Google Autocomplete is a legendary search feature.
It consistently makes the news for its sometimes-funny and peculiar habits (and rarely in a positive way). It’s been blamed for political cover-ups, and has accidentally spoiled countless movies, TV shows, and even video games.
But Google Autocomplete is also a powerful marketing tool that SEO professionals and other digital marketers have used for years in a variety of ways.
SEO professionals, paid search marketers, content marketers, and social media managers are among the different digital marketers who rely on Google Autocomplete to help with different keyword-focused and intent-exploring projects to better optimize clients’ digital properties and the content and messaging that make them up.
Most digital marketers are well-versed in the abilities of Google Autocomplete — or at least they think they are. But if they are not, this guide should help prove the real power this simple but super-helpful feature can do for help with your day-to-day tasks as an SEO and marketer.
What Is Google Autocomplete?
Google Autocomplete is, in Google’s own words, a feature “designed to make it faster to complete searches that you’re beginning to type.”
It’s integrated anywhere Google could integrate it, including on the Google app for iOS and Android, the quick-search box on Android devices and the Chrome browser address bar, and of course on the Google homepage and anywhere else you may see a Google search box.
It’s estimated that it saves over 200 years of typing per day, and reduces typing overall by about 25 percent.
And, while its quite obvious the primary purpose of the Autocomplete dropdown is to cut back on time a user spends typing by offering predictions of what a user may be typing — including for websites using the built-in Google Custom Search Engine feature — there are a number of other useful ways that the feature can be used to leverage content ideas, keyword suggestions, intent exploration, and online reputation management, among other data-driven tasks.
Best Ways to Use Google Autocomplete
While Autocomplete has been a desktop search feature since late 2004, it has become even more useful as a time-saving feature on mobile devices in terms of its intended purpose of reducing typing by predicting what a user is looking for.
Typing on a mobile device is a bit tougher than doing so on the large keyboards we have grown up with and are accustomed to, so for many, it’s a welcomed tool for providing assistance and saving time.
Created by former Googler Kevin Gibbs, then called “Google Suggest” by another former Googler (and former Yahoo CEO) Marissa Mayer, Google has since moved away from the “Suggest” name since it’s not always offering the most thoughtful, caring, or appropriate predictions.
Much of Autocomplete’s behavior is computer-generated — with data collected from millions of other Google searches and their results, including the content on those pages — so one can only imagine the wild Autocomplete predictions that have come up given the obvious lack of intelligence seen daily online (i.e. YouTube commenters, Twitter bullies, user-generated-review trolls, etc.).
It wasn’t until 2008 that Google built Autocomplete into its default search engine (it was previously an opt-in feature), and, since then, Google has expanded the feature while other major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and many, many more have adopted it.
1. Keyword Research
It’s a long, tedious, and laborious task, but it’s also the foundation of all SEO strategies, and has been for a long time.
Explicit keyword targeting isn’t what it used to be, but keywords and their related ideas are always going to be an important part of search marketing.
Keyword research is one of the first tasks tackled at the start of an engagement — and carried on throughout the engagement — to understand not just a brand and the content it creates, but also its potential shortcomings, website strengths and weaknesses, and content gaps.
Autocomplete doesn’t do all the work for you in terms of keyword research, but it’s a great place to start at or to use early and often when developing content calendars and general organic search strategies.
Using it (along with other keyword resource tools like Google Keyword Planner and other third-party keyword databases) to get an idea of the right keywords you want to target by considering monthly search frequency, competition, and even cost-per-click (CPC) pricing will do your search strategy justice.
One of the shining advantages of Google Autocomplete is its ability to uncover quality long-tail phrases that are commonly searched across the web.
Since the primary measure for Autocomplete is popularity — based on real searches by users in real time — the value of Autocomplete lies in its plethora of keyword-level data that you can dig up if you work at it hard and long enough.
As always, be sure you are signed out of Google to ensure you limit personalization for an unbiased look at predictions.
Long-tail keywords are incredibly useful when fulfilling content gaps, but also offers endless possibilities in terms of high-value blog posts and educational content within a brand’s niche.