How to Increase Your Online Exposure with Blended Search

August 7th, 2008

Blended SearchYou may or may not have noticed, but when you do a search on the top search engines, different kinds of results are creeping in all the time. Search results pages now display content that is beyond text links. These results contain a mix of web pages, video thumbnails, images, maps and local directory listings. This is an emerging trend and called “Blended” or “Universal” or some experts are coining it as “Search 3.0.” You can use this to your advantage by understanding how these results are considered and how you can present your company to have multiple results on these search results pages. You can also offer a richer and more interactive experience to your potential customers and possibly increase click-throughs to your site.

I attended a great webinar “Blended Search One Year Later” with Chris Sherman from Search Marketing Now. During the webinar he posted an interesting poll to the attendees and it was: “Over the past six months have you noticed your company’s images, videos, or press releases appearing on the main search results pages of the major search engines?” Half of the attendees said yes, 34% said no and 15% said not sure.

Sherman explained the stages/versions of search that we have seen to date:

  • Search 1.0 – was first-generation search engines. Primary ranking method was Boolean logic, which was early ‘60s information retrieval based more so on database queries. It did a good job within a closed universe. It was pretty basic and easy for search marketers to optimize their websites and not really algorithmic (dependent on multiple variables and checks and balances). It also was a green light for black hat (aka spammers, the bad marketers) and opened the door to Search 2.0. Remember the good old days when you’d search “Britney Spears” and you clicked onto results and somehow landed on a porn site? That was trickery and not effective results for the searcher! You did not have a huge amount of confidence that Google would deliver the right results and you probably had to spend a lot of time searching for the right information or website. You had to really hunt or take chances on faith and luck of the draw. Back in 1993, Alta vista said 99% of submitted URLs were spam. Search engine marketers were mostly viewed as black hats (if that term was even coined then?)
  • Search 2.0 – With the issues and limitations of search 1.0 – it lead to search 2.0. This was more of an algorithmic search, which factored in hundreds of different variables to figure out the key words and main categorization of our website. For search marketers, it was imperative to understand how the search engines work and keep up with the best practices. If you fell back on old tactics to trick users to visit your site with irrelevant key words, you were labeled as a black hat and your site could possibly be delisted from the algorithmic search engine. Larry Page from Google reasoned that the entire web was loosely based on the premise of citation and introduced the page rank. If he could divine a method to count and qualify each back link (site that linked to your site and validated who and what you are) on the web, as Page puts it “the web would become a more valuable place.” This was a way to understand the authority – simplistic toward page rank. This was harder to spam (better for white hats – people who followed the rules), and sophisticated SEO became imperative. Then search engines started to have vertical searches such as catalogues of videos, news and images through links, and tabs and radio buttons. People were just using the regular search results and ignoring the other “vertical searches” for the most part though. Search marketers never really focused on them either.
  • Search 3.0 – Where we are today. These separate catalogues or vertical searches are becoming irrelevant as digital assets are being considered in the algorithms for regular search results. We start to see that more people are clicking on news in regular search results more and not via the news tabs. People are starting to click on YouTube videos and maps or news links served from third-party sites.

How to take advantage of universal search and show up multiple times on a results page:
You have a chance to have multiple results show up on Google, but not necessarily web page text links as Google doesn’t like to serve multiple pages from your site on a results page. But what you can work around is try to increase the possibilities of mixed pieces to show up on that same results page. Here are some tips to help you optimize other pieces and increase your impressions (showing and displaying) on the results page under your company and or key words strings that customer search for you.

Images – How to optimize for blended search:

  • Name the image with an appropriate name.
  • You have an option to tag images within your WebPages with the “alt” tag. Try to label it with your company name, product or service or whatever is appropriate for that image. Something that is straightforward and not “image_201.”
  • Also try to optimize or tag (categorizing) any images you have hosted on any photo-sharing site like Flickr – it’s not all about optimizing images just on your site.
  • If you have images within your pages, also make sure they are surrounded by text in html that has some complementary or same key words in the paragraph above and below.

News – How to optimize for blended search:

  • Optimize text the same way as web pages (juicy, meaty content).
  • Choose a news distribution service that has optimization features or services – free services don’t really have all the features to optimize your release properly.
  • Add important key words in the headline that you want to show up in the search results pages.
  • Leverage linking power within your press release. Use links, one for each 100 words.
  • Use alt tags on your images.
  • Add key word anchor text with your hyperlinks.
  • Take the time to tag the release itself.
  • Run a key word density check and tweak – make sure your target two to three key words are defined through all areas mentioned above.

For more details read my blog post on “How to Optimize News Releases for SEO and Tips”.

Local Business Listings – How to optimize for blended search:

  • Opportunities are huge now here.
  • Crucial – take control of your own listings with Google, Yahoo and MSN. Take control of your listings (free or enhanced) use them for the exposure – local listings are given prominence. You usually have to go in and open a local account, verify that it is you via phone or snail mail and then add all the information. This is a manual process and you are not automatically added.
  • Add location-specific info within your site – put it everywhere on every page – not as an image. This helps the search engine to understand where you are. You can put it in the footer of every page in html text.
  • Localize content if you have multiple locations – you can really do well if you take the time to create localized content for each location and have local listings with the search results for each location.

Video - How to optimize for blended search:

  • Most people are not optimizing their videos – they are just uploading them.
  • Add your video to your pages – use descriptive text around the video with keywords that are relevant, just like images (paragraph before and after).
  • Define your video tags according to key word and strings that people may use to search for you, not just your company name.
  • Make sure you add a description.
  • Host it on a social media site that is optimized, like YouTube.
  • Include URLs in videos to encourage viral distribution with “letterboxing” as a title in lower left.

If you want to share similar experiences on this topic, I encourage you to leave a comment!

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One Response to “How to Increase Your Online Exposure with Blended Search”

  1. SEO is More Important Today with Blended and Real-time Search | Seed The Web on September 27, 2009 5:45 pm

    [...] You will increase your likelihood to show up in the search engine results pages more (multiple results under one keyword phrase). You want as many visibility points this way. This is actually called “blended search” (you can also read my blog post on “How to Increase Your Online Exposure with Blended Search”). [...]

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