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Google Suggest optimization

August 16, 2010

This week, while doing Google Analytics for a client, I looked into Google Suggest.

This is the thing that begins to suggest as you type in. Basically, there are three approaches to search suggestions:

Completion (it saves you time)
(when you’re logged in, it will offer places you’ve searched, and fix typos)
Instant results
(gives you links)

Here’s how it all works. Completion does what is says: it completes your search string based on your searches, and the amount that other people have searched for the thing you’re looking for. I happen to like that Google returns “The relative ion concentrations in an acid solution” for my “What are” query. Google thinks I’m smarter than I am.

“What are stems cells” gives me some optimism for the world we live in. That people are searching for that en mass means they are willing to entertain the notion that science can help people. We’ll see.

I also think this search query should be saved for a time capsule. 100 years from now, people might be amazed that “greenhouse gases” sat two lower than “the seven deadly sins”, when they just might be making the argument that any greenhouse gases are sinful. In any event, I like to play Google Suggest for some of my clients. It’s a quick way to determine what people are searching for with respect to our brands.

Google Suggest also works as a spell checker.

In fact, it is no longer necessary to search in order to see spelling suggestions; these are now available as you type.

This shows off both features at the same time. Fixing a spelling mistake and suggesting where you want to work. It’s like Google is reading our minds.

Google will also help you jump automatically to the site or page you need, especially for Google Pages. This is part of their on-going effort to turn every page into a home page. (Also note the Chrome ad in the top right corner)

The algorithm behind pulling search suggestions is as talked about as the search results. When it comes to bad news, Google Suggest can change behavior. Imagine that someone is going to search for a string that contains “body” as the first word. P is really close to O, so someone could accidentally type in Bp:

So what influences Google? No one really knows. In the screen above, Google returned BPO and BPO Led Zeppelin because Google knows I live around Buffalo and I’m really cultured (just kidding on the last one, it’s a combination of where I live and what other people are looking for). Clearly, BP is a massively searched term.

So Google Suggest could lead someone down paths they didn’t intend to go down.

Oh, and Facebook does this too. But it’s much different.

Do a search for phrases in Facebook and it will return results that fit your social graph. Your immediate friends and pages, followed by friends of your friends that fit the search query and then really popular pages that first the search query. (I would show you a screen shot, but way to much personal information about my friends would be on the shot)

The point is, search suggestions will begin to factor into web searchers decisions. Marketers need to worry about SEO, and they need to worry about Suggest Optimization. I’ve actually witnessed an increase in traffic when our clients name became a suggestion.
This screen shot below is the reason for most of my blog traffic. This blog is the #2 result for “importance of the internet”, so if someone types this in, they can pick between my blog or someone talking about the bible.
Search is weird and wonderful, and changing all the time. Understand it, and you will feel lucky.

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