Just when I thought that Google was everything, the search engine giant is beginning to irk some websites and companies who have worked hard to be on top of search engine results pages. Specifically, the publishers and retailers are the ones affected by the recently (and quietly) announced “search with in a search” feature.
The new search feature now allows users to find individual pages of the more popular websites like The New York Times, Wikipedia, Wal-Mart, and Washington Posts among others. For example, if you search for Wal-Mart on Google, the results will include the website walmart.com as the top result and just below that will be a secondary search box which allows you to search more specifically within Wal-Mart. While this may make searching for products or information a bit more efficient for the user, Google allegedly displays ads for the competing sites.
This new feature seems good and innovative as users can save steps but is to the disadvantage of web publishers. The websites could well benefit from the additional traffic but some users as potential customers or visitors could be lost when ads of competitors are shown. The NY Times posted an example: Googling with the term ‘The Washington Post’ showed the new search box as part of the results. A secondary search on the word “jobs” yielded relevant results but were surrounded with ads of Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com, which are notably competitors. Other websites affected aside from the aforementioned websites are online jeweler Ice.com and online retail industry group Shop.org.
In a quick test that we did for ourselves, we searched Google for “walmart” and we were given Wal-Mart.com as the top result. From there we searched for the television brand “vizio” and were presented with ads for both NexTag.com and TigerDirect.com, both of which could potentially take some business from Wal-Mart.
The Washington Post and other companies facing similar situations have not officially sent their complaints to Google because only the SEOs and search engine marketing experts were quick to notice the change and the possible effects. Experts like Donna L. Hoffman of University of California’s Sloan Center for Internet Retailing predicted that:
“Internet users will really like this because it’s probably a better way to search a site than going to the sites themselves. But as consumers appreciate this more, there’ll be more and more outcry from companies.“
Big companies like Amazon have requested Google to turn the new feature off when their site is being searched. So perhaps, this could be the path other websites must take if their traffic or sales are affected. A Google spokeswoman said that some websites apart from Amazon have also requested to have the search box removed. However, not all think that this is not a bad idea after all. Forbes.com’s chief executive James Spanfeller thinks this is interesting and even praises Google for the idea. He also furthered that “sites like The Post and Forbes, which have strong enough brand names, won’t lose more than a very small percentage of people who will go to other sites.” He may be right. Since only the bigger websites are (un)lucky to have the secondary search box, it only means that Google has noticed that those websites are worthy enough to be given a second look, or rather, a second search box for a more specific and relevant search results.
Read [New York Times]