In a guest post about Google Instant at Tech Crunch, Eli Feldblum wrote:
It's been nearly two weeks since Google Instant launched, and ... we're finally starting to see some real data about how the new Google search experience is affecting organic traffic levels and other facets of SEO. ... Google Instant is slowly changing how search engine optimization professionals work, what they focus on, and the bottom line results seen by their clients.
My opinion? Baloney.
First of all, even at internet speeds, two weeks isn't enough time for anything to be "slowly changing how search engine optimization professionals work". That's probably a fluff sentence thrown in to make the paragraph sound like "good writing".
Second of all, the "real data" anyone has seen so far only shows how Google Instant has affected searchers behavior in the first two weeks of a new experience. We have no way of knowing yet how that behavior will change as people adapt Google's changes.
For example, the early data shows that "Google Instant was more likely to make the user scroll down the page: keywords in lowest positions [on the first page] showed the largest growth."
Why might that be? Well, with the suggestion box pushing the Instant results down, searchers may be itching to see as many results as they used to see after submitting their query. So they scroll down. And once they're in scroll down mode, they keep scrolling, and thus are more likely to get to the bottom of the page.
Will this change when people get used to Google Instant? At this point, we can only guess, but I'd imagine so. Scrolling down takes time. Once people get used to the new experience, I'd expect them to either just accept that they don't see as much as they used to, or to submit their query, which closes the suggestion box and shows more results above the fold.
Eli's recommendations for what to do about the changes include:
...keywords ranking at the bottom of Page 1 are starting to get more attention, while keywords on subsequent results pages are tanking. Time to do that extra work to push your keywords from the top of Page 2 to the bottom of Page 1.
My recommendation? Don't redouble your efforts based on the early data. Getting onto page 1 will always remain important, so I'm not saying don't bother. Just don't do anything different than you would have if Google hadn't changed -- at least not till we have a better idea of whether the searcher behavior changes are permanent.