Competitors In Search Suggest?

Ahem *autocomplete* as Google now calls it.

This past weekend I was playing around with some Google searches when I saw this:

I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen. Google is suggesting I search for Zappos competitors?  I of course tweeted about it with an explanation of how it came up:

Apparently it would only do this if you:

  1. Type [Zappos]
  2. Hit enter
  3. Put the cursor back in the search box (after the word Zappos)
  4. Boom. It then shows you these alternative suggestions.

I couldn’t figure out what this was at first. Was it info from the knowledge graph? Something else?  Well, unfortunately it’s not quite that fun.

After some playing around, I realized it is the same suggestions you see under “related searches” at the bottom of the search results.

zappos related searches

But, despite the data being the same info Google has always displayed down at the bottom of the SERP. The new prominence of it is what I think is important about this – if they continue to do this.

Just think of how many people may type such a high volume search like [plane tickets] (246,000 monthly worldwide):

plane tickets related searches autocomplete

But then a percentage of people:

  • won’t click anything
  • will go to perform a second search
  • and see … Expedia etc.

If I were Expedia – I’d be pretty damn excited about this new feature.

This behavior doesn’t seem to be happening for all queries, but here are some other examples I found:

[seo software tools]

seo software tools autocomplete

[meat cleavers]

meat cleavers search suggest

[harvard university]

harvard university search suggest

[hearing aids]

hearing aids search suggest


hannaford search suggest

Note that because related searches seem to be localized, it makes the autocomplete look localized. (Hannaford and Price Chopper are local grocery stores)

[cold remedies]

cold remedies search suggest

[ny times]

ny times search suggest

[mens shoes]

mens shows search suggest

[how to cook salmon]

how to cook salmon search suggest



And MANY more.

My Takeaways

  • This matters because of the potential high volume and high visibility related brands, competitors and alternative searches may receive.
  • I wouldn’t want to be Zappos, and have competitors showing up right after a brand search if the user abandons their first search.
  • But then again, I would want to be Zappos if someone search Nordstrom, abandons that and then sees Zappos in search suggest – so the pros / cons can go in both directions.

Again, these are the same search suggestions you would see under “related searches” at the bottom of search results.

These ONLY show if you’ve:

  • Performed an initial search
  • Hit enter
  • And put the cursor back into the search box (all the way to the right).
  • (Some people on Twitter claimed to see it right away without searching first, but I did not see it like that).

Abandoned Searches – Occur More Than We Talk About?

This functionality makes me think about how much we don’t talk about abandoned searches. It makes me wonder if Google is seeing a high percentage of abandoned searches, and is trying to step in between by suggestion better second search terms in the user’s session?

If anyone has data on what percentage of searches are abandoned I’d be really curious to know!

Will This Feature Get It’s Own Data?

IF this feature sticks (and to be honest, I kind of like it) – will it evolve? When I first saw this happening – my first reaction was “oh wow, this is the knowledge graph in search suggest! Semantic Search Suggest!” But when I realized it was just “related searches” my excitement died a little.

But perhaps this is the sign of things to come. More “intelligent” search suggestions.

Right now search suggest has been based ONLY on words – kind of like “old” SEO. Boring keywords. You would only get suggestions from left to right ordering – but perhaps this will grow more sophisticated – just like search in general has.


About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • March 22, 2015 Reply

    Mark Traphagen

    RE: your takeaways, Dan.

    Unfortunately there is no guarantee that it will be reciprocal. When I enter “Nordstrom” and then go back to the search bar, I don’t get Zappos, but get Bloomingdales, Nieman Marcus, and Dillards.

    • March 23, 2015 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Yes I noticed that! Glad you confirmed this as well.

  • April 1, 2015 Reply

    Juan Venegas

    Hi Dan, nice piece. I tried it for Apple and it showed Samsung. I wonder if Google might start using this to self-promote their services as they usually do.

    • April 1, 2015 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Interesting – so maybe like a suggestion for a Google Map search. Who knows, there’s been so many adjustments lately it seems! It’s crazy out there.

  • April 23, 2015 Reply


    It’s funny, I think Google is testing this ‘new search functionality’ only in your location, I mean in Italy, where I am located, we still have the traditional search suggestion. Maybe we are in a A/B lab 🙂

    • April 24, 2015 Reply

      Dan Shure

      That’s possible! They are known for rolling out changes gradually in different locations.

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