Google has been testing adding more information near search listings, including
- search this site
- inside this site (links to other pages on that site)
- related (links to related sites)
Testing the above, inline query suggestions, including vertical results via Google Onebox, and suggesting specific verticals for the most broad query types allows Google to attack vertical search from many angles.
Suggesting the broadest databases (shopping, news, images) for broad query types allows them to prevent too many large verticals from being created unless their creators do something fundamentally innovative. Increasing minimum bids for low quality ads also filters out some of the arbitrage model.
Query suggestions as you type and inline suggestions guide searchers toward more common (and likely more meaningful) search paths which will - on average - lead searchers to more useful results. They also aggressively aggregate data in some of the larger verticals, which adds value to the top few players they trust while making it harder for new players to spring up in those markets.
By adding more information near regular search result listings (including site search, related internal links and related external links) they only have to get near the search answer without necessarily needing to precisely answer it. Get close enough and then teach people about things like related links and site search and they should be able to get the rest of the way where they want to go.
The search box has the most value per pixel second, and until some major publishers find new monetization models or ways to challenge Google it is obvious that Google is going to keep adding more and more information to their results. Google may even be the one who helps them find better ways to monetize.
Unlike the competition, Google is not afraid to keep pushing the boundaries of their results, even if in the short term those tests lead to lower earnings. Why hasn't Yahoo! done anything with their Mindset search yet?
Once an engine gets enough marketshare there is a virtual endless stream of revenue possibilities so long as they listen to their users.
The value isn't just in the network, but in how quickly and smartly it reacts to changes. Google generally is the king at that.
They lower costs across the board while making information more accessible. Clicktracks now has a free version. If companies like Britannica listen to the advice they are given then Google may have access to encyclopedias of information for free, on top of having the largest userbase.
I think Wall Street is a bit stupid for reacting to quarter to quarter results. I just don't see a way of Google losing at this point. Even if eBay partners with another large player it still does not change the fact that their value add and relevancy is decreasing with each day of non innovation at eBay.
While keeping an eye on general search Google has also refined some of the more important verticals, which allows them to more precisely answer queries for those who care so much that they want to get much closer than just nearly answering the queries. In some of those verticals they are creating new standards for what is important.
From a marketing perspective these changes all add value to legitimacy while making the marketplace and SERPs more relevant. But as Google pushes these types of features they will also create new types of spam. For example, if you can't easily rank #1 for a competitive phrase, but you can easily make Google believe your document is somehow one of the most related documents to what is ranking at #1 that might be a cheap way to garner targeted traffic. Learning how to become related will be exceptionally useful if the current results may not answer the query as well as it should.
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