****UPDATE: This was posted right before Google Instant was revealed. Thoughts and commentary are likely to change significantly on my next blog.****
When Google picks certain users to do beta testing on, I wonder how they go about choosing them. Do they rely on demographics? What percentage of users do they test to satisfy their results? Do the users that get chosen feel as lucky as I would? I always hoped that some day I would get to be one of them. I don’t know why; I just want to be a part of it. To know that my search patterns will help dictate how Google thinks things should operate somehow feels comforting. This is why I was pleasantly surprised when I did my first Google search today.
I had to Google bit.ly this morning because my other URL shortener wasn’t working and I couldn’t recall their actual URL. As soon as I typed the ‘B’, the search box darted to the top of the screen like I had already finished my search. I paused and wondered why the Bank of America website was first in my search results and how it searched already when I had yet to press enter. Noticing the lonely ‘B’, I continued, ‘BI” and now Bing was at the top of my search list. Wow, I thought, this is the thing I have been reading about! Search results are coming up automatically as I type! After playing with it for a while, I finally remembered that I wanted to go to bit.ly. All I had to type was ‘BIT’ and the search was executed and bit.ly was at the top.
While I was playing around with it, Andy Groller noticed that the ads were changing after every new word typed into the query. For example, we typed in ‘NYC APARTMENT’ and saw one of our client’s ads running, but when we continued to type ‘FOR RENT’ the ads changed and our client’s ad no longer was there. We thought, “Does that count as an impression?” Logically speaking, why wouldn’t it? The ad was displayed on the screen. If it counts as an impression, it’s a pretty weak impression. You don’t even have enough time to focus on the ad at typical typing speeds, though you can see the ads changing as you type. This could spell disaster on click thru rate and we anxiously await seeing how Google will deal with it.
As I played more I began to naturally notice what specific sites came up for the first letter of a query: ‘A’ is AOL, ‘B’ is Bank of America, ‘C’ is Craiglist, and ‘D’ is Dictionary.com. A lot of searchers will know get to know these sites, as they will come up often. The exposure is valuable. Obviously these sites where not chosen on the basis of alphabetical order. So what then were they chosen for, popularity? Probably not that either, as I would expect Bing to get more hits than Bank of America. Were they chosen on the basis of SEO? How does one optimize a website for the letter ‘B’? So why then were they chosen? I think, due to the enormous potential value of coming up first on the first letter of a search, that Google will find a way to make money on this. Being the highest bidder may be the simplest way to make sense out of it. Obviously now organic results are always free, but I still can see Google making money on coming up first with this new method of search.
To take it another step further, what will this do to the value of keywords in general? Why would I want to bid on ‘NYC APARTMENTS FOR RENT’ if I already come up for ‘NYC APARTMENTS?’ Could this be the death of expensive long-tailed keywords? Perhaps I haven’t fully thought this one out, but I wanted to mention it. I invite your comments to help get my gears turning. I look forward to seeing how this will end up too.
Overall, I think this is really neat. I love not having to type out entire queries. I also love not having to click on search when it will just do automatically. The PPC side of me has a lot of questions, but the searcher side of me is pretty happy with this new search method, and even happier I get to test it out. Have you had the chance to try out the new Google search? What do you think? What questions do you have?