconds for every search we make. Start thinking what you’re going to do with all this free time!

On the face of it, Instant is a significant advance in the mechanics of search engines, yet Adwords advertisers and behavioral philosophers dabbling in SEO have misgivings. Collective hysteria has erupted across social media, with apocalyptic predictions of the death of SEM and SEO.

This is nothing new, every time the search engine supreme engenders a new function (Google has delivered more than 540 search quality improvements since 2009) the Earth’s axis shifts another millimeter: Caffeine, Google Suggest, personalized searches, universal – realtime search, and now Instant. But, has anything really changed? Do we really have something to worry about?

What’s new in Google Instant?

Broadly speaking, three things are new:

  • Dynamic results: Every time you type a letter, the SERP updates to display the results most relevant to what you have written.
  • Predictions: Google will predict what you are looking for, and will display this prediction in light gray text.
  • Textfield with Scroll: You can immediately mouse over the predictions and see the results.

Google Instant supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 8+ and is already available to Google users in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the UK, USA and Spain.

Although it is currently only implemented for Web searches (and accessed from a Google account), the plan is to include it in other content: videos, images, maps and news, as well as on other devices, such as cell phones.

Why Google Instant?

Google Instant, evidently, optimizes search time, and estimates suggest that users will save some 350 million hours over the next year.

It is also thought that Instant will improve the scope and quality of search results, in other words, our searches will be better.

Google hopes that these two factors will encourage users to make more searches with the consequent positive repercussions for its main source of monetization: its Adwords sponsored advertisements.

Moreover, Google Instant, as we will see below, will subtly favor PPC over organic results in the SERP. Everything suggests that this is another initiative from Google that will improve revenue while making us all happier individuals.

Redefining e-marketing metrics

The first direct consequence of Instant is that it redefines the concept of the impression, which is of essential importance to PPC.

Traditionally, an ‘impression’ has been defined as every time an Adwords advertisement is viewed in the SERP. Starting with this parameter, others such as the CTR or CR can be derived with a view to calculating the ROI of a campaign.

In this new scenario, where the SERP is dynamic, changing with every keystroke, Google does not count impressions until one of the following criteria has been met:

  • The user clicks Enter to run the search.
  • The user clicks the Search button.
  • The user clicks a specific result.
  • The user clicks a suggestion.
  • The user does nothing for three or more seconds.

One aspect that I personally find lacking is that Google Analytics still doesn’t offer advertisers a way of segmenting traffic directed from Google Instant. Fortunately though, the community has made up for the omission by generating filters for this purpose. So what’s your take on this?

I’ll be following up this issue and shortly publish a second part to the article, looking at how Google Instant revolutionizes the SERP.