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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...]
8:20 am on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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PS: I could imagine an Autocomplete-light, which might autocomplete likely words and phrases, but which might not related to the actual contents of your site or to the algorithm of your site-specific search engine... and instead might just be something which would make typing easier. I'm conjecturing that some sort of data entry assist like this for site search on mobile might be a desirable thing.

That said, I have absolutely no idea whether Google might be doing this. It's just the only way I can imagine an autocomplete that's not tied in to the actual site-specific search engine (if that's a limitation Google is dealing with).
9:48 am on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks @Robert Charlton

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 could imagine an Autocomplete-light, which might autocomplete likely words and phrases, but which might not related to the actual contents of your site or to the algorithm of your site-specific search engine

I hope we are in sync.

1. Our current site-specific search engine doesn't provide auto-complete. For example, when I go to example.com and type something into the search bar, no auto-complete suggestions appears for any of my inputs whether the search is related to my site content or not.

2. I go to Google search and type in example.com or for the brand name, there appears this example.com with sitelinks search box underneath it. From the sitelinks search box, when I start type in something there appears auto-complete suggestions related to our product, website content.

Doesn't that mean Google uses its own auto-complete suggestions based on the site content?


Thanks!
6:25 pm on Oct 14, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Doesn't that mean Google uses its own auto-complete suggestions based on the site content?

shaunm, thanks. Yes, we are now in sync about what you're seeing, and I think your conclusion, as worded above, is also correct. But there are differences in the autocompletes used.

Prompted by your comments, I also tried several very rough search tests for various autocompletes, and I'll mention that I used Amazon for the test. (Amazon is large enough that it will survive the mention... but let's try to avoid mentioning specific sites or search terms in general.)

I did several [fuzzy green widget] type searches in the main Google search box, and then on the Google Sitelinks Search Box for Amazon, and on Amazon's own dedicated site-search, and the differences quickly become clear....

- the autocomplete suggestions for Google in general are very different from the autocomplete suggestions shown in the Sitelinks Search Box for Amazon.

- the autocomplete suggestions seen in the Sitelinks Search Box for Amazon are very different from those provided Amazon's on-site dedicated search.

The final results page, though, for a given phrase long enough to describe a product, appears to be the same whether I arrived at it via the external Sitelinks Search Box or internally via Amazon's site-specific search. This is an Amazon site-specific results page. The autocomplete suggestions via either search engine, though, won't necessarily "lead" you to the same query, as they are different along the way.

So, not only does Google gain an understanding, as you suggest, of a site, but it's likely that Google is using these more frequent Sitelinks Search Boxes to gain further understanding. This in large part, I believe, because onsite navigation in mobile, particularly on large sites, is going to be more and more done by search, and Google wants to keep a handle on what's searched and how that search is working. The Sitelinks Search Boxes provide Google with some reference points it can't see on dedicated site-search.

I'm not sure whether your previous use of the Google Custom Search Engine factors into what Google is currently showing, as Google would need current data to search a site. In a sense, you have a unique kind of test bed here. I'm assuming that it will be worth noting the kinds of changes you see if you switch back to the CSE.
9:13 am on Oct 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Wow. That's great.

the autocomplete suggestions for Google in general are very different from the autocomplete suggestions shown in the Sitelinks Search Box for Amazon.

- the autocomplete suggestions seen in the Sitelinks Search Box for Amazon are very different from those provided Amazon's on-site dedicated search.


I also did a quick check on this(first one) and of course both are different for our site. Sitelinks search box only have my site related auto-complete suggestions even though the site-specific search engine doesn't have auto-complete suggestions like Amazon.

The final results page, though, for a given phrase long enough to describe a product, appears to be the same whether I arrived at it via the external Sitelinks Search Box or internally via Amazon's site-specific search.


It works the same way for me as well. I didn't see a difference between the results page.

