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Optimizing for Universal Search

Posted on 3.24.2008
SES NY Universal Search Session Notes (Part 1)

Why is universal search important? It’s the next evolution of Search Engine results. And since people’s eyes scan from top left the Universal results are going to be the first thing they see. A study from an earlier Universal session at SES NY showed that currently 17% of Google searches result in some type of universal search being displayed. That number is expected to increase.

Another interesting observation is that, in terms of news stories, Universal search sends traffic directly to the news sources rather than to the Google news page. And optimization is not too difficult. Just target the key terms of the story –

  • Who: Company and executive names
  • What: Brands, products, categories and industry
  • When: Business and financial news
  • Where: Places
  • Why: Pictures, photos, pics, images, diagrams, cartoons, illustrations, logos, and videos
  • How: training videos

So what can you do to optimize for universal search? One strategy is to try to get ahead of the curve by ranking for non-competitive keywords. But regardless of the keywords you target; optimizing for Universal search requires planning. Here are some things to help you begin that plan:

Review all of the types of files that you have both on your site and available to you – images, pdfs, audio, video, etc. Google currently uses 13 types of file formats in their results beyond html. Yahoo uses 7 types beyond HTML. Go to Google and Yahoo and use the “invisible” tabs for additional ideas – maps, predicts – are examples.

Review the status of your overall optimization. If you are struggling with the basics of html optimization because of your cms or other site challenges, consider optimizing for YouTube, flickr, maps, etc. that don’t require spidering. If you have the basics down revisit how you are handling images, pdfs, or other elements.

Be ruthless in your evaluations, but be kind to yourself. For example, for you your business in the past there was no compelling reason to optimize images, now there is!

Look for the low-hanging fruit. These will yield the most bang for your effort. Maybe it’s the pdfs, maybe products, maybe maps. Build the systems and plan for optimization of other elements. For example, how will you handle images going forward?

Determine whether it makes sense for your business to fill the gaps in how you face universal search. Is video appropriate? What about audio? Develop a plan of action for moving forward based on your needs not just what the engines show.

Draw baseline data to ascertain in your current performance. It’s helpful for making the case for doing more. Then, monitor the change.

Here are some Quick Tips for Optimizing for Universal Search:

Optimizing for Flickr
  • Title – keyword-rich
  • Caption – Meaningful
  • Tags – use like keywords
  • Links
  • To other photos
  • To other sources
  • Anchor text – Use it to help define
  • Keywords in caption and title should be reflected in the tags
Video Optimization
  • Many formats for video production and players still Vying for prominence with users
  • Most users do not know where to look for video – there is a lot of niche market video

  • YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo! and Brightcove get most attention

  • Professionally done video competes for attention with consumer-generated video

  • As more video is optimized, users will be able to find video more easily

  • Monetization schemes are ill-defined

Video Formats
  • QuickTime Movie (mov)
  • Windows Media Video (wmv)
  • AVI Video (avi)
  • MPEG Video (mpg, mpeg)
  • Windows Media Video (asf)
  • MPEG-4 Video (mp4, mpeg4)
  • Mobile Video (3gpp, 3gp, 3g2)
  • Matroska Format (mkv)
  • Flash Player Video (flv)
  • DVD Video (vob)
  • Ogg Format (ogm)
  • Nullsoft Video (nsv)
Optimizing Video Files
  • Offer video in multiple formats – for high and low bandwidth.
  • Optimize video files by encoding ID3 tags with full metadata.
  • Be sure that you don’t lose the ID3 tags as you save to multiple formats
  • Use keyword rich filenames for videos.
  • Create video thumbnails for maximum punch.
  • Protect copyright with watermarks and visible cues
  • Submit your video to the video search engines.
  • Place video offering prominently on your site navigation
  • Create a video sitemap for Google. Note: the XML schemas can assign a thumbnail. The thumbnail is very important as far as user selection on the SERP’s.
Optimizing On-Site Videos
  1. Create video with branding in it
  2. Create site map – video blog with RSS feed for distribution is easiest
  3. Create tags to identify subject
  4. Write clear Titles and descriptions
  5. Create landing pages for each video
  6. Be sure to offer a player on your site
  7. Offer viral marketing opportunities for video distribution

There were so many good tips at the Universal Search Sessions we couldn't fit them in one post. Next up, Optimizing for YouTube (See what SES NY Universal Search Sessions had to say!)

Credits for these notes and for an excellent session on Universal Search are due to Greg Jarboe Search Engine Optimization Public Relations, and Amanda Watlington, Search for Profit. Not enough can be said about how informative this session was and how appreciative the search world is to their efforts.

Dante Monteverde, Website Magazine Contributor is a Search Strategist specializing; in Search Engine Optimization. He founded in 1996 and has over 10 years of SEO experience. Visit SpiderBait's SEO Expert blog: for more useful resources on a variety of search topics.


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