What it is and why it matters

Google Autocomplete activates when you go to the Google homepage and start typing a word to search for something on the internet.

Immediately after typing the first character, a list of suggestions to complete the phrase opens. This list updates in real time as you continue typing.

On this page, I will explain what it is, how it works, the areas where it is used, and consequently, why it is so important.

You will discover that it is a very useful tool for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), especially for the research of related keywords and long-tail.

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Now, let me explain what Google Autocomplete is all about.

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What is Google Autocomplete?

As I mentioned earlier, Google Autocomplete is a function that provides predictions for search terms after entering one or more words in the search engine box.

However, it doesn’t only work in that case; the service is present wherever a Google search box is implemented, for example, in the search bar in Chrome or the Google app.

Google Autocomplete has been around since 2008 and has proven to be a very useful tool, especially for mobile, where typing is not as immediate as on a computer.

Google estimates that its query auto-completion system is the set of keywords entered by the user in the search box.

This reduces typing time by 25%, and considering everyone who uses it, the total time saved in writing is 200 years per day.

I’ll show you an example by typing the query “Google Autocomplete”.

google autocomplete search

But how does it work? How does it choose the suggestions to show you? Let’s find out.

How Google Autocomplete works

The operation of Google Autocomplete is based on RankBrain, a true artificial intelligence system that learns and evolves autonomously.

RankBrain, born in 2015, is an algorithm with the purpose of interpreting user queries to identify the intent of the search.

In other words, the autocomplete suggestions that Google’s algorithm displays are predictions based on the analysis of four factors:

  • Search History
  • Common Searches
  • Trending Searches
  • Location

These factors are related to the search terms entered in the box.

In practice, the algorithm tries to understand what you will write and helps you complete the sentence so that you can conduct searches more quickly. Additionally, if you make a typo, the correction is immediately suggested.

The search predictions that Google provides not only change based on your location but also depend on the language you use on the device you are browsing with.

Another feature of autocomplete is that the displayed predictions are not ordered according to a specific hierarchy.

To protect the user, Autocomplete filters out content prohibited by Google’s policies, such as sexually explicit phrases, racist phrases, phrases that incite violence, and potentially dangerous activities.

Speaking of trending searches, it’s important to specify the difference between Google Autocomplete and Google Trends and the latter is not subject to Google’s removal policies and filters.

Consequently, Autocomplete predictions do not reflect a real search trend because the data is not pure but is filtered by removal policies.

In the next paragraph, I’ll explain why Autocomplete is useful for SEO.


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Google Autocomplete and SEO

To understand why Google Autocomplete is important for SEO, you need to know three concepts.

  • Semantic field: it is a set of words united by the same sphere of meaning and closely related to each other.
  • Related: it is a keyword from the semantic field formed by 1 or 2 words.
  • Long tail: it is a keyword from the semantic field formed by 3 or more words.

Autocomplete is very useful for choosing related and long-tail keywords because the phrases it shows are linked to the semantic field of your query and are chosen based on their popularity.

I have also told you that the purpose of RankBrain is to identify users’ search intent, so by carefully analyzing the list of predictions, it is easier to achieve this goal.

Google Autocomplete also comes in handy when it comes to Local SEO. If you type a query mentioning a specific location, you discover the searches that other users have made by entering the same location.

Here’s what happens when I try to write “Washington National Cathedral”

search query sample

If you’re short on related keywords and need inspiration, you can pair each letter of the alphabet with your search term and see what predictions it offers, as in the example below.

I use the keyword “SEO” but with the letter “a”

related keywords prediction

Or you can try adding a modifier, such as “why”, “how”, “who”, or “where”: here’s what happens if I add “what”.

adding a word modifier

And if I type an address? It can be done easily, but a distinction is necessary, as I’ll explain in the next paragraph.

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Place Autocomplete

It is clearly possible to use Google’s automatic completion by entering an address; the results displayed follow the same principles seen so far.

However, Google has thought to “box” this function by creating a dedicated tool to manage geographical searches.

Place Autocomplete, an API (Application Programming Interface) that allows the insertion of an autocomplete search box for addresses into a web page.

This tool is very useful, for example, when the user is asked to enter the delivery address during an e-commerce transaction, when calling a taxi through an app, when requesting any kind of home delivery, or when using Google Maps.

If you are a programmer, I’ll show you a video that explains in a simple and comprehensive way how to implement it on a web page.

Using Google Autocomplete to discover the web reputation of people or brands

I remind you that Google Autocomplete predictions show what other users are searching for, so what happens if a company’s name is associated with negative terms or phrases?

The user won’t have a good first impression. What if it appears together with positive words? The user will be more likely to interact with that company. A clear example is a restaurant.

If you search for its name and it appears associated with terms like “expensive”, “dirty”, or “uncomfortable”, the impression you get is not good; if, instead, you see “excellent”, “delicious”, and so on, you might feel like going there.

So, if your name or your company is associated with negative terms, is it all over? Absolutely not. I remind you that predictions change over time.

If you do your job well and improve your brand image, people will change their opinion, and over time, Google will notice it too.

To delve further into this topic, I invite you to read our page on Online Reputation and SEO.


You have seen what Google Autocomplete is, how it works, and why it is useful. It is a tool in continuous evolution that becomes more sophisticated with the advancement of technologies.

Especially those related to artificial intelligence; who knows, maybe in a few years, it will be able to deduce search intent just like a human would!


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