How Can Content Publishers Benefit From Google’s Universal Search And Blended Search Results?

How Can Content Publishers Benefit From Google’s Universal Search And Blended Search Results?

This article explains what universal and blended search are, what this means to you and how you can optimize your website content to drive more traffic.


What are Google Universal Search and Blended Search Results?

Over the last five years Google has been creating lots of different search engines which are optimized for different types of content. These include:

  • Web search (this is what we are all used to)
  • News search
  • Blog search
  • Video search
  • Images search
  • Local or maps search
  • Products search

However since mid 2007 Google has started to combine the results from all these search engines into their main web search results. They call this Universal Search and the enhanced results pages are called ‘blended search results’.

This is what they look like:






Google believes that this approach is working well and has been rapidly increasing the number of searches that include blended results. Comscore reported that in March 2008 17% of Google searches contained blended results. By November 2008 the number had increased to 31%.

All the other main search engines (Yahoo, MSN Live and Ask) are now following suit.

What Does This Mean For You?

The bad news is your search engine marketing activities are going to become more complicated.

The good news is very few marketers or website owners understand what is happening with search so there is a real window of opportunity to get a head start.  If you understand what Google includes in search results – news, images, maps, video, etc – and optimise all these assets on your site you will get more page one search engine listings resulting in more targeted traffic.

What Is The Size Of Impact and Opportunity?

Read many industry blogs and forums and you’re left with the impression that marketers believe that not many people click the blended content so there is no pressing need to optimize news, video and images.

It's definitely time to rethink this one.

Jupiter recently produced some research which revealed that search engine users click specialized content listings - maps, images, video, etc - within blended search results more often than they click specialized content that they have been found via the specialist search engine e.g. Google News Search

  • 36% click "news" results within blended search results
    Only 17% click a "news" result after conducting a news-specific search
  • 31% click "image" results within blended search results
    Only 26% click an "image" result after conducting an image-specific search
  • 17% click "video" results within blended search results
    Only 10% click a "video" result after conducting a video-specific search

If listings within blended results get clicked so often it is worth investing the time to get listed.

How Can You Benefit From Blended Search?

The goal of every internet marketer is to get their web pages on page one of the search results. As Jupiter points out 68% of searchers click listings on the first page of results and fewer than 8% look beyond page three.

Universal search gives you the opportunity to get page one results listings for dozens of new keywords and phrases and to leap frog your competitors.

Here are lots of tips and tricks to help you optimise each of the different types of content on your site:

Images

Here are some tips to improve the traffic you get from image search within the blended results:

  • The Google search spider cannot tell what is in a picture (yet!), therefore it has to rely on the information you provide to index an image.
  • Name your images in a way that describes what they are. An image named brad-pitt.jpg will do better than the same image named pic123987.jpg. Tip: Use dashes between words rather than underscores
  • Always give images an “alt” or alternate tag or description. Most image editors allow you to do this when you add the image to your web page
  • If you can, add a caption to your images. This greatly helps the search engines understand what the image is
  • Link to images from within other articles with anchor text that describes the image content
  • Add images to all your content pages (articles, press releases, blog posts, functional pages, etc). The nearer they are to the top of a page the more likely they are to be indexed
  • Add images to the photo sharing sites (Flickr, PhotoBucket, etc) and social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, etc). Make sure you tag and describe them accurately
  • Quickly add images that are relevant to current stories
  • Set up a Google Webmasters Tools account, verify your site, click on the ‘Diagnostics’ tab and select ‘enhanced image search’ and ‘include my site in Google Image Labeller’. The latter allows humans at Google to manually tag your images
  • Make sure the folder in which you are storing images is not blocked by your robots.txt file. Tip: It is still worth storing navigation and your website design images in a file that is blocked from the search spiders, and storing article images, product photos, news pics, etc in folders that the spiders can index
  • Monitor how many images on your site have been indexed by Google by going to Google Image Search and typing ‘site:www.yourdomain.com’ in the search field
  • Finally remember to go back through old pages and optimize all your existing images


