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Blended Search 2009: Strategies for Large SEO Campaigns
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Blended Search Optimization will be one of the most important areas of focus for online marketers in 2009. If you have not yet started optimizing for blended search, start now. Our previous post about the variation in search results for Barack Obama illustrates just how often blended results are showing up in Google.

With the release of Universal Search in May of 2007, Google was the first major search engine to delve into blended search results. ASK quickly stepped in with the very cool ASK 3-D results, but it continues to be Google that leads the way when it comes to blended search results.

So what are blended search results. Simply put, blended search results are those results that are not the typical blue link and description that we have traditionally seen on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Blended results consist of:
  • news results
  • video results
  • image results
  • blog results
  • book results
  • and more
In fact we found examples of 20 types of blended search results as we discussed about a year ago at this time.

Blended Search Optimization should be part of your online marketing strategy in 2009. In fact, how you leverage blended search should be a strategy that all online marketers incorporate in 2009.

Search Marketing Now is presenting a webcast on Blended Search 2009: Strategies for Large SEO Campaigns of which we are live blogging on this post. The presentation was completed by Chris Sherman, Executive Editor of Search Engine Land.

Chris started out by sharing some observations about blended search. He mentioned that blended results are emerging as the norm. Chris did point out that ASK.com was the first major search engine to come out with blended search results. Chris stated that blended search is often referred to Search 3.0.

Search 1.0 - keyword matching an Boolean logic, the first generation of search engines. Was easy to optimize for and easy to spam.

Search 2.0 - link analysis and linking popularity features of the algorithms. A link to a site was treated as a "vote of authority" for a given page, rankings were determined as a result. The results of the top 10 links were selected from an index of billions of pages. SEO became imperative.

Search 3.0 - Blended Search - other types of content, articles, news and vertical searches such as images and videos.

Chris reported that 35% don't use vertical search in 2009 based on data from iProspect. Further 25% did not recall if they have clicked a vertical search result. Users click "news" results more than twice as much (36%) within blended search results vs vertical news search. Similar numbers for images can be found as well.

Google has taken a conservative approach with blended search. For some queries Google restricts the number of blended results that is displayed. They do this so that they do not alienate their existing users. This has made it difficult to do a pure "Web Search" on Google. Google has now turned to a more speculative approach to serving up results.

Chris went on to illustrate what the search engine results looked like pre-blended search and how they look now. How Google has moved from the old "one-box" results to blended results featuring news, images, videos etc. He also include examples of local search how local listings have gone from displaying 3 to now displaying 10. Images have also been blending in depending on the nature of the query. Editor's note, Google has been recently experimenting with including more video results in the main search results. We continue to see more and more videos appearing in the results.

Chris made an excellent point on how Microsoft is emulating Google's cautious approach when it comes to blended search. Yahoo is experimenting with a beta service that "glues" different types of results on their SERP. Yahoo is also experimenting with their "Search Monkey" feature where users can flag content that they feel should be showing up on the Yahoo SERP.

Chris made another great point that with blended search ius that you can have more than 10 results appearing on the first page of search results in the search engines. As a result good SEO is still crucial. People are relying more and more on search engines to take them to the sites that they are looking for. Current SEO techniques are not going away, but online marketers will need to apply best practices for optimizing the various types of content for blended search. As an example:
  • images should include descriptive alt text, filenames and keyword rich surrounding text
  • images in blended search are most liekly to appear for products, people or famous places
  • news releases should include links as press releases are crawled and included in Google News Search.
  • optimize news release content as you would a normal webpage
  • optimize for local search (if you have a local business)
  • ensure that you local information is accurate, timely and up-to-date
  • include tons of location based content on your website to be found in local results
  • with video, be sure to include rich and descriptive information about your video
  • use descriptive text on the page where the video is embedded
  • include the URL to your site within the video to encourage traffic to your web properties
Blended Search offers an opportunity to convey your content to your audience through various formats. There were some great questions during the Q&A session of the Webcast.

I posed the question as to why ASK.com has pulled back on their blended search efforts reverting back to a more Google-like SERP. However, a response was not commnicated.

Universal Search has its own algorithm and is constantly changing.
Blended Search will continue to evolve, but it has already improved the search experience. Universal Search is strictly about organic results. It has not had an impact on paid search as of yet. Chris described the Google Golden Triangle and made mention of Enquiro's research re: some eye tracking research that we have completed. (Thanks for the plug Chris.)

Thanks to Search Marketing Now and iProspect for putting together this Webcast.

Related Posts

Optimizing for Blended Search: What You Need to Know
Google Universal Search Results Showing Up More Often
ASK.com The Second Coming of Search Means Personalization

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, January 21, 2009  
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