Google Universal Search was launched last summer and while it didn’t go unnoticed within the industry, many brands didn’t seem to realise the potential impact this could have to their websites traffic and sales. But since the new search box within a search feature they now seem to be catching up, I’ve received many questions from clients during the last couple of weeks asking about how they can get a search box appearing for their own brand queries and which other Universal Search results they can be listed for.
There has been much debate about how useful Google Universal search is, in my opinion this helps provide a better all-round user experience – in most cases producing topical results of interest in real-time and helping to vary the type of listings displayed. But as far as I’m aware not many brands have adopted targeting Google Universal Search and OneBox results as an SEO strategy, Google obviously benefits itself by helping to promote it’s other services, but there are certainly companies which are receiving large quantities of extra traffic from this too, whether they are targeting this intentionally or not.
Below are some of the types of Google Universal Search listings where you may be able to influence rankings:
Getting featured in Google News (even if it’s via online PR distribution) can be very effective if your press release is used within a Google Universal Search result for a highly popular keyphrase. Brands could actually target industry specific keywords where universal search results are commonly displayed, these results will only appear while the news is still relevant to a specific search, so once the article becomes dated the listing will either be removed or replaced with a more recent story. Some people may also target related news stories within the industry, if these stories are picked up within the national media the search trends are likely to take a huge jump in volume over a short-period of time. For example the news items ranking in the Google Universal search listing today for Jaguar following the “Jaguar sold to Tata” story will receive a large boost in traffic due to the popularity of these searches over the next couple of days.
Businesses can appear for relevant local searches in Google Maps, for some websites these searches may be difficult to rank for organically, but instead they can jump to the top of Google by having a local map location.
Google Searchbox Within a Search
How do you get this to appear? At the moment that’s a good question as it’s not clear, this is obviously part of Google’s algorithim which at the moment has only been rolled out to a limited number of e-commerce websites. I would suggest doing the type of things you should be doing for SEO and usability anyway; making sure your content is well organised (with individual webpages for each product, clear headings, title tags etc.), clear navigation to categories and products, link building – getting Google Sitelinks would put you in a good position, maybe have your own internal site search too (maybe Google Custom Search would help)?
The clear benefit of having a search box appear is that users will be directed (in theory) directly to the product they are looking for. Plus by taking up extra on-page real estate the clickthrough rate of the main brands listing should improve as they’ll be less chance of a searcher looking beyond this result (same with Google Sitelinks).
Google Product Searches
If you sell any books online make sure you submit them for inclusion for Product Search listings. Applying the same to any other products which may appear as a Google Universal Search result from Google Base.
If you perform a search on a celebrity, actor, footballer or popstar these days there’s a very good chance you’ll see a video clip of them listed as a Google Universal Search result. Getting extra traffic from this has to be worthwhile if it’s a popular search, it’s also good reputation management to control the results for a brand or persons name, rather than being left with a result showing Gordon Brown picking his nose!
There’s other types of Universal Search results too which can help send traffic such as Google Blog Search and Google Images. How important do you think Google Universal Search is to a brand, should it be part of your search marketing strategy? Or have you experienced receiving large amounts of traffic via Google Universal Search yourself?