Why Google Instant is a Scam, and What You Can Do

Cathdrale Notre Dame de Paris - Instax Windows Google Instant (and the flurry of other updates surrounding it) has finally put me on the outs with Google.  Im putting down the Kool Aid.  I can believe its not butter.

Heres the thing: Ive never had a problem with Google making money.  A lot of businesses I talk to are leery of PPC, because thats how Google makes money, you know.  My answer to this is usually: yep.  Google is a business.  Businesses need to make money.  Its unreasonable to expect them not to want to make a profit.

What Ive always appreciated about Google is that in addition to trying to make a profit, theyve historically spent a lot of time trying to provide a great product " one that helps people find what theyre looking for, full stop.  When Tom Critchlow reported at the SEOMoz training seminar earlier this year that 20-25% of the queries Google sees today are queries theyve never seen before, I wanted to clap my hands.  This is what the search experience should move toward: tell the search engine exactly what youre looking for, and it will return exactly what you want " including some ads for products youd totally like to buy.

Apparently, Google felt differently.

Why Google Instant is a Scam

With the introduction of Google Instant, the search behemoth is attempting to predict your ultimate search term as you type and show you results for that term, instead of waiting for you to type the whole thing on your own.  Around the same time, Google introduced drastic changes to its Keyword Tool for AdWords advertisers, cutting the number of available suggestions to a pool of most popular terms instead of the more comprehensive data available before.  Coinciding with the launch of Instant Google also discontinued the Wonder Wheel.

Why did Google do these things? Money.

Google Instant is a simple numbers game of supply and demand.  By showing results as users type, Google is trying to shrink the total pool of keyword phrases people search on " because the ads you see as you type are based on Googles hypothesis of the ultimate search term, not on what the user has typed in so far.  Combine this with limiting the Keyword Tool, in an effort to shrink the total pool of keyword phrases people bid on.  All of these changes are designed to drive up competition on a core set of phrases, thereby driving up advertisers costs per click.  Who benefits?  Not searchers.  Not advertisers.  Just Google.

What You Can Do

The good news is that so far Googles efforts seem not to be working.  However, Googles aggressive moves toward limiting the keyword set are unlikely to stop at Google Instant " not when theres money to be made.  Search marketers need to be ready for the next wave.

Heres what you can do:

Stop Using Googles Keyword Tool. Like toolbar PageRank, this data is now meaningless and often misleading.  Smart search engine marketing companies should start adapting their "don't worry about toolbar PageRank" speeches for clients to include "don't worry about the Keyword Tool."

Paid Search: Get Ready for Higher CPCs. This is one area where PPC marketers are going to have to make a concession " CPCs are going up for your more competitive terms.  This is the time to be tracking keyword performance not just to the conversion level, but through to the lifetime value of a customer; you better know exactly how much youre willing to pay for a high-competition term.

Organic Search: Tap in to Fresh, Trending and Seasonal Topics. Its more important than ever for organic search marketers to be adding new content taking advantage of the latest trends and seasonal topics to capture new search traffic.  Googles Query Deserves Freshness algorithm favors new, fresh content (rather than the older, more link-rich content usually topping the charts) when it notices a query has rapidly growing search volume.  Make sure youre continually creating new, topical content to take advantage of interest spikes in your industry " including the natural seasonal fluctuations in your market.  Not only will this allow you to drive traffic outside of the Google-limited keyword set (should Googles nefarious scheme succeed), it will also make you look like a smarty-pants thought leader with your finger on the pulse of your industry.

Which you totally are.

About the Author: Ruth Burr

Ruth Burr has been working in SEO since 2006, both in-house and agency-side. She's currently working as the Lead SEO at SEOMoz. Ruth's passions include data-driven decision making, quality content, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

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