Google recently introduced their “Instant Search” feature which starts to populate search results the instant you start typing into the search box.
At the same time, Google suggests alternate search terms as you type to help narrow your search without forcing you to enter entire search phrases. The main idea behind this new feature is to save users a few seconds on each search and cut down on misspellings for search terms, business names or product names. Users may not notice much difference in their overall experience, however, for small businesses and online entrepreneurs, this new search method carries a few interesting ramifications.
Since Google clearly ranks as the “900 lb. Gorilla” of the online marketing world, acting as de facto gateway to the Web for millions, any change to their system makes businesses nervous. Many have expressed concern that this latest change will force users of Google’s AdWords program, the search giant’s lucrative pay-per-click marketing arm, to pay for more expensive keywords. They reason that since the most popular search terms appear in the search box first, and that most people will opt to accept Google suggestions, those most popular searches will carry the highest click prices. In other words, businesses that depend on Google to show their ads fear that Google will force them to pay more money by recommending more expensive keyword searches.
I disagree. The suggested search term feature actually appeared on Google quite a while ago, and all that’s really changed is Google starts to display the actual search results AS you type. With the old 2-step process, Google made suggestions as you typed and then you clicked the search button to see the search results. Instant Search just creates a FAST way to see the results for different search variations without forcing you to click the button each time to see those results. This process makes it simple to see the results, change your mind, and not wait for the results each time you change the phrase. My experience shows that most people always start with a broad search and then narrow it by including more descriptive terms (often called “long-tail” keywords) to better find what they want. This new process won’t change that. In fact, it will give people more chances to refine their searches on-the-fly by providing Google more details of what they want.
Instead of posing a threat, I believe this new Instant Search feature creates an opportunity for any business to perform high-speed market research to look for possible opportunities and trouble spots. The following four steps will help any small business use Google’s new feature for instant results.
1. Go to Google and search for your business as if you were a consumer.
2. Make a note of the keyword suggestions Google offers as you type.
3. See if those suggestions give you any ideas for your own marketing (since they should represent the most popular phrases).
4. Note which competitors show up and where you appear in relation to them.
These 4 simple steps make a great barometer for taking a read on your local market, fast. Who appears consistently? Who shows up hit-and-miss or every once in a while? Who shows up in Google Maps? If your competitors show up and you don’t, you’ve got some work to do!
Bottom line: as a small business, use Google’s new Instant Search to quickly get the big picture when it comes to your business, industry, and local competition.