3 minute read.

How to track Google Instant in Google Analytics

Paul Anthony / September 8, 2010

Posted in: Archive

Google have just rolled out their real time search interface, (Wednesday) bringing instant AJAX  generated SERPS.  Not only will Google try to now predict what you are potentially going to type, using existing data, but they will also now actually change the results in front of your eyes, trimming up to a minute off the time taken for searchers to generate new results.  Most common typed terms, i.e. that which has been seen in Google suggest previously are used now to help generate results on the fly.

If you don’t already have access via your Google account, you can find this feature by going to this URL: http://www.google.com/webhp?sclient=psy

Unfortunately this technique does NOT work as Google isn’t passing through the original query as I first thought. We were incorrectly picking up referrals from the old Google suggest.
The Google Analytics Team have confirmed it on their blog.

What does it mean for Google Analytics fans?

With Google now presenting results, with queries only partly complete for example [Micros] returns, obviously [Microsoft.com] as the first result, Google passes [q=Microsoft] as the querystring, to your Analytics software, if the user stopped the remainder of the term before clicking. To find out how far they needed to type to find what they want, an additional querystring has been used in the resultset. The new oq= parameter gives you this information in your logs, and can be extracted using the following guide:

To track Partial Queries, and their position in Google Instant, create a new profile and new filter:

Filter name: “Instant Ranking”
Filter type: “Custom filter – Advanced”
Field A -> Extract A: Referral, ^https?://www\.google\.(co.uk|com)/(?!custom|m/).*[?#&]cd=([^&]+).*&q=([^&]+).*&oq=([^&]+)
Field B -> Extract B: Medium:^organic$
Output To -> User Defined: $A5 (position: $A3)

That should get you started on examining the impact of those queries in G.A. If you are receiving results from another region, just note the co.uk in the RegEx. Obviously it will be a little while before this gets rolled out for everyone, but being prepared before it happens never hurts.

For other background reading on how this is likely to affect paid search take a look at some of these Google blog posts.

Google Instant, impact on search queries and on the adwords blog – A more innovative approach

  • Analytics
  • Google
  • Google Analytics
  • google instant
  • real time

39 responses to “How to track Google Instant in Google Analytics

  1. I just noticed this there now in my account. Even though I have a relatively slow broadband connection, I think the results are awesome…

    Though I wonder how this will affect CTRs in AdWords accounts? (Must go and look this up)…

  2. Ah OK…

    “As a result, Google Instant changes the way we think about impressions. With Google Instant, an impression is counted if a user takes an action to choose a query (for example, presses the Enter key or clicks the Search button), clicks a link on the results page, or stops typing for three or more seconds.
    It’s possible that this feature may increase or decrease your overall impression levels. However, Google Instant may ultimately improve the quality of your clicks since it helps users type queries that more directly connect them with the answers they need.”

    So looks like CTR may be going down a bit for everyone (hopefully by the same amount for everyone on average:-)

  3. Thanks for commenting Jordan,

    Going to be very interesting whatever way this shakes out!

    I’m guessing that from both a PPC and SEO perspective, the top slot is going to be more important, as people learn that the search input doesn’t need to be “left” so to speak. Users now only needs to press a key, and you’ve an entire different resultset.

  4. Excellent post, Paul. I’m also anxious to see how Instant results impact traffic. I think we’ll end up with some unusual short variations of branded terms. It’s going to get interesting.

  5. As I understand it, there will be no need for partial keyword bidding…


    if I type


    Google will start showing ads for ‘Portaferry’ – so bids on ‘Portaferr’ would be pointless…

    (At least I think that’s how it works…?)

  6. Great post Paul,

    Really excited about Google Instant and the possibilities it brings for users and might bring for SEM. I am in the Netherlands and the link http://www.google.com/webhp?sclient=psy does not seem to activate Google Instant, even if logged in, here. Any tips on how i can start using Google Instant?

    Google says you have to be logged in to use GI outside the US. Is this the same for the US? If so, this might mean that personalised search will present new challenges for SEO and SEA..Or is this only temporarily?
    Will certainly decrease the amount of misspells and might make the domain typos business less interesting.
    Another thing is that it might focus even more attention on the most used/predicted keywords in search and decrease the number of unique searches. Wonder what this will do for Googles bottomline :-)
    Google Instant might be a convincing reason for people to get an Gmail account. Furthermore, it is an innovation that seems difficult to be copied by Bing/Yahoo!.

    Interesting times……

  7. Until now CTR was an excelent way of metric meta descriptionsa and titles, from tomorrow we have to realice that CTR values are going to be really low. So wich should be good of bad.

  8. This is great!

    Although, when you say

    Field B -> Extract B: Medium:^organic$

    Do you mean Field B -> Extract B: Campaign Medium:^organic$

    as there is no “Medium” in the drop down selection list…

  9. hi, I’m fairly sure this doesn’t work & that you may want to update your post.

    “The new oq= parameter gives you this information in your logs, and can be extracted using the following guide”

    Sadly ‘oq’ is not a new parameter, and includes a lot of Google Suggest data too. To test this, log out of Instant, try a search from the google.com homepage & click on one of the ‘suggests’ links then take a look at the URL.

    Or just search google for ‘oq parameter’ & you’ll see it’s very old.


  10. Hi Dan,

    oq= is definitely the parameter being used to get the partial suggest terms. However, &sclient=psy indicates that the user is using the new Instant results, and it should be a trivial matter to ammend the regex to include this alone. Thanks for bringing to my attention. I’ll take a look this afternoon to tighten this query up.


  11. I noticed that we also have the ability to turn it off, next to the search bar, if we don’t like it. One thing is for sure – from an SEO perspective, this changes the way we have to think when we target keywords in the articles we write. I see the results from short words preceeding the long tail phrases. I want to grab the persons attention first with the short words… I love it!

  12. Created filter and the data is up(just gathering today’s data), but under User Defined filter, just “not set” (user defined value) is appearing, it is supposed to be shown as “keyword (position: x)” etc…

    Is this filter working for your properly?? help me out..

  13. Good article and thanks for the profile info as it helps people like me who aren’t regex savvy. I was testing out some terms for friends, one of whom sells lingerie online. It appears lingerie is a term that is filtered out from the suggestions. And if you type just “linger” you have no results;-)

  14. I’m having the same issue as above. I get user defined (not set) and am also seeing that data is only measuring actual “referring sites” not google instant. thanks in advance!

  15. Originally it looked as if it was possible to track Google Instant. We’ve gone through all Google’s referring URLs in the last 24 hours and we haven’t found any URLs with the original query value included so unfortunately it seems it’s not possible to track Google Instant. All the referrals containing the oq= are most likely to be from the old Google suggest function.
    We’ve updated our post.

  16. Hey Paul, has the instruction above been cleaned up to include the second parameter? I would do it myself, but know almost nothing about regex… Thank you for the great post!

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