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Taking your Web site 'universal'

Google's universal-search results will provide savvy Web site owners and marketers additional opportunities to gain valuable placement within search results.

Stephan Spencer
Search engine optimization expert Stephan Spencer shares late-breaking SEO tools, tips, trends, resources, news and insights. Stephan is the founder and president of Netconcepts, a web agency specializing in search engine optimized ecommerce. Clients include Discovery Channel, AOL, Home Shopping Network, Verizon SuperPages.com, and REI, to name a few. Stephan is a frequent speaker at Internet conferences around the globe. He is also a Senior Contributor to MarketingProfs.com, a monthly columnist for Practical Ecommerce, and he's been a contributor to DM News, Multichannel Merchant, Catalog Success, Catalog Age, and others.
Stephan Spencer
2 min read

Search results, they are a-changing.

You may have noticed some changes in your Google search results over the last few months. These subtle changes are just a sign of what is coming, as Google continues to roll out its universal search results. While much has been said and speculated about universal search, its subtle reveal still leaves many site owners perplexed as to what it means to them.

In case you are just tuning in, universal search is a blending of the various "vertical" search properties, such as video, news, blogs and images, as well as the traditional search results that most people associate with search. If you weren't aware of the various search properties or hadn't ever searched through any of the vertical search channels, then you already understand one of the driving factors behind universal search.

The influence of universal search is just beginning to be seen and so far appears to be very subtle. This may be by plan, as Google may be cautious in making any dramatic changes in the search results pages that many users have come to know and expect.

What this really means for site owners is that there are new opportunities to gain placement or additional placement in the search engine results pages. By adding a blog, releasing online press releases to authoritative wire services, uploading video to sites like YouTube, and adding a local.google.com listing, businesses increase the chances of having search result listings that may directly or indirectly drive traffic to their sites.

But it also means that site owners must think beyond the boundaries of their own Web sites. Many of these additional listing opportunities come from onetime activities or just a little additional effort to maximize the potential of activities that are already being done.

As we can see by looking at various search results for "iphone," "apple iphone," "iphone apple," and "apple," at this time, it is still hard to predict which vertical search properties' results will be pulled from within these new universal-search results.

Google search results for: apple.
Google search results for: iphone.
Google search results for: iphone apple.
Google search results for: apple iphone.

One thing is certain: now is a good time to pay extra attention to the type of results that Google returns, to keep an eye on how universal search continues to shape the search landscape. Watching universal search unfold will give site owners a view into where they need to focus their efforts beyond their own site, especially as these types of blended search results continue to make their way across all the engines.

Those trying to keep on top of the cutting edge of results should keep a watchful eye on Ask.com as well. Being the fourth horse in the search engine race, Ask is focusing heavily on innovation and differentiation, and may be less cautious with experimenting.