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Google’s New Search Feature Alarms Sites

This month, Google introduced a search-within-search feature that lets users stay on Google to find pages on popular sites like those of The Washington Post, Wikipedia, The New York Times, Wal-Mart and others. The search box appears when someone enters the name of certain Web addresses or company names — say, “Best Buy” — rather than entering a request like “cellphones.”

The results of the search are almost all individual company pages. Google tops those results with a link to the home page of the Web site in question, adds another search box, and offers users the chance to let Google search for certain things within that site.

The problem, for some in the industry, is that when someone enters a term into that secondary search box, Google will display ads for competing sites, thereby profiting from ads it sells against the brand. The feature also keeps users searching on Google pages and not pages of the destination Web site.

Analysts generally praise the feature as helping users save steps, but for Web publishers and retailers, there are trade-offs. While the service could help increase traffic, some users could be siphoned away as Google uses the prominence of the brands to sell ads, typically to competing companies.

“Google is showing a level of aggressiveness with this that’s just not needed,” said Alan Rimm-Kaufman, a former executive with the electronics retailer Crutchfield who is now an Internet consultant. Google’s aggressiveness, Mr. Rimm-Kaufman said, ignores a user’s desire to reach a specific destination and it costs those Web sites visitors.

Take, for instance, a situation last week, when users of Google searched The Washington Post and were given a secondary search box. Those who typed “jobs” into that second box saw related results for The Post’s employment pages, but the results were bordered by ads for competing employment sites like CareerBuilder or Monster.com.

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Google, Search, Web Search, Search Result

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