Google One Box Results: The Real Threat to Publishers

by rishil on January 21, 2011

It seems that the fashion for the last few weeks for people to be concerned about is google promoting its own properties manually in the SERPs. Now this may or may not be true. But I am inclined to veer on the NOT TRUE side of the argument.


Well how many people have just looked at the SERPs highlighted that Google is manipulating and ran SEO audits on them? Chances are that those properties are riding on google’s own authority as well of instantly acquired links when the properties go live. Sebastian (as usual!) really hits the nail on the head:

If a Google property ranks on Google’s SERPs at all, blame the tech bloggers, webmasters and SEOs of this planet for abusing their anchor text and link love, because Google doesn’t tweak its own pages for SEO purposes. Also, hand jobs belong to adult entertainment and this industry is responsible for its content. Google just crawls and indexes their output, but prevents mere mortals from viewing hand jobs by applying sensible default values for the &safe-parameter.

I am no Danny Sullivan, but if you really want to read a well balanced piece of coverage, then you need to read this article.

It’s Not All Rosy Though

My issue is the One Box. The one box is not a property that is in fact seen as a “google” property, rather as quick answers for users from G’s Database.  This is definitely artificially inflated to be the first result – as you can’t really link out to it, hence can’t be influenced by anyone BUT google.  Since the onset of these quick, bite sized results, I have stopped using websites for 10 things, and I am guessing all the top ranking sites have lost out on an insane amount of traffic over the years simply because of googles intervention to deliver results beyond the SERPs.

1.       Time. Sometimes I would like to know the time, right now (maybe my computer or phone doesn’t have the right time, or whatever). Simply ask: “Time”. Want to know the time in Melbourne? Ask for “Time Melbourne”.  Guess who would lose out on all that nice traffic and ad impressions over time (excuse the pun)?


Google One Box: Time

Time Melbourne

Google One Box: Time Melbourne

2.       Currency Conversion. I used to use currency conversion sites a lot, but google lets you do that straight off the search as well:

Currency Conversion

Google One Box: Currency Conversion

3.       Cinema Times. Why would I visit a third party site if google shows me the Movie times in my local area?

Cinema Times

Google One Box: Cinema Times

4.       Calculator. I misplace my calculator often – before, I would just got to an online calculator for quick sums instead of using excel etc. But now:


Google One Box: Calculator

5.       Postcode Search: Don’t know what a postcode is for? Drop it into google – gives you a map and the local tube station.

Postcode Finder

Google One Box: Postcode Finder

6.       Stock Quotes. Want to know the stock quote of a company? Type it in:

Stock Quotes

Google One Box: Stock Quotes

7.       Weather Forecasts: Want to know the Weather somewhere? I used to go to the Met for weather, or to a similar international site for weather info internationally, but now:


Google One Box: Weather

8.       Flights and Tickets. Not a really well known search result, but did you know you can compare tickets and buy them from the one box results? Isnt out in the UK yet, but how long till it is? What will happen to all the flight comparison sites?

Flights and Tickets

Google One Box: Flights and Tickets

9.       Food / Restaurant Search. A large number of sites used to fight for organic listings for types of food, food+area names etc. The Google Local results have displaced most of these. We could argue that these aren’t google properties – but really?

Food Search

Google One Box: Food Search

10.   Product Search. How many comparison sites have been hit with google artificially inserting its Google base products into the SERPs?

Products Search

Google One Box: Products Search

11.   Celebrity Info. Did you know you can get a large number of celebrity details using the one box? (however, as Malcolm points out, that data aint great…)

Celebrity Info

Google One Box: Celebrity Info

12.   Public Data – Want to know the population of a country? Their rate of unemployment? There is a One box Search Result for that.

Public Data

Google One Box: Public Data

13.   Need a Definition? Guess who gives you a quick result?


Google One Box: Definitions

To be honest there are plenty more, and in development. Most of these are taking away traffic share from sites that have spent a lot of time and effort capturing these long tail queries.


Is google promoting its own properties in this sense? Yes.

Is it bad for users? No.

Is it bad for sit owners / publishers? Probably.

As a side note, google is ALSO making somewhat an unfair use of it paid search offering in competitive industries:

When I first noticed this search (way back when it wasn’t being promoted via PPC this way), I wrote that it spells the end of Credit Card Affiliates over time. more industries are to come. What should you as a publisher do? Probably run…

Credit Card Comparision

Google Credit Card Comparision PPC Ads


Check out Google features and onebox result  suggestions.

More About the Google Onebox

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 1 trackback }

The Search Neutrality Debate | The Great Websites Blog
January 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Liam - Zaddle Internet Marketing January 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Rishil – great post – you don’t realise just how much influence the Google One Box actually has – I have used probably 50% of those you have listed above without giving it a second thought.

However (at the moment) I am a big Google fan – I do think they put the user first most of the time and are continually changing how the results are shown to determine what people are wanting to see (sometimes good, sometimes bad).

I have seen with the advent of click to call within AdWords that Google could lose out on a huge amount of normal AdWords traffic (and spend) – especially when you are comparing the conversion rates between click to call for some industries and a standard Google AdWords campaign – we run a campaign at the moment whereby the difference in conversions is negligible, yet the cost is literally thousands cheaper with the Click to Call – it is highly likely we will either stop the normal AdWords campaign or expand it into remarketing etc. Again I think Google have done this to because it enhances the user experience.


Liam - Zaddle Internet Marketing January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Oh! and I forgot to finish off by answering your question – is it a real threat to publishers – absolutely. If you look at the Google shopping results, there is now a “compare prices” listing that gives you anything from 3-10 results showing the price of the item. Not great if you are a price comparison site :P


Rob Millard January 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Totally agree that Onebox is rough on publishers. Some of the worst I have seen are for sports teams. If you search for a premier league team not only do you get last game/next game, but if you search during a match you get a live score. That leaves the searcher with little incentive to click a result if they’re checking the latest score.

I’ve noticed the same with “england cricket” and presume it’s the same for NFL/NBA/NHL etc on .com


secret salons January 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Yes, totally agree. Google is also very good at getting 3rd party data and stealing their traffic. see what they have done with Yelp.


Jey Pandian January 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

Nice set of queries Rishi – eye opening – imho in reading your article – my takeaway: Google is essentially raising the barrier for excellence.


mark mitchell January 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm

good article Rishi – i feel Google will continue to do more things like this as it’s important for them to capture consumer data as well provide the user a different / but relevant experience. If I was working at a comparison site now i would be very worried about their future. Be interesting to see how the landscape changes when Google starts to generate a new GroupON style service.


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