For example, if you search for Macy’s, but don’t quite hit enter right away, Google will auto suggest eight different competitors to Macy’s. It does not show a single option related to Macy’s that you would think would come up, such as specific Macy’s departments, locations, or sales information.
This doesn’t seem to be quite as impactful for some other brand queries as the above. For example, Dan Shure was the one who noticed this over the weekend, but his sample search for Zappos only brought up three competitors while the remaining rows auto suggest results were all specifically Zappos related.
While some searchers do search for company names for the purpose of finding other similar businesses, you would have to think that those searching for something on business’ website would be significantly higher. Which of course raises the question, is having competitor’s names in the autocomplete a better user experience?
The autocomplete with competitors names was only showing after an initial search was done, so Google was displaying it when you would click back into the search field to either refine the search or do a fresh search. When you do the initial search without it being refined, it does show the usual autocomplete you’d expect to see. So Google is banking on the fact users couldn’t find what they were looking for with the first brand search and is instead offering up competitors when someone might just refine the original search instead.
For sake of argument, here is how Bing’s auto-complete looks for the same search term.
Google’s autocomplete is done algorithmically, based on both predictions and things like spelling corrections and repeat searches. They do allow users to report offensive autocomplete predictions, however, this particular autocomplete isn’t really offensive to users – except maybe those at the companies that are seeing this for their company brand.
And while there are some tricks that marketers can use to influence auto suggest, it’s not very practical on a wide scale, especially if Google is pulling competitors names to display instead of ones related to the company being search for.
Will this be around to stay? Hard to say, especially as Google is constantly changing algorithms.
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