Google has begun to introduce a feature whereby, if your search obviously leads you to a single site (e.g., you searched on a company name), you get a second search box to search only within that site. More details at Google and Search Engine Land. Basically, this is Google Site Search made a lot easier to use.
I think this could be a really big deal. On most sites, it is already the case that Google gives much better results than the native search engine. (I generally use the site name or URL rather than the “site:” command to get this effect, but I imagine the difference is small.) Now that it’s easy to use, I expect increasing numbers of Web users to, like me, use the system that works better.
What’s more, there’s nothing stopping Google from co-opting the one way native site search is commonly made to work well, which is by hand-tagging of pages. Most metatags are devalued in search when used to compare pages from different sites, for very good reasons of adversarial information retrieval. But there’s little reason not to take metatags into account within a site, albeit with a little care to avert the worst potential abuses.
Large e-commerce sites running something like Inquira, Endeca, or Mercado will do better with their specialized search tools than with Google search. For most of the rest, however, Google is likely to win on quality, relevance, and utility.
Yes, there’s an obvious problem about ad placement and revenue, as Kee Hinckley recently noted to me. But:
- Site owners don’t really have a choice about cooperating with Google, as the searcher sees Google before she sees the target site. Going nuclear and removing oneself from the Google index isn’t a realistic option.
- Most large site owners do a lot of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for Google, and get a lot of benefit from Google already.
- Google could cut special ad deals for single-site search, changing their usual policies to let site owners buy all placements, for a suitable fee.
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