I’m busy attending this year’s Search Engine Strategies Conference (SES) in San Jose, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to pause for half a minute in the flurry of sessions and networking to mention a couple of interesting things I heard from Google in yesterday’s session on Universal and Blended Vertical Search.
Google Engineer David Bailey spoke on the subject – you may remember his post with Johanna Wright about Universal Search  back in May. David is a top engineer at Google who’s been working on the blended search results page for the past year, and he previously worked at Amazon.com and Junglee. (As you may recall Junglee created a system which allowed large amounts of websites to be treated as query-able databases, and they created “PALs” which assembled those queryable repositories into unique verticals on various subject matter like employment, real estate, electronics products, etc. — which we can see relates very closely with the concept of Universal Search to some degree.)
David mentioned that the “Google OneBox” term was really intended to refer to the concept that a user could initiate a keyword search from one search box in order to obtain results from all sorts of different verticals including images, local, products, etc. As you may know, many of us have been referring to “OneBox Results” as the description for the little boxed UI layout for that special content delivered onto webpages – like when a local search included a few business listings and map grouped together at the top of the SERP.
One thing he revealed that was particularly interesting to me was how Universal Search actually runs a number of queries across all of their vertical search engines in parallel, and then they choose how to rank the top results returned by each of them when deciding what items to display 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc in the search results. That change in the way that they performed searches was very costly in processing, so it required a lot of power from their computing infrastructure.
One major piece of advice he gave to companies who wish to rank well in the new Universal Search paradigm really stood out to me: he recommended that companies look to diversify the types of content they have out there in promoting their products and sites — to work to have content in each of the major vertical areas now, including Images, local business listings in Google Maps, video, news, etc.Â This is something that those of us at Netconcepts have been recommending to clients for quite some time now as well, and it segues nicely into the session I speak at today on Images & Search  — this concept that having good, optimized image content can help one get better overall rankings and traffic by being present in one of Google’s top most-popular vertical searches — those top listings in Images are now starting to appear within the first page of the regular web search results. The corellation to ranking well in each of the many verticals is now translating directly into good rankings in the main web search results pages. This same holds true for the other search engines such as Yahoo! and Ask as well, though perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.
Best Practice is to now diversify your web presence and work on having good content to represent you in as many of the various verticals as makes sense for your company.
David went on to say that Google intends to further improve the Universal Search results, and to extend out to including more results types. So, we can perhaps expect to see content blended into the SERPs from Patent Search, Book Search, and much more as time progresses.