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Monday, May 16, 2022

From The Isn't It Ironic Dept: Google Product Search's Results Show Up In Google

Remember how Google said recently that it might crack down on listings pages that are simply search results themselves? Readr Michael Nguyen dropped an email today to point out how, ironically, Google is now listing pages from its own Google Product Search service exactly as it has warned others not to do.

OK, settle down back there, those of you having a chuckle. Embarrassing? Yes! Intentional? Almost certainly not. Let’s take a look.

Try a search for snake light, and you’ll get this:

Google Product Search Result On Google

See down there at the bottom? Two pages from Google Product Search showing up
in the top results:

Google Product Search Result On Google

I can’t resist. Let’s dig the hole for Google just a bit deeper
before I throw down a ladder, so it can climb out.

Google’s recent warning about cracking down on
search results showing up in its search results IS understandable. I mean, if
you’ve done a search for
beard trimmer
, who wants to get a bunch of pages that just lead you to
shopping sites, like this:

Shopping Search Results On Google

See all the results I’ve highlighted in red. Click on any of those, and you
end up not at pages giving you information about beard trimmers or a particular
beard trimmer product. Instead, you just get shopping search results, pages from
shopping search engines listing a variety of beard trimmers and prices from
merchants across the web.

For example, click on the number nine listing, and you

Google Product Search Results

Oh, yeah, um — shopping results from across the web, courtesy of Google Product Search.

So how did this listing for Google Product Search:

Google Product Search Result On Google

Wind up being listed by Google itself in Google’s ordinary results? Is this a new conspiracy to
compel searchers
to try Google Product Search?

Nah. After all, Google already uses a product
OneBox to push people to Google
Product Search whenever it wants. With the beard trimmer search, you can see
this at the top of the page:

Google Product Search OneBox

Ah, but people might skip past this, so it’s better to be in the "real"
results. This is Google perhaps trying to slip a change like this past us.

Heh. Google doesn’t need to slip that type of thing past anyone. Google’s already started preparing a move for this
publicly. Remember,
just last week it stopped using OneBox display for news results, putting news
into regular results (for more, see
here and
here. I’ve yet to see this change
myself). This is expected to happen to other specialized Google search results,
as well.

The explanation is easy. Google almost certainly forgot to block crawling of
Google Product Search results by itself and other crawlers.

Look here at the Google Product Search home page:

Google Product Search

See those links below the search box? Those are recent queries people have
done (reload the page, and they change to different examples). Click on a link, and
they generate search results. Click on them as a search spider, and you’ll index
search results — unless you’ve been blocked.

To block those spiders, Google
would need the right entries in its robots.txt
. Let’s check!

Oops. No entries. Google does have these:

Disallow: /froogle?
Disallow: /froogle_

Those were in there to stop queries from Google’s Froogle shopping search
engine from being indexed. Unfortunately, Google didn’t update these entries to
reflect how Froogle
was renamed Google
Product Search
earlier this month.

That renaming shifted product results to this new URL:


As you can see in this URL for [beard trimmer]:


As soon as Google blocks the /products area via the robots.txt file,

those 151,000
or so product pages that have been indexed will go away.

I am pinging Google about this, but I know exactly what they’ll say. This was
an oversight, and the robots.txt file will be updated soon. So go on, you’ve had
your laugh for the night!

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