Google Instant: 37 Golden Tickets

Google Instant provides results as you type. This is bound to keep SEO experts and marketing wonks awake at night trying to figure out what new user behavior it might engender.

For one thing, there are now a small number of golden tickets: if a searcher hesitates for even the shortest time between typing letters, auto-suggestions and results show up… and presumably many searches start with a Latin character.

So I thought it would be interesting to find out what the first suggestions are for queries searching with each letter of the Latin alphabet. And here they are:

A Amazon N NetFlix
B Best Buy O Orbitz
C Craigslist P Pandora
D ‘dictionary’ Q ‘quotes’
E eBay R REI
F Facebook S Sears
G Gmail T Target
H Hotmail U USPS
I Ikea V Verizon
J JetBlue W ‘weather’
K Kohl’s X XBox
L Lowe’s Y Yahoo
M MapQuest Z Zillow

Note that only D, Q and W bring up a generic word, rather than a brand name directly. This might seem slightly surprising (since appending ‘.com’ to all these brand names will get you straight to their web site), but entirely consistent with this sort of behavior.

Note that these are not the same as the results brought up if you simply enter a single letter in to the search box. If you simply search for ‘H’, you’ll be told about Planck’s Constant and hydrogen – but if you start to type a search with ‘H’, Google thinks you’re most likely to then type ‘otmail’, and the results show accordingly.

Because of that distinction, I’m sure that SEOing your web site for a targetted single letter won’t help – the suggestions are presumably based on vast statistics about which phrases users end up typing after initial stems.

I also tried the same test on Google’s mobile search, vainly hoping that there might be some sign that people might be looking for different things when they are mobile. Maybe ‘directions’ might beat ‘dictionary’ when on the move, eh? But no: they were all exactly the same – bar one. (Strangely YouTube beat Yahoo on the mobile auto-suggest.)

I am sure this list isn’t curated: one hopes that would have put paid to dusty old MapQuest… But there are a few interesting entries in the list. Do more people search for REI than ‘realty’? (Who are REI?) And is ‘Sears’ really the most popular search starting with ‘S’?

For completeness, here are the top suggestions for single numeric digits:

007 5 50 Cent
1 14th Amendment 6 60 Minutes
2 24 (TV Series) 7 7-ZIP
3 Nintendo 3DS 8 84 Lumber
4 4chan 9 90210 (TV Series)

And finally, one that made me hopeful for the future of web design:

@ @font-face