The impact of Google Instant Search on SEO: Introducing Pass Through Impressions

Hi, my name is Franz Enzenhofer, SEO of This article is pretty …. let’s call it …  specific, specifically written for other SEOs. Anyway we agreed to publish it here as it might be interesting for those who know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, don’t worry, it’s all just marketing (search engine marketing that is).

As you might have heard/read/seen, yesterday Google introduced a new feature: Google Instant Search. Basically they killed the “Search” button next to the search input field and now deliver search results now “as you type” in real time. I personally think this a great feature – you can never have enough direct feedback and you can never have it fast enough. But let’s talk business:

With instant search, Google deployed two different concepts:
  • first: instant feedback search result page display.
  • second: search term auto-completion (not suggest, but auto-completion)
There are two possible scenarios on the search behaviour impact of these changes:
  1. people will search shorter terms
  2. people will search longer terms

Only Analytics and time will tell which one will be the case, so it does not make much sense to speculate about it.

New: the Pass Through Impression

But, in both scenarios, one thing is for sure: the searcher will see more results, but sometimes only for the fraction of a second. Google will only count a SERP display of more than three seconds as an impression (either for Adwords or in search queries on Google Webmaster Tools). Nothing less, these pass through impressions happen. These pass through impressions are the real game changer for SEO, because they did not exist before. Before Google instant search we optimized our snippets for impressions. Meaning for a few second long display, now an event before the impression happens, the pass through impression happens. If you manage to capture the attention of the searcher in these few fractions of seconds, to give him the feeling that he has typed enough and has reached his SERP destination, you have a winner.

What does this mean in actual actions:
A site has a few tools to influence the way it shows up in the Google search results

All of them have their unique opportunities to optimize the display in Google, all of them should be pursued. I think the biggest opportunity is to give the the “title” and “meta description” a second (and third) look. If the word in the title and meta description match the search query, they show up bold and we all know that the bold words are the one we actually register, the ones which show that we might have reached our goal.

For any other aspect of Google Instant Search: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Change was always part of the SEO job, that’s why we love what we do.

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  • Reply SEO UAE September 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    great observations franz. you have perfectly described this new opportunity in SEO. These tags were part of SEO always, but now we will have to be careful using them more properly.

  • Reply Google Instant: SERP alla velocità della luce forse cambiano la SEO? — Francesco Tinti September 10, 2010 at 12:54 am

    […] un nuovo concetto di impression; […]

  • Reply Mr E Shopper September 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    The BBC reports:

  • Reply Nathan September 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Lots of controversy here. This is causing a real buzz in the SEO community. Not sure what the impact will be yet but I have written up my thoughts here:

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