I have been able to take some more time and mess around with Google’s Universal Search over the long holiday weekend, and I really like the direction. More simple search power to the masses is very cool, but I am most happy at the possible advantages of Universal Search to small business owners, and not only as a searcher who needs more specific results more quickly.
Search engines previously returned everything they had indexed related to the keywords we entered in the search box. They were hopeful, as were we, that these results were geared and organized to meet our search motivations, and were based on a variety of factors, all weighted by the search engine algorithms. Over the years the search engines have continually got better, they are not perfect yet, but much better. Not only at returning more relevant results, but also at identifying the tricks some online marketers implement in a lame attempt to fool the engines into ranking them higher than they deserve. This has been great to watch, however over the same period of time, more and more relevant sites have come online, and with the additional content comes the problem of congested/saturated search engine results pages. The problem of many of our searches now is there is so much information, we find it difficult to efficiently find the specific category or type of information we really needed in the first place. Search engines have attempted, quite impressively, to provide us with additional search tools which could categorize our results, but typically these tools were not simple enough to use, or difficult to locate. So we just got by with what we were served, or we would tweak the search terms a bit, and tried it again if we didn’t like the first set of results. Not the most efficient way to search, but this search protocol has served us pretty well for years.
So to put the past search situation in a vernacular we can all understand, in the past we essentially had what we could call a “search buffet.” Everything available, all at once, right front of us, with the most predictably desired “food items” being the closest to our “table.” A buffet is fantastic in those situations when you want/need a buffet, but you know there are times when you just don’t want a buffet anymore, you just want to sit down and get exactly what you want. Sometimes (most the time) I just want a New York strip, medium, with a baked potato, with everything on the side, salad with ranch, hold the olives and stale bread cubes you call croutons, and Diet Pepsi (NOT DIET COKE), and keep ’em coming. Oh, and if you have a chocolate cake with ice cream for desert, please put it on deck, because we are going to need one of those in a bit. You know what I mean? We don’t want or need a buffet everyday, too much of a good thing isn’t always the best, especially when we have a specific meal in mind. Well the same is now true in search, we don’t have to eat at the buffet everyday anymore, and our specific search goals can now be better met.
Google Universal Search gives us the power to more easily narrow our search focus, based on the category of the information we are searching to find. Now to be fair, search engines have previously attempted to give us tools to narrow our search focus, but most people just didn’t use them, maybe it was too confusing, or maybe didn’t even know the options were there, but ultimately these tools didn’t get used. So even though we could have enjoyed a more focused, less buffetish search lifestyle, we didn’t. Now Google hopes they have made searching within predetermined categories so much easier, we will enjoy more focused searches and ultimately a better searching experience with no additional effort.
As business owners, we should all be grateful for this development, and the simplicity of categorized search for searchers. Now we will be not have to compete with Wikipedia and other unrelated sites for a top search position in our marketplace, we will again be competing against our competitors, and that is something we already do and understand. The key is going to be making sure our site relays our business purpose and information properly to the search engines, so our sites can be categorized accurately. Essentially this means succinct SEO will become more important, as it will help us get our sites in front of our “pre-screened” clients. If the search engines don’t know what we are about, they will not be able to put us where we feel we need to be. Which brings me to my next point, these various categories will also allow us to get our sites where we feel they are going to be most successful, where we think we will see more conversions. This added search marketing freedom will give many of us the opportunity for more creative online marketing strategies, which will hopefully make all this SEOing more interesting, while being more beneficial.
Google’s Universal Search, and any attempt by the search engines to further categorize, and fine-tune search results, to a searcher’s true search intent is fantastic improvement. It is a better situation for searchers and for business owners, as the chance of each party finding each other increases over time. Nice.