Google Universal Search Makes SEO More Powerful

Universal Search (blended search) is changing the SEO game.

With PPC (define), you get exactly what you pay for. For example, if your budget is $10,000 per month, you'll get exactly $10,000 worth of clicks to your Web site. No more, no less.

Organic SEO (define)? That's a whole different ballgame.

Let's assume you've selected the right keywords: ones that people use to find your Web site. It's a given your core competency is SEO or you've hired a good SEO company.

You'll receive much more value from your organic efforts than you could by paying for each click. Furthermore, the value from organic search could be increased beyond what we see today. Take a look at what could happen with Google's Universal Search.

Google Universal Search Test

Google tests often, so don't take the following scenario as imminent. We really don't know how, or if, these changes will be implemented.

You need to understand universal search before your competitors do. Universal or blended search -- call it what you will -- will be the SERP (define) of the future.

Google is exploring different layouts for its search ads. If you review the screenshots below, you'll see maps or other universal search elements displayed in areas once reserved for PPC AdWords ads. One of my readers who's a friend, Mike Black, alerted me to this dramatic change in the SERP.

No sponsored ads above the fold. Google map and local business listings located on the top/right column.

No sponsored ads above the fold. Google map and local business listings located on the top/right column.

Two sponsored ads located at the top. Local maps and business listings located on the top/right column.

Sponsored listings do have a stronger presence, but products receive a pretty good amount of exposure on the top/right column. This seems the easiest for Google to implement and helps to drive exposure for Google Checkout.

No sponsored ads at the very top with news and books getting placement on the top/right. sponsored ads, in this scenario, should end up above the fold.

Mike argues that Google's blended search test shows the value of organic SEO and search engine diversification. In his opinion, Google can wipe out a person's business on a whim.

Will Google push AdWords ads further down the SERP and risk losing revenue? Mike's money is on Google listing products, given the Google push for Google Checkout. That would let Google add small news links and local results but keep PPC ads above the fold.

How Google May Maximize Profits

What would Google Checkout-tagged product listings do to CPC (define) bid prices?

Create a more competitive bidding war for top spots and, in Mike's estimation, drive adoption of Google Checkout by merchants.

Your initial reaction might be "Why would they move those PPC placements? They're really going to hurt their revenue stream if they upset the people who buy ads on Google."

Google may succeed in encouraging companies to bid more ferociously for the top two positions. If universal search leads to more searches because it's fun, this could be a win for Google (higher revenues) and users (better experience).

Could this potentially hurt many of those AdWords advertisers who've historically bid for lower placements? Possibly. We'll have to see if this happens first, and then measure what effect that it has for CTR (define) of those ads which may have been pushed down the page.

My gut tells me Google is already testing this.

Plan for What-if Scenarios

Whatever direction Google decides to take, organic SEO wins. Organic search results will become more important.

Perhaps all universal search elements will be displayed on the right column and 10 "real" organic search results back on each page of the SERPs. What if that "number one position" we've had for our most important keyword listing under maps or Google Base suddenly gets a lot more clicks, because it's higher up on the page?

This is one reason why I love what I do. We get to exhaust ourselves with pondering just what might happen and strategize for how we may align our clients with "solutions" for the "what ifs."

There's always the chance Google will never implement full-blown universal search. In that case, we've just had some fun conversation at the water cooler.

What's your prediction for universal search? Click here to tell me.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.