Sitting in on the Blended Search track at SMX West, the first presentation of the day is on blended search with representatives David Bailey from Google, Cris Pierry of Yahoo Search and Raju Malhotra of MSN Live Search.
Vanessa Fox is hoting the panel on universal search and introduces the session with an example of blended search; the Ask.com UI.
David Bailey is up with an explanation of Google Universal Search : “Universal Search fulfills Google’s original mission”; it used to be just web results but now we have blogs, news, images and even code and Google thinks the best way to access that information is from one search box. Rather than asking users to find their way to vertical searches, Google brings it to them.
- Sometimes the Google UI is subtle and sometimes it changes the way the results pages are totally organized : for example local search in Google Universal change the entire results page whereas blog search or news search tend to be less obtrusive.
- Google has recently launched local business review snippets via third party review sites which now are located in Google local universal results.
- Google is showing a lot more video than they used to as most of the extra coverage of video in results comes from external sites such as MetaCafe and not only YouTube.
- Google is now showing blogs in grouped results of a page. Google feels that in some situations such results should be grouped together like they do with books.
Why doesn’t Google blend reviews from social networking sites?
All and all, Google feels that there is increasing diversity amongst the search results and uses a search for Ella Fitzgerald as an example because users are exploring and looking for a variety of results. With Universal Search, Google is basically looking for more needles in more haystacks.
Comparing Apples to Oranges : Green Bay Packers, Kentucky Fried Chicken : Local Results or Branded Web Results? Logic would say that these should result in branded results but look at the text : “Green Bay” and “Packers”, in such a situation Google has to make sure their results are incredibly relevant.
What’s next with Google Universal Search :
- New Categories : Blogs and Images : Ramp Them Up
- Users Exploration : Helping users research with Google Universal
- What about SEO? Well web results are still the primary results at Google and not backup, but Universal complements this listings. SEO for Images : publish high quality images on highly ranked images which are well tagged.
- For videos, use sitemaps in the Webmaster Console and make sure you tell Google what the video is about.
- For product search, make sure you submit your feeds to Google Base/Product.
- As for blogs; create a high quality blog.
At Yahoo there is more focus on the placement of Yahoo Shortcuts and figuring out what kinds of information users are going to need to answer their query. Cris gives examples of different Yahoo Shortcuts for different styles of queries and what Yahoo is doing to integrate video and other media into its search results.
Cris then gave us a sneak peak of Yahoo’s SearchMonkey : Yahoo’s open search platform : but there will be a separate session on Yahoo.
Raju Malhotra of MSN Live Search :
Blended search is a starting point to the web and the information that users are searching for. Some of their favorite research at Microsoft is camping out with consumers and monitoring how they search and what they are looking for.
Consumers use search in three main ways:
1. Looking to find the outcome to a specific question : weather, directions, traffic ..etc.
2. Consumers are in the discover mode : research and shopping
3. Exporation : Browsing through search : Entertainment and music, hobbies, videos
Raju uses snow reports as an example and searching for ski shops and identifies “one click” directions in examples of blended search results in Microsoft.
What does this mean for an SEO perspective? Local is big. 33% of searches are local. If someone does a search for a ski shop in San Jose, you want to be first. One way to enhance your ranking is a business listing which can be set up in the Microsoft Webmaster Dashboard.
80% of online shoppers begin with product search queries, Microsoft offers the user the ability to upload entire product catalog which helps users find the vast selection of products which are available.
For the most part, I’m finding Raju’s presentation quite interested and the offerings Microsoft has for webmasters to upload blendable content to Microsoft Search, but my battery is about to die, so I will be following up loater with liks to the Q&A session which should prove useful to readers. Thanks.
More from Barry at Search Engine Roundtable