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What Pharma Marketers Need to Know About Google Instant

Posted by | 2:44pm on Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Google lollipops

this may increase or decrease the impressions of your Paid Search ads and the resulting the Click-Through-Rate 

On September 8, Google Instant was launched, showing search results as the user types the query. You don’t have to finish typing or hit enter to see results. In fact, after typing one letter, results appear. This predictive search tries to anticipate what users are looking for and save time.

If you haven’t already tried it, go to Google.com to see how it works (it hasn’t been rolled out to the Google search boxes in toolbars). You can turn off Instant search – which I did after a few days since I found it to be distracting. Some industry pundits are predicting that this is the future of search and in a few years we won’t remember searching any other way. However, others are skeptical. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Impact on Paid Search
It’s interesting to start to type in a search query and as you continue, see the different Paid Search ads appear. According to Google, a Paid Search ad impression is counted in three different ways:

  • Any click on the page: If a user begins typing, then clicks anywhere on the page (whether that’s for an ad, a spell check or related search), an impression is counted.
  • Search selection: If a user clicks the search button or presses enter or selects one of the predicted queries, an impression is counted.
  • Three-seconds: If a user stops typing and does nothing for three seconds, an impression is counted.

Depending on how your campaign is set up, this may increase or decrease the impressions of your Paid Search ads and the resulting the Click-Through-Rate (CTR).

Impact on Organic Search
There appears to have been no algorithm changes in the organic search engine results. It’s really about the way the results are displayed. Here is an assessment of the larger impact on organic search.

Is the Long Tail Search Dead?
For those of us working in rare diseases, we are all about the long tail search. (The long tail describes targeting for specific longer search phrases as opposed to searching for one or two words.) Google Suggest – where the autocomplete algorithm offers searches that might be similar to the one you’re typing – has been around for two years. But Google Instant takes the suggestion to another level by showing the results.

SearchEngineLand.com offers one take on the impact: “The conversion of Google Suggest into Google Presume has gigantic implications beyond the obvious. I think it means that more people will see, and likely settle for a smaller pool of results. Both those that were diversions from and those that are ‘close enough’ to the original desired results. If this is true then tracking and becoming relevant for the words and phrases in Google Suggest just became the #1 goal of search marketers everywhere.”

Or will users continue the long tail search behavior that provides them with the best information? Only time will tell.

So What Can We Do?
Monitor your search campaigns and traffic for the impact. Most importantly, you’ll need to continue to monitor the number of conversions from your Paid Search campaign. When people come to the site from your ads are they taking the actions you want? How are your Key Performance Indicators doing? This will tell you the true impact.

Arly Iampietro wrote an excellent post about this same topic and suggests buying more popular keywords, such as “pulmonary hypertension” not just “pulmonary hypertension treatment.” I don’t agree, since it may just cost you more money in clicks without driving qualified traffic to your site. Each website is unique and has different challenges; I recommend a cautious approach to monitoring how these changes are making an impact before acting. It’s important to remember that, at this point, Google Instant is only offered on Google.com.

I do agree with Arly that it reemphasizes the importance of conducting ongoing keyword research and optimizing campaigns.

What Google Instant Doesn’t Change
At its essence, search engine marketing is about understanding the needs of your target audience: what they are searching for and the language they use. Google Instant doesn’t change this.

This post was contributed by Eileen O’Brien, Director of Search & Innovation for Siren Interactive. You can connect with her on Twitter at @eileenobrien.

(Image courtesy of Jonathan Sin on Flickr)

About Eileen O'Brien

Eileen has more than 16 years of digital healthcare marketing experience. She is an opinion leader on social media and biopharma, and has been invited to speak at industry conferences and quoted in publications.

View other posts from Eileen

6 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    14 September 2010 at 7:09pm
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  • Eileen O'Brien
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  • Arly Iampietro

    Thanks Eileen for another thought-provoking post! You make a great point that it is important to monitor impact prior to making any large scale changes to your SEM campaigns. I think it also really depends on the disease category. For the diseases/conditions that are more rare or for whatever reason are less competitive from a search perspective, there’s less risk associated with bidding on these broad keywords (assuming the ad text further qualifies traffic, and impact of Google Instant necessitates action). However, within a broader disease category like ‘diabetes’ I can see how my original recommendation may not make sense or would have to be tested and monitored very closely.


  • http://twitter.com/eileenobrien Eileen O’Brien

    Thanks for your comment Arly. I keep thinking back to my anxiety over Google Sidewiki! Not sure this is analogous, but want to monitor adoption before acting.

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