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Fortunately, Google has added an option on the Preferences page to turn it off. I did. Yes, I'm a curmudgeon on this one. "I don't need no stinking suggestions." But it might be a somewhat interesting bit of research to turn it on from time to time and see what pops up.
And G is including nav searches in the suggestions (example.com, .org, etc.), whereas Y! appears to filter these. Again, interesting.
Now we have a new issue. Now when you type in Atlanta it default to...just Atlanta. The listing for state doesn't even show as a option. Likewise, Cincinnati, etc.
And, the search results (for good reason, but, well, you know) are different for all three.
Such is life.
I don't think it will 'hurt' long tail, maybe just drive more traffic to those terms. Someone's probably going to get the hit. If that's the case, then it just means we need to rank on the long tail - which folks should be doing anyway. (actually, I'd like some more long tail traffic :) ).
I suppose it all comes down to what we are calling the "long tail." The terms that I see in Suggest are more in the area of what I would call the "fat belly."
The google suggestions actually are a pretty good roadmap though for anyone doing SEO. No more figuring out keywords when Google's happy to supply a list. take your favourite short tail search term, get google's list of related terms, check all those, and so on. Pretty soon you've got a pretty good list of search terms to be targetting. Now you're working on search terms we know Google's trying to drive traffic to.
I think they have tweaked the suggestions somehow, too. I had a site, "Widget Mine," that I would swear came up when the user just typed "widget" on Google Labs, but now requires you to get to "widget m". I know that Widget Mine gets more searches than at least one or two of the current suggestions, and has more results, so I'm wondering if they de-emphasized results that looked like commercial names.
As for using it for an SEO "predictor"... it tells you how many results not how many people search for the term. And that's a double edge sword -- do you optimize for the kw that there are 1,000,000 results for and assume it popular or for the word that has 10,000 and try to corner the market?
On another note: Now that "widgets" are actualy virtual goods, we need a new "whatchamacallit" word to use for examples (to mean "example thing-a-ma-bobs" here at WebmasterWorld, in books, etc)..
I started typing in:
and what does G suggest...?
Their own brand of widgets! (..but only at #2, after "widgets for mac")...
Any suggestions for a new foo-type-widget word ?
"I don't think it will 'hurt' long tail, maybe just drive more traffic to those terms."
"I agree about the long tail, tedster. The lazy user may well pick one of the suggestions rather than doing a more specific search."
I think this will have a profound effect on sites. Those that produce a lot of good content and have it driven to them via long tail searches will begin to see traffic wither as more SEO minded sites scoop up traffic by hammering all their efforts into capturing traffic from the "lazy" suggestions. And it will force webmasters to start focusing more and more on core phrases meaning the following outcome: in competitive niches, everything may boil down fighting over 10 or 15 phrases. And for the user, this will eventually mean for most core search phrases, finding a sea of results that all look the same, as far as title and topic.
Google suggest should be renamed Web diversity killer, and filed under the death of long tail.
This is one of the worst, most idiotic things that google has done yet
I think they could also be doing this to show off the large numbers listed in the drop-down results. "Beat those Microsoft and Yahoo!" Now the competition will be to display inflated hits next to each search by various misleading methods.
I see this completely changing SEO as we know it.
Before we use to code for what 'we think' ppl will type.
Now we need to code for what google 'will suggest'.
It's quicker to hit the down button a few times for a similar search phrase, rather then continue to type your original phrase and ppl will get used to doing this - very quickly
Users may even treat it (think of it) as a 'better search phrase' because 'Google' suggest it, not actually knowing any better.
I checked some of the suggested keywords, and while I'm #1 on what I checked for, I'm not #1 on some of the new suggestions. But since I'm rolling out a new/old site today, I guess I've got some new keywords to target :).
Looking at the suggestions, some of them seem stilted. I suspect they're generated at least partially via a suggestions program, not all from user searches.
I'm gonna get a headache though, thinking about how this affects search behavior :).
My guess is that it will hurt many websites and benefit a few because as people choose rather than type websites that pop up in suggested searches will be the winners.