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Businesses Unhappy With Google for Making Their Customers Happy

A recent NY Times article reports on a number of companies who are unhappy with a new search feature being offered by Google. This new feature, called search within search or search within a site, is similar to the Site Search feature that’s been a part of Google for a while. Site Search allows Google users to search for terms on one particular website (e.g., nytimes.com) rather than across the entire internet. Users often find this useful, as there are a number of websites that don’t offer their own site search feature or, if they do, it’s just not that good. In order to use Google’s Site Search feature, you just type your search terms as you normally would, then type, e.g., site:nytimes.com.

The new search within search feature, was apparently attempting to improve on the Site Search feature by allowing users to enter the name of a site or business (e.g., Amazon); Google would then return www.amazon.com as the top result in the search listing, and underneath would be a second search box with a button allowing you to “Search amazon.com.” (Using this button would essentially add the site:amazon.com text to your search.) Unfortunately, at least from the viewpoint of some retailers, along with this second search box Google would also occasionally present links to other things that Google thought you might find useful, and some of those links might take you somewhere other than Amazon’s website. Some of these retailers complained to Google, and Google has now turned off this feature for those websites.

I find this response on the part of Amazon (and others) to be completely backward, and judging from the posts and comments on a number of other blogs (see links below), I’m not the only one. Some points that I find particularly relevant:

1. As far as I know, none of these websites are complaining about all the customers that Google sends their way (for free).

2. If a website had a decent enough search feature for their own site, they wouldn’t need to worry about Google providing another one.

3. How about if these companies quit complaining that a competitor might offer a better product (or in this case, help someone find a better product), and instead do something that improves the value of their product?

This last point has been made a number of times by the folks at techdirt.com, and I hope they keep making it; there are clearly a lot of businesses that still don’t get it.




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