This is an Amazon site-specific results page. The autocomplete suggestions via either search engine, though, won't necessarily "lead" you to the same query, as they are different along the way.


Can you please explain this further? I didn't get it.

So, not only does Google gain an understanding, as you suggest, of a site, but it's likely that Google is using these more frequent Sitelinks Search Boxes to gain further understanding. This in large part, I believe, because onsite navigation in mobile, particularly on large sites, is going to be more and more done by search, and Google wants to keep a handle on what's searched and how that search is working. The Sitelinks Search Boxes provide Google with some reference points it can't see on dedicated site-search.

Yes, so can we confirm and be 100% sure that Google uses its own auto-complete suggestions based on it's understanding of the site? The thing is how Google gain an understanding of a site: Has the site needs to be good authoritative one? Should it be receiving large amount of traffic? How frequently the sitelinks search box is used, and what user type into it?

I'm not sure whether your previous use of the Google Custom Search Engine factors into what Google is currently showing, as Google would need current data to search a site.
Yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me as well :-)

In a sense, you have a unique kind of test bed here. I'm assuming that it will be worth noting the kinds of changes you see if you switch back to the CSE.
Thanks. At least we will have more tailored resutls with CSE than the current crappy ones.
11:22 am on Oct 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This is an Amazon site-specific results page. The autocomplete suggestions via either search engine, though, won't necessarily "lead" you to the same query, as they are different along the way.

Can you please explain this further? I didn't get it.

It's very late, so this is a rushed explanation, with examples that are fanciful, not realistic... but suppose that you wanted to search for 'fuzzy green widgets', and the the natural order of autocomplete suggestions for the Google Sitelinks Search Box was something like...

fuzzy
fuzzy wuzzy slippers
fuzzy kangaroos
fuzzy green gold widgets

I'm guessing that the Google Sitelinks Search Box is effectively doing a site:domain keyword search (but since site:domain searches don't display autocomplete, that's hard to check out)... and that it to some extent would need to reflect what actual data the site contained.

Let's say also that for some reason... say a different algorithm, your site-specific search, for the same query, also tuned to the same data, might follow a slightly different pattern, and it would suggest, say...

fuzzy
fuzzy slippers
fuzzy dice
fuzzy green alligator puppets

So, with either, you'd have to brute force through the suggested terms and more or less ignore some of the suggestions if you want to reach the desired query of...

fuzzy green widgets

All of this is pretty standard search procedure... but, if you were using the Sitelinks Search Box and it did show autocomplete, you'd have to be careful to avoid the "fuzzy green gold widgets" on the route to "fuzzy green widgets".

That's what I mean by the autocompletes might not necessarily lead you to the same query. You'd have to know what you wanted... and if the searches suggested a different path, a searcher could end up with slightly different queries.

I assume that this might happen, but that if searchers are using the keyboard most of the time and knew what they wanted, they'd most likely arrive at the same place.

I've watched a number of young mobile searchers not really use the keyboard as much as I would, and sometimes tend more to stay with the selections presented and shuffle them around. It depends a lot on the personality of the searcher, on the particular query, and on the suggestions presented.

But, in answer to your question, this is a scenario with different autocomplete suggestions that I could imagine might "lead" you to different queries.

I wouldn't lose sleep over it, but it's worth considering and possibly checking out.
3:32 pm on Oct 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Apparently Google now has a tag you can implement if you don't want the sitelink searchbox to show up. I would definitely want to try this if I noticed that a competitors ads were showing up next to a client's search box.

<meta name="google" content="nositelinkssearchbox">


[seroundtable.com...]
7:26 am on Oct 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the explanation @Robert Charlton :-)

you'd have to be careful to avoid the "fuzzy green gold widgets" on the route to "fuzzy green widgets".
Again, it's up to Google to decide what auto-complete suggestions it wants give for a search query right? And I am not worried as long as the the visitor sticks with the sitelinks search box until he completes his query when there are no auto-complete suggestions for him :D

Thanks @netmeg
That's interesting and helpful for those who don't have a site-specific search engine.
9:45 pm on Oct 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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This means you should add the markup if you have a site-specific search so that when the algos find enough support to show it, the search points to your site's search feature.


