If you’re using Google Instant Search in one of the countries where it has been rolled out, you may have noticed that a blue arrow now appears next to the first result presented (Whether it’s an advertisement or a natural result). This is the new interface for keyboard navigation, which allows you to move up and down within the results using your keyboard, and hit Enter/ Return to go to the chosen result.
For the SEO community this poses a new challenge, because to the average Google Instant user, the blue triangle may appear to be a suggestion for the most relevant result, even if it is a paid listing. Organic results may thus appear to be less relevant and may receive fewer clicks. Conversely this may drive up bounce rates and cost for paid search traffic.
This may tie in with Google’s recent attempts to speed up search, first with Google Suggest, then with Instant, which of course allows for many more impressions clicks to take place. Time will tell if users will use this new keyboard navigation technique to get to what they’re looking for, we expect to see immediate changes in the habits of power users.
Even if users notice the new blue marker, they may not realize that it is a new keyboard navigation feature and can be moved around with the up and down arrows on their keyboards, since Google Search has neither an introduction nor instructions on how to use this method. Since old habits die hard, we predict that the vast majority of users will assume that the arrow denotes relevance.
With competition for eyeballs getting fiercer by the month, it’s reasonable to assume that paid results will more often than not show up first in Google Instant, with the arrow lending them a big helping hand, while leaving the competition scrambling in their wake to up their bids for keywords and listings. Marketers may be in for surprises like fewer click-throughs in paid search listings; since their ads may need to be scrolled to before they can even be seen. Result: higher bids and greater competition for the top spot.
Watch this space for breaking updates whenever they occur.