What’s been the Impact of Google Instant on Searcher Behavior? So far Not Much.

Somebody stop the Google Instant SEO is dead/crippled/forever changed hysteria train, I’d like to get off.

In the days following Google’s Instant announcement on September 8th the pronouncements in the tech press/blogosphere ranged from “SEO is dead” to the long tail is going to dominate to everything in between.

In the hours after the announcement we posted some early thoughts on the fundamentals of Instant and the changes you can expect to see in the near term.  With much of the conjecture about the impact Instant will have, both on the way we will search and on the SEO profession continuing in the week following the announcement, we crunched the data to see what impact, if any Instant was having on searcher behavior.

We analyzed the search traffic for ten high traffic websites across multiple verticals for the week prior to Google Instant and compared it to the week immediately following the launch.  We looked at more than 880,000 visits, 440,000 per week, and grouped the traffic into length of search term.

As you can see below, the distribution of traffic is virtually identical week over week, with three quarters of traffic coming from search terms 3 words or less.  Long tail visits (4 words or more) did not increase significantly post launch.

Google Instant - Visits by Search Term Length

Long tail visits did not increase significantly in the week after the launch of Google Instant.

It’s still early and users are still getting used to the new search user experience (although many seem to find Instant distracting and are turning it off) but a little more than a week in it doesn’t appear to be having a significant impact on how users search.  We’ll continue to keep a close eye as things develop and will post our findings here.

Are you seeing anything different in the impact Instant has had in your search traffic?  Sound off in the comments.

-Nathan Safran
Senior Research Analyst