I am used to seeing Google try to siphon off traffic that once went to site search engines. It makes sense, from Google’s point of view, to grab as much search traffic as they can–the better to show their ads and put a few more pennies towards the bottom line. So Google’s toolbar makes it easy to search just within a site, and the true geeks among us can use the site” operator right from the search box. Web site owners might not like Google grabbing away these visitors, but the truth is that most site search engines are terrible and deserve to lose whatever traffic they have. But what I saw today still surprised me.
I have to admit that I wasn’t clever enough to find this on my own. Lauren Fiumara, my colleague at Converseon, sent this to me–it is indeed something I’d never seen before.
Do you see it? Hanging out just above this text you are reading? A little box next to a button that says “Search nytimes.com”–you can now perform a site search without ever even reaching the Web site, from that little old results screen.
Why should site owners care? After all, I already said that site search facilities are typically awful, so why not let Google search your site? Well, that can be dangerous. Every time Google does a search it shows ads. Those ads might lead searchers away from your site, even though they started out trying to search your site, which seems a bit strange, but it’s true.
Is there anything Web site owners can do? I don’t think so. Google allows site owners to control sitelinks, those links underneath the home page link on the search results page that leads searchers deeper into the site. But I haven’t heard of any way to remove the site search box, so you’ll just have to grin and bear it.
But you should also tighten up your site search facility so that even more people don’t abandon it for Google.