It is nice to chat with NYT's Bob Tedeschi about online marketing. Nicer still when it ends up in print. And even nicer when it happens on your birthday! Assorted additional thoughts on Google's Search-Within-The-Site (SWTS):
- From the usability perspective, SWTS is a big help for smaller sites with weak on-site search.
- For medium to large sites, Google's SWTS usually provides poorer serps than the retailer's own. Compare piggybank at Amazon versus piggybank on Amazon via Google (hat-tip Jim at TechCrunch, comment 31).
- Why? Because smart retailers put considerable effort into on-site search, tuning results for relevance, inventory, margin, what have you. Google SWTS is general, and so isn't tuned. SWTS is also stale (by hours or days) with respect to SKU inventory.
- From the PPC angle, the dollars and clicks involved when retailer "Y" steals a click from a user searching-within-the-site for retailer "X" is small, and likely offset by the reverse scenario. As relates to paid search, SWTS is a tempest in a teapot.
- Prediction: this issue will blow over quickly as Google will let site owners opt-out of SWTS via Webmaster Central.
- Once Google permits SWTS opt-out, small retailers can stay in, large retailers can leave, and everyone ends up better than before. All good.
- Mysterious: Tedeschi quotes an unnamed Google spokesperson who indicates that site owners who opt-out of SWTS "may not be able to reverse their decision." That is really strange -- what marketing or IT constraint would make this decision irreversible?
- I'd suggest the intensity of advertisers' negative responses to SWTS is more an indication of growing unease with Mountain View's dominance, rather than on the importance of SWTS.
- John Battelle writing about universal search last week made a great point, relevant here too: "Google's brand promise - to be neutral, to be above monetary interest - is in conflict with, well, the rest of Google's brand promise, to be a superstar stock, to grow faster than any company in the history of the world."
- We at RKG often discuss the role of brand in PPC. There's a different brand angle here, a broader, more subtle, somewhat ominous angle. SWTS highlights how the growing power of search engines reduces the influence of brands. Your website is your brand online. Natural search runs your brand through a shredder. Experiencing a site page-wise on a search engine results page is a situation where the parts are far less than the whole.
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