Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Will "Google Instant" Distract From Google Ads? That's What Eye-Tracker Data Shows...

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 8, 2010

I went to the launch of "Google Instant" this morning. It's a major overhaul of Google search in that it seeks to lessen the time people spend typing in their search queries by trying to guess what the user wants. It's a glorified "I'm feeling lucky" button without requiring a click.

But will this interactive search function distract users from Google ads?

During the 90 minute launch Google executives showed off the result of an eye-tracking study of users interacting with Google Instant. The dynamic nature of the search page forces users to look at the suggestions offered as they type, and user's eyes are drawn the area just below the search box towards the best choice in the results.

The eye tracker did not show any activity on the right side of the page where Google text ads are placed. These Google Adwords text links provide about two-thirds of Google's revenue and the majority of its profits. Google Adsense ads, which appear on third party web sites provide the rest of Google's revenues and far less profit.

The dynamic nature of the page, constantly changing as users type, forces users to concentrate on the search results as they are being presented.

This is far different from typing in a search term and then receiving a static page of results where the eyes are not drawn to any movement, and they can take in a much larger section of the page, including the text ads on the right.

Google executives said they expected SEO and advertising to continue as before and that a focus on improving the search experience usually helps its advertising.

However, if Google improves search to the point where people can get to the site they want with just typing in a few letters, there is less opportunity for Google to serve up ads on its search pages and receive clicks. Google does not make money from impressions but from clicks on its ads.

Google estimates that users worldwide are saving 11 hours per second by using the "Instant" version of its search service.

That means there is 11 hours every second that is not being spent looking at search ads.

It shouldn't take long for Google to see if the change to the new search format impacts its advertising. The Google Instant service is being rolled out throughout the day on four major browser platforms and the company will be able to collect a large amount of usage data fairly quickly.

It would not surprise me if the user data on this new service shows a big change in how users interact with its advertising.

Also: The "I'm feeling lucky" button, which has been on the Google search page since the first days of Google is on the way out. That's what Udi Manber, Vice President of Core Search told me. "There's a long answer but the short answer is yes, the button will be gone. The entire page is all about 'I'm feeling lucky.'"


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