Earlier this month, Google declared its search product – Google Instant – a “success.” Google Instant is the company’s predictive search technology. As Brafton reported, it was launched back in September 2010, and now Google execs say that it boasts a 98 percent adoption rate, with only 2 percent of users opting out.

Ben Gomes, the lead engineer at Google Instant, told Fast Company, “since [Google Instant’s] launch, Google users are typing 5 percent fewer characters, and reaching results 10 percent faster than they were with traditional search.” So users are finding results faster, but is Instant helping them reach the results they want?

Brafton initially suggested that Google Instant could pose a challenge to SEO as users might fine-tune their queries based on what Google suggests. But this assumes that Google Instant users heed the predictions of Google as valuable search phrases. How are Google Instant users’ search experiences being impacted by the predictive feature? Is it really changing the way they search (and the keywords they search for)?

Brafton business development executives Max Christopoulos and Thadd Palmer examine the effects of Instant on search (and draw different conclusions).

Instant understands my search needs.
By Max Christopoulos
Google recently announced its Instant feature is a huge success – and I have to agree. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the magic of Google Instant (though you may have used Instant without realizing) here is a quick tutorial: When you type search terms in Google, Instant predicts search phrases and displays related results pages.

In an article published on FastCompany.com last week, Google revealed that a whopping 98 percent of all Google searchers use Google Instant, while only 2 percent have decided to opt-out and search Google in the more traditional way. I think these numbers favor Instant because Google has made it the default search method, and it’s easier not to opt out. Exaggerated figures aside, I use Google Instant religiously and find it’s very useful in most cases.

For example, living in Boston, I can always find new places to grab a cold one. Let’s see what happens when I use Google Instant to locate a new watering hole. Google Instant search for "Bars in Boston."

I enter the search phrase “Bars in Boston.” Before I even type “in Boston,” Google recognizes my location and starts showing me results for Beantown bars. This feature saves me time. Also, if I don’t like the results I see for “Bars in Boston,” I know I have to change my search phrase, so Instant helps me eliminate searches that will lead me down the wrong path.

I see how someone could argue that “Bars in Boston” is a fairly generic search term and using Google Instant didn’t make much of a difference. Why don’t we look at a more specific search query? Staying with the theme of nightlife, this time I will specifically look for a place to play trivia in Boston on a Tuesday night.

Google Instant search for "Boston Trivia." Within 7 key strokes, Google Instant identifies exactly what I am looking for, with “Trivia Night Boston Tuesday” being a suggested search phrase.

Google Instant is perfect for a Gen Y-er like me, with cultural ADD, who conducts online searches throughout the day.

Needless to say, I find Google Instant very helpful and think it’s a great time-saving tool. It gets me results I want faster, and it can improve my queries if the results I see are lackluster.

I’m not saying that Google should take away the option to opt out of Google Instant (which Gomes alluded to in the Fast Company article) – people should have the right to choose. But if you’re looking for the most effective and efficient way to search the web, I recommend Google Instant.

I gave it a try, but Instant is inaccurate.
By Thadd Palmer
When Google Instant was first launched in September, I thought the concept was interesting, but had a feeling that I would not be using the product. Saving two to five seconds per search was just not enough of an incentive for me to change my search behavior, and I hypothesized that Instant would not offer additional value to my searches. I figured the Instant feature would be most beneficial when searching for generic terms – not the longer, more specific terms that I typically type into the Google search bar.

After several months of not using Instant, I read Fast Company’s article discussing Google’s claim that only 2 percent of searchers opted out of the function. I wondered how only 2 percent of Google users opt out of this feature, and since I was in the 2 percent minority, I decided to give Instant a try.

First Google Instant search for "When was Google Instant launched." The first search I conduct in my Instant-activated Google is one for the exact date when Google Instant was launched. I type “when was” into Google, and the Instant results end my search phrase with “jesus born.” I don’t see how “when was jesus born” is relevant to my intended search, and actually, I find it quite humorous and lose my train of thought for about five seconds.

I continue typing my query “when was Google,” and the Instant results suggest “created.” Okay, that’s getting a bit warmer, but is still too generic to answer my question. Second Google Instant search for "When was Google Instant launched."

Then I type “i-n-s” and “instant launched” appeared as a suggested query. Bingo – finally what I am looking for. Third Google Instant search for "When was Google Instant launched."

Next, I click on Google’s own Instant page. It does not provide me with the date of the official launch, but it does offer Google’s spin on how Instant saves me time – ironic in light of how many roadblocks the product has created in my current search quest. In the end, the third result, a New York Daily News article, provides launch coverage of Google Instant. Problem solved.

After experimenting with Google Instant, I’m going to keep it turned off. I just can’t see any benefits – it only serves to instantly provide me with inaccurate results.

What are your thoughts? Does Google Instant save you time and help you perfect your search phrases, or does it just get in the way?