Google has launched a controversial new ‘search within a search’ feature in the UK and US that allows consumers to search some popular brand sites without actually leaving Google. How does it work? Well, the results for a brand-specific search on a big online brand such as Hilton UK will return the usual info and links plus a new, secondary search box and button that reads “Search Hilton UK” and an invitation to search the Hilton UK website without actually going there. 

But – and here is the controversial bit – use the new, secondary search box to search for say “London accommodation” and there’ll be lots of paid ads – though none for Hilton, which however dominates the organic results. They’ll be from any company that has bid on that particular search term. So there’s a chance that the consumer – who originally just wanted to visit the Hilton site – may not end up there at all. In fact, they may buy their goods from a rival that is actually paying Google to advertise.

Many businesses are upset with the new search box and a number, including, have reportedly asked Google to remove it. A Google spokeswoman quoted in the New York Times says the company has honoured such requests from a couple of businesses. These companies, however, may not be able to reverse their decisions. "So we ask them to try it out and see if they want it removed," the spokeswoman says. "We think it could be a really useful feature." Travel Trends: April, 2008

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