Google Instant

Why does Google suggest 'why doesn't Voldemort have a nose' when you start typing 'why doesn't...' into Google?

You-know-who's noselessness has long been a hot topic among Harry Potter fans, and even today - nearly 10 years after the last book in the series came out - many people still wonder how the Dark Lord came to look the way he does. Plenty of theories have been tossed around, one of our favourites being that Voldemort's nose was smashed in by the bewitched snowballs that Fred and George Weasley threw at the back of Professor Quirrell's head (actually Lord Voldemort's face, concealed for most of Book 1 by a turban).

Still, with no concrete answer ever provided in-universe or by author J.K. Rowling, the question of why Voldemort has no nose remains a hot topic around the world. But why does it appear when you simply type the words 'why doesn't' into Google?


This happens because Google is trying to predict what you're searching for so that it can offer you suggestions related to your query before you've even finished entering it. The second you begin typing something into the search bar, Google starts displaying results - even as you're still typing. This feature is called Google Instant.

What is Google Instant?

Google Instant is a well-known Google feature that was introduced back in 2010. It is a feature that predicts what you're searching for and provides you with results as you're typing your query. It uses Google's autocomplete technology to show predicted search terms that are relevant to your query as you type it; it also begins to display search results in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). As you continue to complete your query, both the predicted queries and search results will change, becoming more relevant to whatever you've typed into the search box. 

The suggestions that Google provide are influenced by three factors:
  1. Query volume (lots of other people Googled this query)

  2. Searcher's location (this query is relevant to your current location - e.g. you started typing 'takeaway pizza', Google noticed that you're located in Brighton, so it suggested 'takeaway pizza Brighton')

  3. Keyword/phrase mentions (this query - or part of it - is getting a lot of mentions across the web right now)
The suggestions that Google provides are all terms that other people have searched for. For example, if you type in the word 'offers', Google will suggest the following based on the kind of 'offers' that other people commonly search for:


The popularity of a query is a massive factor in deciding what suggestions Google provides. In the example above, the user typed in 'offers' and Google guessed that they might be looking for offers on toys, perfume, or liquor. Why? Because lots of other Google users have started typing 'offers' and then followed it with 'on perfume', 'on toys', or 'on spirits'. This happens frequently enough that Google is now confident that it can save users a few keystrokes by offering these suggestions.

(Note that Google Instant suggestions are based on the number of unique verifiable accounts and independent users who search for a specific query, not the number of times that query was used. We'd love it if 'Designer Websites' appeared as a suggestion every time somebody typed 'designer' into Google, but we can't make that happen just by Googling our own name hundreds of times - we'd need lots of separate individuals to do it for The Big G to take any notice.)

It's important to remember that not everyone will see the same suggestions as you. As mentioned above, your geographic location can have a big impact on what Google Instant shows you. 


When we start typing 'hotels...' into Google, it suggests terms like 'hotels in Cardiff' and 'hotels in Tenby' (see screenshot above). This happens because Google has identified that our office is in South Wales, and people in our location often search for accommodation in these places. However, if you're using Google in, say, Scotland, you might get suggestions like 'hotels in Glasgow' or 'hotels in Pitlochry' instead.

In summary, Google Instant makes suggestions that it thinks are relevant to you based on what you've already typed in, what queries are popular right now, and - sometimes - where you are.

How can I use Google Instant to get more traffic?

Google Instant doesn't just benefit consumers - it can also be a somewhat useful tool for SEO professionals. The feature is very handy for keyword research purposes as it can give you good idea what people are commonly searching for. Just type in your keyword and see what Google suggests - these suggestions are likely to be commonly-Googled queries that are worth targeting on your website!

For instance, if you own a furniture store that sells dining tables, you could start typing 'dining tables' into Google for a couple of quick keyword ideas:


This tells you that quite a few people search for 'dining table with bench' and 'dining table and 4 chairs'. Now that you know this, you can target these long-tail keyword phrases on appropriate pages within your site; for example, if you sell a dining table that comes with benches, you could tailor this product page's copy to rank for the corresponding search term. Alternatively, if you sell several table/bench combo products, you could write a blog post that features all of them and targets the search term 'dining table with bench'. Ranking for a keyword like this should give your organic traffic levels a great little boost!

