It seems that everyone is talking about Universal Search now. How will it change SEO? What will I as a webmaster have to do differently? Yada yada yada
Same ol’ same ol’ …
Well, let me ease a few of your worries. Google’s Universal Search, if it catches on, won’t change SEO too much. It will change it really from one perspective and it’s not really a change. And, by the way, I expect the other major search engines (I don’t need to name drop do I?) will follow. But keep in mind that Google is just testing its Universal Search. It remains to be seen that searchers will like it and want to keep it. A really interesting scenario would be if Google ditches it based on feedback from users and Yahoo et. al. (oops, slipped out) rolls it out to a dissatisfied search public (can you hear me snickering in the background?).
Universal Search is really Google’s attempt to make all search queries relevant for all media. In other words, if you search for “tree stump removal” you’ll likely get an image of a tree stump being pulled out of the ground by one of those big John Deere thingies (I’m real technical) and videos depicting lumberjacks at work (that would make most of you ladies – and some of you guys – quite happy, I’m sure). The question is, will searchers want those “extras” showing up as a part of their queries. Remember this, for every image, blog entry, video, etc. that shows up in the top 10 of a search query, that’s one less web page that will show up there. Is that good?
According to one SEO, it’s a serious drawback:
The problem with Universal Search is that it can muddy the results, and it can also introduce irrelevant results that a searcher cannot use. A search for “Paris Hilton” (ever heard of her?) will bring up news, videos, and other information about the heiress. But it will also bring up a map of the city of Paris showing locations of Hilton hotels, something most searchers that typed that exact phrase probably did not have in mind.
I agree that it is a drawback, but allow me to correct some misinformation. I just searched for Paris Hilton. Besides the super revealing photos at the top of the page (Wow! And I mean they made my eyes hurt – in a good way, of course), there were no photos of the Eiffel Tower or other buildings in Paris, France, and no map either. In fact, there was no result for Paris, France on the first page at all. Everything was all about Paris Hilton – proof that being rich and beautiful is over rated. But I was amused to find that Paris Hilton does have her own MySpace page. A search for “Paris,” on the other hand, brought up all kinds of information about Paris, France, and the sexy photos of Paris Hilton, of course, though they were at the bottom of the page rather than the top (along with a photo of the Eiffel Tower).
So what does all of this mean? Not much in my book. It’s search as usual. Google starting including photos in its search results long before it announced Google Universal. The reason the search engine decided to start including other types of information in its search results is because people were not using Google Images, Google Photos, Google Blog Search, and the other Google flavors (I see Baskin Robbins blushing). Google Universal is a way to promote these other search verticals to all Google users without sacrificing too much in the process. So how does it affect the SEO will be done in the future?
If Google Universal catches on (and I think it will in some sectors and won’t in others) then SEOs will have to include more photos, videos, and alt tags in their web pages. SEO work will become slightly more tedious as we will have to determine for all of our clients just what elements are best suited for their websites. If you are a clown or some other entertainer then you may want to include photos and videos of your performances on your website, complete with alt tags to increase your SEO advantages. On the other hand, if most of your customers are still on dial up then they likely won’t care about your videos because they won’t be able to watch them any way. My SEO friend agrees:
Many of these people are likely not interested in videos or other results that require much bandwidth, and such users may turn away from Universal Search entirely – there are, after all, other search engines. No, really – there are.
Well, yeah, but if they’re all bringing up universal search results as well then it won’t matter. And I highly doubt that very many people will abandon Google if they don’t like Universal Search. They will likely just grow used to it and as the search engine improves they will gradually start to enjoy it. They may even search more often for Paris Hilton just so they can see those photos of the hotel heiress in her bunny suit.
I must be hopping along now – to search for Uma Thurman.