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Google Instant: It’s the usability stupid!

I am writing this post on Wednesday which is the same day that Google announced it’s new Google Instant search interface. There has been the usual uproar with Steve Rubel throwing out link bait “death of SEO” posts which was beat up on in the comments section (and for good reason because it was not well thought out at all as evidenced by his claim that different people will get different results….uhhh. that’s personalization and it’s been around for many years now). Then there has been the protector of all things Google, Matt Cutts, calling for people to calm down, stop running wild in the streets and not turn off the new Google toy in a “knee jerk reaction.”

Then there’s me. I write for Mike here (although most of you think it is Mike writing my posts but that’s cool). I write daily for Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim and I have my own blog at Frank Thinking About Internet Marketing. In other words, I am not Matt Cutts or Steve Rubel or anyone else but I am something even more important: a seasoned and reasonably well-informed search user who knows what I like and don’t like.
My verdict on Google Instant is that I don’t like it, at least initially I don’t. It was my first reaction and it will be hard to change. It doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that it’s a bad thing or a wrong move by Google. I am one person, for Pete’s sake.
In summary, it’s hard for me to use and I doubt that I will continue to use it. I do reserve the right to become a fan but right now that seems unlikely.
I am sure that Google tests this with people of all ages but I think older users (older baby boomers who are large in number and becoming more online savvy as they prepare to pass trillions of dollars to the generations below them) are not going to respond well. Google’s promo video was sure to include an older gentleman praising Google Instant but I would bet he is the exception and not the rule. (Just another unscientific and un-researched personal opinion from Frank Reed. You’re welcome!)
In addition, there are quite a few conditions that need to exist for this feature to even be in play. First, you have to logged into your Google account. I don’t have stats on percentages of people that are usually logged in all the time but I doubt it is a truly widespread phenomenon compared to total number of searchers. Also, you have to do the initial search from the Google home page to have it impact your search from the start. I do most searches from the Google toolbar or whatever search option is in whatever browser I find myself in at the time. Google Instant comes into play if I am refining my search inside of Google but initially it’s a non-issue. Lastly, you can just turn it off if you find it annoying or unusable.
So, what is my prediction on the impact on the future of search and SEO in particular? I don’t have one. It’s way too early to tell. It’s like the preseason polls for NCAA football. There is no real basis for making claims but it appears that we need to make claims because that’s what people do in today’s Internet culture. What you get in this environment is the Rubel-esque posts that can make a smart man appear uninformed because being first means more than being accurate these days. Let’s wait a month or two and get some data then let’s sit down and discuss what this does or does not mean to the future of mankind.
As for me and my family? I know my wife and I will try it out for a while but probably simply turn it off because of the motion sickness-inducing activity it creates on the screen. While that may not make us one of the cool kids, we aren’t in it to be cool. If we were, we have failed miserably.
As for Internet marketers? It’s simply too early to tell. Heck, SEO’s don’t even fully recognize that personalization is a real factor anymore, even though we all know it is. Why would one day of new search results delivery change the course of an industry that really has never done a great job of keeping up anyway?

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