We hope this blog has given you a better understanding of Google Instant. If you want your brand to appear more prominently in Google's search results, the SEO experts here at Designer Websites can help - get in touch today!
Facebook 2016
 

Whether you keep up to date with social media developments or not, you're likely to have seen Facebook making headlines quite regularly last year, and often for the wrong reasons! From developments on the parent platform (which still has the biggest user share in social media), to increasing Instagram shake-ups since 2012's take-over, Facebook did a lot to get people talking in 2016. They also managed to find themselves right at the centre of the year's post-truth' climate, as the growing prevalence of 'fake news' on the platform was criticised throughout mainstream news, particularly in relation to the year's biggest political developments.

 
Despite all the negative attention received, Facebook did manage to make headlines for the right reasons on several occasions during 2016, although it's fair to say that many of these achievements were lost in the swathe of bad press towards the end of the year. To get a more balanced view of the platform's accomplishments and blunders, we put together a list of the company's top hits and misses of 2016:

Miss: Organic Reach Falls 

facebook organic reach chart
(data via edgerankchecker.com, now property of socialbakers.com
 
Throughout 2016, we heard a lot about the increasing problem of competing organically amidst the growth of paid advertising, which was a particularly sore issue for content creators on Facebook over the course of 2016. Throughout the year, we heard increasingly dismal reports about the depths to which organic reach capabilities were sinking, and back in August, Marketing Land reported that capabilities had fallen by a whopping 52%. 
 
Using data provided by social publishing tool Social Flow, the news site reported how reach for brands and content publishers had hit a new low, as Facebook's algorithm became increasingly stringent about the posts that were able to make it into people's feeds. In fact, the only area that seemed to be demonstrating growth for content creators was video, which had it's fair share of positive and negative attention this year, as will be discussed below. 

Hit: Reaction Buttons

facebook reactions
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
 
During 2016, our social interaction habits became increasingly 'emojicentric', which is why the introduction of reaction buttons can be seen as one of the platform's more successful moves of the year, for users and content creators alike. While this expansion of the 'like' feature may have gained it's fair share of negative press, with suggestions that it was a further invasion of user privacy, it has certainly increased the 'social' aspect of the platform overall. It has also acted as a creative tool for encouraging interaction from users, as companies and publishers have taken to asking audiences to select reactions, in order to run makeshift Facebook polls. 
 
Despite an initial slump, a study by Quintly published back in September reported a 22.4% rise in the use of reaction buttons from May to June 2016, with video content picking up the largest amount of Facebook Reactions. It also inspired sets of 'Reaction Packs' to be developed as an alternative to the standard emoji-like icons, as well as limited-edition reactions from Facebook themselves during Halloween.

Miss: Instagram's Algorithm Changes

instagram algorithm
 
If people weren't already angry enough with Facebook's algorithm tweaking, this frustration extended to the company's acquired photo-sharing platform at the beginning of the year, as it was announced that Instagram would be rolling out an interaction-based system for deciding which content users would like to see. This sparked an outpouring of complaints from users, particularly from those who were concerned about their ability to sustain and expand their audience, when competing with accounts that have a considerably high follower count, and therefore likes.
 
Despite the negativity earned by the move, Instagram continued to witness growth in 2016, particularly from advertisers. According to Mashable,  it is likely that the platform will overtake Twitter as the go-to sharing service for paid marketing efforts in 2017, a prediction that was based on market research from Emarketer, who also predicted that Twitter's prospects would continue to stagnate. With advertising on Instagram having doubled since last year, it's hard to count their collective changes to the platform as a 'miss', however, the negative backlash from such a high volume of users is impossible to ignore. Perhaps the best way to describe this point is as a 'miss' in terms of public opinion, while it may be described as a 'hit' from the perspective of business development.

Hit: Live Video

live video on facebook
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
 
The most substantial achievement for Facebook in 2016 had to be the introduction of Live Video, which has even prompted Twitter to launch it's own version of this feature, in a bid to use their acquisition of Periscope as a competitive advantage. The secret to success for search and social media platforms alike, is the ability to keep users in one place, and to offer a range of features that will encourage users to interact with the platform on an increasingly frequent basis. Taking ques from a combination of user behaviour and other social platforms, Facebook devised a way to take users beyond the capabilities of a simple status update or photo share, by granting them the ability to interact with their audience in real time.
 
In 2016, there was a mass outpouring of articles championing the efficiency of video content, which made this development just as appealing to brands and content creators as it was to the average user. 

