Google’s Universal Search
Posted on 08.03.2007
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A New, Sweeping Approach to SEO
by Paul J. Bruemmer and John Faris
Google wants to help you find the best answers,
even if you don’t know where to look. So it
folded all its verticals into Web results as an
assist. Listen up, search marketers — it’s no
longer an option to include optimized images,
videos, news, local maps or blogs in your SEM
strategy; it’s a requirement. Google’s launch of
Universal Search has opened up the possibility
for even more tactics to be applied and requires
a new outlook on your SEO strategy.
Search engine rankings boil down to three
things: links, content, and relevancy. Sounds
simple, right? Not so much. It gets complicated
at the tactical level because of the infinite
ways to create relevant content and earn
relevant links. The secret to website optimization
is finding the most effective tactics and
developing a process to implement them in a
With Universal Search, the information
(content) readily available to Google users has
been vastly diversified to include alternative
media such as news, video, images, blogs and
other verticals Google has in its back pocket.
For search marketers, the strategy stays the
same: develop content and get links. The only
difference is that now, the list of tactics to
choose from has significantly increased (as if it
wasn’t long enough already).
What is Universal Search?
Universal Search combines all of Google’s various
vertical databases into one index to serve a
single set of Web search results. Here’s a rundown
on some of the most popular verticals
that Universal Search will include.
1. Google Blog Search: Let’s hope you all
have a corporate blog. This important Web 2.0
tool has revolutionized the way companies
interact with customers and the media. Not
only that, you need a blog for reputation management.
Your team will love expressing their
opinions on a regular basis. Don’t forget to tag
(digg, del.icio.us, reddit, stumbleupon, etc.),
and then submit to broaden your reach for all
target queries on Google.
2. Google Maps: Local search is hot, and
your businesses can benefit from a local presence.
Mobile search is also gaining momentum,
and I don’t need to emphasize the growing
importance of the small screen. Go to the
Google Maps Local Business Center for a free
basic and/or paid listing.
3. Google Video: This is another hot area
that should be considered. The cost of creating
video content can vary, depending on
your pocketbook. Just remember to use keyword-
rich file names that accurately describe
your video. And don’t forget to use a video
site map. You’ll need a Web page from where
to launch your video — optimize the content
using traditional SEO tactics. Create page
titles, description tags and text (transcription,
captions, commentary, etc.) that are
keyword friendly. Submit to Google Video,
YouTube and other video search engines and
portals like blinkx and Metacafe. You will
also want to promote your best videos within
the blogosphere and on relevant social
Interesting things are taking place on
Google’s search network on the video front.
For example, a search for “Steve Jobs video”
on AOL (powered by Google) returns video
results but not from YouTube. The YouTube
video in position three is not converted into a
dynamic video (as it is on a standard Google
search) and AOL video results are force-fed to
the top. It’s probably a good time to start
thinking about syndicating your content on
4. Google Image Search: Google finally
acknowledged the old adage that “a picture is
worth a thousand words.” Now, customers
can find you via these images with ease.
Unlike most other Universal Search results,
images (and blog search results) are not being
integrated into the top ten results, but are
being served to the top (or bottom) of search
result pages. This positioning garners the
attention of plenty of eyeballs, so you’ll want
to optimize your images with descriptive ALT
tags that make use of popular keywords.
Make sure you employ descriptive keywords
when creating file names as well. As with
video, search engines can’t interpret the
meaning of an image — yet. Consequently,
make sure you employ standard on-page text
optimization techniques in addition to image
5. Google News: Using press releases to enhance
SEO listings is now a standard practice.
Keep your releases newsworthy and the information
will be displayed and indexed as news.
News is informative when you announce
training seminars and local conferences; it
borders on boring when you announce a new
Universal Search Examples
With the launch of Google Universal Search,
a search for “Steve Jobs” provides news
results in the fourth organic position (a),
with blog posts and image results included
on page one of search engine results (b).
A search for big-wave surfer Laird
Hamilton provides a YouTube video in the
third organic position that you can play
without leaving the search result page (c).
