This may be old news to most, but Google has been for quite some time now adding actual results/links inside the search box. This is seen only on the main homepage of Google and not yet applied to iGoogle. They also provide adds within that same suggestion field, but through my testing lately I was unable to find any. They may be removing them due to unfair advantage that these may give to those lucky enough to get within that search box.
Since I am have not come across the ads as of late, I am not going to comment on those for this post, but just so we are clear, Google still says they include ads in there. However, this post is going to try to take a look at some of the implications that this has on SEM and the general populace at large.
One thing that is good by providing these straight links within the search box is a cut down on the searches done for a company name. As in the example on the left for CNN, we know the individual is looking more than likely for cnn.com. So instead of wasting my time and Google’s time by providing a long list of search engine results, we are provided the opportunity to click straight on the result.
Why do I call it a “straight link”? The reason I call it a straight link, is because it really is. I took a look at the referral and http header information using a tool like Live HTTP Headers for Firefox we can see that it is a normal link. There is no 302 redirect that is applied as within a typical search results page. Now I am not fortunate enough to have a site that meets the algorithmic guidelines to be granted a suggest a link in the search box, but would be curious to see how this shows up in my analytic reports. Would this be a referral and not a search engine visit? As a side note, you can also tell from the header information that they are tracking and testing this. There are callouts for “source-suggest” and “oi=suggest_nav”.
Another positive that this provides for those who are lucky enough to be in there is going to be reduced amount of competitors being able to bid on brand related keywords and stealing market share. With its current state the amount of any reduction would be small since the amount of links that populate the suggest a link is extremely small and does not even attempt long tail keywords.
Another positive is for Online PR Management. If there are any results that would normally show up in the SERPs that would impact that company negatively for those large brand related search terms, then they would be avoided since the lions share of searchers would simply click on the suggest a link that Google provides.
If we take the notion from the previous paragraph about the reduction in brand related campaigns from competitors and look at from the perspective of the competitors then this is a bad thing. If the amount of suggest a links grow, then the amount of keywords that competitors can bid on will be reduced. But realistically, this is a small threat and not a true concern.
Another negative facet to this is that it only favors those with larger amounts of traffic. Since this is dependent on an algorithm to decide when and when not to provide a link, those websites that have a huge amount of traffic will be graced with a suggest a link. This can be seen in the example at the left. By combing information from Google trends we can get a clearer idea that back in early 2008 “fiver” really took off, but it has yet to beat out “fiver tv”
How to Get A Google Suggest A Link
I really am not sure how to get a link and there is really no sure fire way to get one, unless you are already huge. The best answer is that you just need to market the hell out of your company and with large traffic comes a Google suggest-a-link. However, the example to the left seems to indicate a few of the needed requirements in order to get one. There seems to be only one keyword that can be the trigger for each page. In the case to the left it is the homepage. I say page because if you start typing in ‘New York Times Best Seller List” you get a link to the interior page of nytimes.com. Also, I am pretty sure that this is dependent on Google’s knowledge of click through rates and bounce rates since these are the only metrics that would decide if a keyword would be graced with a suggest a link.
My question is what is the cut off for this click through and bounce rate. Do you need to have a 95% click through rate plus a bounce rate of 15% or lower?. I have to assume the cut off is fairly high since the cut off for Google’s Website Optimizer is also high. Needs to be around 98% sure that it will beat the original to indicate a winner.
Little Changes Make a Big Difference
Once again Google has made a small change, but the impact is big. These types of changes can really mean a significant change to the way things are done in the search world. The best part of it all is that Google continually tests these changes to see not only what the impact is, but also how big the impact is. I just wish sometimes that I could see the results from these tests.