Aug 20, 2007

SES San Jose - The Buzz So Far Is Universal / Blended Search

I learnt a new catch phrase today - GUS - which stands for Google Universal Search - at least that what Bill Slawski, of Commerce360 said, during the Universal & Blended Vertical Search session. You know you're a market leader when you put a new spin on an old idea, and industry experts start positioning it as the "new big thing". I blogged about the concept of Universal Search, some time back - at the time, I observed that the concept of surfacing a variety of multi-media features on SERPs, was not a novel or new concept. Marissa Mayer - launched the concept of GUS in a Google blog post, back in May.

So far at SES San Jose, the underlying theme seems to be that Search Engines are innovating on how to deliver a diverse set of relevance results - by blending in vertical search features. The panelists at this "Universal Search" session included - the always entertaining Greg Jarboe, of SEO-PR , Sherwood Stranieri from Catalyst online and Bill. There was also a brief QnA with representatives from ask, Google and Yahoo.

Greg opened the session by sounding the rally cry about how Universal Search will radically change the way Search Engines deliver results and Search Marketers will have to unlearn much of what they now know about improving their website ranking on SERPs. In May, Google rolled out Universal Search and since then it is making specialized or vertical content more visible online. Consequently, News, video, image and blog results are starting to appear more prominently in Google results.

Ultimately, SERPs will present a vastly different look and feel than the traditional 10 links. One key consequence of this trend is that News Search will become more important and Search Marketers must start optimizing their P.R releases for News Search. Other blended alternative results include - weather, music, travel bookings, products, business locations and maps. This trend could be very interesting for innovative organizations, striving to promote exciting features - a good example is the iphone , which now features a richer set of results because GUS surfaces Videos and imagery along with algorithmic links. Another example is a query for Hilary Clinton which surfaces imagery, video's and other interesting facts about the Presidential hopeful.

One key question which everyone wants answered is - do conventional ranking factors play a role in how vertical search results are integrated with Algorithmic Results? How will search engines determine where to add images, videos or blog search results? One approach for ranking vertical results on GUS, would be to try and determine the following:
- how often searches for that result are conducted in vertical databases,
− how well those results rank, and;
− how users treat those results.

This may mean, Search Marketers have to make sure that their sites rank well for vertical database searches on topics or themes which are popular with searchers. I can see how this trend would drive SEO's crazy. Google's response to questions about how Universal Search impacts Page Rank, was to maintain that GUS fits in with their overall strategy and they will continue to strive to showcase the depth and richness of information on the Internet.

So what can you do? Create useful content which users will like. Strive to enhance the user experience on your site and bring users to relevant pages as quickly as possible. Create informative, useful content and deliver it through multiple mediums and features - including video's, Gadgets, Maps, Imagery, applications as well as Site Content.

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