The Search Engine Strategies session on Universal and Blended Search was the highlight of the day at SES on Monday. A great panel made up of a cross section of industry luminaries made for stimulating and varied discussion of one of the biggest things to launch in search for years. Panelist Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR suggested that Universal search is a huge development and rivals the Google Florida update.
Jarboe showed some screenshots including recent phrases in the news done NOT at Google News, but at Google standard search. A half dozen examples brought up in various combinations – news story results (with photo thumbnail), videos, photos, blog results, maps, images and onebox results. The position of each of those in the rankings varied, but news and maps were usually nearer the top or at the top, with video results hovering around the middle of the page and blog results, photos (from image search) at the bottom of the page.
While we’ve heard the term “Google Universal Search” used quite often, this is the first time I’ve heard it shortened to “G.U.S.” Sherwood Stanieri of Catalyst Online followed Jarboe and discussed how universal and blended search affects video in the rankings. In researching how positions in the top 10 results change but show inconsistencies in how their rank was determined by relating those results to pagerank, number of views of those videos and numbers of comments to those videos on social sites and finally, the popularity of the topic searched on.
In Universal search it appears that Google “Hot Topics” (formerly Zeitgeist) is a part of the algo since those topics spiking in popularity will bring up video results more often if they are on that list (and likely photos, news and relevant blog posts).
Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea was up next and pulled his expected studious dissecting of search patents into the discussion. While I’d love to say I did follow a few of his examples and agree with his conclusions and assertions – I can’t outline them effectively here as they seemed to bounce around a bit, pulling bits and pieces out of published patent here and there and back to his own findings, then to search results.
Google engineer David Bailey leads the Universal Search effort and summed up his thoughts on what Universal Search means to SEO by saying “Business as Usual”. OK David, I happen to agree, but couldn’t you expand a bit? Tim Mayer of Yahoo briefly how Yahoo’s Blended search intent was to improve user experience, but to me it appeared that Yahoo intends to do all they can to keep searchers on the Yahoo site, with pop-up windows, shortcuts to the giants of ebiz and exclude all but their own pages from click-throughs. Eric Collier of Ask talked about their new 3D search, and how fewer users moved to page two of results, suggesting better relevancy of page one results.
I’ll reiterate what David Bailey had to say “Business as Usual” when it comes to SEO – Google improves results and sends more searchers to relevant sites, Yahoo keeps users on their site and Ask works pretty well, but can’t get a handle on a substantial market.
Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.