Google has started to add a secondary search box to some larger websites’ listings in a move it says will help it deliver more accurate results.
But will the new feature funnel traffic away from sites’ internal search and navigation tools, perhaps not always to the benefit of users?
The new boxes appear when you search for the brand names of a number of UK newspaper sites, as well as major retailers like Tesco:
In its blog, Google claims they will make searchers’ lives easier - helping them find the exact pages they are looking for, while of course generating more page impressions for Big G itself.
They may also compensate for poor internal search functionality on some sites, though I’m not sure that applies to the likes of Tesco.
For instance, if you want to buy a fridge from the supermarket giant, searching via Google brings you a jumble of results, with no sorting or filtering options:
Searching the site itself will give you a list sorted by relevance, with the ability to filter the results according to brand and price:
Firms, meanwhile, might also be worried about the potential implications if traffic is diverted away from their internal search and navigation functions - a valuable source of data on customer behaviour.
One imagines it will also be a concern for sites that rely on CPM ad revenue and retailers that have prioritised investment in their homepages.
Knowing how and when Google decides to make the new search boxes appear would be a help, but its blog (unsurprisingly) doesn’t go into much detail:
“This feature will now occur when we detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site.
“Like the rest of our snippets, the sites that display the site search box are chosen algorithmically based on metrics that measure how useful the search box is to users.”
From what we can see, Google introduces the new boxes when users search for some popular websites’ brands. But there are some puzzling “algorithmic” discrepancies.
For example, I can’t understand why the Times, Guardian etc get their own search boxes, but the BBC doesn’t.
And nor does Yahoo.