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Monday, March 24, 2008

Google "Search in Search" Sparks Competitive Concerns

Posted by @ 3:29 am

We recently reported on Google’s new search in search functionality where Google offers users the ability to search a site within its SERPs (search engine results page).

Search in search is aimed at helping searchers get to their desired information more directly from Google’s results. The concept sounds great in theory, with searchers being able to filter through a site’s content direct from the results page.

Well it’s great until it presents competitor sponsored listings when displaying the internal search results from a particular site.

SeoSmarty highlighted the competitive issue that the new search in search functionality presents. They used the example of a search for Virgin Holidays to Florida.

Conducting the search “virgin holidays” in Google presents a “search in search” listing for Virgin Holidays as the top organic listing and only one sponsored listing for Virgin on the right hand side, as the term is protected by trademark.

Now if the user then types in “Florida March” using the “search in search” box, Google displays a myriad of listings from the Virgin Holidays site, but also displays PPC ads for competitors related to the search.

image source: seosmarty

The competitive edge that Virgin had through the trademark protection on the first search is bypassed on the search in search listings. Competitors can now get invaluable exposure when users search within a particular site.

Now some antagonists will say, the “Florida March” search isn’t protected by trademark, so it’s relevant cross promo from a searchers point of view. But imagine you were using Google’s site search for your website and they presented sponsored listings alongside the results from your site. Surely you wouldn’t want competitors ads displayed within your results.

Google will need to rethink their monetization of search in search, as the current experience will have many marketers up in arms. If they continue to present competitive ads alongside “search in search” listings, site owners will prefer to have the search feature removed and bank on users clicking through to their sites to search further.

Thanks to Rishil at SeoSmarty for uncovering and sharing the potential issues “search in search” presents to marketers.

UPDATE: it seems that the ads are only visible to some viewers, so either Google is testing not displaying the ads, or it depends where you conduct the search.

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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