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June 11, 2007

Universal Search: This Ain't Your Gramma's SEO Anymore

By Li Evans

Grandma_harley SEO the way we knew it, is changing.  It is morphing, likely for the better.  Search professionals who specialize in Search Engine Optimization, take heed, you're going to have to become a lot more educated in a lot of different aspects of this industry beyond the fundamentals.

For years now, the fundamentals - tried and true, were what would have rankings that survived the "Floridas" of yesteryear.  Have great content that's optimized, write a great title tag along with a description, get a bunch of decent & legitimate links and you could be well on your way to a top ten ranking.  While that's all well and good, and it will still be needed, it's just the fundamentals and now with the advent of this little thing called "Universal Search", coined by and introduced by Google, the fundamentals will only get you so far.

As Mike Grehan so eloquently put it today, "SEO Is Dead. Long Live, er, the Other SEO".

So what exactly does this mean?  If you haven't seen what a universal search results set looks like, you might be surprised at all the different ways results can be displayed now, at least within the Google results.  I suspect that within the next year we'll see Yahoo! doing something similar and then MSN trailing behind.  Have you noticed lately a decline in the number of "one boxes" being shown at the top of a results set?  Have you seen "News Results" about half way down the displays?  How about video and images dispersed between result listings?

Take a look at just a few of these examples:

                                                       
Ipod_search_resultsHarry_potter_movie_search_results
Gone is the Froogle one box, replaced with a blue bar for "web" and "products" viewsNotice the "Sitelink" isn't the first result, news is
Star_wars_kid_search_results Angelina_jolie_search_results
Looking For the "Star Wars Kid" Video, it now comes up in regular searchImages, followed by news, then search results

Now you are all scratching your heads, wondering what my point is, right?

My point here is that, no longer is it web pages ranking right at the top, it could be many other things.  From news search, blog search, images to videos, like it or not, if you want to rank in Google going forward, you can no longer rely on just the fundamentals of optimizing a web page.  To make an impact you need to be a well rounded "search technologist".

SEO is changing and in a sense a lot more fluid than ever before.  That means there's a lot more than just writing a good title tag, it demands that we rethink our strategies.  Whether you're ready for it or not, Universal Search is here. 

Now, on an interesting side note, some of us are even wondering if we need Google at all!  (Check out Jenn Laycock's new series!)

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