A Google Instant Experiment

Sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me. That happened this morning, when I wondered what Google Instant would do to some typical searches of mine. The results were thought-provoking:

  • When I typed “law” >> Google Instant served up information on Law via Wikipedia and then information on the television show “Law and Order” first.
  • When I typed “law firm” >> the first law firm name Google Instant showed me was the New York firm, Paul Weiss. Kudos to the Paul Weiss marketing department. (I hope the marketing department of every NYC law firm is paying attention to this!)
  • When I typed “law firm kn” >> Google Instant provided a link to an old blog post of mine on Personality and Law Firm Knowledge Management.  The best part (for me) is that this post appears on the first page of results. (Whew!) Better still, Google Instant helpfully provides on that first results page a link to all my blog posts that have been tagged to the topic “law firm knowledge management.”
  • When I chose the “law firm knowledge management” search query provided by Google  >>  Google Instant offered on the first page of search results links to knowledge management materials from Lexis, the American Bar Association, Amazon.com, and … AboveandBeyondKM.com.

Since Google tailors search results to the user, I asked a friend living in a different part of the state to run a parallel search using Old Google.  Here’s what we found:

  • When she typed “law” and clicked search >> Old Google gave her  the Wikipedia Law article, then Law.com, and then FindLaw.com.
  • When she typed “law firm” and clicked search >> Old Google gave her “Philadelphia Law Firm,” then another personal injury lawyer’s web site, then web design for lawyers, and then the Wikipedia Law Firm article.
  • When she typed “law firm kn” and clicked search >> Old Google gave her the Martindale & Hubell link for  “KN Hyde and Associates” — which appears to be a commercial law firm with offices in several parts of the former Yugoslavia — and then gave her a direct link to that firm’s website as her second search result. The third result is to a law firm in Bangalore, India.
  • When she typed “law firm knowledge management” and clicked search >> Old Google offered exactly the same results to her as Google Instant offered to  me — complete with the link to this blog.  Very nice!

What this test with an unscientifically small sample suggests is that Google Instant knows a fair amount about who I am.  (Although it hasn’t figured out that I’m not a Law and Order devotee.)  That said, I was delighted to discover that this blog ranks well in the search results of an interested party like me, as well as in the search results of my friend who does not work in the law firm world and has never searched for my blog via Google.

Out of sheer vanity (or perhaps prudence), I tried a new search — for my name.  I had to type “Mary Abrah” before I turned up in the search results.  But that’s not too bad.  After all, I do have a fairly common name. When I typed “V Mary A” one of my social media activity streams and my blog appeared on the first page.  I had to type “V Mary Abrah” before Google Instant figured out that I was looking for myself.  Interestingly, when I tried these searches again a few minutes later, I got slightly different results.  However, I don’t know what prompted Google to change the results order.

At the end of the day, it appears that keywords still matter.  However, if your keyword or phrase is too long, users may never get to it if they are offered other options by Google Instant.  Accordingly, it may well be time for you to reconsider your keyword strategy.  If your website gets a fair amount of traffic thanks to Google searches, you may want to think harder about the implications of Google Instant.  I know I will be.

[Photo Credit: dullhunk]

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3 thoughts on “A Google Instant Experiment

  • September 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm
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    Two comments on Google Instant:
    1. Sadly (or perhaps just telling about Google users), when I type 'fig' into Google now, before I hit return it assumes I'm looking for 'fight club.' Even when I type 'black fig' I get results for 'black fights' until I hit return.
    2. It'll be nice when Instant starts working on Images — that's where it's really instant because just seeing the image answers my question; on the Web search I still need to click to go to the site I'm looking for. And when it starts working on Maps, that'll be pretty cool too.

  • September 11, 2010 at 6:09 pm
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    Ayelette –

    It sounds like we need to retrain Google with some more useful searches! In

    the meantime, you might take a look at Google Trends. It's an interesting

    view on what people go to Google to find. http://www.google.com/trends

    – Mary

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