I was really perplexed the other day when evaluating the competition on search results pages and I saw a search result that looked like this one for “FBI” (No, we’re not competing with the FBI – the search has been changed to protect a client development project under NDA):
Wha? Where did this 2nd search box come from!?
Well, turns out I missed an announcement from Google while I was getting ready for SearchFest ’08.
“This feature will now occur when we detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site.”
I had to re-read this a couple of times. My initial reaction was that getting this much search results page real-estate is a huge advantage. With this much real estate dedicated to your listing, you’re essentially pushing your competitors off the page.
Google’s intent is to show this box when the search is very broad (contains only one or two words) and a large site’s home page is the first result. In one way, Google wants to encourage the searcher to refine their search query to find the specific information they’re looking for. On the other hand, let’s not forget that Google also makes money on AdWords, and if a searcher uses the secondary search box on Google, then there’s a possibility they are going to see even more ads.
To hammer home this point, I saw that the New York Times has posted this article today (a great read by the way):
“Googleâ€™s new search-within-search feature has sparked fears from publishers and retailers that users will be siphoned away through ad sales to competitors.”
Another potential hang-up, large publisher sites may lose control over how users navigate to specific areas of their site, which would siphon off their ad revenue.
Apparently some large retailers like Amazon.com have asked Google to turn this feature off, and Google has complied.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Will Google keep this feature in the face of backlash? Or just give site owners the option to turn it on or off via their Webmaster tool set?
I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.