My Monthly Paid Search Column at Search Engine Land in case you missed it: Google Instant rolled out September 8th to much fanfare and ballyhoo. The search marketing industry has been abuzz ever since with speculation about the impacts on both paid and natural search. RKG has taken a pretty close look at the initial impact on paid search performance and we want to share our findings with you folks. METHODOLOGY: We studied Google AdWords data from the period prior to the launch of instant and compared it to the first week plus following the launch for a wide range of clients. Our client base is heavily retail, so those in other sectors may have different findings. We looked at the impacts both in aggregate and by advertiser to see if averages hid meaningful shifts. We looked exclusively at data from competitive, non-brand search terms. We tried to answer the following questions:
- What impact has Google Instant had on impressions and clicks on paid search ads overall?
- Does instant create a greater emphasis on ads served at the top of the page and diminish the traffic on ads served closer to the bottom of the page? Some speculated that Instant would bias users against scrolling and effectively increase the incentive for higher positioning.
- Does Instant help or hurt the long tail of paid search? Some have wondered if watching the results change as you type would encourage users to keep typing as results get more and more targeted, or on the contrary encourage more to stop early and click on the first mildly relevant link.
- Does Instant help or hurt conversion rates? The stated goal of the product is to get people where they want to go faster. Does it also help them find more relevant ads?
- Does Instant impact some types of keywords more than others?
- We've noticed a huge shift with respect to treatment of singulars and plurals, with the more popular of the two seeming to become the default. For advertisers with tremendous volumes of business tied to a handful of terms, this can be a very big deal.
- We've noticed for several advertisers, ads running on competitor's trademarks and domain names seem to have dropped off the map. This may be an Instant effect, or possibly a change to QS scoring algorithms. We haven't studied this comprehensively enough to guess whether this is universal.
- We've noticed some odd effects on keywords that have other completely unrelated meanings. As an example: if you type in "toothpaste" all the results are geared towards "Toothpaste for Dinner" with no ads showing. This is true even after you've typed the whole word with a space after it. When you hit "enter" the ads for toothpaste appear.
- The reverse of this is what Glenn Edelman of Wine Enthusiast refers to as "Short Typing". You're looking for "Wine Enthusiast" and you get to "Wine en" and see the results you want. You reflexively hit enter and Google now brings back results for "wine en" which turn out to be different. We're not sure this is a large enough effect to worry about, but if it is, please refer to it as "short typing" and credit Glenn!
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