OneBox and What It Means for Everyone Else

Bill Slawski has an extensive discussion of Google’s “OneBox” patent application at Search Engine Land. Basically the “OneBox,” if you’re not already familiar with it, is “vertical” content at the top of organic results. Here are some examples:

As Google enriches and “verticalizes” its search results this will have a potentially significant impact on traffic to organic links down the page. Various “eye tracking” studies have shown that the top left of the page is where the eye initially lands (the OneBox location). It then travels down the page to varying degrees.

Below is eye tracking research from Jakob Nielsen:

eye tracking

Other, similar studies show even less movement down the page. As a practical matter, it’s the first page of results — and really the top links both paid and organic — that matters.

Google recently eliminated links to Mapquest and Yahoo! maps on the home page. This was represented as a way to make the search experience better. Here’s the official Google statement:

“Google is always working to improve search. The redesign of maps onebox better simplifies the Google user experience when looking for business and address information. Users will now be able to obtain directions and store their default location.”

I’m speculating but if/when OneBox results become richer and more frequent, as logic dictates they must, other links on the page may suffer. Here’s more speculation: this may compel more SEM/traffic buying by vertical sites and Google competitors as a counterweight to OneBox.

I don’t take the position that Google is executing on some sinister master plan. Rather, I do buy it when the company says it’s looking for ways to make results better. Ironically, Google is under real pressure to verticalize results to keep pace with competition, user needs and growing consumer sophistication. But because of Google’s market position those innovations may happen to come at the expense of others’ traffic.

3 Responses to “OneBox and What It Means for Everyone Else”

  1. Malcolm Lewis Says:

    OneBox (plus “Related Searches” plus other widgets like the real estate search) are brilliant ideas. It’s hard to argue that they don’t help consumers focus their search, but happily for Google, in providing this help , they get to deliver gazillions of new “intermediate” search results pages that they own and thus not only monetize, but monetize without sharing a cent of the ad revenues with publishers.

    I predict that what you see here (,GGGL:2006-19,GGGL:en&q=2000+porsche+boxster) will become standard for pretty much any product search from cars to books to toasters. (Note, btw, that Google keeps the Refine links in place as you drill down since they stimulate yet more Google page views vs a click to a non-Google page.)

    In some cases, the intermediate pages might help drive traffic to a destination site (eg a website with reviews for a car of interest) but in other cases Google sends you through to a page that competes directly with a destination site. Eg this:
    vs this:

    It’s hard to imagine Google not finding ways to create more and more of these intermediate search results pages via OneBox, Related Searches and other similar search widgets. And it’s equally hard to imagine them not finding more and more ways to deliver a pseudo destination page of their own per the example above. That’s a nice position to be in for Google, but bad news for folks that rely on Google traffic to drive revenues (ie everyone but the relatively few websites that have a strong enough brand to attract organic traffic).

  2. Scott Optawise Says:

    Hey if you need more traffic take a look at this example. I have been very successful in optimizing for the google one box. very simple and if you are a plumber, printer, air conditioning repair, roofer or mover this will make your day. check this out for a local Technology Company called Intercore Technologies, they do exchange migrations for companies in the los angeles area.

    Search Engine: Google
    Keyword: Exchange Migration Los Angeles
    Notes: you will see all of my sites. Grosses $5k per month in business

    Scott Optawise
    Doing SEO Since 1999

    local search engine optimization los angeles

  3. Mendel Potok Says:

    This is why SEO and not PPC is the future of online marketing. Sure, paid links get see at the top of the page. But the top organic links are what’s going to get clicked on.

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