Google’s Search Suggest automatically recommends popular searches as you type your query into the search field. Let’s examine how Google determines these results and what factors go into influencing them. Today we are talking about the very exciting topic of search suggest, also known as Google Instant or Google Suggest. Bing actually does this as well. So do search engines like DuckDuckGo. Even places like Quora and Wikipedia are starting to do this so that as you type a query, so I started typing “Does anyone . . . ” and Google has suggested things to me that perhaps I might want to search for. Curious things like, “Does anyone still use MySpace?” Well, maybe I am interested in that. “Does anyone use MySpace anymore?” Well, thank you, Google, that’s quite repetitive of you. “Does anyone live in Greenland?” Well, yes, there are at least a few people. “Does anyone use Google+?” Nope, nobody. I’m just kidding. Hopefully, at least all of you watching Whiteboard Friday are using Google+.
These suggestions are interesting from two perspectives. Number one, they’re interesting because sometimes negative things can show up in here as you start searching for a business name. Things like scam or fraud or, I don’t know, illegal activity or criminal or something like that, bad stuff can come up. Occasionally, SEOs will receive calls from clients or potential clients seeking to have that altered. Or you might be trying to control the reputation for your own business or your own name, making sure that search suggest is controlled so that the queries that show up in here, the phrases that are suggested by Google, are good ones.
The second thing, of course, that is really, really interesting is thinking about this from a branding perspective. So I’ll give you an exciting example. For years and years, if you started a search, let’s make our own little search box here, if I started a search for SEO, the first thing that would come up, at least in most of the United States, was Seoul. Seoul, Korea, which is the capital there and the most common flight destination. Now, that’s interesting, but there were other things that would come up – SEO book, SEO guide.
Let’s talk about the signals that Google is using inside of search suggest. So, first off, query volume. If lots and lots of people start searching for “Does anyone else watch Whiteboard Friday,” how about we all search for that. Wouldn’t that be cool? Should we do a test? What you’ll see is that may start to show up inside of these results over time. Now this is happening because query volume is something that the engines look at and they see, hey, people are searching for this. Let’s start to suggest it.
Now, be very careful, because Google did, in fact, have even a particular relationship with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a few years ago. There was a representative at Mechanical Turk who was contacted by Google and Google said, basically, hey we want to know if anyone’s asking for search suggest influencing, that kind of thing. Google has gotten a lot more sophisticated about this, so you can bet that today they’re probably using things like unique verifiable accounts, independent users. But what it did do is show me that very quickly this would pop into search suggest, and it popped into geographic areas where I had lots of followers or friends who searched for that, which is really, really interesting. It suggests strongly that the geography is influential but that you don’t necessarily need that many users searching for a particular phrase in order to get it included in here.
Now, obviously, there are black and gray hat things you could do with this. Don’t do that. Don’t try it. You’re going to get in trouble. Google obviously does some scrubbing of these results anyway, so it is going to get caught very quickly. But if you can naturally do it, through branding, through product naming, through social sharing, through content marketing, through all sorts of forms of inbound marketing, then this is something you can change.
Finally, and interestingly, the keyword a phrase mentions, and what I mean by mentions is actually mentions on the Web. I am betting that Google does something where they verify both geographically and through unique users, and they look for keyword phrases and mentions. So if something is being searched for, but no one is talking about it on the Web, that might be a little odd. But if something is in the news, especially in news headlines, and it’s popular, it’s in lots of sources, and it’s getting search volume, then it’s probably going to make its way into search suggest.
Hopefully this article has helped you to understand how Google is doing this things right now and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Take care.