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All Roads Lead to Congestion: Weighing in on Universal Search, Part II

traffic jamWith Google’s new universal search being rolled out the concept of “top search engine rankings” changes dramatically. On one hand a first page ranking is much more difficult to achieve, and on the other, there are now more ways in which to achieve a first page ranking.

Here is a quick rundown of possible results that could appear on the first page of a Google search:

  • images
  • video
  • news
  • maps / local results
  • blogs
  • books
  • products
  • groups
  • patents
  • scholarly works

If the #1 result for each of those vertical searches appeared on the first page of a search all other results that otherwise would have appeared would be squeezed out of the first page. OK, most of those vertical results won’t make first page placement, I think Google is adding up to three, perhaps four of these verticals into their universal search. So let’s say a typical search that you’ve been ranking on the first page for is now showing “universal” results for images, news, and video. Chances are good that your ranking has been bumped off the first page, or at least moved down significantly.

That’s not a happy place to be. Unless, of course, that it’s your video, news, or image results that appear. But in terms of ROI those really are not the type of results that bring significant conversions. On the other hand, maybe it is your video, news AND image results that appear. Now you got multiple first page rankings, right? Naw. Now we’re just living in fantasy land because I’m certain Google won’t let one site achieve multiple first page placements that way.

Changing the way search works

So how does that change the ranking landscape? It means that achieving first page status has just gotten considerably more difficult for standard search results. In stead of competing with ten other pages, you’re now competing with six or seven for first page placement. The competition just got more fierce.

If you feel that getting your image, news or video ranked is worthwhile then you’ll need to start now by investing additional dollars into those avenues, or supplementing traditional optimization with optimization of those other areas, and hope the payoff is just as significant. I doubt it will be, but it doesn’t hurt to know your options. Google’s Vanessa Fox posted some ways to take advantage of these other verticals that are popping into your search results:

Google News results
If your site includes news content, you can, submit your site for inclusion in Google News. Once your site is included, you can let us know about your latest articles by submitting a News Sitemap. (Note News Sitemaps are currently available for English sites only.)

News Archive results
If you have historical news content (available for free or by subscription), you can submit it for inclusion in News Archive Search.

Image results
If your site includes images, you can opt-in to enhanced Image search in webmaster tools, which will enable us to gather additional metadata about your images using our Image Labeler. This helps us return your images for the most relevant queries. Also ensure that you are fully taking advantage of the images on your site.

Local results
If your site is for a business in a particular geographic location, you can provide information to us using our Local Business Center. By providing this information, you can help us provide the best, locally relevant results to searchers both in web search and on Google Maps.

Video results
If you have video content, you can host it on Google Video, YouTube, or a number of other video hosting providers. If the video is a relevant result for the query, searchers can play the video directly from the search results page (for Google Video and YouTube) or can view a thumbnail of the video then click over to the player for other hosting providers. You can easily upload videos to Google Video or to YouTube.

How all this will play out over the coming months and years remains to be seen. Will SEOs now need to optimize a page, an image, a news article and a video for the same keyword phrases, hoping one of them will make it to the first page? Will people be more willing to settle for top five pages rather than top two or one? Will the top ranking race become a thing of the past or heat up even more? What do you think?

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.