Miss: Miscalculated Metrics 

miscalculated metrics
 
Talk about bad press! Above is an example of what shows up when you type 'miscalculated metrics' into Google, which goes to show how much of a slip up this was for the company last year. Perhaps the worst part, is the fact that this happened not only once, but three times in the space of just a few months, as was noted by Search Engine Watch
 
The first example came in 2016, as Facebook announced that a miscalculation in video metrics meant that it had been vastly overestimating the average viewing time. The second case came in November, which revealed even more issues within Facebook Analytics, including a miscalculation of weekly and monthly summaries on Page Insights, among other issues. Finally, in December, Facebook announced a range of miscalculations and fixes that would impact areas such as estimated reach and reactions to live videos.
 
As expected, marketers and content publishers were angry and concerned about these revelations, which cast doubt on their previous goals and achievements using Facebook to generate engagement, using both paid and organic methods.

Hit: Facebook Grows in India 

facebook india
(image via Wikimedia Commons)
 
2016 was a good year for Facebook in terms of global growth, as the site achieved more than 166 million Monthly Active Users in India. This meant that the country accounted for a huge chunk of Facebook's overall growth last year, at a rate of 22% year on year, which was higher than the global average of 17%. It was also revealed that at least 159 million of these users were accessing the site via mobile devices, which counts for over 90% of Facebook's overall traffic.
 
Despite the eventual success witnessed by Facebook by the end of the year, this did not come without its struggles. In fact, back in February, India's Telecom Regulatory Authority blocked Facebook's plans to install the 'Free Basics' internet service, which was intended to offer a limited number of online services to users, without an added cost.

Miss: Fake News

hilary clinton
(image by Gage Skidmore) 
 
This was without a doubt, the biggest headline to impact Facebook last year, and sadly for them, it wasn't a positive one. Highlighted primarily by events such as the US election, 2016 was the year that Facebook came under harsh scrutiny for the levels of completely fabricated news being spread across the platform. One of the most severe cases highlighted in the press, was a popularly shared story that linked presidential candidate Hilary Clinton with a fabricated paedophile ring, all elements of which were a complete invention.
 
To make matters worse, Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the impact and scale of this issue, insisting on Facebook's position as a neutral, non-media company. Naturally, as a company with such a huge influence on the daily lives and information consumption of its active users, this statement went down like a lead balloon with many, which meant that Zuckerberg was forced to address the issue again in November. This post consisted of a list which outlined 7 ways in which Facebook could tackle its fake news problem, and shortly after this, news outlets began reporting that users had spotted some of these methods being tested.
 
While Facebook's efforts to address the problem are a step in the right direction, for many, these changes are a case of too little too late, particularly with regards to the possible implications on important political developments.

Hit: Instagram Comment Disable

instagram logo
 
While Facebook itself may have missed the mark when it comes to filtering out damaging information, Instagram granted it's users with the enhanced ability to filter out trolls towards the end of 2016. This appeared in the form of a comment disable switch, which provided users with the ability to turn off comments on individual posts.
 
Social media platforms have been collectively criticised for their failure to deal with online abuse for some time, which made this feature a welcome addition to the photo sharing app. While this ability had previously been available to only a select few accounts, it was later rolled out for all Instagram users, granting individuals with the ability to flexibly alter their comment preferences when posting and editing their images.
 
In addition to the ON/OFF comment switch, Instagram also introduced abuse filters to account settings, allowing users to active a general abuse filter, as well as adding their own set of keywords, to prevent these from appearing in the comments of their post. Taylor Swift became one of the first users to test this feature, after her account was spammed with a swathe of snake emojis, in the aftermath of her feud with Kim Kardashian West.

Miss/Hit: 'Stories' on Instagram

instagram and snapchat
This is the last Instagram related news story to make it onto our list, and it's something of a combination when it comes to how it was received by users and the media. Back in the summer of 2016, Instagram announced its brand new 'Stories' feature, which was a clear copy of Snapchat's photo sharing format. Unsurprisingly, this led to a lot of backlash from users across social media, who were quick to make jokes, express their confusion, and criticise the changes to the platform. 
 
This certainly isn't the first or last time that social networks have 'taken inspiration' from one another's features, and soon enough, it became clear that the company's move had paid off. Instagram had not only managed to add a new, interactive feature, without making existing capabilities more complicated, but had also succeeded in improving the confusing and non-user-friendly elements of Snapchat's interface. For Instagram, this was a way to offer the missing element of spontaneity to their users, providing another incentive to remain active on the app, while succeeding in preserving the already successful elements of their model.

