This research was conducted in 2010 with the help of multiple SEO practitioners, ourselves included. It’s likely that these factors have changed over time but still contains interesting data to help with future experiments.
Beat the Autocomplete – a Study of Google Auto-Suggest
On September 8th, 2010, the world’s largest Internet search engine, Google.com, released what they referred to as “a new search enhancement that shows results as you type,” appropriately labeled Google Instant. On their website, Google claims that the three benefits of the change include faster searches, smarter predictions and instant results that appear as you type. Few argue the benefits of faster searches and instant results. However, quite a bit of controversy surrounds the smarter predictions, which have raised havoc for many organizations and individuals since the launch of Google Instant.
Google calls the predictions that appear in the search box itself autocomplete, stating that the “algorithm offers searches that might be similar to the one you’re typing”.
Up until September 8th, the feature was optional. [Autocomplete] was a default behavior before Google Instant existed. I think you could turn it off – just like you can turn Google Instant off – but the suggestion behavior was out there for about two years (updated 3/11/11 by suggestion from Danny Sullivan). The example provided on the Google Support page says to “start to type [ new york ] — even just [ new y ] — and you’ll be able to pick searches for New York City, New York Times, and New York University”. Unfortunately for many businesses what appears as you start typing in their company name are words such as [ scam ] and [ ripoff ]. Individuals are seeing their personal names appear with words like [ scandal ], [ dui ] and [ lawsuit ], when a name may be the same as another person who the terms are most likely associated with.