Google Sitelinks Search – good or evil for online retailers?

Screenshot of Google Sitelink Search for Amazon.com

If you don’t know what is Google Sitelinks Search check the screenshot below. To see it just type a name of popular website in the Google and in many cases you’ll see similar search box. I made word ‘popular’ bold here because this feature doesn’t work for every website, only for the real popular one. It’s unclear for me what are the criteria for Google to display that snippet, so if you know and share that information with me, I’ll be grateful.

Anyway, when you start typing in that box Google will perform the search on this particular website with support of auto-complete and display search results. Sounds pretty good, isn’t it, users can easily search your website not leaving Google?

A little problem – competitors.

However many retailers were not quite happy with such practice because after you type search term and press Enter your typical search result page looks like one for Asos.com displayed below:

Google Sitelinks Search results screenshot, for Asos.com

As you see aside of the links to Asos.com, the page contains 2 blocks of ads with links to competing websites. Naturally retailers aren’t quite happy with that. It is arguable can they really complain or not, because the users are still on Google website and Google needs to make money too, but anyway that grudge is understandable.

Good news – you can force users to be forwarded to your website

Probably Google decided to follow their old days motto and don’t be evil to ecommerce businesses and few weeks ago announced improvements in search box post in its official blog with the instructions how to send users to your own website from Sitelinks Search box it was a good news for retailers. You can check the details in the post itself (check reference section at the end of this article), but briefly the way how it works is that with certain modification of website code (use of Schema.org markup) and notifying Google about that modifications you can now send users to your own search result page with the search term passed from Google to your website internal search engine. Obviously you have to have internal search engine on your website to use that feature. Check how it looks for Amazon.com website that already implemented that functionality

 

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Final notes

I think that this possibility to send users to your own search results page it is really useful feature for online retailers and sure that in short time we’ll see more implementations from big stores like Asos.com. So far aside of Amazon it is implemented by Walmart.com

One thing that I’ve noticed is that Sitelinks search box has certain limitation, probably it keeps only the most popular search results in auto-complete, not the whole index. For example when I started to type Tolstoy or Fielding, Google has no auto-suggestions for me, while books of that writers certainly are available on Amazon.com.

As an eCommerce consultant specialising in Magento eCommerce, I am keen to see Magento powered websites that implement Sitelinks Search box with forward to own search result page, couldn’t find any yet, so you may be the first one.

References

  1. Official announcement with implementation instructions in Google blog https://developers.google.com/webmasters/richsnippets/sitelinkssearch
  2. Article in Internet Retailer – http://www.internetretailer.com/2014/10/01/google-throws-new-hurdle-retailers
  3. Article on Search Engines Watch – http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2364033/Google-Launches-Improved-Sitelinks-Search-Box

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