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Universal Search for Small Business: What You Need to Know About Google's New Search Results

Carrie Hill
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Google just rolled out a new search result platform named universal search. With the implementation of this new program, Google has begun integrating information from its vertical search platforms into its regular web search results. The example below shows a variety of results from Google's vertical platforms on one page.

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Small Business Opportunity

This presents an opportunity for small business owners to be more involved in search with less technical expertise required. The opportunity comes in the younger and less complicated algorithm structure driving Google's vertical platforms.

Video optimization: This is a relatively new field – and little is known about what works and what doesn't. Simply adding a video to your Web site with a good descriptor in the file name can help you take advantage of video search. A recent SearchDay has more tips on optimizing videos for search engines in a review of the Chicago Search Engine Strategies session on this topic.

Basically, you want to name your files accurately, using keyword-rich file names. Create a keyword-rich title tag and description, look for anchor text opportunities, include RSS feeds, create a video site map, and optimize the content on the Web page from which you launch your video. Then submit to video search engines like Blinkx. By uploading your video to various video search sites like Google Video, YouTube.com or Metacafe, you can expand that video's reach exponentially, and increase the chances of it coming up in a Google Universal Search.

Google Maps: Also known as Google Local, this vertical is already a major part of the search results. If you don't already have a presence, make sure you visit the Google Local Business Center and sign yourself up for a free listing. This feature-rich program will allow you to build a "landing page" that will help bring visitors to your Web site.

Google Blog Search: Blog search results can also show in the regular search results under the new Universal Search paradigm. Add a blog to your Web site that talks about news and trends in your industry or gives you a way to easily update product sales and specials.

Google News: Press releases will be indexed and displayed as "news" so strategically releasing information about new products and services can result in having Google News pick up your information and display it as "news."

Google Image Search: Images on your site not only sell your product, they can become a way for visitors to find your Web site via a Google Image Search. Use descriptive keyword-rich file names and alt tags – always keeping in mind it's important to label your photos with accurate descriptions. Instead of saying "beachfrontcondo.jpg" say "gulfshoresbeachfrontcondo.jpg."

Platforms to Benefit Small businesses in the Future

Google Calendar: If your business is geo-targeted, a shared and public Google Calendar embedded within your Web site could help you draw traffic from Google's "Public Event Search." It's not clear at this time if this platform will affect the regular search results, but it can't hurt to cover all your bases.

Google Groups: Start or participate in a Google Group that contains a community with interest in your products and services. The profile that Groups allows you to create can contain a link directly to your store. Although outright advertising is frowned upon – being a helpful and customer-service oriented member of a community can go a long way toward drawing customers to your site.

Up and Coming!

Google has historically been on the forefront of new and improved online applications. Visit the Google Labs to see exactly what they're working on and what's coming down the pike. Spend a few minutes reading blogs by experts who watch and analyze Google's various patent filings – they're in the public record and can give a great amount of insight into what is going on. Bill Slawski's SEO by the Sea seems to explain these in the easiest to understand format I've found yet.

Overall, you can gain some traffic and some search engine presence by addressing or implementing just a few of these ideas. Help and step-by-step explanations are out there; a few simple searches can teach you a lot about the procedures necessary for adding these features to your online marketing campaigns.

Keep in mind, nothing is guaranteed, and you may spend five hours learning to do a step that possibly might not pay off in the future – but then again, it could pay off big. If you're willing to gamble, it's worth a try.


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