The impact of Google Instant on PPC

By Matthew Whiteway | 08 Sep 2010

The hugely anticipated release of Google Instant was officially announced at Google's press conference today.  Whilst Google and users may find the new search facility to be groundbreaking and exciting, the release certainly raises more questions than answers for us PPC marketers!

Each time a new recognisable word or phrase is typed that changes the results set in a meaningful way, Google will fetch the search results for that word - without you having to hit "search". 

Of course, there will be many who will say this is nothing new, with the likes of and running similar processed results for a number of years. However, with Google virtually owning the Search arena, this is now big news!

So what are the questions / concerns PPC marketers are going to have?

Firstly, whilst Google have moved quickly to try to alleviate any concerns over the number of impressions advertisers are going to receive, and therefore potentially impacting on Google Quality Score, the new definition of an impression does still raise some concerns.

As a reminder, Google are adding a new rule to the impression count, stating that  "there will need to be a three-second pause for something to count as an Impression".   However, PPC marketers are still expecting to see increases in irrelevant impression as reading all the ads on the results page each time they are refreshed is likely to take longer than three seconds.

Whilst some advertisers will believe that increasing the number of impressions / eyeballs that see their ad will help improve brand awareness and brand recall, from a PPC marketing perspective, this increase in unwanted impressions could play havoc with an advertiser's Google Quality Score. At Greenlight, we are constantly looking for ways of reducing wasted impressions for clients with the objective being to improve click through rate (CTR) and therefore relevancy, one of the most important factors of Google's Quality Score. With impression numbers likely to increase, despite the new rules put in pace by Google, then should we expect to see some fundamental changes to the Quality Score algorithm, the keyword Match Types, or do we simply need to increase the number of negative keywords in the account to several hundred thousand - only time will tell!

Also, we need to question the motives for Google doing this. It has been suggested that as users become more and more internet savvy, the number of keywords used for each search query is increasing. For example, users looking for low APR credit cards historically may have simply searched for ""credit cards" and then conducted the filtering process manually, whereas in recent years the "longtail" has become increasing searched for and important, with search queries such as "credit cards with low APR" growing in popularity.

So why would the "Google financiers" not like this "longtail" trend?   Money! The Cost-per-click Google can charge for "longtail" keywords is significantly lower than that on more generic (one or two keyword search queries) and therefore the more people search for "longtail" search queries, the less money Google can charge the advertiser.

With "Google Instant" therefore, Google is potentially "helping" users find relevant results with less search term queries, thus increasing the number of clicks on generic terms and therefore increasing the cost-per-click for the advertiser.

Many would argue "Google Instant" is just an example of Google flexing its technological processing power and helping users get results quicker. I can't argue with that. However, the cynic in me feels there must also be some form of financial benefit for Google in making such a dramatic change to the way it finds and displays the results - which explanation is true, we are unlikely to ever really know!