Hit: Best Tech Company to Work For

facebook hq
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)
 
While users and commentators may have experienced many issues with Facebook as a company in 2016, this was not the case for their U.S employees. After months of dealing with negative press relating to fake news and metric mess-ups, Facebook needed a positive news story, which came in December, as they were named 'Best Company to Work for in the U.S' ahead of 2017. Assessing ratings from employees, job hunting website Glassdoor publishes the list ahead of each new year, with Facebook coming out on top in its most recent set of yearly rankings. 
 
While Facebook had featured on the list 7 times previously, on this occasion it managed to rise up and claim the top spot for 2017, after many of the company's employees praised the positivity and flexibility of their workplace, as well as their opportunities to thrive and progress.

Miss: Facebook's 'Year in Review'

facebook tweet
 
While there may have been many positive notes for Facebook thought the year, it wasn't surprising that the company managed to anger their users one more time before the year was out. This came in the form of Facebook's 'Year in Review' for 2016, which included personalised memories for each of its users, as well as a round up of the most popular trending topics for the year. While Facebook have included similar features in past years, a combination of existing distaste for Facebook's selective algorithm, anger over the Fake News scandal, and general distaste for 2016 in general, meant that the reception for this year's feature was particularly frosty. 
 
When it came to people's 'personalised' videos, it seemed that Facebook still managed to miss the mark when it came to showing users their most memorable moments of the year, something it had promised to improve on in previous years. Many users complained about the feature being depressing, inaccurate and unnecessary, while others also complained about their publication of the trending topics list, which to many was a bitter reminder of the many negative events that had occurred throughout the year.
Prepare Your Website for 2017

Though we're only a few days into 2017, it's already clear that change is on the cards for this year. America is getting a new president; the UK is scheduled to begin the process of leaving the European Union; and important elections will be taking place in a number of countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Don't worry, though - this isn't going to be a post about politics. The world of web design is constantly reshaping itself, and just as 2017 looks set to usher in a number of big political changes, we're also expecting to see several sizeable shifts in the landscape of the Internet between now and January 2018. Lots of changes are coming, and if you want your business to succeed (or continue succeeding) over the next twelve months, it's very important that you stay abreast of these changes.

Priorities for your website in 2017

Below are 5 design, UI and SEO changes website owners should aim to make this year.

1. Speed it up.

If there's one thing that will utterly scupper your chances of online success in 2017, it's a website that takes too long to load. The days of dial-up, when web users would happily wait several minutes for a page to render, are gone; nowadays, most users will leave if your content doesn't load within a second or two. People hate waiting around, especially when they're on the go and browsing the web on their smartphones.

And what users hate, search engines hate too. Google, Bing, and the rest of them will be reluctant to list your website as a search result if it provides a sluggish and frustrating user experience. If you want to make your customers happy AND keep the organic search traffic rolling in, it's imperative that you minimise your site's loading times.

TAKE ACTION: Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website's load times and find out how you can speed things up. Talk to your web developer if you're unsure of how to implement any of the tool's recommendations.

2. Stop using pop-ups.

For years, 'pop-up' was a dirty word associated with the spammiest, most irritating kind of online advertising in existence. When you think of a pop-up ad, you probably picture garish colours and dubious claims such as 'YOU HAVE WON AN IPOD' or 'THERE ARE 14 HOT SINGLES IN YOUR AREA WAITING TO CHAT'. Strangely, though, pop-ups have become somewhat legitimised in recent years, and many perfectly reputable websites now use pop-ups to drive newsletter sign-ups, app downloads, and other conversions. Perhaps you use this strategy on your own site; perhaps it even works for you.

But now is the time to stop. Google recently declared war on pop-ups (or 'intrusive interstitials'), stating that sites using them "may not rank as highly" from 10 January 2017 onwards. This doesn't just apply to old-fashioned, 'click here to claim your prize' pop-ups - it applies to pretty much any on-screen element that appears unexpectedly and gets in the way of the actual content. And yes, that unfortunately includes your nice-looking 'subscribe now' box. Get it gone by the 10th of January, or prepare to see a drop-off in your Google rankings.

TAKE ACTION: Remove any nonessential pop-ups from your website, or redesign them so that they don't cover up too much of the page itself. Learn more about Google's forthcoming pop-up penalty (and whether it will affect you) here.

