Google Instant Is Not The Terminator


Google Instant Is Not The Terminator

Google made a change. People are outraged. They have too much data already, your information will never be private again, they’re a monopoly, they’re closer to being self-aware!

Google Instant Isn't The Terminator

You know, just like every other time Google makes a change.

Or every time Facebook makes a change.

Or any time Windows gets updated.

The potential for how Google Instant affects analytics software is the same as when Google introduced Ajax Search. Theoretically, after Ajax Search was live, the browser would not send any query information because the query string on the search results would change from to

The hypothesis was that the browser would strip out everything after the #, leaving the referring URL to be Only Google Analytics would be able to report referring keyword information from The Google. It would drive large data collection platforms like Omniture, Coremetrics and Web Trends out of business.

Thousands of SEOs would starve in the streets because none of them would be able to prove ROI from a keyword search on Google.

And the unthinkable happened. Crickets chirped.

Like Y2K, nothing happened. Google wasn’t trying to destroy any and all competing business.

With the announcement of Google Instant, SEOs and third-party analytics platforms are shouting the same dire predictions:

Google Instant does not load a URL into a browser during query. The user will click on the link and because they don’t see the URL string from an actual SERP, they assume none is passing to the server logs, and therefore nothing to third-party analytics platforms. Google is once again out to kill any competition and doesn’t want anyone to use any tracking software other than Google Analytics. SEO will die because no one can prove traffic came from highly targeted keywords! IT’S ALL COMING TO AN END!

Until Raven Tools’ Jason Tan did some careful investigating.

He queried “Raven Tools” using Google Instant, a normal Google search and a Google search with Javascript turned off.

Using Instant search, he typed “Raven To,” which autocompleted to “Raven Tools” and loaded the SERPs, of which the first result was

Using Javascript, Google sends you to:[string1]&[string2]&usg=[string3]&sig2=[string4]

The important part is “q=raven%20tools.” The query parameter is being passed by the browser!

With a normal search (,
he got a similar URL:[string1]&[string5]&usg=[string3]&sig2=[string6]

And searching with Javascript turned off, the referrer is:

So, wait? Referring URLs are still passed by the browser? SEO isn’t dead? Third-party analytics tools won’t go bankrupt?*


Then Google must be trying to drive up revenue by making AdWords click-through-rates suffer with extraneous impressions causing quality scores plummet, thus causing advertisers to increase all their maximum bids to $10.

I’ll be back later with why Google isn’t trying to drive up revenue by making AdWords click-through-rates suffer with extraneous impressions…

Jason’s Caveat

*Jason, ever a stickler for detail in our blog posts, had this to say: “I should point out that this only removes the fear of losing Google search referral information from any non-Google analytics software. I think this will still impact SEO, not from the SERPs perspective, but from keyword targeting. Short tail keywords are going to be much more important, since relevant results will start to show up before someone finishes typing a long-tail keyword.”

My thoughts on that coming soon, too…

File under: SEO

Arienne Holland is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Raven. She divides her time between outreach, writing, teaching and understanding developers. Before Raven, Arienne spent more than a decade as an editor and graphic designer for Gannett. She was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for team breaking news journalism. She likes bread, books and bourbon.

More about Arienne Holland | @RavenArienne

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