Google Autocomplete: A Complete SEO Guide

Learn how to incorporate Google Autocomplete into your keyword and topic research processes for a more effective SEO strategy.

Google Autocomplete is a contentious but effective search feature.

When you type a word, or even a letter, into Google, a list of search suggestions appears. That’s what autocomplete is all about.

SEO specialists, paid search marketers, content marketers, and social media managers can all benefit from using Google Autocomplete to assist with various keyword-focused and intent-exploring projects.

Google Autocomplete, on the other hand, frequently makes headlines for amusing, odd, or even offensive habits (often in a negative way).

People use autocomplete all the time, saving thousands of seconds per day, but it has also been accused of facilitating political cover-ups and spoiling movies, TV shows, and video games.

Google Autocomplete can be an effective marketing tool as well. For years, SEO professionals and other digital marketers have used it to inform strategy, obtain keywords, and discover the most important questions customers are asking.

They can use Autocomplete to improve the optimization of their client’s digital properties, as well as the content and messaging that comprise them.

This guide will help you understand the true power of this simple but extremely useful feature for assisting you with your day-to-day tasks.

What Exactly Is Google Autocomplete?

Google Autocomplete is “designed to make it faster to complete searches that you’re starting to type,” according to Google.

It’s integrated into Google Search and other Alphabet properties that use Google, such as Chrome’s “Omnibox.”

Google estimates that it saves over 200 years of typing every day and that it reduces typing overall by about 25% on average.

The Autocomplete dropdown’s primary purpose is to reduce the amount of time a user spends typing by providing predictions of what a user may be typing — including for websites that use the built-in Google Custom Search Engine feature.

While Autocomplete has been a desktop search feature since late 2004, it has become even more useful on mobile devices as a time-saving feature.

Typing on a mobile device is a little more difficult than typing on the large keyboards we’ve grown up with and are accustomed to, so it’s a useful tool for many people in terms of providing assistance and saving time.

The feature can also be used to leverage content ideas, keyword suggestions, intent exploration, online reputation management, and other data-driven tasks.

How Does Autocomplete Work?

Ex-Googler Kevin Gibbs founded the project, which was originally dubbed “Google Suggest” by another ex-Googler, Marissa Mayer.

Google has since dropped the “Suggest” moniker because it does not always provide the most thoughtful, caring, or appropriate predictions.

Google refers to the completions it provides as “predictions,” not “suggestions.” This is due to the way Autocomplete works.

Autocomplete is intended to assist people in finishing a sentence they were planning, not to suggest a search intent, as in “I’m feeling lucky.” They make predictions by looking at popular Google searches, including trending searches that may be relevant.

Autocomplete can then quickly update and adapt to new search trends and news stories.

Much of Autocomplete’s behavior is generated by computers using data from millions of other Google searches and their results, including the content on those pages. It also uses data from your search history, location, and other sources.

Google has also worked hard to avoid inappropriately or offensive autocomplete suggestions. This means that there are both automated and manual removal procedures that can affect which autocomplete suggestions remain.

Autocomplete is also related to the Knowledge Graph, and it can bring Knowledge Graph suggestions into the prediction, especially on mobile.

It wasn’t until 2008 that Google included Autocomplete as a feature in its default search engine (it was previously an opt-in feature).

Read Should your SEO team invest in SEO tools?

Best Ways to Use Google Autocomplete

1. Keyword Research

It’s a time-consuming, tedious, and laborious task, but it’s also the foundation of all SEO strategies – and has been for quite some time.

While we may no longer explicitly target keywords, keywords and related concepts will always play an important role in search marketing.

Keyword research is one of the first tasks tackled at the start of an engagement — and continued throughout — to understand not only a brand and the content it creates, but also its potential shortcomings, website strengths and weaknesses, and content gaps.

Autocomplete won’t do all of your keyword research for you, but it’s a great place to start or to use frequently when developing content calendars and general organic search strategies.

Using it (along with other keyword resource tools like Google Keyword Planner and third-party keyword databases) to get an idea of the right keywords to target by taking into account monthly search frequency, competition, and even cost-per-click (CPC) pricing will help your search strategy.

One of Google Autocomplete’s standout features is its ability to uncover high-quality long-tail phrases that are frequently searched across the web.

Because popularity is the primary measure for Autocomplete — based on real-time searches by users — the value of Autocomplete lies in the plethora of keyword-level data that you can dig up if you work hard and long enough.

As always, make sure you’re signed out of Google to limit personalization and get an unbiased view of predictions.

Long-tail keywords are extremely useful for filling content gaps, but they also provide limitless opportunities for high-value blog posts and educational content within a brand’s niche.

