Are You Wise To Universal Search?

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Two years ago, Google began its move away from siloed search to a universal search model. This new approach to information organization blended several types of content, pulling together news, images, video, blogs, books, and more to populate search results. The challenge for Google has been displaying all of these results on the page in a useful format, deciding upon relevance and where vertical search results should be positioned. If an obscure book or blog posting is relevant and accurate, does it deserve to sit atop the search pile? And if not, should the user miss out on information intrinsic to satisfying their search query?

While Google continues to wrestle with this problem, as a website owner you should also be thinking about ways to move your universal search presence forward. Getting your various types of content visible and ranking in universal search guarantees a massive jump in site visibility and potential visitor numbers. Because universal search displays information in a number of formats, you don’t have to rely on your target market finding your site through a vertical search platform such as video, blog, book, or image search. More importantly, if you get it right, you could dominate huge chunks of the SERPs with results in several information formats.

Considering all of your digital assets, there are a number of ways in which you can develop an effective strategy to make universal search work for you.

1. News

If you’ve been focusing on creating fresh, interesting content on your site, chances are you’ve already amassed a collection of archived news items. Hopefully, news releases are a part of your ongoing content creation plan and are located in their own dedicated site area. If that’s the case, you can submit your site for inclusion in the Google News feed. This means that any news item on your site may be listed under the Google News tab for relevant search queries and then used to populate the universal search results.

Use of your site as a news resource greatly increases the visibility and rankability of your site and potentially secures a number of high-placed positions in the SERPs. Even if you haven’t yet got around to designing a news room or don’t update the news section enough to warrant inclusion as a news resource, you can still secure a spot in the news section of the search results by adding your own news to newswires such as PR Leap and PR Wire.

2. Video

Video results offer an opportunity to connect with search users that you may not otherwise have been given screen time with. Most companies will have access to some video content but if not, it’s easy to get hold of. If you’ve recently given a presentation or seminar, is it possible to request video footage from the event organizer? If you enjoy great brand loyalty from customers, can they be persuaded to talk about their user experience on video? If you work closely with a manufacturer, does your supplier have video-based product demonstrations? Can you film your own how-to guide?

By approaching your video content optimization in the same way as you would any other form of SEO work (unique titles, relevant tags, descriptive text, readable file names), it’s possible to stake out a video result listing for your company with minimal effort.

Even dipping your toe in the water with just one or two video uploads is an additional chance to feature in the results pages.

3. Images

Each image you currently have uploaded to your site is another opportunity to rank in the search results. Google’s vision for universal search is simple – it wants to provide users with a more relevant search experience, drawing upon whatever format this takes. You can help the search engines see your image as a great match for a search query by following the usual “good practice” image guidelines (descriptive alt tags, a good image-to-text ratio per page, readable file names, optimal size, and useful captions of good quality).

Opt-in to the image search tool from the Webmaster Center and enable the Google image labeler no matter how few or how many images are on your site. If you’re a retailer, image optimization is critical to search presence, as shoppers will often choose to look at pictures of the product they are considering buying before reading text-based information. If you can get your picture included in the image part of universal search, you can capture their attention before a rival does.

4. Local Listings

While optimizing for local search offers myriad benefits in itself, a strong local listings presence will also help you secure prestigious top-of-the-page real estate in most universal search results. The returned listings for local search usually sit beside a map at the top of the SERPs and instantly draw the eye. You’re missing a good trick if you haven’t already registered and worked with Google Local – in some cases, it’s a free pass to the top of the page.

5. Product Listings

Product search is one of the newer additions to universal search results. Like most of the formats discussed, results drawn from product listings are blended into search results, typically at the top of the page. Use Google Base to list your products with the search engine and start being considered for product listing inclusion. It’s a good idea to automate your product feeds, since the results show the name of the product, price, and vendor. If you can keep your listings up-to-date, you can compete on price with competitors selling the same product and secure yet another listing on the results page.

6. Blog Posts

Results returned from blog results appear at the bottom of the search page, but if you keep your blog updated, this is yet another means of targeting your audience as they perform keyword searches. Google’s blog search module includes all blog platforms, not just results drawn from its own Blogger.com domain. Inclusion in the blog search area is based on a number of factors, including the posting’s title, content, and its popularity within the blogosphere. Sign up for the Google Blog Search Pinging Service and the search engine is automatically notified when a new post is added. This ensures that your most recent posts are considered for search inclusion.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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One Comment

  1. This article contained lots of good information, though it was all very basic. Feeds, whether they be news or products, can be optimized similarly to standard organic search optimization, and should not be left to chance with automated updates. Additionally, Google Products does not have a perfect system, though it is good. Too many issues can arise pertaining to your feed to leave it unmonitored. For something as important as Google Products, which directly leads to sales for online retailers who supply Google Products with a feed, I would have hoped for a greater explanation of the role of Google Products within the Universal Search model. Linda Bateman’s last blog post..Social Media and Word of Mouth Marketing