How To Trigger Universal Search Elements in the SERPs

Guest: Rand Fishkin – @randfish – CEO/founder @SEOmoz, focused on bldg SEO software for SMBs + small-mid size consultants/agencies in Seattle, WA. He is a blogger, analyst, and co-author of the Art of SEO. @randfish is the wearer of yellow Pumas. He wears them to conferences & events so he can easily be spotted.

Interesting note on universal: both query/click volume and pure presence of “universal” content contribute to triggers. For more information about @randfish after the chat, you can visit:

@randfish: “Everything I tweet/answer is my opinion only. 140 chars too few to research/point to data/etc.”

How do you influence images, videos, etc. to show up in universal search?

Definition of Universal SERPs: Contain video/image/realtime/news/blogs/places/etc. (alt results that aren’t instant answers). Images/Video can/will appear if many users click on those verticals and/or if many pop results appear in them. i.e. If many people make popular, well-linked/watched videos around a keyword, Google may tests placing it in the normal SERPs. Likewise, if lots of users click from normal SERPs to “videos” or many queries made at YouTube, Google might fire universal.

Do you think that universal triggers overlap with QDF (Query Deserves Freshness)?
– Almost certainly. QDF = freshness trigger, means realtime/blogs/news more likely to appear

Exact Match Domains. My sense is (and data suggests, too) exact-match keyword domains still quite powerful. May not be for long though. Quote: “Matt Cutts: Google will be looking at why exact domain matches rank so well” via Exact Match – unless you can build the brand to BE the keyword, e.g. Exact Match Domains taking a hit – saw my first examples in last wk, but not sure if it’s due to other spam signals.

More detailed answer to that question:

@rosshudgens: Matt Cutts said today on Twitter that he was in a meeting today where they talked about EMDs –

- Google Trends and Twitter Trends will 9x out of 10 cause Universal Search.
– Most definitely. If you can either plan for a launch/event OR catch a wave as it’s cresting, you can “skip the SERPs line”.

What methods increase your ability to have multiple images/videos displayed?

Image SEO is very fickle, but alt attribs, well-linked-to page, relevant text surrounding all contribute. Video; more nuanced – video XML sitemaps can play a big role; titles/keyword relevancy, views, clicks may also factor. I’ve seen+heard examples where Mechanical Turk or bot-farm clicks influenced Google, but they’ll take precautions soon if not now.

Age of video is also matter? (3 years ago) Schmidt Obama interview 677K view compared to Web 2.0 247K, Google show Web 2.0.
– Doubt it’s pure age – might be number of clicks/views/links/shares/comments/etc. or other age-correlated factors.

Does universal search give more weight to YouTube than other video platforms?

I think YouTube benefits more today because Google has info on lots of associated data. Rich snippets might help. Google’s algo team is paranoid about appearance of bias, so they may try to compensate more in the future. Best reason to use YouTube is their search volume > Yahoo!. Not neccessarily just because Google’s biasing. It could be temporary.

One of my best pieces of advice on video SEO: Video XML Sitemaps + Vids on your site + Transcripts like = magic! Should also highly recommend Wistia. They make vid xmls for you and have badass vid analytics. e.g.

You guys used Vimeo for a long time for WhiteBoard Friday. Can you tell us reasons why?
– Liked Vimeo’s clean format and longer time allowance, but Wistia’s embed features, XML + stats make it my favorite.

Is universal search more heavily weighted to Google’s properties? Should we use youtube over other video sites?
– Hmmm… I suspect there’s a positive 2nd-order effect with videos on a site helping to earn trust, but doubt it’s direct.

One thing I think Google will do a lot more with is “results from your social circle” is so useful for that #GshouldCopy.

Blog post on Distilled:

Should I self host?
– No need to self-host! So long as you’re src of vid XML, you get the traffic. e.g. I’d host on YouTube and your own site, but use different title/description + send the video XML source from your domain.

What about TubeMogul for syndicating video to many platforms as SEO tool?
– Great point on TubeMogul for syndicating. Just beware of dup content / keyword cannibalization issues. @scottcowley: I’d say use TubeMogul only if you have time to go back and unique-ify your video data afterward. It saves a lot of time.

Have there been any recent changes in universal search? Are they coming?

Definitely seen better accuracy with news/blogs/QDF. Also noticing tons of Maps/Places in results, often poor quality. Google Hotpot sort of makes its way in via Places results (~18% of queries I think?). We did some correlation work on Maps/Places here – @davidmihm’s Local Ranking Factors also rocks.

Do you guys consider shopping results universal?
– Shopping results definitely triggered similarly to other universals, though not as often as might expect.

How has universal search changed SEO? For better or worse.

I believe Universal has changed SEO for the better (mostly). Gives huge opportunity to early adopters of new platforms. Consider startup with few links, little money. They may not rank for tough keywords in first 6 months, but can leapfrog with universal. It’s definitely made it easier for those willing to use new platforms/techs to rank. Universal complexifies SEO, but creates opportunity. As marketers, our job is to understand, participate and optimize.

How To Trigger Universal Elements in the SERPs with Rand Fishkin on #seochat

On Thursday, January 20, 2011 Search Marketing Weekly will be hosting an #seochat on Twitter. Rand Fishkin (@randfish) will be our guest answering questions about How To Trigger Universal Elements in the SERPs.


Starts at 7:00 pm Mountain Time
About 1 hour long
Use hashtag #seochat
Host: Ash Buckles
Questions Answered:

  1. How do you influence images, videos, etc. to show up in universal search?
  2. What methods increase your ability to have multiple images/videos displayed?
  3. Does universal search give more weight to YouTube than other video platforms?
  4. Have there been any recent changes in universal search? Are they coming?
  5. How has universal search changed SEO? For better or worse.

About Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin is the fearless CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz, based in Seattle, WA. He became interested in search marketing in 2002, started attending industry conferences, participated heavily in online forums and eventually began SEOmoz. SEOmoz is a leader in the field of SEO software and throws amazing parties with very creative swag.

Rand is very enthusiastic about online marketing and genuinely wants to understand the data and share his findings.

Rand co-authored the Art of SEO from O’Reilly. He was named on the 40 Under 40 List and 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. He’s been written about in The Seattle Times, Newsweek and the NY Times among others and keynoted conferences on search around the world. He’s particularly passionate about the SEOmoz blog, read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day. In his minuscule spare time, Rand enjoys the company of his amazing wife, Geraldine.

Rand on Twitter
Rand on LinkedIn
Rand on Facebook
Rand on Google

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