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Google Axes Instant Search: Are You Impacted?

Google is known for providing its users with the most relevant information in expedient fashion. Despite this, the people behind the world’s most used search engine have opted to eliminate one of its speediest features.

On July 26, Search Engine Land broke the news that Google would effectively be ending the implementation of the Instant search feature – which has been a core component of the site since 2010 – on desktop computers later that day.

The search element was a desktop-exclusive trait that automatically populated search results as users typed in their query. Users always had the option to turn this feature off, but now it simply exists in the annals of history.

Before you fly into a tizzy thinking that the tech giant is extinguishing the Autofill feature of its engine, it is important to note that Autofill and Google Instant are two different things.

From this point on, users will continue to see search suggestions in the drop down. What goes away is the real-time generation of results as a query is typed.

The anticipatory component of the site was initially enacted under Marissa Mayer’s tenure at the organization; she proceeded to laud Instant as a “. . . fundamental shift in search,” claiming in a report from Wired that it could potentially save the planet 3.5 billion seconds – or 11 hours every second – per day.

The pivotal shift the company made nearly seven years ago was a major revision in the way that users experienced search and sought information.

The feature, which was largely aimed at slow typists, began to become exponentially more useless, however, as people grew to be more technically literate; a natural byproduct of Smartphone technology permeating modern society.

Fast forward to the current day and well over 50 percent of all search queries take place on a mobile device; a fact that has been widely acknowledged since the shift occurred in 2015.

This chasm only continues to grow as voice search technology comes to prominence. Today, 27 percent of U.S. Smartphone users leverage voice search once a week or more. Furthermore, voice search now drives more than 20 percent of all queries presented through the Google application.

Because of this fundamental transition in the way people search, Google has seen fit to pull the plug on Google Instant as a means to create a continually unified and cohesive experience with the mobile version of the site.

In a statement to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson stated:

“We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices. Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices.”

Instant search just doesn’t make sense on mobile devices; and mobile is where the immediate future of search resides. If anything, this feature would only disrupt the individual and create a poor user experience. With the rise and continual proliferation of Smartphones, voice search, and voice command, the component has become truly obsolete.

All of this brings us to the big question of the day: How does this effect business owners?

Small Businesses and Instant Search

I highly doubt that many will be mourning the loss of Google Instant.

Don’t misconstrue my words; there is a large thread at Google Webmaster Help on the topic but the idiosyncratic outrage that typically accompanies core changes to Google’s platform is largely absent.

It seems that most people either haven’t noticed it’s gone (probably because they are more accustomed to the mobile experience) or just don’t care.

Despite the fact that there isn’t a massive outcry over the incident, it is nonetheless a major change for Google.

As far as entrepreneurs are concerned, however, this change doesn’t really affect small business owners in a significant way; positively or negatively.

The only two instances where businesses might be marginally impacted is during the incredibly rare instance that someone stumbles upon your site while typing in a different query or when a brand elects to leverage the feature for keyword research.

There are, however, much more effective alternatives to conducting keyword research, so it’s no major loss.

What this does highlight is Google’s continued march toward mobile-first everything. That is the lesson that business owners should take from this transition.

For those who are keeping score, Google has clearly displayed to webmasters everywhere that the company is keenly aware that desktop is slowly going the way of the dinosaurs.

Over the past several years, Google has enacted the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project, the Mobilegeddon algorithm change, it’s mobile-first indexing experiment, and a slew of other mobile-focused updates and initiatives.

This increased “unification” is only another example that mobile is the future of online search and experiences.

This means that your brand needs to focus its efforts in this realm above all others.

Not prioritizing your site’s mobile experience over its desktop counterpart is like betting that CDs are due to make a major comeback any time now.

The bottom line is that mobile is the future of virtually all online interactions, Unless your company embraces that transition wholeheartedly, it will fall victim to progress as many others have before.

Are you saddened by the passing of Google Instant? Or is this (oddly) a major change to Google that you feel rather neutral to?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Hii Tina, It’s so good to read that you have articulated facts in this post.

    Now that 51 % of Google search traffic comes from mobile. Don’t you think, it should be considered as a ranking factor too? I would like to know your opinion on this.

  • I noticed the departure of Google instant. I won’t be missing it though, as I barely ever used it.

    The one thing I strongly hope Google will drop is the site result snippet they display at the top of the SERPs, which tries to provide straight answers to querries without needing to click through.

    After burying organic search results under tonnes of ads (paid search results), Google has further made it difficult for top-ranked (#1) sites to get actual traffic.

    Very unfair.

  • Have never liked the way google second guesses searches. For instance I recently searched for my local Cllr Jeremy Pert and was treated to page after page of references to Perth Australia!

  • I had noticed that the feature had stopped working but didnt really pay any attention to it as I type fast and didnt really use the feature as such. As you say the “stumble” on to a website by accident feature will no doubt have a big effect on some of the bigger players who I assume got some great additional “accidental” visitors because of this feature. Time will tell, I assume someone will carry out some click through tests over the next few weeks to records the differences.
    Geoff Lord

  • I have noticed the change and as a user it doesn’t effect me. As a website owner it will be interesting to see if it makes a difference with traffic although I doubt it will. The stats on mobile usage were very interesting. I will have to think more about mobile usage when it comes to my website.

  • It seems to me that Google Instant in trying to guess user intent greatly increased the strain on Google’s servers. While an interesting attempt to make search easier, it had the unintended consequence of becoming an annoying feature that strained the system. People generally don’t like to be second guessed so few people will miss it.

  • Everyone predicted that radio would die when tv matured. It didn’t, they exist side by side. TV has the greater glam and audience, but radio is alive and well. Likewise, the desktop will not go the way of the dinosaur Cat, people will always need it to do large screen stuff, even if they want to plug a large screen and keyboard into their smartphones to, erm, effectively use their computers again. I think Google have stopped predictive searching because of the North Korea thing, it might give them ideas about which capitalist entities monopolize the world or symbols of western dominance, which states are near the coast etc.

  • Well, its a bold move by Google as the way the Search results are displayed will change a lot. The impacted part will be the keywords factor. Will have to wait and see how it impacts the search industry in terms of SEO and PPC.

    Some key points covered in this post. Great Job.

  • As for me personally, it’s not much of a big deal since I actually did not even know it was taken away!! It is a minor change in how Google Search operates and it seems that it won’t really have an impact on websites. This really is just another way of Google slowly and discreetly synchronizing the desktop experience with a mobile experience.