Thursday, September 16, 2010

Google Instant: What does it mean to Semantic Search?

After the recent introduction of Google Instant, the technology blogosphere has been lit up with all kinds of speculations about the impact of this feature. My first reaction was whats the big deal? It is just another feature and why everyone is talking about it! After testing it with many permutations and combinations of different queries, I have to admit that I am just impressed with sheer speed and elegance of this implementation. Performance is as important as relevance when it comes down to search! It works very well in most generic cases. Again, a lesson for many companies about how to leverage your assets (The asset in this case for Google is a database of user queries built over a decade) and market it effectively. From positioning standpoint, Google already owns the term "search" in consumers mind and it is going to consolidate that position more. It will take some time to get used to this feature and I have heard few people saying that they are already annoyed with it. If you don't want to use this then all you need to do is to go to your google search settings and turn it off. Overall, it is also a good marketing ploy from Google as it will eventually lead to more loyal consumers. Bing and Yahoo might claim that they have already done something similar - if it is true then they did a poor job in marketing it.

I do believe in following things:
  • I agree, with all other opinions, that SEO community is going to be impacted. Sites which are optimized for more generic key words will have clear benefits. And those who have been relying only on the long-tail of key words will have to rethink about their SEO strategy 
  • Bigger brands will benefit more in the begining. In general, they are more optimized for generic key words. In any case, everyone should monitor their traffic aggressively post launch of Google Instant
  • I also think that this can be a challenging news for pure-play semantic search engines who are trying to compete with Google. They might argue that it is still a key word based  implementation. I agree that Google or 'Google Instant' still can't understand similar concepts and differentiate between words which can have same meaning or are related heirarchically. Understanding query intent is big part of semantic search engines' strategy and consumers will start perceiving Google as someone who is also becoming very smart in this area. Consumers don't understand difference between search and 'semantic search' and it is waste of time if you are trying to convince them about the difference by explaining it to them. They just have to make sure users have a better search experience. Just think of other creative ways to win the mind share.  Infact, they can think of implementing similar feature using some kind of semantic suggestion assuming they don't have a database like Google. Also, we need to accept the fact that people are much more forgiving to Google than to any other engine.They are willing to ask a query in 5 different ways to Google to get the relevant results but probably give one or two chances to any other search engine.
  • I am still unclear about the impact of Google Instant on SEO++.  Basically, a data driven marketing approach! What I mean here that is there more incentive now for websites/brands, large or small, to adapt RDFa, microformats or GoodRelations ontology as companies like Yelp and Best Buy have done. Please read how Best Buy implemented Semantic technology to get more hits to understand it better. It needs to be tried out before anything concrete can be said as Google is still a blackbox in that aspect.
If you rely on SEO for your business in any way then you shouldn't leave any stones unturned. You should experiment with all aspects of SEO in this context including SEO++ to get that exra edge. Also, you don't know how your competitors will take advantage of this!


  1. Great post! I'm new to SEO and am unsure how Google Instant is going to affect what I do. I found an article about Google Instant by a Phoenix based firm, Liberty Interactive Marketing which made me think a little more about it. I am definitely going to play with it because it could be something that could be beneficial in the long run, only time will tell.