Save Seconds with Google Instant

Search has now entered warp-like speeds. Google Instant, the latest search feature launched last week, aims to eliminate 2 to 5 seconds of the everyday user’s search equation, delivering immediate results as the query is being typed. Simply enter a phrase in the search box and the results appear without needing confirmation from the enter key or search button.

As you type, Google Instant will even attempt to complete your query with a top predicted search phrase (in a light gray font) and automatically display the results for that suggestion. Predicted results will often be localized, depending on your IP address or location settings. At the time of this post, Google Instant is open to seven countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Russia) and favors more recent browser versions (Chrome v5 and v6, Firefox v3, Safari v5, and Internet Explorer v8).

Instant is only available on Google.com, and does not run directly from iGoogle, search field boxes built into web browsers, or other applications; however instant results for mobile search is currently in the works. If a user’s connection is running slowly, Google can detect this and automatically disable the feature.

Where pay-per-click advertisers are concerned, this does affect how impressions are calculated for search campaigns.


Impressions are counted when the user:

  • Clicks outside of the search box (on the page, a search result, an advertisement, a spelling correction, or resulted search)
  • Confirms the query by pressing the “Enter” key, hitting the “Search” button, or clicking on a predicted query.
  • Stops typing, with the results being displayed for at least three seconds.

Advertisers immediately raised concern as to how this may impact impressions and click-through rates for better or for worse. For example, advertisers who use a negative embedded match for bed and breakfast (i.e.: -) to exclude unspecific queries (and users who are undecided where they may travel) could lose impressions and clicks to a competing advertiser who didn’t have that embedded match term in the first place.

While some advertisers are saying Instant signals the end of the long-tailed keyword, the question of whether this is good or bad for impressions changes on a case-by-case basis. We recommend that advertisers carefully monitor their campaigns for a significant impact on ad impressions over time and adjust their strategy for selecting keywords accordingly.

For Google’s FAQs regarding Instant’s impact on AdWords impressions, click here, or visit the Google Webmaster Central Blog for a more in-depth take on impressions. Bob Dylan fans should also check out Google’s more musical explanation of how Instant works on YouTube.