Ever heard of Google's Omnibox?
Neither had I, until today when I had to reinstall my Chrome browser and was presented with this:
--which kind of surprised me. (Note: the big fat red arrow is mine, not Google's.)
So on the surface I assumed this was Google being pro-active and giving users a 'choice' of which search engine to use, probably to avoid some kind of Microsoft/ EU-style lawsuit that's inevitably going to happen. But while my darker side tells me there is something more sinister than that going on (you'll see why I think that in a moment), this 'Omnibox' is still pretty cool from a user perspective.
Here's how it works
The 'Omnibox' is really just the address bar in Chrome, with an extra built in kick. It's basically a built in custom search engine that you can use to search the contents of any website (as long as that site has search capabilities) without actually having to GO to that site. That sounds overly-complicated to me, so let's look at some pictures to help you visualize this.
If you type out a website that has already been registered as a potential search engine based on Google's recommendations and your browsing habits, you'll be presented with this helpful little suggestion.
Silly searcher, leaving the page you're on to go search for something somewhere else is so 2009....instead, just tell us what site to search and we'll help you get that information you're looking for. Oh, and don't worry about us using the search queries you'd normally use on those 'other' search engines, like Bing or Yahoo or Flickr,etc. for our own benefit, because we'd never ever do something evil like that.
Sarcasm aside, there are a nice bevvy of options pre-built into the Omnibox. Just open up Chrome, click on your little wrench icon in your browser bar up top, and select options.
There you'll see an option for default search. Click manage and you'll see the available options built in, plus the ability to add your own - even giving you the ability to use custom keyword triggers to use instead of typing in the whole url of the site you want to search.
Here are some winners (ready to search) and losers (no search options available):
AOL - check., Bing, Yahoo search - check. Even dogpile and yippy. How bout that?!
Twitter search - check. Ebay, Amazon, check. check.
Facebook search - out of luck.
While I can certainly see how this can be handy, I have no idea what kind of effect this has on your website analytics reporting data.
Now might be a good time to make sure your website's search is functional and optimized properly. Since Google already knows everything about you anyway, why not download their browser and give it a go for yourself.