Google Universal Search Will Be Good For Users And Challenging For Search Engine Optimization Professionals

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Big announcements from Google are coming in fast and furious. It all makes the 1.65 billion dollar acquisition of YouTube seem so 2006.
This past Wednesday, Marissa Mayer – Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience – announced the pending release of a universal search platform that will bring together current search results with images, maps, news, photos etc… in one centralized (err… universal) location. You can even preview some of the different ways Google has been experimenting with search technology over in the Google Labs page here: Google Experimental Search.
It seems like an intuitive move. People probably search less through the other search verticals and as Google algorithms improve with technology, why not enable one search request to yield more than your standard text-based results?
The biggest challenge to this will be how quickly users adopt the new implementation and, probably more important to the discussion focus of this Blog, what this means to people in the search engine optimization (SEO) business?
If search result pages are now going to also include images, news items, maps, etc… the limited space at the top of fold is going to change dramatically as well. There is no chance that Google is going to drop the Cash Cow that is pay-per-click search engine marketing, Google AdWords, so my guess is that search engine optimization or trying to make your website appear at the top of organic search results is going to get a lot more heated and complicated in the coming months.
A universal search platform makes sense. Clearly Google has the technology and database of content to deliver a superior product and, once again, the search engine industry has to sit idly, biting our fingernails, in hopes that whatever new search platforms are integrated won’t affect current organic search engine rankings. On top of that, there’s no way of knowing if our techniques for optimizing websites in development will have any true impact on their ability to rise to the top.
You can read more about Google’s universal search initiative here:
PC World – Google Expands To ‘Universal’ Search.
And here:
InformationWeek – Will Google’s Universal Search Spell The End Of Search Engine Marketing?


  1. universal search will be a new to look at of searches in the Internet, will be interesting for the fact to join many information in one alone place

  2. I think that as far as the savvy user is concerned (and they’re becoming the rule rather than the exception), universal search is going to mean more meaningful results. This, of course, is going to pain SEOers who rely on inflated rankings to drive traffic to pages where they’re selling CPM advertising, and that’s just one way it’s going to boost the user’s experience: with a little bit of everything on the SERPs, there’s going to be less BS.
    I think this also means a great opportunity for PR and marketers that specialize in reputation/brand management. Previously, these guys encouraged clients to implement as many additional web initiatives as possible (e.g. blogs, viral videos, etc…) just so that they could secure one more slot on the SERPs whenever someone Googled their name, because that would muscle out one more potential detractor. Well, once universal search becomes popular, reputation managers will find it that much easier to (1) sell their clients on new initiatives, and (2) monopolize the critical first page of SERPs.

  3. Well, there are definitely ways that Google could incorporate ads into new views; in fact, some make more sense than the traditional method of at-the-top placement. Say someone did a search for “2008 Olympics” (one of Google’s example searches). Businesses that were holding Olympic-related events could have them appear in the timeline view as future events. Or, to pick something more relevant, a search for “beautiful Montréal” could throw a differently-colored (or even a logo) marker on 3530, boul Saint-Laurent.
    I think the real question is how to incorporate advertising into these more data-specific searches without making it obtrusive. Google and other search engines always have to revolve around the actual results of a search; it’ll be interesting to see how they balance that with the PPC.

  4. CT: great point about brand management. I’d love more insights into how SEO and SEM Marketers are really helping Marketers understand the value of that beyond the click price.
    Justin: Those are some interesting concepts. I think the bigger challenge will be in being able to identify what is paid placement and what is organic. If we take your Olympics example, I’m not sure how I would feel if I didn’t know what was paid advertising and what was organic.

  5. Mitch, in response to this: “If search result pages are now going to also include images, news items, maps, etc… the limited space at the top of fold is going to change dramatically as well.”
    This is true, but not necessarily a handicap to SEOs, especially those who use a well-rounded approach. I think many SEOs (myself included) have been encouraging our clients to be aware of, and improve their presence in, these “specialty” areas of search for quite a while. Since this content is a natural fit for a lot of sites, it’s a natural extension of a site’s SEO activities.

  6. Jennifer: this is some very interesting insight you have added. This could mean even better results if your clients have been listening.
    If they’ve been grappling with organic pages but have been bulking up on the verticals, when Google flips the switch – in theory – it could bode quite well for those that paid attention to the other verticals.
    I am very curious to see how this pans out.

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