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Stephen Logan

What Value does Google’s Site Search offer SERPs or Sites?

22nd Jun 2010 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Many Google results now return further searches within them, allowing a quick and easy site search directly from results pages; but does this really provide any value to the sites in question?

In recent months the Google results pages have changed their appearance drastically. It all started with the introduction of a left-hand navigation; but there’s been plenty more to catch the attention.

One of the things that they’ve snuck into some results is a search within a search function. You will possibly have noticed that some sites, particularly when searching for a specific brand or company, include sub-categories within their search results. Take the example of Currys below:

This provides a way for searchers to bi-pass the homepage and visit a section within the site that might be more relevant to their requirements. It certainly makes sense, particularly when used for generic brand-focussed phrases like ‘Currys’.

However, some search results go further. More than just these 8 popular sub-categories, some SERPs also include an additional site search function. Not exactly brand new, this function allows you to search deeper into a site’s structure without leaving the Google interface.

Google Site Search and indeed Custom Search have been available to paying customers for some time. These services provide an integrated Google search within a site to better index the pages that you have and understand visitor comprehension. In fact the Commerce Search 2.0 discussed yesterday uses a developed version of this basic principle [see: Customisable Google Commerce 2.0 to Offer E-tailers and Customers More].

However, this has now spilled over from simply appearing on a site and onto the Google SERPs, as indicated in this search for Argos below:

Suddenly you can use site search automatically within Google and find the product or service you’re looking for without even visiting the site itself. So what is the benefit of this?

Well, the site in question gets more visual attention within a results pages. It draws in visitors and allows them to get to what they want straight away; avoiding the temptation to stray elsewhere and delivering them precisely to the page they want. Pretty good.

However this works to Google’s advantage even more. Not only do they benefit from the initial search, but they can then have any number of additional searches within it. This keeps visitors on Google for longer and improves the chance of getting revenue through their AdWords paid search platform.

This type of search mirrors an Advanced Search on Google, just without the inconvenience of actually following the almost entirely obscured option by the search button.

Unfortunately for Argos and other stores with this feature, the organic searches might be conditioned to just return their results but the sponsored adverts certainly are not.

Below there’s an example using the search phrase Xbox 360 Console. As you can see, all organic results link directly to Argos sites, including the Shopping results. Unfortunately Xbox themselves have the sponsored link at the top of the page and Argos only appear sixth in the paid search results on the right – although this does vary of course. This could therefore see leakage of traffic to competitors, even on a specific site search.

You can use the same format for any search if you so wish – i.e. ‘Keyword site: URL’ – but the search box certainly makes this easier. But when it comes to commerce, is it not more profitable for the site to have visitors arriving at the earliest possible juncture. Further searches externally only increase the chance of them losing custom and losing browsers. Maybe that’s a little melodramatic though.

This same search functionality can be found on most Government department sites amongst many others, just to offer a little more context. But short of signing up for Google Site Search and/or Google Custom Search though, you probably won’t see this appearing on your site’s search results any time soon.

So do you think this search within a search adds value to a site, or is it just a good opportunity for Google to keep visitors on its pages for as long as possible? Do you think this adds any value to the Google SERPs and if so, could this be applied to more search results? Is this just one more thing clogging up Google organic results? Have your say below.

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