Autocomplete is a Google Search feature designed to make it faster to complete searches that you’re beginning to type on Google. Just begin typing, and you’ll see predictions appear:
Autocomplete is especially useful for those using mobile devices, making it easy to complete a search on a small screen where typing can be hard. However, for both mobile and desktop users, it’s a huge time saver all around. How much? Well according to Google it reduces typing by 25% and cumulatively saves over 200 years of typing time per day.
Predictions, Not Suggestions
You’ll notice that I mentioned Autocomplete featuring “predictions” not “suggestions”. According to Google, Autocomplete is designed to help users complete a search that they were already intending to do – not to suggest a new search. Essentially these are Google’s best predictions of the query you were beginning to perform. In fact, this feature used to be called “Google Suggests” before it was updated and rebranded to Autocomplete, a clear reinforcement of the fact that it is designed around predictions, not suggestions. You’ll even notice it is directly referring to these as predictions at the bottom of the image above.
How does Google Determine These Predictions?
If you do want to know how it works in more detail, Google’s Public Liaison for Search, Danny Sullivan, published a blog post on this specific topic. For a quick summary though, Google uses a variety of factors to come up with the most relevant and accurate suggestions. The factors are as follows:
- Common and Trending Queries: These are the timely queries/words often associated with the words entered by the user in the search box
- Language/Location: To make more personalised suggestions, Google also considers a user’s location and the language they use
- Freshness: Do the words typed by the user correspond to a recent issue, news, or update? This also changes the suggestions shown by Google
How to Use Google Autocomplete for SEO
Although Autocomplete feature is catered for search users, it poses a lot of advantages to those who understand how it works and how it can be used to improve a website’s search visibility. It’s free, easily accessible, and based on our experiences, an effective SEO tool.
1. Keyword Research
Autocomplete is a powerful keyword research tool. To plan keywords for SEO, Autocomplete can be the ideal choice to show a popular keywords list. You can also get long-tail keywords ideas with values. Long-tail keywords are very effective in high-quality education content and blog posts with the brand niche. They are also helpful in filling highly valuable content gaps. However, before you use it make sure to use Incognito Mode, this stops the Autocomplete predictions from being influenced by your search history and cookies.
2. Reputation Management
The Autocomplete drop list will show you all the related search lists if you search for any brand or company on Google. This list will also have a list of other people’s search queries related to your search term. For example, you can search your own brand name and see the common queries associated with it. Is this something you can address on your website via content strategy? This is also a valuable tool for competitor research to find out what users are searching for in regards to your competitors. From this, you may be able to learn what are the most popular/trending products, or even if people are frequently searching for discount codes!
Some Quick Google Autocomplete Tips
1. Play Around with the Position of the Cursor
Changing the position of the text cursor in the search bar changes the suggestions that Google displays. Here’s an example using “baby girl bibs”. As you can see from the example below the predicted search results have changed depending on where the cursor is placed within the search term.
2. Change the Letter
Much like the changing of the position of the text cursor, changing the last letter you typed is effective in changing the suggestions. Here are screenshots using the same keyword but only typing in “baby bib” and then a different letter each time. This can be a great keyword research tool to see the type of things users are searching for as well as how they describe what they are searching for.
The different tactics highlighted above enables can help you to find out more about your own business, your competitors, as well as finding new and useful long-tail keywords. It can also help to find different variations of the same keyword.