Google Autocomplete: Powerful SEO Tool or Epic Time Sink?

If you own a computer, you’ve probably played with Google autocomplete a time or two (thousand).

In fact, the chances are good that you’ve often used Google’s search term suggestions. But have you ever wondered where they come from? Do they have any value in helping you with your SEO strategies?

google autocomplete

What Is Google Autocomplete?

Perhaps no online tool in history has as many names as Google’s autocomplete. You may hear it called autosuggest, Google Suggest, Google Instant search, search predictions, instant predictions or instant results.

Whatever term you prefer, it refers to the dynamic suggestions that Google offers as you type in a search term.


Where Do Google Autocomplete Suggestions Come From?

Like all things Google, exactly how this algorithm works remains a mystery. But we do know that autosuggest considers a few types of input to come up with suggestions for you.


These include:

  • The words you’re entering
  • Your past searches
  • Your current location
  • Your saved location
  • What others have searched for recently
  • Trending topics (local and nonlocal)

What if I Don’t Have Any Autocomplete Suggestions?

If Google doesn’t prompt you as you type, it may be because your search term has not been used by many people, or it’s too new for the algorithms to know much about yet. And unless you amend your settings, not-safe-for-work (NSFW) terms are not included, or, predictive text may be turned off. It’s also possible that your search term somehow violated Google’s autocomplete policies. If you don’t receive autosuggestions as you type, you can try updating your Google search preference settings.

Should You Use Google Autocomplete Suggestions for SEO?

You may see bloggers or amateur SEO firms suggest using this tool for SEO keyword research, but that advice should be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.

In fact, most sites that propose using autocomplete for SEO research want to sell you an app or add-on tool.

Another reason you shouldn’t take the suggested search terms too much to heart involves what may be a weighted advantage that Google gives to certain brands. For example, if you type the letter “e” into the search bar, autosuggest will likely prompt you with choices for “eBay” and “ESPN.” Type a “c” and you’ll likely get “Costco.” Type a “d” and you’ll get “Discount Tires” and “Dominos.”


Some online marketing experts believe that these prompts may have less to do with how popular they are as search terms and more to do with sponsorship.

Then What Is Autosuggest Good For?

Google autosuggest can be a huge time saver when it offers you the search term you want, especially on a mobile device. This tool is also helpful if you aren’t sure which search terms to use, or if you spell something incorrectly as you type.

And the internet (being what it is) offers all kinds of time-killing fun with autosuggest. Google Feud gamifies autosuggest like the game show, Family Feud. And, of course, this discussion would be incomplete if we didn’t devote at least one link to Google autocomplete fails. You’re welcome.

Be Locally SEO has plenty of helpful SEO keyword research tools to help you choose the most effective key phrases for your business. We help companies of all sizes with online marketing, including AdWords pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns and on-page optimization for organic search results.


Contact us today to learn more about what we do. Or just type “Be Locally SEO” in Google and let autosuggest do the rest!

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