As I write this Google is rolling out their Suggest feature to the main page of Google. Suggest essentially feeds you suggestions in real-time as you type, suggestions for popular keywords. It is an exciting new feature, but not without implications to SEO as we know it.
It will look something like this, except it won’t be just in the Google Labs anymore:
How Google Suggest Changes SEO
The real way that Google Suggest changes SEO is for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are typically 4-6 keywords in length, words that probably won’t appear on Google Suggest. Just look at the keywords in my screenshot above, Google will only show relatively popular keywords based on what you type.
Like Bumper Bowling
Instead of giving users free reign in what they type, Google is holding your hand to help you figure out what you want, and will essentially bias searches towards “head keywords” or “short-tail keywords”, which are the more popular keywords usually 1-3 words in length. It’s kind of like going to a bowling alley and your friends want to use the bumpers. It makes people lazy and doesn’t incite thinking or testing.
Killing the Long-Tail Keyword?
Will this kill the long-tail keyword? I doubt it will kill it, but I do foresee a drop in long-tail keywords. Think of your grandma, after typing a word, if she sees a list of related keywords what will she do? Yes, she’ll pick one of them. What will you do? I think overall, Google Suggest will particularly be used by less technically adept users that may feel like those are the only options they get to search with, instead of really typing what they are looking for.
Change of Game? What to do
I do think this changes the SEO game a bit. Let’s say your main keyword is “SEO Tools” like in the screenshot above, what keywords are you going to make sure you have a blog post or page for first? Yes, those pages that Google suggests first, probably starting at the top. It’s almost like there is a new layer of ranking, where the actual keyword that a user picks now goes through an added filter, and then they see the SERPs. It’s the same principle, the higher the keyword, the more likely it is to get clicked.
My recommendation is to hold a keyword meeting, start with your seed keywords and use Google suggest for all of them. The 10 keywords you get for each of your seed keywords should be your first priority (if they are relevant obviously), starting with the keywords listed at the top.
What say you?
Update: A few other write-ups about Google suggest you might like, the best being by Aaron Wall at SEOBook.com:
Update 2: A nice post by Scott at SiteCreations.com made me realize that it might also work the opposite way, making for less 1-2 word keywords. After typing in one or two keywords you then get 3-4 word keywords suggested. Maybe we call these “medium-tail keywords”, which would be less popular than 1-2 keywords, but more popular than 4-6 word long-tail keywords. Very interesting dynamic that this brings to the SEO table, and it definitely should make all of us revisit our keyword lists as well as our content using those keywords.