Google Discontinues Paid Site Search for Enterprise

By:

Chase Raz

February 22, 2017

Don't fret, search enthusiasts of the world, but Google Site Search is going extinct. Chances are that most technologists and business observers never even knew that the service existed--and it has since 2008--but still they are likely to be utterly outraged that Google is shuttering yet another service.

Google's Site Search isn't to be confused with Google's other third-party search service: Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) which is used by bloggers and corporate giants alike to provide web (and site) search functionality to visitors. Google Site Search, or GSS, is a paid enterprise-level search solution that allowed development teams to power their own search platforms (site-wide or internet-wide) with Google's technology while removing Google's branding and advertising opportunities.

The vast majority of sites simply use Google's free CSE--which will remain operational and is the official replacement product for GSS. The laziest of site owners bypass the GSS and CSE altogether and instead embed Google's own pages within an iframe and append "site:yourwebsite.com" to user queries. Ultimately, you're not too likely to be personally impacted by this service termination unless you were either: running a white-label search on your site, or using Google as a way to compete with Google. If you are impacted, you will have until March 31, 2017 to renew your GSS subscription, and then until April 1, 2018 before GSS is ultimately shut down.

Commentary and Analysis

It makes perfect sense for Google to discontinue Site Search. Some of the users of Site Search weren't just running search systems on their websites, but were using the white-label nature of the service to offer customer-facing alternatives to Google itself. They were competing with Google's ad display network by paying to use Google's search results. By removing Google's branding and advertising display network, Google had very little to gain with this type of customer. For the enterprises using Site Search to maintain strict branding, Google understands that the world of marketing has evolved and it is no longer a problem for most enterprises to have a Google, Facebook, or other technology logo sharing screen real estate with the company's own brand.

Google is facing increasing competition through Microsoft's Bing. Google's search market share is down from its previous peak of well over 70%, but is growing back into the mid-60% range. Bing, on the other hand, has seen quarter-over-quarter growth maintained for years--at the expense of Yahoo, AOL, and Ask--and has risen from single digit percentages to 22% share. With search reaching an impasse on how large search volumes can grow, meaning no one can gain market share without someone else losing it, Google is also facing steep competition from more blue-ocean approaches to search such as Amazon's Alexa and others that are outpacing Google Assistant in the war for voice assistant placement.

Google needs to retrench, make sure their logo is everywhere, and that their ad display network is free to exist on every page of results that Google's servers generate. Google sees the hurricane that is coming with verbal interfaces, and they're tying down or locking up all loose items, including their previous willingness to license search technology in exchange for mere money. After all, what is the worth of a dollar in the tech industry compared to brand recognition and market share? Unlike on Wall Street where the dollar is king, and on Main Street where the dollar is life, Silicon Valley mitigates the dollar to the level of just another reporting metric that if not properly met can be supplemented by investors.

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