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Google Changes Sitelinks Search Box Taking You Straight To a Site's Own Search Pages

     
2:55 pm on Sep 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Nice addition.

It's worth reading Google's documentation to establish implementation (see below).

Today you’ll see a new and improved sitelinks search box. When shown, it will make it easier for users to reach specific content on your site, directly through your own site-search pages.
What’s this search box and when does it appear for my site?

When users search for a company by name—for example, [Megadodo Publications] or [Dunder Mifflin]—they may actually be looking for something specific on that website. In the past, when our algorithms recognized this, they'd display a larger set of sitelinks and an additional search box below that search result, which let users do site: searches over the site straight from the results, for example [site:example.com hitchhiker guides].

This search box is now more prominent (above the sitelinks), supports Autocomplete, and—if you use the right markup—will send the user directly to your website's own search pages.Google Changes Sitelinks Search Box Taking You Straight To a Site's Own Search Pages [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com]
You need to have a working site-specific search engine for your site. If you already have one, you can let us know by marking up your homepage as a schema.org/WebSite entity with the potentialAction property of the schema.org/SearchAction markup. You can use JSON-LD, microdata, or RDFa to do this; check out the full implementation details on our developer site.


Sitelinks Search Box [developers.google.com...]
10:22 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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However, for one of major retailer, after entering search term into Siteling Search Box, I was taken directly to the retailer's search results page (on retailrer's site) which was not Google custom search.


And this one also had autocomplete? Interesting. I'm still not seeing it except for sites that are just going to site:example.com results.
10:34 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've heard hints that there's something in the schema SearchAction that can set the results page, but I haven't found any doc I can understand yet.
11:06 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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And this one also had autocomplete? Interesting. I'm still not seeing it except for sites that are just going to site:example.com results.

The Sitelinks Search Box had autocomplete for all four retailers.
But NONE of retailers had Google Custom Search on their website.

However, after entering search term into Sitelinks Search Box, only one took me directly to retailers own search results (with the correct items searched for) and the other three remained on Google, executing query for the search term entered in combination with site:example.com
11:07 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Now Google wants you to stay on Google longer.
12:17 am on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I've heard hints that there's something in the schema SearchAction that can set the results page


Are you talking about the target page? This is what I put on my site (homepage) and it's going directly to my own search script (obviously not example.com in my own code):

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "WebSite",
"url": "http://www.example.com/",
"potentialAction": {
"@type": "SearchAction",
"target": "http://www.example.com/search/search.php?q={search_term}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term"
}
}
</script>
12:39 am on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ok thanks; I'll give that a try.
12:32 pm on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Well I confirmed we had it set up that way, but so far the results are still showing on Google's site and not mine. We'll continue to wait.
4:17 pm on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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wondering what is the 'magic trick' to ensure the search query directs to my client's websites... and NOT to Google SERPs with competitor AdWords?
6:23 pm on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone tried adding query parameters, as in:

"target": "http://www.example.com/search/search.php?source=sitelinksearch&q={search_term}"

I don't see why that should make a difference, but want to make sure I'm not missing something.
8:14 pm on Sept 19, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We tweaked the target url (not source, that's not the spec I don't think) but I don't think Google's come back to crawl the URL yet.
12:26 pm on Sept 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ok, when I search from the sitelink search box, the query now goes to my site. However, it doesn't go to the Google CSE I have running on the site; looks like it's using the the standard WordPress search. I don't have a standard WordPress search box on the site. Still tweaking. But I'm closer to getting it the way I want it.
12:45 pm on Sept 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg - so you are saying that Google isn't obeying what you put in the target parameter?
3:57 pm on Sept 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The way I see it is that you have nothing to lose by adding the markup: if you do not add the markup Google may well show their own search in the SERPS anyway.

Unless, adding the markup increases the chances of some sort of search showing in the SEPS (perhaps by marking your site as searchable).... I cannot see why it would be a decisive factor.
4:52 pm on Sept 20, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Strictly speaking, no they are not obeying the target parameter. My search results from the Google CSE (on site) go to example.com/search-results/ and that's what's in the target parameter in the json code.

However if you do a search from the sitelink box, you are sent to example.com/?s=detroit, for example, which is where it would be sent if I were using the native WP search.

I have /search-results/ set to noindex, but if I'm not able to get it to use that page, I'm going to have to set up an x-robots tag so I don't get a boatload of ?s=keyword URLs showing up in Google if someone links to to them.

Still playing with it.
8:52 am on Sept 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Any chance you are using the Yoast seo plugin on the site? I just noticed that it automatically adds the json code in the latest version (but I don't see where to change the target url within Yoast) so if you are using it maybe it's overriding what you're trying to add?
10:53 am on Sept 21, 2014 (gmt 0)

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No, we added a function to override Yoast.
8:11 am on Sept 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: We've had the beginnings of an overlapping discussion developing in another thread, which I've locked, as two threads on the same topic quickly become unmanageable. Here's a link to the other discussion for reference... [webmasterworld.com...]

