Live Updating Google 'Instant' Search Results

This story was published on August 20th, 2010.

Earlier today, I noticed that my Google results were centered in the middle of the page. This evening, I spotted that you don't even need to hit the 'Search' button anymore - Google updates the results for you while you're typing.

I recorded this quick video to show the SERPs page changing as I amend my query.


(or: watch this video in high-definition.)

Has anyone else seen this yet? It's a testament to the speed of not just Google, but also broadband internet and web browers!

Update: Sources including the Google Operating System blog have referred to this as Google 'streaming' the search results. Indeed, you can see in the video that they offer a link to 'Turn off streaming.'

Further update: Google has launched the product I demoed in this video, under the name Google Instant; this will be rolled out to people over the next few days.

(NB: Cheesy music added because I wanted to try out YouTube's audio-swap feature. The screen capture was recorded using Screentoaster, which I've never used before, but was pretty awesome.)

68 comments

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 03:17.

Umm ...

Why are you reporting a feature as new when it was added 6 or 7 months ago. So er... yeah, basically the whole world has already seen it.

Surprised to see this post tbh. Get with the times man!

Submitted by Rob on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 08:26.

Just to confirm: I'm not pressing the enter or the search button while I type in this video.

Google is updating the page's results using AJAX, whilst I type!

Submitted by Creative SEO (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 01:47.

Mmm, this shows that perhaps you know very little. Really this is a new feature. Look again and pay attention. NOT the suggest but what is below. Then you can post, "sorry"

Submitted by Robert (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 08:13.

Maybe you should watch the video before you comment, this is new and only available to a selected amount of users as of now

Submitted by Marcel - Brazil (not verified) on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 05:17.

Hello, somebody knows how they chose this users??? What parameters they use??? Thanks
Very nice Blog.

Marcel from South America - Brazil

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 07:12.

Stupid. Watch the video again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 00:25.

i've NEVER see this google's feature before so... i think your comment it's not right.... maybe your life neither ;-)

Submitted by Joanathan (not verified) on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 08:59.

See now the normal user does not know how to disable this google instant. Trust me you need to search a lot to do that. You have to go to preferences and disable this annoying feature. Why would a company need to force its users?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 09/26/2011 - 01:50.

This feature will definitely revolutionize the way search is experienced, eventhough ajax queries are passed to the server with a single letter typed or deleted in the search box, the user can see whether the results are up to his expectations, this is great, will help users to save time and no more 'Search' button required. Thanks for the updates

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 08:09.

perhaps you guys did not read -- he wasn't hitting the "enter" or "search" button. That is new.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 09:22.

Waouh, I love that feature.
Great job :)

Submitted by grumpyhawk (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 09:54.

If Google implement this, I can see it having a big impact on AdWords. Seems like your impressions would go way up, as people correct what they're typing, or change their mind. Be interesting to see what happens with this.

Submitted by Charlie (not verified) on Wed, 09/08/2010 - 10:43.

Grumpy, good point. I'm thinking "ad quality". They recently tested a feature where selected vendors (big guys like Target etc) could populate paid ads with thumbnail sized product images. Could the results be steering Google toward this dynamic feeding of search results, whereby product images will quickly display, hence increasing PPC clicks. We all know that users see images before they read content.

Submitted by Kieron Hughes (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 13:56.

Good point from grumpyhawk actually - as Adwords impression data will obviously be affected by this. Perhaps there will be a bounce rate metric that will form some kind of attribution to the overall impression statistics? Quite interesting either way.

I can also see the blended results playing a bigger part in attracting click-thrus - If a user is typing a long-tail query, they could easily be stopped mid-way through by product/image results for part of the query I imagine. Would be interesting to see some eye tracking videos if Google were to go ahead with this update properly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 00:10.

Actually AFAIK Google does ads based on impressions(IE click on links in search results) so this wouldn't basically create problem for them.

Submitted by Andy Beard (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 04:00.

