The Opportunities and Pitfalls of Universal Search
In May, Google started a phased roll-out of its much-awaited Universal Search model. Through a new set of algorithms, Google Universal Search results now can include videos, maps, images, blog sites and press releases that the search engine will position by newly defined relevance and popularity. Although other search engines such as Ask.com already had started down this road, the sheer size and market share enjoyed by Google makes this latest step monumental in logistics and impact.
Marketers Already Are Seeing the Impact
One of the first impacts of Universal Search can be seen in the daily fluctuations in search positions. In the past, established, well-optimized Web sites enjoyed considerable stability of their general search positions. Shifts in natural positions usually were measured over weeks and months, rather than days. Today, daily shifts are becoming the norm.
Let's say you're a leading manufacturer of smoke alarms and consistently have occupied a first-page position on Google's search results pages for the term "smoke alarm." One day, a news story breaks regarding the recall of a competitor's smoke alarm. It's followed by several stories about recent fires where that particular alarm failed. A prominent testing firm's video showing the failure is uploaded to YouTube and becomes virally popular. Late-night comedians jump into the fray, and their video excerpts hit the social sites. The manufacturer's president issues a press release, video response and informational blog to which numerous consumer/business blogs begin linking. Your competitors add fire-safety podcasts to their sites.
Prior to Universal Search, if you did nothing different, your site traffic might actually have increased as general searches found you on Google's first page. Those looking for the news stories, videos, blogs or podcasts would have found them in Google's separate "news," "videos," "blogs" or "podcasts" vertical directories.
Under Universal Search, the results can be considerably different. If you did nothing, the likely result would be an immediate drop in your search positions, possibly off of the first page of Google, due to the search's more specific and intuitive capabilities. What should have been a competitive advantage for a manufacturer of a superior smoke alarm has turned into a potential online marketing disaster ... at no apparent fault of the manufacturer.
What You Should Be Doing Now
We recommend taking a four-step approach to address Google's new search landscape.
1. Find out what you don't know. Have your search-marketing team look for any significant unexplained drop in your search positions after May 2007. How about your competitors? Look for trends and how they might correspond to major overall shifts in Google results pages. Is there a particular group of keywords that have changed more than others? Are some unaffected? Keep monitoring. The answers to these questions can lead to some highly effective search strategies.
2. Add and optimize searchable media. Remember how much information you're competing with on the new Google results pages. The best way to beat them is join them and do a better job in the process.
* Add a company blog to your media content. It can occupy its own URL, but it should link to your site and vice versa. Optimize your blog much as you do your Web site.
* Consider podcasting. The recent growth of the medium has been nothing short of phenomenal. Much like blogs, podcasts can be optimized, tagged and linked to your Web site.
* Optimize your press releases, tag and link them to your Web site. Include visuals, since Universal Search now is picking up images and video.
* Include images and video clips on your Web site, optimally described and tagged. Google's algorithms now will search for such files as well.
3. Integrate your efforts as never before. Generally speaking, the more one online communications effort supports the next, the better your Universal Search results will be. For example, you send an optimized press release about a new podcast. Included in that release are links to the podcast and the company Web site. Attached are photos of the products mentioned in the podcast with appropriate identifying text. The optimized podcast is linked to a blog that encourages reader posts and social tagging. The blog is linked to the Web site and interlinked with other popular relevant blogs. Ads might be created promoting the products with a link to the podcasts and appropriate Web site URLs.
4. Get help where you need it. If your search analytics aren't giving you an accurate, timely picture of your competitive positions, find a firm with more robust analytics. Ideally, it should be a firm able to track all your searchable media outlets -- your blogs, podcasts, press releases and social-media insertions. The more centralized the source, the easier the integration. Integration is the key.
For more information about Universal Search, we invite you to download our Universal Search whitepaper at www.oneupweb.com.
Lisa Wehr is CEO and founder of Oneupweb, an integrated, online marketing firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.