Google Instant and Bloggers: Write Your Way to Page One
This week, Google launched Google Instant.
It was the day SEO (search engine optimization) died. Hum along to the tune of "American Pie."
At least according to PR pundit Steve Rubel, who posted that Google Instant makes SEO irrelevant. Not so, said Googler Matt Cutts in an interview with TechCrunch, although he admitted that SEO practices would likely change as a result of Google Instant.
(Ironically, Google's own browser Chrome doesn't support Instant yet, so if, like me, you use the Chrome browser and have been wondering what all the fuss is about, check out Virginia DeBolt's explanation, which includes screen shots.)
And earlier this week, Ad Age released data from internal Google documents that reveal how much some big brands spend on Google search ads -- those sponsored links that appear above or to the right of the natural (or organic) search results that the SEO experts spend so much time trying to get to the top of.
As Mashable noted in its coverage of the story, brands spend a lot to buy the coveted keywords and ensure them a spot on the top.
But what does all this mean for bloggers? Will it make it harder for people to find your content?
In my opinion, no. In fact it may be good news. Here's why.
The SEO industry grew up around the idea that it was possible to write web content -- both the visible text and the hidden meta-stuff -- to improve ranking in the search engine results. The ultimate absurdity of this process was the oft-repeated practice of writing websites for robots, not readers. The content was so stuffed with keywords, it didn't make any real sense to the human reader. It's why so many corporate websites -- especially in high tech -- are just AWFUL and totally ineffective in actually selling the companies' products.
Google Instant shakes everything up. Google already gave users the option to choose to see organic results based on their own past personal searching history. Now the results will dynamically change as you add additional keywords to refine your search in real time. No more searching on a set of keywords, reviewing the results and then refining. One-stop searching.
That complicates things for the SEO experts who try to figure out ways to game the system for their companies or clients. Things just aren't as predictable. Because there is no one set of search results for any given term.
That means that there is no real "top" of the search anymore. Keywords are more like key-strings, or even full on sentences or descriptions. And for advertisers counting impressions (the number of times the ad shows up in the results), they could get an impression that lasts only a fleeting second as the user refines the search. This is bound to throw the AdWords keyword bidding process off, especially the ratios of impressions to clicks.
You can't get a click if the ad doesn't stay up.
This is going to impact the brand advertisers. And those big budgets. Google has already admitted that there are likely to be "fluctuations" in results for their AdWords advertisers. My translation: It's a new ballgame, and all that analysis companies did to select keywords based on results may be useless. Ouch!
Bottom line: If you make your living in search, whether SEO or search engine marketing (paid ads), this has probably not been your happiest week ever. Unless you are an analyst. They love change, because that's when everyone wants to talk with them.
But for folks who focus on writing compelling content that makes sense for readers first, robots second, I think Google Instant is pretty good news. Because a reader searching for your specific topic can get granular enough that you could show up at the top of the results, and not on page 13.
My advice: Write sharp compelling headlines for your posts and use the same keywords in the first paragraph and throughout your post in a natural way, and not the EXACT same order each time.
As for what big brand advertisers spend on paid search ads? Don't worry about it. Bloggers can't compete with big brands on the paid ads, and you don't have to. Paid ads are highly unlikely to push organic search off page one of the search results, and now with Google Instant, I believe your posts stand a greater, not lesser, chance of being found.
You can't afford to buy your way onto page one. But maybe you can write your way there.
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