Google's new search-within-search feature, introduced earlier this month, may help users -- but it's not being welcomed by some businesses whose sites are featured. When a user selects a popular site selected by Google for this function, such as Wal-Mart or Best Buy, a separate search box opens and allows the user to search individual pages on that site.
It's the online equivalent of going to a store and asking for a product or category, such as a specific Sony camera or just digital cameras, rather than first asking the entire Web. The difference is that you remain on Google, outside the store's site.
Competing Ads, Lost Traffic
One would think a major retailer would welcome such targeted searching of its domain. But Google search-results pages have ads, often hawking the wares of competing retailers.
Additionally, the search-within-search feature keeps users on Google's pages, so the traffic is mostly Google's, not the retailer's.
According to an article in The New York Times, which itself gets a search-within-search link, Google said it has not received many complaints from companies. But the Times cites executives and observers who find the feature objectionable.
Feature Can be Turned Off
Some observers have noted that the function also bypasses the "learn from past behavior" feature that some larger sites offer. This diminishes the retailer's ability to direct the user toward the product being sought and robs the user of a more directed search.
Some retailers are asking the search giant to turn this search-within-search feature off for their sites. For instance, the feature does not work for Internet retailing giant Amazon.com, which has apparently requested exclusion. According to news reports, Google says it has honored requests from some businesses, although the names were not revealed.
Google has said the feature is added when its indicators suggest a user might benefit from search drill-downs within a highly trafficked site.
The search-within-search feature is not the only search experiment Google is trying. Its Google Labs offers a variety of other ideas, such as "alternate views for search results." This lets a user see the results on a time line, a map, or on other kinds of information displays. Google said its technology "extracts key dates, locations, measurements and more" so information can be seen "in a different dimension."
Another experiment is keyword suggesting, where Google instantly provides keyword suggestions as you type. If you begin to type Google, for instance, the search engine features a drop-down menu suggesting "google earth, google maps, google.com" and others.