Sites Freak About A Feature Google Has Had For Years
from the deep-breath dept
Websites are wringing their hands about the fact that Google is adding a "search within a search" feature that makes it easier to use Google's search engine to search a particular website. So, for example, if you want to find something at the New York Times, you can search for "nytimes.com," and then Google will display a search box that will let you search for content on just the New York Times website. Apparently a lot of websites are up in arms because this will divert traffic away from their own search engines and give Google, rather than the target site, opportunities to serve up ads to those users. The question I was left with after reading the article is: am I the only one who's been doing this for years with Google's "site:" syntax? I assumed that anyone who uses Google on a regular basis already knew about this feature. If the ability to search within a particular site is problematic, these sites should have objected years ago, when Google added this functionality.
Anyway, there are two things to say about this. One is that sites should take this as a wake-up call to improve the search functionality on their own sites. For a company whose business is increasingly centered on the Internet, having a decent search engine should be a high priority. Furthermore, although few companies will be able to develop search algorithms as sophisticated as Google's, they have the big advantage that they've got access to a lot of metadata that Google doesn't. For example, news sites should be able to offer searches by date, author, category, and other criteria that Google might not be able to extract easily from a mere scrape of its pages. They might also be able to use information like the number of page views, the number of times a page has been emailed, etc to decide which pages to list first. With all that extra information, it shouldn't be that hard to develop (or license) a search engine that will give performance that's at least roughly comparable to Google for one's own site. Secondly, if you don't have a good search engine, isn't better to have Google helping users find the pages they want on your site than for those users not to find your content at all?