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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...]
9:18 pm on Sept 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Interesting. Imma gonna test it. I think it would be useful for some of my sites.
7:15 am on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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So, as I understand this, this is effectively a Google Custom Search Engine for your site, but displayed with your Sitelinks on the Google serps page.

On the free Custom Search, Google displays AdSense. How does this carry over to this particular setup? AdSense with site search is probably not a good option for many business models. Question for me would be is whether it's possible to use this feature with a paid version Google Site Search (ie, a paid Premium Version of Custom Search).

At first glance, anyway, Google's references here hint at the answer (which I think would be yes) but don't quite cover it...

Google Custom Search - Make searching your site easy
https://www.google.com/cse/ [google.com]

Google Custom Search - Choose the version that fits your needs
https://www.google.com/cse/compare [google.com]

Google Custom Search allows you to create a search engine that reflects your knowledge and interests. With Google Site Search you'll enjoy additional features and support to help you integrate Google search into your website. Learn more [google.com] about the features of Google Site Search.

As the link to the pricing page would get broken in WebmasterWorld's link redirect script, I'm including a version here suitable for copying and pasting... or, just click the "pricing" link on the above page.

http://www.google.com/enterprise/search/products/gss.html#pricing_content
8:02 am on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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No, it will support whatever site search you have.

[developers.google.com...]

You do not have to use Google custom search, just have a search url that will accept the search phrase as a parameter.

Google is being very webmaster friendly here: sending traffic to your site instead of doing a site search on Google and using an accepted open standard to do it.
10:56 am on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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"sending traffic to your site"

Well people are searching your site. So google isn't really doing you any favors only piggybacking on your site traffic? Plus you gotta have a really lousy search function on your site to use this.
12:18 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@philgames, You do not understand what this does. Google are placing a search box in the SERPS that sends people to your site search instead of using a Google site search.

So it exactly substitutes a page of search results on your site, for a page of search results on Google.
2:00 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As I read this, it does NOT require Google's site search in order to function. If you are using WordPress' native site search (my sympathies) or a third party solution for a Magento Ecommerce store, it will still work if you configure it properly.

Personally I haven't thought of a significant downside to this yet. But I'm sure someone will.
2:29 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg, right. The example markup on the link above shows how to add markup to your site search so Google can send queries to it instead of Google Site search.

It also means anyone using schema.org markup can do the same.
4:07 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg the only 'downside' I can see is that Google will see ( and maybe collect ) what keywords are being typed in.
4:17 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@johnhh, but they do that already: these are search boxes in the SERPS.
5:13 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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graeme_p
- thats what I meant, search boxes in the listings :) They can't see what users type into our site search boxes on our web pages, by adding this 'feature' they will do before the user gets to our site.
5:48 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't care; for some sites I use CSE and for other, it's configured in my Analytics for site search strings to show up anyway. Not a downside for me. If one considers it a downside, then they should probably not enable the schema for it.
6:56 pm on Sept 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@johnhh, except that search boxes in the listings have been there for a while. There is no downside to the *change* which is that it now uses your site search instead of Google.

@netmeg, if you do not enable it, the chances are Google will show their own search box in the SERPS instead. I think, if you have site search, you want the markup.
5:34 pm on Sept 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I did some testing of this one pages that I could find (YouTube and Staples) and it didn't take me to the site's search results, it took me to a Google search results page. With ads. Not sure I like this idea. Still looking at it.
5:58 pm on Sept 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg, neither of those sites has the markup. What you are seeing is just an improved version of the site search boxes that have appeared in the SERPS for a while.

IF you have the markup, the Google blog post says

If you implement the markup on your site, users will have the ability to jump directly from the sitelinks search box to your site’s search results page. If we don’t find any markup, we’ll show them a Google search results page for the corresponding site: query, as we’ve done until now.
8:21 pm on Sept 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I'm seeing the new search box on and off for my site today. I added the markup for it on Saturday but so far Google is only using site:example.com "keyword" to return results, not my own search engine.

I am curious though, will this work if I have my site search results pages blocked from googlebot in robots.txt? I know it wouldn't need to spider those pages if it's sending users to my site search, but wouldn't it at least need to see the search page to validate it somehow? I thought about unblocking it, but coding it so that googlebot and other spiders couldn't run queries, but I'm not sure if that's the best solution either.
6:42 am on Sept 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

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graeme_p - The confusion I'm having is with this portion of Google's announcement... [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]

My emphasis added...
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.