Videos

Videos should be treated in a similar way to images

  • Make sure the video file names are descriptive of the subject
  • Add an ‘alt’ title tag and descriptive tags
  • Create individual web pages for your videos. On the page write a description of what the video is about ensuring you repeat the important keywords in the heading and body text
  • Submit your videos to YouTube, which is owned by Google and gets preferential treatment in their video search. Also submit to other video sites which are given an equal treatment by the other search engines
  • Tip: If you host your videos on your own server they are unlikely to get listed by Google, so you still need to submit them to YouTube 
  • When you upload to YouTube (and the other video sites) make sure the descriptions include keywords that describe the video content
  • Google takes into account the number of comments and the rating on YouTube when indexing and deciding on a video’s results ranking
  • Inbound links and the number of times a video is embedded into other websites is also taken into account
  • Add your videos to your social network profiles (FaceBook, MySpace, etc.)

 
News

If you get a story on page one of Google News you can generate thousands of visitors for your website. Unfortunately it is tough to get your site added to the Google News search index but it is worth a try if you produce unique and timely news reports

  • You have to submit your site to be included in Google News search at http://news.google.com/ , but before you do this make sure your site is ready. I have provided some tips below, but Google also has there own help pages http://www.google.com/support/news_pub/ :
  • Each news story must have its own domain name which does not change. Google News will not list pages with multiple stories on a single page like on most blog home pages. It will also not include URLs where the page content changes
  • Google News will only index articles which have a URL containing a unique number consisting of at least three digits. One exclusion is a year date e.g. 2009. This rule is waived if the site has a Google News Sitemap
  • The articles must appear on a page within your main domain
  • You must have more than one person writing for your site
  • The site must have an RSS feed
  • Google struggles with dynamically generated pages with .asp, .php and question marks in the URL. You are much better off having static pages. Remember not to have the same content on a dynamic and a static page or it will be excluded by Google on the grounds of content duplication
  • Google does not follow Flash, image or JavaScript links. They will also not list news stories which are embedded in a JavaScript page
  • Your site should have a Contact page which you should submit when registering your site on Google News
  • Google News does index videos that are submitted to YouTube, but they don’t index any multimedia content on your site
  • Send out press releases through recognised PR websites such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and PR Leap. They automatically submit to Google News


Products

If you sell any products from your website you can list them with Google so that they get found by people doing a product search. The advice below is aimed at sites which just have a few products that can be submitted manually. If you have hundreds of products you should consider using an ecommerce platform that is Google Products enabled

  • Go to Google Base (http://base.google.com/base/) , login and register your product(s). Make sure you use a complete description to increase the chance of your product being found. For example if you have created an ebook called ‘SEO Guide’, try labelling it as “SEO Guide: Search Engine Optimisation, Internet Marketing and Traffic Building for Blogs, Content and Ecommerce Websites”. Warning: only use relevant keywords or it will be considered to be spam and could get you banned
  • Add as many attributes to your product descriptions as you can. Searchers often search by attributes. For example, T shirt, 100% cotton, washing machine safe, three sizes, small, medium, large … you get the point
  • Tip: Include some misspellings in your product descriptions (along side the proper spelling). They can generate a surprising number of results
  • Test different descriptions to see which ones bring the most traffic
  • Make sure you always update the product descriptions if the specifications change

Local or Map Search 

Getting registered for Map search is most useful for businesses and sites trying to attract a local audience.

  • Go to http://www.google.com/local/add/businessCenter and log in using your Google password. Click ‘Add New Listing’ and add your company or website details. Make sure you complete the process and claim your listing
  • Once Google has verified your map search listing you are given the option to add up to 10 images and 5 videos which will be associated to your map result. Do it!


Conclusion

By understanding Universal Search and blended results you can drive more traffic, leap frog established competitors in the results listings and appear on page one of results for far more searches.

If you do search engine marketing already the techniques will be familiar. If you don’t then you can learn the techniques and accelerate your success by optimising your images, videos, maps, etc from day one.