In typical Google fashion, there was much speculation surrounding the September 8, 2010 conference that they announced only one day in advance and touted as a "major news event". Ever the company to keep things behind a veil of secrecy, but also liking to be in the spotlight and have people "abuzz", Google promoted this conference as a must-watch and streamed it live via YouTube.
Google Instant is being positioned as "the new way to search". According to the company, Google Instant offers: "Faster Searches, Smarter Predictions and Instant Results". If you have experienced searching with it (there is a way to turn the feature off), then you are aware that the biggest and most noticeable change is that the search results which are displayed in the background change as you type. Helpful or Distracting? The jury is still out from users I have spoken with.
As this search enhancement was being released, advertisers and marketers began to speculate on its impact to them. I commented to the Wall Street Journal on how this could be a concern for Paid Search/AdWords customers. In preliminary research since the announcement, MoreVisibility has not seen any dramatic increases in impressions on sponsored ads. We will continue to monitor impressions and prices for any fluctuations in Adwords as a result of this change.
As far as its impact on Organic Search, there are lots of opinions on whether the launch of Instant will "kill SEO" (which I don't believe). More likely, this enhancement to Google Search will force marketers to rethink keyword targeting strategies and subsequently make optimization changes to their website. On that note, I am not endorsing the theory to optimize around "super short tail/ultra broad" terms, in hopes of grabbing someone's attention early on in their search query (same holds true for advising to bid on individual letters in AdWords as your keyword). One of our recent SEO Blog posts highlights what you should focus on instead.
In essence, yes this was a change, but the SEO/SEM ramifications appear to be minor. What will be very interesting to watch is when Instant becomes available on Mobile. Saving seconds and keystrokes are far more advantageous on this medium and where it really counts! Per Google, stay tuned for that later this Fall.