Let's continue our main discussion here.
9:57 am on Sept 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@aakk9999
But NONE of retailers had Google Custom Search on their website.

You don't have to have Google custom search on your Website for Google to show the default Google site: sitelink box, do you?

Google says
'The sitelinks search box appears only for navigational queries and when relevant for users. Google algorithms use a variety of factors to determine when the box appears, including the information on the site and different types of navigational queries from Search users'


So it looks like it's completley up to Google to decide whether to show the sitelinks search box no matter if you use a Site-specific search engine (schema markup), Google custom search or nothing at all(like in my case where the sitelinks appears).
10:09 am on Sept 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@getcooking
So far I'm not seeing anything come up in autocomplete in the search box for my site. I'm wondering if that data will come from what people actually search for in that box and maybe that's why there isn't anything being suggested yet?


I don't think that's the case. Because I can see so many auto-complete queries for my site soon after I noticed the sitelinks searchbox. No way that people would have searched for that many queries using the sitelink box. There are auto-complete starting from A-Z.

I think it has something to do with Google's comment that reads
"The sitelinks search box appears only for navigational queries and when relevant for users"


Now I'm just worried about the competitor part. Even though they are already aware of my target terms from Title, content, H1 and anchors, the auto-complete now give them an extra hint about what visitors want to search on my Website.
12:49 pm on Sept 23, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Because I can see so many auto-complete queries for my site


If you don't have the search set to go to your own site (as you are seeing with your site), then I'm seeing sites have the auto-complete suggestions. However, for my sites and the others I've checked so far that have added the code there are no auto-complete suggestions at this time when using the sitelinks search box. @aakk9999 found an exception to this but I haven't been able to find one yet that is showing auto-complete AND using the redirected search.

In the other thread, you asked about ads appearing. Yes, ads will appear in the results if you are not using your own search just like any other Google search. Which is why if you have your own site search you should be adding the json code/schema markup on your site to send the search results there instead of letting google use the site:example.com option.

Now I'm just worried about the competitor part

There are a lot of tools far easier to use to than looking through your auto-complete suggestions to find out that kind of stuff.
6:08 am on Sept 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks @getcooking
I haven't been able to find one yet that is showing auto-complete AND using the redirected search.

I'm looking for one too to just see how the redirected search works when the JSON LD used properly and Google acknowledge it.

In the other thread, you asked about ads appearing. Yes, ads will appear in the results if you are not using your own search just like any other Google search.

Yeah, that's too bad. Here's what Google says about the site: search operators.

Get results only from certain sites or domains. For example, you can find all mentions of "Olympics" on the NBC website, or any .gov websites.
Now, why there should be ads running is not acceptable.

This write up about the ads part is useful: [blindfiveyearold.com...]
10:25 am on Sept 24, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Hi All,

I've come across these two sites that don't use JSON LD or microdata(?!) but the sitelinks search box is available for them. There is auto-complete and they are directly opening on their Websites.

http://www.example.com/
http://www.example.com/

How is it possible? Can somebody please enlighten me?

The eCommerce site here: http://www.example.com/ uses JSON LD and there is auto complete too that opens search results on the Website directly. But what make me confused is that this site uses a search result URL pattern in JSON LD such as: http://www.example.com/search/{search_term} - This is where you land in when you make a search in the sitelinks search box such as: http://www.example.com/search/apple

But the result page URL pattern is different from what's in JSON LD "target" section when I make a search on the Website itself. By default the search URL is just: http://www.example.com/jsp/tradesearch/tradesearch.jsp

So, is it ok if the URL pattern I enter in JSON LD is not live on the Website but still can deliver the search results as I've set it up?

Also, can someone please explain what's it with the potentialAction:target?

I noticed all these three working well with sites with the same search result URL pattern.

"target": "https://query.example-petstore.com/search?q={search_term_string}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term_string"

"target": "https://query.example-petstore.com/search?q={search_term}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term"

"target": "https://query.example-petstore.com/search?q={query}",
"query-input": "required name=query"

Is that just ok if I use any of these on my Website where the search page URL pattern is:
http://www.example.com/search?q=oneword
http://www.example.com/search?q=two+word


Thank you so much!

[edited by: shaunm at 11:10 am (utc) on Sep 24, 2014]

[edited by: aakk9999 at 12:08 pm (utc) on Sep 24, 2014]
[edit reason] Exemplified domain names. Sorry, they may lead to a public domains reviews [/edit]

11:20 pm on Oct 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@everyone,

I am seeing the search box show before the message from Google in GWT messages and several sites that I've co-managed are showing the site links without us doing a single amount of dev work or tweak on the site.

