How Google Instant May Change Paid Search Campaigns


Yesterday you may have noticed something a bit different about Google as you searched: search results just started to appear as you typed. No clicking needed! This is the latest evolution for Google’s search engine, known as Google Instant.

Google Instant auto completes search results as you type. So, if I am searching for Butterfinger candy bars, as I type ‘butter,’ search results and ads begin to appear for the keyword ‘butterfly,’ which Google is predicting I am searching for. However, once I type ‘butterfi’ the search results and ads will change to show me results for the keyword ‘butterfinger.’

So what does this all mean (besides that I am hungry and thinking about candy bars)? Basically Google Instant makes searching faster and may eventually change how we use the search engine.

What does this mean for paid search campaigns? If ads are appearing before a user even finishes their search, does that count as an ad impression (an impression is when an ad appears in a search)? Not exactly. According to Google’s AdWords blog:

With Google Instant, an impression is counted if a user takes an action to choose a query (for example, presses the Enter key or clicks the Search button), clicks a link on the results page, or stops typing for three or more seconds.

Basically, the only thing that has changed is the three second rule. It is possible, but still unclear, if this will result in an increase in impressions.  If it does, it will also result in a decrease in CTR, or click through rate, a percentage determined by the number of times an ad is clicked on over the number of total impressions. This is one more reason not to design a paid search campaign around the results of one specific metric, including looking only at the CTR. We will be monitoring our clients’ AdWords campaigns closely to see if Google Instant will effect anything.

The bottom line: Google Instant is a faster way to search and one more way to get your paid search ads seen and clicked on. It may result in an increase in impressions and a decrease in CTR, but it is too early to tell. Ultimately, the important thing to focus on is a paid search campaign that targets the specific keywords that will attract the right audience. If you have any questions about Google Instant or setting up a paid search campaign, shoot me an email at I will be glad to help.

For a fun example of how Google Instant works, check out this video of a Google Instant search performed to the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: