Google Instant and Its Impact on Affiliate Marketing

Posted on14 CommentsCategoriesGeneral Discussion, Online Marketing

Google Instant announced on TwitterOnly a couple of hours have passed since Google’s introduction and  announcement of Google Instant, but the digital marketing world is already quite stirred up over it; and the palette range goes all the way from concern to amazement… Affiliate marketers are obviously directly affected as well. But how exactly?

Matthew Wood, the founder of affiliates4u and a4uexpo conference, has already published his “initial reaction on Google Instant and Affiliates” where he covers 5 threats and 4 opportunities. Read his thoughts here.

I, in my turn, have talked to a number of active affiliate marketers to get their first thoughts on Google Instant, and here are the replies that I have received so far:

I like the idea of Google Instant as it provides predictive real time results and refinement tools for search. From an affiliate marketing perspective, it provides a way to display multiple organic, social media and paid results based on the keyword as it builds. For example, I may market the term coffee, coffee maker, coffee maker cleaner and profit from 3 different presentations vs one keyword phrase.  In a case for trend watching, the refinement of results by latest, 24 hours, etc. allows a marketer to present various streams of information including social media on a tiered scale. Real time results makes search more useful so as marketers we must embrace and adopt new strategies.

–Michael Vorel, CEO of Vastplanet.com

The new instant results could have a massive impact on the industry. When you couple this with recent comments that Google has made about the value of “middlemen” — us — it shows that clearly, many affiliates are going to have to adapt in new and creative ways. Google may not be our friend anymore — if they ever were.

–Daniel M. Clark, Co-host of Geek Dads Weekly

Ever since Google started beta testing instant search, I have predicted that this will tend to push the searches that are engaged with into the mid-tail. Thus what often were long-tail searches will be encouraged to go a little longer with the suggestions, and long-tail searches will get shorter. It is a bigger improvement for people who can’t type. I am not sure whether they spend more or less online than more sophisticated users. Mid-tail will become even more competitive in Google, especially on suggested terms — this will affect both PPC and Organic.

Google has already stated that their calculations will be the same for the primary organic search results and Adwords, and they won’t be counting a display unless there is interaction with a page, such as a click, 3 second pause or maybe a scroll.

On SEO Google stated this won’t really have any effect.

Any guesses are for gradual changes in browsing habits. Incremental changes in query habits as people learn queries which get them the kind of results they are looking for… everyone tends to look on relevant differently.

— Andy Beard of AndyBeard.eu

I think Google Instant will be less of a change for affiliates than the “auto-complete” function that’s already in place. It doesn’t appear to impact searches in toolbars or mobile, yet, so the impact will be greater once it is fully integrated in all of Google’s search options.

–Sharon Mostyn of SharonMostyn.com

Are you ready to save an extra 2-5 seconds per search using Google? Google Instant is now live on Google and it’s quite amazing. You can instantly browse through results as you type in your search phrase. What I find even more amazing is how it also displays advertisement results. If you type in “affiliate” you will get results, then as you type “affiliate marketing” you will have a whole new set of results. Plenty of questions come to mind, such as: will this effect over all CTRs, impressions and tracking for ad campaigns? This also opens a whole new method for quickly flashing through a ton of keywords and seeing which ad campaign pop up in the the sponsor section. No matter if you are usuing Google Instant just for search, or from an advertiser perspective… it’s pretty amazing!

–Zac Johnson of ZacJohnson.com

My first take on Google Instant was that it was another engineering-led attempt to do something difficult and cool.  But the technology behind running an AJAX update on every keystroke isn’t that hard.  It’s just incredibly demanding of server capacity.  And, after using it for a day, I honestly don’t see much of a search consumer benefit beyond the auto-complete function that already exists.  But I have a lot of respect for Google’s willingness to publicly throw things against the wall to see what sticks.  So, before relegating it to the pile of novel but not always useful Google product launches, I tried to ask the simple question of why Google would launch this.  Is it simply to force Microsoft to hire a few thousand more engineers?  Possibly.  But they can’t be too worried yet about Bing’s search share.  Then I got to thinking … let’s suppose for just a minute that Google is in business to make money.  Crazy, I know.  Then how could this new function drive more revenue for Google?  It’s certainly not going to substantially increase the number of searches being run, so it’s more likely designed to influence the nature of the results in an effort to influence search behavior and, ultimately, click pricing.  As I was sitting here discussing the implications of Google Instant with our CTO, I came across this post on AdAge.  I think this may shed some light on the intent behind Google Instant.  In short, if you type in just one letter of the alphabet into Google Instant, you get served up a marketing result — and in nearly all cases a specific corporate brand.  For example,  type “A” into Google Instant, and the top result is for AOL.  Type “B” and the top result is Bank of America.  Type “I” and the top result is IKEA.  You get the picture.  I’d like to think that this is a derivative of the most common searches and not an overt commercial effort by Google, but I seriously doubt that IKEA is the most frequently searched I-word.  Then again, let’s suppose for just a moment that Google is in business to make money…

–Jason Spievak, CEO of RingRevenue

I think this is too complex a change to fully get our heads around without seeing some results. However, based on my first looks, it seems this may distract searchers from typing the longer-tail terms. If people succumb to the shorter search term results that are flashing in their faces as they type the first few words, the rich will get richer.

–Scott Jangro of AffBook.com

I do think it will alter the way some people search but only marginally. I also think it will distract or annoy others which I assume is why Google allows users to turn it off.  While interesting and cool, I don’t think Instant will be a big impact for affiliate marketing in general and affiliate marketers specifically. In fact, I think Search Suggestions have probably added more to the bottom line for affiliates than Instant will because suggestions make it obvious that one can search for other query strings that include coupons, reviews, alternate products, and many other affiliate-valuable terms that would not have been considered otherwise.

One actually annoying thing about Instant is how it works with search suggestions. It instantly completes words based on suggestions and shows results for them; however, if I see some interesting results, quit typing that query (before finishing the word), and hit enter so I can click the results, Google then shows a new set of results based on the incomplete word in my query and I lose the result I wanted to click. Take a search for tooth as an example. Google Instant skips over tooth and starts to show results for toothache. That’s fine if I’m searching for toothache; however, if I don’t finish typing toothache I get results for tooth even though I saw something under toothache that I wanted to click.

Bottom line, I see Google Instant as a creative way to create some buzz and (probably temporary) excitement but not really a big deal. The technology behind it is amazing and I’m sure it is no small feat to accomplish this in real time. I find that part truly amazing … but in reality not very useful to me at this time. The cynical side of me wonders if Google simply needed to capture some headlines again since a lot has been written about the Bing/Yahoo! deal of late?

–Mike Allen, President of Shopping-Bargains.com

Finally, Wil Reynolds tweeted an advice — which echos some of Scott Jangro’s above-quoted words — I fully concur with: “Stop speculating about Google Instant. Arm yourself with data to determine impact” (to base your conclusions on real metrics).

What are your thoughts about Google Instant and its impact on affiliate marketing? I’d love to hear them in the “Comments” are below.

14 thoughts on “Google Instant and Its Impact on Affiliate Marketing

  1. Exactly, Daniel. Even those that do not measure (and, unfortunately, there still are plenty of such affiliates out there) will know/see if they were affected or not.

  2. Geno, love the perspectives offered in your post – thanks so much for allowing me to participate!

    I agree with Scott and Wil that the measurable results will be the biggest determining factor on whether this is a win for affiliates or even for Google itself. Google may decide this goes the way of the Wave if it doesn’t garner public acceptance or doesn’t work as they expected – then we could have Google Instant in a Box (ref: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2368730,00.asp ) for third party use only.

  3. Thanks for the chance to participate on this great post, Geno! Whatever ultimately happens to Google Instant, it’s exciting to see new innovations being rolled out. And now with Microsoft and Yahoo! also putting serious investment resources into search, we might end up with some actual competition within that marketspace. That would be even more exciting in the long run.

  4. Sharon, Mike, thank you both for your comments, as well as for participating in the post itself. Yes, it will be very interesting to monitor the further/actual impact of Google Instant, as well as how their primary competitors (Microsoft and Yahoo!) respond.

  5. Great group of affiliate marketers for the quotes in the article. It will be very interesting to see how things shake out with Google Instant in the months ahead. Right now all anyone can really do is speculate. Once we start getting some actual data we’ll find out if it is a game changer or just a minor wrinkle to adjust to.

  6. Good post about a worrying topic for many.

    Remember seo and affiliate marketing is all about trying new things and finding new niches so this will be a learning curve but a successful one if you work on it early.

  7. “It’s certainly not going to substantially increase the number of searches being run, so it’s more likely designed to influence the nature of the results in an effort to influence search behavior and, ultimately, click pricing.”

    It depends how you count the number of searches being run. You’re counting by the number of times someone types into their search bar.

    Another measure is the number of search results pages a person sees. Here, Google has discovered a way to potentially significantly grow its volume by showing multiple search results pages each time someone goes to their search bar.

    The conclusion is that this affects investors more than affiliates: buy GOOG (if you’re not too bothered by GOOG’s immoral behaviour).

  8. This is a fabulous post, Geno. I spent some time over the weekend thinking about how this will impact my business. I’ve been using Google instant and I love it from a user standpoint. But from an affiliate marketing perspective I think it will affect the long-tail keyword searches the most. Let’s say you rank #1 and get a great deal of traffic from the long-tail phrase “aweber marketing autoresponder strategies” but as someone is typing that they discover an interesting site before adding “strategies”, so then you may lose some of the traffic from that long-tail keyword.

    However, you can look at this from both angles. Think of all the times you may benefit from being on the other end of the spectrum — where your site pops up before the person finishes typing. So it can also work in your favor in some cases. So does that mean it will balance out? I don’t know if we can ever know and it will depend on the keyword, demand, site, etc.

    This is something to definitely keep an eye on as we move forward. Great post!

  9. Gab, Lisa, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Interesting thoughts… I agree, Lisa, we won’t know whether things “will balance out” (or maybe even end up driving additional traffic, as opposed to taking away from what you’ve been getting so far) or skew to one side or the other until we have measured how things work/change. I know, you’re planning on writing about this topic yourself; and I am certainly looking forward to reading what you put together. Once again, thank you both for chiming in, and sharing your perceptions.

  10. It’s interesting that yahoo introduced something like this a few years ago and yanked it before it got out of beta. They found most people didn’t like it. It will be interesting to see if google keeps it. I bet they do.

    As for affiliate marketing, I think googles latest changes to their search algorithm will have a more profound impact. Forcing marketers to have more than just a landing page just ups the ante for what it takes to be a successful affiliate marketer.

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