Anyone experiencing this?
-CR-
6:06 am on Oct 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@cricketer
If you are referring to the Google site:query sitelinks search box which opens the results on Google itself and pave way for your competitors to steal your brand traffic, then yes it is.

But you should implement the schema/microdata on your homepage where the results will be opened on your Website directly.
1:24 pm on Oct 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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It's nice to see that Google has replaced the default search box(site:www.example.com query) in Google results with the site-specific searchbox in just one week after I've implemented the JSON-LD.

They are appearing with my site-specif auto-complete too :-)
9:15 am on Oct 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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They are appearing with my site-specif auto-complete too

Thanks. Yes, the point I was missing is that Google doesn't add the autocomplete to all site search functions. It only supports autocomplete when autocomplete is built into the site-specific search.

I spoke briefly with Pierre Far a few days ago at PubCon, and he indicated that the markup should support most site search setups (unless, say, you have something like a travel booking form as your site "search", in which case a single search box couldn't possibly emulate a multi-option search input).

I've come to think, btw, that Google is adding these Sitelink Search Boxes primarily because of mobile.

In its various presentations on mobile site design, Google has been emphasizing site search as a key to a satisfactory mobile navigation experience, so it makes sense for Google to add a search box in Sitelinks when appropriate for the site returned.

What is necessary, though, is that you implement the markup right away... as otherwise Google can't reproduce your site search experience, and you might well get ads for competitors showing up in the site:domain search that the Sitelink Search Box provides as its default.

I've got to assume that Google could have provided default search boxes without ads. AJ Kohn's Blind Five Year Old analysis referenced above [blindfiveyearold.com...] suggests that while Google's roll-out on this was less than graceful, the ads might in part have been chosen a way of accelerating adoption of the markup, and perhaps too as a way of accelerating implementation of native site search.

(Or, it may be simply that Google's not going to drop ads on its own results.)

I do expect Google to be pushing prominent site search as part of its vision for mobile, so this ultimately will be an issue that growing sites need to be aware of.

Still no feedback on whether Paid Custom Search would be an ads-free option in this environment, but I assume it would be.
11:05 am on Oct 13, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks @Robert Charlton

Yes, the point I was missing is that Google doesn't add the auto-complete to all site search functions. It only supports auto-complete when auto-complete is built into the site-specific search.

Our site-specific search engine doesn't have the auto-complete functionality but I could see a lot of auto-complete queries related to our brand, product search in the sitelinks search box on Google. How is it then?
5:53 am on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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shaunm - I'm trying to get my head around this, and am thinking out loud. As I understand auto-complete (ie, any auto-complete), it logically must rely on the structured data it's given.

On a site search of a particular site, if the search is going to return the site-specific search results page, I think it would need to limit itself to the site in question and to use the algorithm of that site's internal search engine.

I'm having a hard time imagining how Google could add its own auto-complete to the Sitelinks Search Box and return the same results the site-specific search engine would return.

With the above in mind, can you describe in more detail what you see going on?
6:41 am on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Robert Charlton

I should say that the site-specific search engine that we are using currently is not that good at all, it returns completely undesirable results. We used to have the Google custom search engine for more than 4 years and paid a lot of money for that in the past. So, we decided to move from it and that's when we started using the current site-specific search engine, which is just 6 months old now. But we are thinking about moving back to the Google custom search engine again.

As the sitelinks search box appeared with auto-complete queries right under my domain in Google search, I thought Google could have had a better understanding of our site as we had been using Google custom search engine for a very long period of time and started using its own auto-complete. Does that make sense at all?!?

The current site-specific search engine doesn't support auto-complete. As my understanding with auto-complete, they should appear when someone is performing a site search right? I don't see any auto-complete when I'm performing a site search.

I'm having a hard time imagining how Google could add its own auto-complete to the Sitelinks Search Box and return the same results the site-specific search engine would return.


I have no clue as well :-)
7:22 am on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As the sitelinks search box appeared with auto-complete queries right under my domain in Google search, I thought Google could have had a better understanding of our site as we had been using Google custom search engine for a very long period of time and started using its own auto-complete. Does that make sense at all?!?

shaunm - Not exactly sure I'm following you. Are you saying that Google right now is using its own auto complete, because it once had when it was your custom search engine? This doesn't make sense to me, though there might be something going on that I'm not understanding.

I assume that Google doesn't remember previous data that way, any more than it, say, would remember a 301. Site search only works with data currently presented and indexed.

The current site-specific search engine doesn't support auto-complete. As my understanding with auto-complete, they should appear when someone is performing a site search right? I don't see any auto-complete when I'm performing a site search.

This is exactly what I would have expected... that if your current search engine doesn't provide auto-complete, then the Google Sitelinks Search Box shouldn't be able to provide it either.

I'm not yet sure we're in sync, but the above is my understanding of what should be.
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