How Will Google Instant Affect Local Search?

Google Instant, Google’s new predictive search result product, is being widely hyped…the end of SEO, not the end of SEO… While it is unlikely to be apocoplytic and end SEO as we know it, it does seems destined to change searcher behavior. That change is likely to affect SEO tactics in general and local SEO in particular.

Will the searcher stop sooner in the search? Will the searcher choose from the drop down or from the main results? Will they continue with their initial search phrase?

Imagine a client that is getting good search traffic on a long tail search “Orlando criminal defense attorney“. Note that Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law Β is F in Local and #2 organically.

Now though lets try it as a user would experience the search with Google Instant. As the use gets to the “n” in typing “orlando crimin” there appears a relevant search results (#2, again Moses and Rooth) AND a relevant drop down, orlando criminal attorney but no 7 Pack:

At this point, it seems unlikely that the searcher will continue typing out their original query. What they will do is unclear. They may just choose the website and visit it or see the phone and call. If they choose Orlando Criminal Attorney from the drop down, where they will see a 7 Pack that provides different results than the original long tail search. Regardless, it seems unlikely that the user will make it to the long tail search with which they started.

It seems clear that SEO is not dead. It does seem likely that searcher behavior will change and SEO will need to change with it.

Full disclosure: Moses and Rooth Attorneys at Law, Orlando criminal attorneys, are currently clients.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
How Will Google Instant Affect Local Search? by

33 thoughts on “How Will Google Instant Affect Local Search?”

  1. I think one thing that needs to be mentioned here is that not all searches are at They are on search bars, like firefox, or in the url bar in the case of google chrome. These results have suggestions and have had them for a long time and google has no way of displaying ppc, or results until this is searches. So yes, it will change, but how many users go to google for ever search or is it a starting place and then a browser search bar takes over.

  2. “It seems clear that SEO is not dead. It does seem likely that searcher behavior will change and SEO will need to change with it.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Personally I found Instant to be incredibly annoying and I turned it off immediately. Who knows how much of the general public will do that, though.

    One strange realization I had: I found my eye drawn MUCH more to the top PPC listing than the organic listing as a result of the Instant change. I’m sure Google found plenty of beta tester data to support this “UI” decision financially as well :D.

  3. @David
    I doubt too many folks would ever leave the default mode….it is somewhat distracting but nothing that I won’t get used to….

  4. My biggest question is how this will effect the #’s in google’s keyword tool. Are they counting them based on the typing of the word or the actual “search”. What constitutes a recordable search now?

  5. I’m not getting Instant yet. But as a long time Fire Fox user 90% of my searches are done in the search bar at top of browser and have long taken advantage of the suggested searches as I type.

  6. As far as local search is concerned, instant search could easily frustrate the searcher, given that most likely people type WHAT they want first and then the LOCATION. e.g. criminal attorney orlando.

    My prediction is that this will force SEOs to focus on short and part phrases; not particularly a win in the context of relevance Google!

    e.g. orlando cr OR orlando cri – in the context of the example you give above

  7. @Stever:


    “Google Search Due to Firefox Default Settings Is Bigger Than Bing, Yahoo; Bidding War Coming Soon [UPDATED]:

    That little search bar at the top right of your Firefox browser (along with the Google search on the default Firefox start page, as a reader pointed out) is driving 9.18% of searches, according to research by advertising network Chitika, Inc.”

  8. @Mike: Somewhat off the seriousness of this topic, but as I experience Google Instant It takes me back to hallucinogenic drugs.

    Good thing Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey aren’t around at the current time πŸ˜‰

  9. @Stefan
    THANKS! for the reference. While Firefox is the bulk of it, when you add the other toolbars & Safari in it is obviously north of that somewhat. Regardless it is a chunk of the search but not enough to “outweigh” the new Google experience.

    Well it certainly has its ups and its downs. For me the search that struck home yesterday was searching on my last name….up came blumenthals blog and right below it, blumenthals lies. Today when I search for blumenthals b...upcomes blumenthals blog and right below it…blumenthals blunder… next thing you know we will be learning about others’ marital infidelities which will be about as much fun as a good acid trip.

  10. When I tried Blumenthal B….

    I saw buttons, blog, and burger

    Have you had a lot of cookouts this summer? Do you have a secret ingredient/recipe?

    Why don’t I ever get invited? I know Mihm has a standing invite. geez

  11. I think that I saw that bit of info re: about 10% comes from the Toolbar somewhere too…can’t remember where tho…but will search back for it and I won’t use INSTANT to do that search neither!



  12. I am seeing a problem with a search for dentists in my area. Most optimize for “Name of City” and “Dentist”, but “dental” is earlier in the alphabet and appears first. All those with the slight variation seem to be favored by the new configuration. Many times the top 7 doesn’t even appear. Only the one with that name gets the spotlight.

  13. @Mike: Don’t think so either. Will be interesting to see, how it all develops. Longtail will certainly become much more important, given the potentially huge number of additional search results that are now added to the, well, Instant-SERPS…

  14. @Stefan

    That is really the question for me….will long tail diminish in importance due to the “standarized” suggestions or will it become more important as people search more and more frequently. I haven’t a clue.

  15. I don’t see much difference in my searching habits. When I’m typing in a query, I know what it is I’m looking for. The odd time I will be distracted enough to click on one of the “instant” results prior to completing my query.
    I just don’t see this as that huge a deal, yet.

  16. The normal google search bar had the suggested terms as you type for quite some time, same as in my firefox tool bar. I sometimes used the suggest tool to finish my query and rarely used it to explore a suggested longer tail version. That for when I was really searching. Different for when I used the suggest tool to see the other more common query variants as part of quick and dirty keyword research.

    Only real difference then is the on the fly results showing as you type your query. That may change how people use it.

    @Jason Liscomb – I was always under the impression that the suggested terms, as you type, were ordered by popularity of use at the broad level, not regional or local. So when dental comes up before dentist in the suggestions I assume it means it is the more common search term, no alphabetical preferences. But the suggest tool might also be aggregating a single word with all other multi-word variants using that word. Think broad match vs. phrase match vs. exact match in PayPerClick. So dental comes up as the first suggestion, dentist second, then you see the rest of the suggestions are all dental terms (city dental school, city dental care, city dental lab, etc, etc…). In other words all those other common searches for other dental stuff skew the broad dental suggestion vs. the dentist suggestion. Having not worked with a dentist I’ve not seen website traffic analytics to see which variant actually brings more traffic to a dentist.

  17. After a first short look and somer longer testing i’d say, that “Google Instant” does favor Short-Head phrases like “City + Category” a bit… sometimes they seem to be automatically refined by the addition of ‘reviews’ or ‘recommendation’ which is fine for me… since our portal does provide loads of them πŸ™‚

    Like Mike said, the most important question is about search behaviour regarding the keywords the users prefer to reach out for their perfect search result… (Local) SEO will again tap more into keyworddata-driven tactics combined with carfeful and appealing page-title and page-description optimization.

    @earlperl: We need more colours & spirals at Google Instant though… πŸ˜‰

  18. @Wayne

    I can’t get it on or from my Canadian IP address. The original press release said it would be available first in the US and a few European countries. Who knows when it comes to Canada?

  19. It seems to me that if a site is truly optimized for long tail and short tail keywords, in addition to having a broad array of reviews, news, etc out in the clouds, the right results will still show at the top ultimately. ie despite interface changes Google still wants the most relevant results to show at the top.

    I just tried several short and long tail searches for a few different sites and I didn’t think the results truly different than they were before? If I search for a given service I need locally, as I type the keyword/phrase first I as usual see a bunch of national/non-local results that encourage me to narrow my search with better geographical data. In the end I get the same results as before.

    The main difference I see is that the 7-pack seems to be lower for most results until I get to the end — thereby increasing the importance of organic search — and I agree the paid ads tend to be more prominent visually as I go through the search process.

  20. As a small business, I am afraid it will hurt us because it seems it circumvents the long-tail searches that might get to us since we can’t compete with popular keywords. That said, as a user, I’d prefer if words weren’t put in my mouth by Google or anyone for that matter… its a convenience that will make my fingers lazy!

  21. @Mike thanks for confirming that. A client swears blind that he had it for one day on goog dotca but I’ve tried every way from Sunday and can’t replicate it.
    @ Stever – what’s interesting is that it works for me (dotcom) on one machine but not another. The machine it works on is running the US English version of firefox and the machine with UK english doesn’t show it at all.

    Sorry for the reply lag, forgot to check the notify box.

  22. Hi Mike,
    As I just commented, I’ve been sick and actually was off the computer for a couple of days. I came back and search box was behaving insanely – thought I was hallucinating! I’m just catching up with what happened, but like David said, above, when I realized it was not my imagination causing words to fly about as I typed, I found it annoying. But, change is always difficult. Thanks for covering this for anyone who has been out of the loop for a few days.

  23. Hi,

    Where does google get the suggestions from the Categories or the Business Name?

    I have complained about the Lucky 1 Pack as it is unfair and uncompetitive as it does not have a more.. option.

    google is using the business name mainly to trigger the 1 Pack.

    I have been recommending ‘Einstein Cleaners Boston’ as currently the optimum NEW business name to:
    Reduce merge problems – ‘Einstein’ to be unique across local listings
    Say on the tin what you do and your prime search phrase – ‘Cleaners’
    and where you are – ‘Boston’ which is really needed for such a business located on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ working on the other.
    And increase the chances of a 1 Pack where it seems you need to have the category in your name, and where a business 10 miles away called just the category shows you have to add your location to your business name to fairly show for a search with your location in it.

    I search on the ‘category’ first from my Chrome browser bar and then my Post Code.

    Will google use the businesses choice of categories in the Maps index to drive the drop down list?

    Is my recommended name now the optimum?

    Cheers. Andrew.

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