The first question that seems to be bubbling up is whether Google Instant will impact search rankings. If we take Google at its word:
Q: Does this change impact the ranking of search results?
A: No, this change does not impact the ranking of search results.
As with past changes, Instant is likely to change some things about the way users interact with Google. In fact, Google’s own Web Spam Czar, Matt Cutts, provides some great insight on Instant and SEO:
Q: Will Google Instant change search engine optimization?
A: I think over time it might. The search results will remain the same for a query, but it’s possible that people will learn to search differently over time. For example, I was recently researching a congressperson. With Google Instant, it was more visible to me that this congressperson had proposed an energy plan, so I refined my search to learn more, and quickly found myself reading a post on the congressperson’s blog that had been on page 2 of the search results.
But that doesn’t mean that law firm SEO will die. I’ve said it before, but SEO is in many ways about change. The best SEOs recognize, adapt, and even flourish when changes happen.
Undoubtedly, if widely adopted, Instant is likely to have at least some impact on search marketing. But what will these changes mean for law firms? Nick from Avvo’s Blog offers some observations about the potential impact of Instant for lawyers:
1) Will long tail searches drop?
2) Will Google local results become less important?
3) Will Google’s predictions shape keyword popularity?
4) Will keyword research become more difficult?
5) Will people actually change their behavior because of instant search?
6) Will a large number of people opt out of instant search?
In my humble opinion, Instant won’t hurt long tail searches or local results. I do think that keyword predictions will have some impact on user behavior. That is, if large numbers of users don’t opt out.
So, is SEO dead? I don’t think so. However, as with other Google updates, good SEOs will have to adapt and evolve to generate results for their clients. I recommend that anyone managing a law firm seo campaign closely monitor their web analytics over the course of the next several months (which they should be doing anyway).
With regard to what specific impact Instant might have on your law firm, only time will tell. However, at this point, I wouldn’t abandon targeting the long tail or optimizing for local results.