I assume that "supports Autocomplete" can be true only if you're using Google as the search engine. Could "supports Autocomplete" here simply be meaning that it doesn't break Autocomplete if you do use Google Custom Search?
3:29 am on Sept 11, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I am not sure that follows. They have indexed your site so they should be able to autocomplete search terms (just as if you were using Google custom search) even if the search form is submitted to your url.
7:21 pm on Sept 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ok I have a few of these now. They're still using Google's search results pages and not mine, though. Not sure if I have any way to determine whether or not this is a good thing though.
7:35 pm on Sept 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Ditto, I see the search box for my site now but it goes to another google page not my own search results page - but I haven't added any markup.

I do have the google custom site search on the site because it's useful for visitors already on the site but I wouldn't want to send more people to the page because of the very large number of ads shown - substantially more than in normal serps and usually very low paying - that I can only imagine gives a bad impression of the site.

So I'd prefer people search within google and then arrive on a 'real' page of the site, even if it might lose me a few dollars.
8:04 pm on Sept 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We did add the markup. Wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but we'll see.
2:34 am on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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They are using my own search page now. They weren't before. I'm liking it.
10:15 am on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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@Rasputin, if you have not added the markup they will use Google's Google's results pages.

@netmeg, how is it not what you hoped for? Still showing Google SERPS?
10:43 am on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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We added the markup, but still using Google's pages.
5:27 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Several comments. First, it turns out that adding the markup does not guarantee the search box. It just makes the site "eligible" for the feature.

This, from Google's Pierre Far, in a comment on The Next Web coverage [thenextweb.com...] is Pierre's clearest statement I've seen on the topic...

I work at Google in search and was involved in this launch. I'd like to clarify one tiny detail as I initially misread it. Adding the schema.org markup to your homepage makes the site eligible for the new search box but doesn't guarantee it. We have algos that look at a whole slew of signals to decide if/when to show the search box for a given site and query.

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.

More discussion on this at The Next Web, noted above, and also on Pierre's Google+ page [plus.google.com...]


Also, back to this discussion, regarding my question about whether Google can provide autocomplete if it's using your own site search function, graeme_p suggests that since Google has already indexed my site, they should be able to autocomplete. I have more questions about this....

a) there are many ecommerce sites, including Amazon, where Google hasn't indexed the whole site...
b) there are many ecommerce sites that have noindexed product pages to avoid Panda problems (eg, on similar commodity-type products where the search might be by SKU). These would be lost in Google search, but could be accomodated in a dedicated site search.

So, how is Google interfacing autocomplete with the site's own search function? I can imagine many cases where I don't think it's possible.
6:00 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Imma post this link (I'm not affiliated with it in any way) because it brings up some points I think people should consider before they implement. On my sites, the ad thing is not a big deal. But for ecommerce sites - this is definitely something to think about.

[barker.co.uk...]
6:09 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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netmeg - The article illustrates the dangers I had in mind when I posted this (my emphasis now added)...

On the free Custom Search, Google displays AdSense. How does this carry over to this particular setup? AdSense with site search is probably not a good option for many business models. Question for me would be is whether it's possible to use this feature with a paid version Google Site Search (ie, a paid Premium Version of Custom Search)

It was my understanding, btw, that the ads displayed within custom search are technically AdSense, not AdWords, but, whichever, that's not my important point. They are ads leading to competitors.

Yes, it's awful for ecommerce site search. The question of whether this would work with the paid Premium Version of Custom Search (without ads) still stands.
7:59 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I haven't found anyone with Premium Custom Search who's trying it. Yet.
8:50 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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whether Google can provide autocomplete if it's using your own site search function


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? Could google be monitoring what searches actually return results on the search landing page? They could suggest based on what they've indexed, but those results wouldn't necessarily match with what the internal search returns. I'm going to be curious to see what happens with this.

I think this could be a great opportunity (if people actually use the search box and it redirects to your own site) to show users your content, especially if those pages aren't ranking where they'd come up on page one in a general google search. Of course, this only works if people routinely search for your brand/company name.

This has also been a good reminder to me to make sure the search landing page is easy to use. Mine needed a little updating. The search results it returns are great but the interface was a little cumbersome.
9:42 pm on Sept 18, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I have checked a brand search for four major UK retailers.
  • All four had the Sitelink Search Box
  • All four had search autocomplete in the Sitelink Search Box
  • Upon entering search term in the Sitelink Search Box, three of them turned the keywords entered into keyword site:example.com and showed Google SERPs for this query with competitor adwords, as per screenshot in the article netmeg linked to above.
  • 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.
  • In fact, none of the four major retailers used Google Custom Search. They all had their own internal product search engine.
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