Google look to maximise income for each displayed search result, and CTR plays a significant role in boosting overall quality score.
However all ads on a page are being affected universally by this change, thus it shouldn't affect advertisers significantly - though they may see lower CTR at the head of the tail, so will their competitors.

Submitted by Samuel Lavoie (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 13:58.

neato! pretty interesting, I don't think it's gonna make it in the long run as it could be pretty disturbing for non techie users tho'.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/21/2010 - 17:12.

I would turn the feature off. Most people type fast enough where that feature would just be annoying as the screen is constantly changing.

Submitted by ShadleyHax (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 01:39.

I agree. Id find that annoying at best. its unnecessary bandwidth and i only want the results when ive got to the end of my search criteria. thank god theres gona be an 'off' option.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/08/2010 - 16:41.

Agreed.

Submitted by Richard Baxter (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 01:17.

Great catch Rob!

Submitted by PSP Games (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 01:57.

The good thing about this is that there will be less typos submitted and there will be no room for optimized mispelled words by the webmasters. This also makes it great for people researching or just doing some alternate keyword research. Although the google recommendation engine is fit to most people this is just epic win

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 02:52.

"the SERPs page" ?

Do you also say ATM machine and PIN number? Pathetic.

Submitted by Mark (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 01:38.

^^ Most ironic comment ever.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 22:35.

Does your critizism really help make up for your own personal flaws? Truely pathetic...!

Submitted by Nikhil (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 05:12.

long zheng already implement Livesearch using bing http://www.istartedsomething.com/livesearch/#
http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090821/the-real-live-search-bing-api-...

So this time again Google copy the feature from others

Submitted by Paul Cherry (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 06:36.

Not to mention the bandwidth this would use. What a waste.

Pretty cool though, I like this in iTunes and Windows Start bar etc, but I think it is unnecessary for search.

Like the current pre-emptive search suggestion, does it just ignore if you start typing things like:

"naked ADSL2 plans"
"virgin airline tickets"
"pussy cat in a tree"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 08:27.

LMAO!!!!

Submitted by egenius (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 14:24.

This is Google slowly forcing me others like me to look for a less flashy alternative. Other than the fact that it is set as my default front page and I am too lazy to take to update the bookmark. The only reason I continue on using Google is because it is clutter free, simple and fast.

First they annoyed me by adding the fading links on the home page - without any option to opt-out. Now if this useless experiment gets committed I would be off to look for someone else.

Submitted by MouseKeys RuneScape (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 08:51.

According to google that's not a bad thing as it gets you to your search results faster.

I guess they assume (bad google) that if you make heavy use of their other services in that hidden drop down menu then you use igoogle.

Submitted by Cardiff SEO (not verified) on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 14:24.

It's a neat feature but I totally agree with egenius - I really prefer the clutter free and simple layout.

Submitted by Amir Sachs (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 15:31.

Pretty cool, and also makes positions 4/5 and above obsolete in the results page.
I can see it working, but can't see it being too popular.
Rob, which part of the world do you live in? Perhaps if you post the google IP address you're resolving to, we may be able to test this too :)

Submitted by Siva (not verified) on Sun, 08/22/2010 - 20:05.

I would probable say it is totally a waste ,
only the number of Searches per day increases and the Server response will increase .

Submitted by Victor (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 00:36.

Dificultara la labor del SEO..??

Submitted by Why? (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 02:37.

Well spotted , it appears as if this is a A/B test by Google rather than a full roll out. We have carried out a few tests ourselves and have not been able to replicate. Do you have any IP details of the server accessed?

As a function its very useful, as a ppc supplier is rather concerning, when is an impression an impression?

Submitted by Spiration (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 04:26.

Nice. I'd say the behaviour is a bit weird from a user standpoint, but Google have implemented this really nicely - nice snappy DOM manipulation. It would probably feel rough on a slow connection tho.

Submitted by Michael H Reed (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 05:57.

Perhaps instead of live results they can have live Analytic's data! Clicky Web analytics seem to do it quite well. Definately something Google should look a lot closer at. Sometimes 24 hours is just too long.

