<< by on October 8th, 2009
Day 2 session 4, “Universal & Blended Search Opportunities” – The session addressed the fact tha the most popular ways people encounter “vertical” or specialized search results is through “blended results” or “Universal Search,” as Google calls it. Blended or universal search mixes in results from news search, blog search, shopping search, local search, video search and more into the “regular” result page. This session discussed how to tap into that opportunity. The Moderator for the session was Vanessa Fox, Contributing Editor, Search Engine Land. The Speakers included Larry Cornett, VP, Consumer Products, Yahoo! Search, Yahoo!; Todd Friesen, VP of Search, Position Technologies; Jack Menzel, Google Product Manager, Universal Search, Google; Eric Papczun, VP of Client Services, Performics.
Todd began the session by giving a somewhat sarcastic theory behind how universal search came about. His theory was that no one really uses or incorporates all of the other tabs or functional areas found in Google beside search. So Google, in an effort to get people to use these other functions, jams everything into their search results.
Todd then spoke specifically about the implications of blended search results for blogs. He explained that blogs typically carry less weight (occupy fewer positions) than other forms of universal search results. In addition, he discussed what he feels are important factors needed in order to get a blog to rank in universal results. Primarily, they follow your normal SEO optimization tactics, but more importantly they must have good, attractive content that is reputable.
In more detail, he went over what he felt were potential universal blog ranking factors: post slugs, post titles, timeliness, authority, the frequency of posts, feedburner- and how these results cannot be gamed. Google’s threshold for authority in listings is turned way up when deciding what gets into universal search results.
Eric Papczun presented, offering his own creative perspective on how one can go about dominating a page. He called it “universal brand control.” Universal brand control is a proactive method of reputation management which aims to make it easier for brands to dominate the search results page for their brand queries. He explained that if you are being active with SEO efforts in the specific components in search results that are relevant to your business (Google Local, Google Images, Google News, and Google Search separately), it will be a lot more difficult for a small competitor to come along (like a blog with a few links built to it) and rank in your brand’s results. It’s easier to hold ground that you’ve already won than to try to take it from someone else.
Paid Search As for paid search, Eric suggested making sure everyone knows you are the official site by using your brand name in the headline of your PPC text ads. An example headline would be “YOUR BRAND Official Site” …unless of course you do not rank number one for your own brand name.
News Get your news out often; submit to news feeds. Attack the noise around your brand by “blocking and tackling”- If something negative does come up, it should be fairly easy to push that item down if you are already fairly present in results.
Local If your brand has many locations, be sure to “pimp” your locations in your local listings. The example Eric gave was to try searching for coffee in NYC; Starbucks has so many different location results, it makes it just about impossible to see anyone else.
Video and Images Other things he discussed quickly were to get optimize your images and videos for SEO whenever possible, and don’t forget to monitor your blog and Wikipedia entries about your company.
He closed by reiterating that what shows in the universal search results has a lot to do with the way in which Google and other engines interpret user intent. Perform searches, look at what usually pops up around your brand name and exploit it. Take these search results into consideration as an indicator of where brands should focus their efforts first.
Next Larry Cornett, speaking on behalf of Yahoo! and “Blended Search,” (Yahoo!’s term for universal search results) began his presentation by following up on Eric’s closing remarks by confirming that for Yahoo! it does indeed have a lot to do with the channels which represent your business, as to how and where you show up. In addition to this, blended results have to do with timing.
Larry went on explain that as search progresses, we should expect to see blended search becoming more prevalent in search results. Because of this, optimizing for the multiple channels will not only be important but will also be a great way to take searchers one step forward in painting the picture of what your business is all about. He suggested using the application Search Monkey as a way to differentiate how your search results are displayed; this tool allows you (the business) some ability to input how you would like to be represented.
Jack Menzel of Google closed the session by piggybacking off of Larry and discussing why search is headed in the direction of Universal Search. He explained that the goal for Universal Search results are to be the best summary of content for the end user: fast, comprehensive, and relevant.
As for how things stand today, he admitted that search is far from being solved and how there may be a few kinks in the system. However, he followed up by talking about how search is becoming more precise and has made significant forward movement over the years. He offered advice for what you can do as a business to help minimize this error, suggesting that in order to ensure Google can find your content, make sure your content is clearly marked and indexable.