3. Declutter your design.

We're always reading about the latest web design trends, and we've seen a lot of articles lately with titles like '17 Web Design Predictions for 2017'. Lots of industry experts are offering lots of different opinions and forecasts right now, but the general feeling seems to be that a minimal, uncluttered aesthetic is the right choice going forward. The design world has been moving steadily in the direction of minimalism for several years now, and it's unlikely that 2017 will buck that trend.

TAKE ACTION: Minimalism is a great approach to web design because it makes sites easy to navigate as well as easy on the eyes. Here are a few steps you can take to declutter your site this year:
  • Fewer menu options. Listing loads of different categories in your site menu can make things look messy, and users may struggle to work out which one they need. For this reason, it's better to streamline your site structure and show just a few options at the top of each page.

  • Make your message stand out. If you've got a key message to get across, don't bury it in reams and reams of text. Aim to cut down on unnecessary copy and focus on making the important words stand out. Lots of people have predicted that big, bold typefaces will be very popular in 2017, so ask yourself if the point you've taken ten paragraphs to make could have been made in a single striking sentence writ large at the top of your page.

  • Don't fear empty space. When designing your site's layout, you may be tempted to fill every last gap with an image or a bit of copy. But this may not be necessary! Discerning use of empty space can help your website to feel elegant and inviting rather than claustrophobic and overwhelming. Empty space also draws the user's attention back to the central focus of the page, whether that's an image, a headline, or a CTA.

4. Optimise for user intent.

There are two big buzzphrases that every SEO specialist in the land will be running into the ground this year. The first is 'user intent' - basically an extension of the well-worn adage that you should be optimising your website for users, not search engines. If you want to boost your organic search traffic in 2017, the key is to 'optimise for user intent'.

This means that, rather than picking a popular keyword and carefully concentrating on that term when you write your site copy, you should be thinking about your target audience and what they're trying to achieve. Keywords remain an important part of the search engine optimisation process, but both your keyword choices and your website's content should be directly informed by the needs that you're trying to meet.

For example, if you sell carpets, don't just write a tonne of copy about 'cheap carpets' and expect the search engines to reward you with a tonne of traffic. Instead, take the time to identify your target audience; consider what your average customer wants, and then create a website that gives it to them. This could be a simple, easy-to-navigate list of the different products you stock, or it could be a handy wizard-style tool that helps users to select the right carpet for any given room. What it probably won't be is a thousand-word essay on cheap carpets and why your cheap carpets are the best cheap carpets on the market.

You should also think carefully about the intent behind each keyword you target on your website. 'How to lay a carpet' and 'carpet installation' might seem like two very similar search terms on the face of it, but where someone who Googles 'how to lay a carpet' might want a how-to guide or instructional video, the person who Googles 'carpet installation' probably just wants a professional to come and do the job for them. Be sure to consider how well your content satisfies the queries people are typing in to find it.

TAKE ACTION: Don't just create a website and then stuff it with your industry's most popular keywords; instead, follow the Intent > Keywords > Content model described below
  1. Intent: Start by identifying your target audience and the needs that you're trying to meet. What is their intent when they visit your website? What are they looking to achieve?

  2. Keywords: Use a keyword research tool to find out what people type into Google when they need the thing that you provide. Do your potential customers use short phrases or longer, more conversational search terms? Identify a set of keywords that are directly related to your niche.

  3. Content: Structure your website and create its content based on the intentions of your users and how they are expressed in the form of search queries. Pick a keyword (or group of keywords) for each page of your website, and ensure that every page is perfectly tailored to the needs expressed by the query it targets. 

5. Remember your mobile users.

Here's the other big SEO buzzphrase of 2017: 'mobile first'. For many webmasters, mobile friendliness has thus far been little more than an afterthought, but now that the majority of Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, it's absolutely crucial to make sure that your website works perfectly on smaller screens.

Google demonstrated their commitment to putting mobile users first several months ago - not only did they roll out a completely separate index for mobile searches, they also announced that this new mobile index would be "the primary Google index" going forward. This shows that Google are extremely keen to make mobile users happy in 2017, and if your website doesn't make mobile users happy, your organic Google traffic may well take a nosedive this year.

TAKE ACTION: Look at your website on a range of mobile devices and ensure that it is nice-looking and easy to navigate on smartphones and tablets as well as on desktop computers. Strongly consider upgrading to a responsive website if you haven't already done so.

Need help getting your website in shape for the new year? Get in touch with Designer Websites - we are a team of expert designers, developers and SEO specialists, and no matter what business you're in, we can help you to succeed online in 2017.