Great way to show the power behind Google though.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 08:33.

Are you using a hidden URL to preview this feature?
It's not working on Google's default page for me.

Submitted by Sam Tilston (not verified) on Mon, 08/23/2010 - 19:49.

Time to start SEOing search suggest

Submitted by seo (not verified) on Fri, 09/24/2010 - 04:48.

exactly :)

Submitted by Jakkko (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 04:57.

This is just an Ajax request which is sent on the onkeyup event of the search area. It looks like they send the request only when a word is finished or every 4 characters.

This is not difficult to make : with a simple web page, 5/10 minutes...
Is it the "revolution" of google for this year ?! wow...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 13:16.

Count me in the "turning it off" team. I mean, why use this? It's pretty annoying and, frankly, useless and bandwidth consuming.

I can see it's something from a strictly technological, demonstrative, maybe conceptual POV, but, in practical terms...

Submitted by jsmp (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 14:38.

Live Google is like website http://keyboardr.com/ This site is based on google engine :)

Submitted by Alex Sepulveda (not verified) on Tue, 08/24/2010 - 16:38.

Interesting feature. I disagree with several of the commenters that this feature isn't useful, and that it will have a negative impact on PPC or complicate SEO. Whether it will see the light of day is another story. Google has a huge product/feature failure rate by design (I think on the order of 60% but could be more).

It's unlikely any of us will be able to reproduce this on our machines. Generally Google tests new features on a very small percentage of users, often 1%. If the results are favorable, and users seem to like the feature, they will roll it out to a larger subset of users until they have enough data to pull meaningful results. If they're positive, then they'll roll it out to everyone.

The value in this feature is akin to Google Suggest. I often find myself pausing mid-query to scan the Suggest queries to see if my final query is there. On occasion I actually see a better query or an iteration that I hadn't thought of--perhaps a bit longer (tail) or sometimes more concise (more heady).

Streaming SERs will achieve a similar effect, I think, allowing users to see what they're looking for before finishing their query; and if they don't see what they're looking for, they might be inclined to refine their query until they do. I can only see this having a positive impact on PPC because I feel confident saying that Google is NOT going to count an impression until you hit enter or the search button. There would be massive advertiser uproar over a poor user experience where user = advertiser, and if there's one thing besides search that Google has nailed, it's user experience. A certain percentage of users could start refining their queries in this manner, thereby cutting down on impressions that wouldn't garner clicks for advertisers. The result could be a higher overall CTR and QS at the account level which improves QS at the keyword level, too.

Submitted by Neuro SEO (not verified) on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 02:48.

Waiting to see this feature here in India too!

Thanks for the update...

Submitted by Phillip Ohren (not verified) on Wed, 08/25/2010 - 17:50.

Amazing pick-up!

How on earth is this going to effect rank checking tools? I wonder.......

Its very easy to spot Ajax scraping.....

Submitted by T (not verified) on Thu, 08/26/2010 - 07:33.

There is nothing new about this feature. It has been implemented in Google's ajax search api for over six months as already correctly mentioned by Anonymous who was incorrectly flamed by Creative SEO, Robert and a few anonymous cowards.
The only thing new is that Google have started to use it themselves on search result pages returned from their home page.
Professional web designers have been using this feature of Google's ajax search api for a while now.
Here is my implementation : http://heydojo.co.cc/gsearch/
it was added to the site over six months ago. Type slowly into the search box and understand that this feature is nothing new.

Total none story.

Submitted by admin on Thu, 08/26/2010 - 22:49.

Hi Tony,
I'd like to point out that no one was flamed; I'd remove any flaming from the comments pretty quickly.

Yes, the feature has been in the Ajax API for a long time - I built a site in early 2008 that used it. However, this is the first time that it's been tested live on Google.com; I think that's a considerable step.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/27/2010 - 05:31.

Cool video... what's the name of the song on the background?

Submitted by Bill Slawski (not verified) on Wed, 09/01/2010 - 05:07.

Hi Rob,

Which browser were you using when you saw these results, and are you still seeing them?

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