Google Site Search (GSS) is getting phased out, which sounds scary, but it doesn’t affect online retailers.


What is Google Site Search?

Google Site Search (GSS) is a paid product that allows you to harness their technology to power your search engine. It’s commonly seen on sites as an additional bar at the top of the page.

Existing GSS customers can continue using their license through expiration, but Google won’t be selling any new licenses after April 1, 2018.

After licenses expire, GSS customers will be re-directed to a new free custom search engine.

A free Google search?! Sounds great for your business, right?


Free sounds good in theory, but in practice it can be quite harmful. This new product is offered for free because it’s powered by ads. Imagine someone searching for televisions on your site and then being bombarded by ads from your competitors!

Here’s an example of how it will look. Someone is searching for “Theresa May” – you can see how many ads come up. This is annoying to the customer here where they’re searching for content, but imagine how damaging it could be for your business if people are searching for products!

Why does this not affect online retailers?

Google site search is a CONTENT search, not a PRODUCT search. Seems like a small difference, but it’s huge.

Content search engines do just that – they search for content, specific words, documents, articles, etc. They function like the Google search bar. They’re great for internal use or for directing customers to specific FAQ answers. It’s an excellent thing to have to complement a product search, but on its own it isn’t sufficient.
Product search engines are optimized to direct shoppers to products. These search engines are complex and are set to display product images, titles, price, and minimal description on the page where search results are displayed. In contrast, a content search engine would most likely display the product details here, which makes the page noisy.

A product search engine encompasses different functions such as an autocomplete in the search box, related search suggestions, filters, sorting, and paging. These features make searching and finding a product easy.

A product search solution is critical for eCommerce shops, while content search engines aren’t. However, having a product search engine along with a content search solution would take your web shop to another level!

So while it’s big news that GSS is getting phased out, it doesn’t affect online retailers as their solution isn’t suitable for eCommerce.

You might be asking if Google has another solution for product search, but they don’t. They’re experts in the content search domain and that seems to be where they plan to stay.

We recommend investing in a third party search provider who can help you maximize conversions.