Every now and then we are treated to a little (OK, a lot) whining from folks who piggyback on top of Google to make money, the long tail of publishers who cling to the hope of high PageRank scores because it affects their earnings.
Now retailers have joined publishers in venting. According to The New York Times, publishers and retailers are miffed by Google's new search-within-search feature, a great new tool to help users do more refined searches.
So, type in Wikipedia, and you're presented with a search box where you can do a more exact search within Wikipedia.org. As someone who does a lot of these searches, I'd welcome search-within-search for everything.
However, and unfortunately as is usually the case when Google tweaks its search engine, this feature is putting off publishers and retailers because when users conduct these secondary searches, ads for rivals show up in addition to the links.
For example, today I entered Best Buy, got the secondary search box, then entered TVs. Not only did I get a link to the Best Buy televisions page but I got a list of sponsored links on the side offering to take me to other TV sellers, including Dell, Costco, Target and NextTag.
Apparently, retailers are upset that Google is selling ads against their brands. But Google is merely providing searches (consumers) choice and other retailers the opportunity to benefit from consumer choice. And people have a problem with that? Are you kidding me? This is called capitalism.
When you open the Saturday circular ad sheets in your weekend newspapers, you usually see pamphlets of ads for Best Buy, Target and Circuit City stacked one on top of the other. The retailers all pay for those ads and it's a level playing field; a little competition is good for the free market.
Publishers and retailers who complain about the ad placement in search-within-search are moaning about being lumped in with the competition, but Google's job is to provide the best search possible and make as much money as possible doing it.
Retailers have plenty of other factors determining their success than worrying over who appears on their search results pages. Would these retailers get upset for having their ads on the same page with a rivals in a print publication? No. Bottom line: If their merchandise is as good and competitively priced as they advertise, then they'll do just fine.
Neither Best Buy, nor any other retailer should have a legitimate quarrel with Google about this, or as Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim noted "If I search for YOUR COMPANY and then decide to shop elsewhere–after using a site search for YOUR SITE and seeing an AdWords ad–how strong was my relationship with you in the first place???"
Well said, Andy. And for sites concerned about this, get better site search. Some of these proprietary e-commerce search engines are terrible. If you improve your own site search, Google wouldn't have to come up with a better solution.
And if you don't like it, well, Google has said it will remove it, which is allegedly what Amazon did.
The Times article is nice and balanced, providing comments from Forbes and the Online Publishers Association dismissing the complaints on the second page of the article.