Universal Search & Optimizing For Blended SERPs

Hello to all, Manny Rivas here at SES Chicago 2008. I’m thrilled to be here providing coverage for AIMCLEAR Blog. Thanks to Sandy Prouix and the whole SearchEngineStrategies team. The weather is cold outside but the energy in these sessions is great!

In the Universal Search session, industry buffs Dr. Larry Cornett, Mike Grehan, Chris Blakeley, Todd Schwartz & Jack Menzel spoke of the evolving search landscape and bringing comprehensive SERPs (search engine results pages) to the user. The session was moderated by Kevin Ryan. Mike Grehan of Acronym Media & Chris Blakeley of comScore gave thoughtful insight into the implications of blended search & paid placement on user trends.

There’s no denying that blended search has added new dimension to the SEO process & made it essential for marketers to consider multiple verticals when publishing content.

According to Chris Blakely of comScore, Inc., blended search will continue it’s push into new vertical categories, moving penetration closer and closer to critical mass. Chris noted in particular that users are clicking on sponsored links less and less.

“There is an explicit need to maximize all digital assets to grab more page real estate.”

Mike Grehan, Global KDM Officer of Acronym Media touched on the propensity for paid results to dominate the top of the SERP’s, pushing organic listing out of the “golden triangle.” Now with blended search, people are paying less attention to well written title tags and heading directly towards  video thumbnails. It is imperative to feed content to the outlets that universal & blended search have now deemed as the “standard.”

Dr. Larry Cornett, Vice President of Consumer Products at Yahoo! showed how the new model utilizes blended search to create a richer more structured experience, providing heavy sums of information on one search.

The Yahoo! SERP now contains several “shortcuts” to allow the user direct paths to desired content in an effort to better represent what’s beyond the blue link. In many instances the SERP now serves as the destination, giving users the option to listen to songs or preview trailers without ever having to leave the result page.

Todd Schwartz, Group Product Manager of Live Search at Microsoft Corporation examined the evolution of search behavior. He noted that people are engaged in longer search sessions and are using search to complete their tasks.

Todd sees the key to accommodating these users as “simplifying key tasks and drilling down to the core of what they’re looking for.” This model of search allows publishers & advertisers more room for engagement & broader reach as well as facilitating higher ROI.

Jack Menzel, Senior Product Manager at Google spoke of comprehensiveness, relevance & presentation as being at the heart of universal search. Comprehensiveness speaks to employing several verticals such as images, maps, news, products, videos, books and more in the SERP.

Data collection allows Google to run each query against every index and determine a better suited, more relevant result for users. Lastly, presentation deals with summarizing the content in the most efficient way possible & keeping the results easily scan-able. A great strength of universal search, according to Jack, is their ability to capitalize on the relevance of all categories to find what is best for each searcher.

The world of search is constantly evolving with the goal of providing searchers with a better experience and quicker answers. The task for search marketers is to take advantage of the new model of search and engage the community with content that speaks directly through the appropriate verticals. Unversal search is the now and future.

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