It’s important to note that the page hosting
the video on YouTube does not have a
significant amount of inbound links, and a
scan of the page shows only a few mentions
of Laird Hamilton. However, this video has
been viewed over 180,000 times, has a fivestar
rating and has been tagged on social
media sites like StumbleUpon. This indicates
that each vertical, including video has
its own set of ranking variables that may be
quite different from those used for ranking
the standard website. It also means that
developing, syndicating and promoting creative
content just got much more important.
News and press releases have also been
given a promotion in the rankings.
For example, a search for the term
“SEO” returns news results in the fourth
organic position regarding Tampa Bay
pitcher Jae Seo accepting assignment to
Triple-A Durham, four hours ago at the
time of writing this article (d).
The first steps in launching Universal
Search took place on May 16, 2007, but the
full extent of its power will not be seen until
November and beyond. As Google’s new
algorithm integrates additional types of content
into its Web search results, users will
witness a more comprehensive search experience
providing a wide array of information
on the topic of their query.
Impact on Search Marketers
Just like many 15th century Europeans
believed that the earth was flat, many of
today's search marketers are stuck in a twodimensional
mindset. Of course, the earth is
round and with Universal Search, search
marketers can no longer rely on text-based
SEO and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising
alone. It’s time to buy your creative team a
round of beers and start thinking feeds,
widgets, and social media.
• Google Local Business (Google Maps)
• RSS and press release syndication
• YouTube video syndication (YouTube)
• Google Base (XML product feed) when
• Google Books (XML book feed) when
• Viral desktop applications
• Web-based widgets for social media sites
Social Media includes:
• Blog monitoring
• Blogosphere public relations
• Online brand/crisis management
• Content syndication
• Link baiting
• Wikis, forums, and chat
• Viral ad campaigns
Measurement and ROI
Universal Search results in two mandates: 1)
the array of search marketing options is no
longer optional, but obligatory and, 2) measurement
is more important then ever before.
Search services (when appropriate) now
• Paid Search (on more than Google)
• Pay-Per-Call (national services
• Google and Yahoo! Local Business
• Google Base (product SKUs)
• Google Books (product SKUs)
• Shopping optimization feeds
• Shopping comparison engines
• Paid directories (major and verticals)
• Extensive and redundant keyword
• Natural search diagnostic site audit
• Page editing and optimization
• Serious recurring inbound link-building
strategy and tactics
• Social media optimization
• Brand reputation management
Measurement factors include:
• Integration of natural search on paid
• Keyword inventory and traffic analysis
• Offline and online (paid and natural)
• Natural search cost-benefit analysis
As Google’s new algorithm builds momentum
we will begin to see more Universal
Search influence on search result pages. This
process will take more than six months, it
won’t happen overnight.
We believe Universal Search is designed
primarily for two reasons: Deeper content for
users and better ad targeting.
Google wants you to use its verticals such
as Image, Video and News, among others.
What better way than to force-feed that data
into primary organic search results? It’s no
coincidence Google is beginning to serve
video and image PPC (and CPM) ads on its
content network. Integrating images and
videos into the natural results will make it easier
for Google to start serving these ad types
on its search engine result pages and search
network (AOL, et. al.). And, as usual, Google
wants to create more ad space. What better
way than to promote its vertical space and
unfold new shelf-space within these verticals?
So, it goes without saying that when
Google changes things up, we all must adapt
or get left behind. Dig deeper in your SEO
toolbox — the standards have changed.
Including press releases, video, blogs, news,
images and maps are just some of the verticals
Google is giving precedence. Search results
are changing and those that expand the reach
of their website’s content will be those that
prosper in this new era of search.
About The Authors:
Paul J. Bruemmer has
provided search engine
marketing expertise and
services to prominent
American businesses since 1995. As
Director of Search Marketing at Red
Door Interactive, he is responsible for
the strategic implementation of search
engine marketing activities within Red
Door’s Internet Presence Management
John Faris is a Search
Analyst at Red Door
Interactive. Faris’ primary
role is to create initial
search engine marketing
(SEM) recommendations and execute
strategic recurring SEM for Red Door’s
Internet Presence Management clients.
He also develops process and strategy
for Red Door’s Search Marketing
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