Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. In Google's words "We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type."
They claim that the most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want.
Faster Searches: By predicting your search and showing results before you finish typing, Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
Smarter Predictions: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need.
Instant Results: Start typing and results appear right before your eyes. Until now, you had to type a full search term, hit return, and hope for the right results. Now results appear instantly as you type, helping you see where you’re headed, every step of the way.
Google Instant Launch Video
Did you know: (from Google's own webpage on Google Instant)
Before Google Instant, the typical searcher took more than 9 seconds to enter a search term, and we saw many examples of searches that took 30-90 seconds to type.
Using Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That’s 11 hours saved every second.
15 new technologies contribute to Google Instant functionality
Feedback has been coming in from around the world. The Telegraph offers some insight on the impact of Google Instant on SEO consultants:
"Without the psychological full stop of pressing return, and with users able to see points of interest as they type and consequently refine as they go, it’s plausible that searches will get longer and more specific (feeding, not starving, the Long Tail). It’s also likely that ranking in the hallowed top 3 or 4 positions will become even more important, given that users probably won’t look further down the page while typing. If your result appears in those 3 and it answers the query, it’s going to get a very high Click Through Rate (CTR).
All of the above, of course, depends on one significant point: users actually going to the Google homepage, instead of using the search bar in their browser. Google Instant changes the way people can interact with search, but it far from sounds the death knell for search optimization."
Check out Google Instant, and let me know if you agree with Google's statement that "in time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way".
More details are available at the Official Google Instant Webpage.