So even if Google is already showing the Google site search box, and you DO add the appropriate schema markup to your homepage, that is still no guarantee that Google will take the user to your own site search on your own domain?

I added it days ago (we do have the box showing on google results), however it still generates Google results on Google, not our website.

Is it just a matter of time, or is this completely algorithm driven as to whether Google decides to take the user, either to your own website or google ?
10:59 pm on Oct 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Took it a little over a week for it to start showing results on my sites.
11:35 pm on Oct 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Good to know! Did you need any other schema code on the homepage or just the search code?
5:40 am on Oct 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Blictor
So even if Google is already showing the Google site search box, and you DO add the appropriate schema markup to your homepage, that is still no guarantee that Google will take the user to your own site search on your own domain?

Google says that "Wait for Google Search algorithms to identify your site as a candidate for the new sitelinks search box". So it's completely up-to Google to decide whether to display a sitelinks search box or not even if you have put the markup on your homepage. But I didn't hear anyone complaining of their site-specific search box not appearing so far after implementation of the markup. Good luck with that.

I added it days ago (we do have the box showing on Google results), however it still generates Google results on Google, not our website.

A day ago? I think it depends on how frequently your website is being crawled. Like @netmeg said, it took me over a week for the site-specific sitelinks search box to show up in Google search. May be you can try fetch the page in Google webmaster tool and submit it for a fast crawl?

Did you need any other schema code on the homepage or just the search code?


No. This is just fine.

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "WebSite",
"url": "http://www.example.com/",
"potentialAction": {
"@type": "SearchAction",
"target": "http://www.example.com/myonsitesearchurl?q={search_term}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term"
}
}
</script>
11:23 am on Oct 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ive been getting soft 404s on search pages since this started on the 23rd.
12:09 pm on Oct 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I use Yoast's SEO for Wordpress plugin on everything, and he has built the code for it right into the plugin, so I didn't have to do a thing. I think my dev might have tweaked something, but I'm not sure.
12:22 pm on Oct 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg

Where at? I may be blind, but I can't seem to find it anywhere in the plugin settings.

Scratch that, I found info. [yoast.com...]
2:13 pm on Oct 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Our homepage redirects the user to "url": "http://www.example.com/shop", so we added the /shop to the schema code. I wonder if we would be more likely to see this work if we removed the /shop in the URL? Anyone have any thoughts on this?

See example below.

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "WebSite",
"url": "http://www.example.com/shop",
"potentialAction": {
"@type": "SearchAction",
"target": "http://www.example.com/myonsitesearchurl?q={search_term}",
"query-input": "required name=search_term"
}
}
</script>
3:13 pm on Nov 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Can anyone recommend a consultant that can advise on a both the site links (code above on last post) and also some issues regarding schema.org, which I'm having issues with Google recognizing in their automatic item updates in merchant center?

Please send me a PM if you can recommend someone.

If inappropriate to ask on this forum, my apologies in advance.

thanks,
3:52 pm on Nov 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Blictor - There are a couple of links in the original post of this thread, at the top of the page that can take you to the very complete details of implementing the code for your site, along with tools to test your integration.
4:03 pm on Nov 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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thanks @not2easy. I'm pretty sure we implemented the code correctly, but almost 2 weeks into it, and Google is not redirecting to our search.

Also, we've implemented Schema.org on our product pages to the spec, and google's markup tester shows we have all the elements (such as price, description, title, etc), but when we test with chrome extension tools that interpret microdata, none of them can find our schema elements.

It's driving me crazy !
5:29 pm on Nov 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Can't seem to get this to work. Seem's really complicated to add the schema markup in my Drupal 7 website. Can't seem to get the search?q search term string correct.
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