I just read a piece by Bambi Francisco (it’s here, scroll down in the story) in which she claimed in passing that typing “ugg boots” into the main page at Google returned a subcategory of results – above the regular “pure” search results but distinct from the advertising – called “Product Search.” I tried it in quotes – “ugg boots” – and it didn’t work. Without quotes – ugg boots – it did. I then tried “digital camera” and there it was again.
What do you know – a new class of results (from Froogle, see my earlier post which missed this) nested rather uncomfortably between the sponsored results at the top and on the right side, and the pure results below. Also interesting was the fact that the results were in the same white background as the regular “pure” search results, though they are distinct in look and feel.
This is a very interesting development with significant implications. Many would claim this is a major step toward Yahoo or MSN-like approaches on the part of Google. Others would argue that Google in fact is simply trying to do its users a favor, inferring that most searchers who type such queries are in fact in shopping mode. But it is a clear departure from the conceit – and I use that term nuetrally – that Google has always maintained, which is that the results offered by their engine are free of human intervention – that they in fact reflect the results of a carefully tended algorithmic secret sauce applied to every site without bias. Clearly, humans have decided to put that category of Product Search on top of the main results. And certainly those results are not subject to the same secret sauce which sifts the rest of the unwashed web. (One can imagine merchants racing to game Froogle, now that Froogle results are showing up – in first position no less – on the firehose of traffic that is the main results page of Google). No matter how you slice it, this marks a departure.
Interesting indeed. I am attempting to find out if this is just a test, a trial balloon of sorts, which Google does do quite often, or if this is a permanent feature. Stay tuned.
Update: Google’s David Krane, who runs corp. communications, responded to my query early this morning. He said that the incorporation of Froogle results into the main search page is “a test of sorts, yes…just an opportunity to further integrate Froogle with what folks are looking for on Google. It’s been up for a couple of weeks. We’ll have more data on the response after the new year.”
He offered to have me speak with the product manager in charge of this, and I will be talking to her at some point in the near future, give or take a Christmas holiday. Thanks for the quick reply, David!