2. Intent Exploration

Understanding user intent is critical because it guides the page’s goal, messaging, layout, and even imagery. We know that pages perform best when they completely meet the user intent of a search query.

You can use Autocomplete to better understand user intent, but it can be time-consuming and tedious. It will take some time, focus, and content consumption to visit many different web pages in the search results linked to specific predictions. However, the information gleaned from this method is priceless.

Keywords overlap various stages of user intent, making it difficult to understand the intent without more keyword context.

Autocomplete will assist you in not only understanding different high-value long-tail keywords and the intent surrounding them, but it will also assist marketers in recognizing the volume of content surrounding specific stages of intent, as well as which long-tail phrases and intent stages should be prioritized.

Of course, for high-value keywords — whether long-tail or traditional one-, two-, or three-word phrases — it’s critical to meet all stages of intent as they relate to the high-value keywords.

That is the concept behind a comprehensive, high-quality search strategy. And Autocomplete can assist you in getting there.

3. Online Reputation Management

Autocomplete has also had an impact on online reputation management.

Remember that when a user searches for your name or brand name, the first thing they see on the SERP (search engine results page) is the Autocomplete predictions associated with that name.

If those predictions are negative, or even if just one of them is negative, it can have a significant impact on the performance of your business.

Consider this. If you search [Dog Washers Inc] and the first prediction ends with “loses dog,” you’re probably not going to bring your dog there for his next bath.

The same goes for a restaurant; if you search [Ted’s Seaford Spot] and the prediction ends with “e. Coli,” I’m pretty sure I know what you’re not eating tonight.

Autocomplete is a critical component of online reputation management (ORM) and should not be overlooked when attempting to balance all negative connections made with brands.

As with most ORM strategies, vigilance is required. Several strategies can be used by brands to counteract negative Autocomplete predictions, including:

  • Take command of your brand’s conversations to ensure that the right connections are made in Google Autocomplete.
  • Positive connections that may have been overshadowed by negative ones are reinforced by optimizing social media accounts.
  • Social media content, messaging, and engagement are consistent with the aforementioned optimizations as well as the brand’s voice and tone.
  • Consistent branding and messaging for profile websites with positive keyword associations that are also used elsewhere
  • Starting small and making a big difference by looking for positive connections for the brand in different places. Obviously, the more people there are, the better. But you’d be surprised at how powerful it can be.
  • Building backlinks to Google SERPs for positive keyword associations with your name; for example, [sam hollingsworth seo writer] and [sam hollingsworth handicapper] would be great places to start for someone like myself.
  • If there are any negative autocomplete suggestions, make sure you have a plan for dealing with them.

4. Content Generation and Exploration

You can also use Autocomplete to generate content and research competitor content for your own content ideas. It’s simple and entertaining to use Autocomplete in conjunction with other online writing tools to discover what web users are looking for.


Simply combining “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why” with a few brand-related questions can yield a plethora of questions for your FAQ – questions that people may already be searching for.

Related keywords

This can be done in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. “brand name vs.” is a simple one – Google will autofill with competitors. You can also look at “brand name and” and see what autocomplete finds there, which can help you find new ways to expand your brand.

Related topics

If you can find Autocomplete suggestions for related topics that aren’t covered by your main topic, you might be able to gain an advantage in growing some content in that niche.

Queries like “how * works” can be extremely useful, with autocomplete suggestions filling in the wildcard space. You can also use this to find questions about your brand, questions for content marketing, potential customer problems, and even if users are looking for specific social media accounts.

Autocomplete Policies

With a history of backlash for some of its search predictions, Google does work manually to prevent inappropriate Autocomplete predictions when it comes to:

  • Predictions that are sexually explicit
  • Predictions of hatred against individuals and groups.
  • Predictions of violence.
  • Dangerous and harmful activities are predicted.

It may also remove predictions that could be considered spam, facilitate or advocate piracy, or comply with a legal request.

Google states unequivocally that predictions relating to any of the aforementioned situations are removed unless they contain medical or scientific terms that are not malicious.

Looking for Feedback

Google launched its feedback tool to better control inappropriate Autocomplete predictions, and the data is used to make consistent improvements.

For example, there does not have to be a specific demographic that is being targeted by something hateful in nature; and feedback aids in finding that out faster and easier.

Understanding what people are searching for is a critical component of your SEO strategy.

Look into incorporating Google Autocomplete into your research process. You might be surprised by the specific keywords and search intent it uncovers!

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John Harper

#1 File Information bestselling author John Harper loves to dispel the myth that smart men & women don’t read (or write) romance, and if you watch reruns of the game show The Weakest Link you might just catch him winning the $77,000 jackpot. In 2021, Netflix will premiere Bridgerton, based on his popular series of novels about the Why Files.

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