Michael and I had the opportunity to attend the SMX (Search Marketing Expo) last week in sunny Santa Clara, CA. It was a shame to spend those 60-degree days inside, especially since I come from the cold, white Rocky Mountains, and we spend as little time as possible outside this time of year. But for the good of our readership, my poorly educated mind, and to get our money’s worth we suffered through some questionable meals (sorry guys, most of it was inedible), and overly well air-conditioned conferences rooms (where’s my parka?) to gather all the information we could.
From the get go, it was obvious the conference was going to spend much of the time discussing what Danny Sullivan and others are calling “Blended Search.” I am not a big fan of the term “blended search,” it isn’t an accurate descriptive term. In my mind when something is blended, a bunch of ingredients are taken and acted upon to create a new product, with the ingredients of that product not being individually identifiable from that point forward. What we are talking about here is not a blended new search results page, but more like a new look, and a re-organization of information from sources, which were not previously utilized, but where the data remains very much identifiable. Google is calling this mega- results page Universal Search, which is a better term as far as definitions go, since Google is essentially universally searching all their database silos for all the results possible. Essentially, the search engines are now able to draw from more databases at one time and return results from all those queries to us on our results pages. The database sources used by search engines can now include blogs, books, catalogs, programming code, online directories, stock quotes, images, maps, news, video and standard web searches.
So on a so-called blended or universal results page, the searcher could see data from anyone of the above listed sources, organized by relevance, instead of just the page of links and snippets we are used to seeing now. In the past if we wanted to search specific data silo, we had to select Images, Maps, News, Shopping, etc, from the top of the search page, now all those silos can be automatically included.
I personally wonder how much this sort of mega results page will benefit us. My biggest complaint with search now is the shear volume of superfluous garbage we still seem to receive in our SERPs today, so I worry that unless the search algorithm gets drastically better, all these new search results possibilities could potentially just turn out to add to the useless noise and clutter plaguing us now. We shall see.
The most important question to us small business owners becomes, what does this mean to our sites, and how does it change the way we SEO? In short, for now it doesn’t change one thing. In two different sessions representatives of Google made it clear that good, proven SEO strategies are still as important as ever whether is be in web search or universal search pages, so we do not need to change what we are doing (assuming we are doing our SEO right). I think that is the best way to play it, just keep adding the rich content, building natural links, adding popular keywords, and our sites will continue to grow and do well. However, I am concerned with the prospect that we are now going to now need to compete with large companies and other media types for position on the SERPs. For example, if I am an online advertiser for my plumbing services, I don’t want the listing I worked hard to achieve to be replaced by some absurd YouTube plumbing mishap video, or by an image of Miss Plumber America, scantily clad holding a pipe wrench. I want my listing to rightfully stay put… I hope good SEO practices and a more defined and appropriate algorithm protect small business owners, our site’s position, and they continue to provide us with the opportunities to still do well online as Integrated Search becomes more mainstream. We will need to keep a close eye on it, and if we must, we will figure out how to make the new changes work best for us. I am sure Michael could make us some sort of another helpful tool. ☺