Google Suggest or Autocomplete is a Google search engine function which provides suggestions to users to complete the search query while they are entering words in the search box. Through another function called Google Instant, the SERP adapts to the keywords or phrase as it is being entered.
Google Suggest was introduced in the US in 2008 and in Germany in 2009. The advantage is supposed to be that the user reaches the desired search result more quickly, without having to do a new search.
While typing letters in the Google search box, the form sends the data to servers working in the background, which, depending on the input, may already adapt the listing to be shown based on a specific prefix. This function is based on Ajax technology which allows for changes to page content, without the page having to be completely reloaded. The searcher therefore receives a result to his search request almost in “real time,” some even before the entire word or phrase has been typed in.
Relevant factors influencing the search with Google Suggest
The following factors may affect the Google Suggest feature:
- Search frequency: How often is a certain term searched? The more search queries Google receives, the faster it is listed in the Suggest feature.
- Search frequency: How often is a specific phrase or keyword combination searched successively? The more frequently in succession a particular word is part of a search, the more likely it is that this word or phrase will be proposed by Google.
- Search behavior: Google may include past searches in the analysis when the web history feature is activated.
- Search location: The SERP gets adjusted depending on the geographic location of the user. A point of note is that search terms with low global search volume will be displayed high up in the SERP if the algorithms of the search engine give a higher weight to the local results.
If a user is already logged in with their Google Account, this has additional influence on the search results and Google Suggest.
Google takes the entire user behavior into account in regards to search phrases. For example, if “smartphone comparison” has been entered often in the search field, it is very likely that a request which starts with the keyword “smartphone” will first be supplemented with the term “comparison” by Google Suggest.
Contemporary relevance also plays a major role. If a smartphone manufacturer like Apple released a new iPhone, Google Suggest will likely supplement a search query that begins with “iphone” with the number of the current model.
Exclusions from Google Suggest
Google has very strict policies regarding pornography, copyrights, or the glorification of violence. For this reason, the Google Suggest function may be disabled temporarily.
Some problems have arisen with the introduction of Google Suggest that predominantly affect personal rights. In 2012, the wife of the former German President, Bettina Wulff, sued Google. The reason was that Google’s Autocomplete added keywords such as “escort” or “prostitute” when her name was searched. The argument on the part of Google was that the company has no influence over the search queries of its users and that Google Suggest was based only on existing search queries of its users.
Google did yield partly to the legal action and gradually removed eight results from its search index. The Suggest function itself did not get fundamentally changed for the plaintiff. A ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice from 2013 did oblige search engines to intervene if the privacy rights of people are offended by the Autocomplete function.
Autocomplete and SEO
Although Google Suggest cannot be influenced directly through search engine optimization, every marketer should be aware that this function may have a decisive influence on the image of a brand or a person. There are many cases in which a trademark may quickly get Google Suggest proposals with negative connotations after a big scandal. In this case, SEO must be aim at representing the affected brand, product, or company with positive messages to the public as part of marketing.
In the best case scenario, this results in change of search queries and the negative additions are gradually removed by Google from the Google Suggest list. Of course, a positive reputation can also be strengthened via Google Suggest.
For affiliates that target search requests by entering brands + keyword, the suggest feature can have a positive effect. These webmasters can optimize their sites with the combinations “brand + suggestions” or “brand + test” and hope for increased hits.
For SEOs and webmasters, Google Suggest can provide ways to optimize for keyword research. Accordingly, web pages can be optimized with regard to the search combinations usually proposed, in order to achieve a higher ranking for these combinations.