Ian Lurie // Jan 13 2009
I’ve decided to write a series of articles about how search results work. This may seem absurdly basic, so try this test: If I say “blended search”, and the first thing you think of is a margarita, then you need to read this series.
Search results pages (SERPs, to us geeks) have changed a lot in the last few years. Search results used to be pretty straightforward:
Easy. The column on the left are your ‘organic’ or ‘unpaid’ or ‘natural’ results. You can’t bribe Google into rejiggering those results to improve your ranking. The same is now mostly true of Yahoo! and the other major players (it wasn’t always, though). The column on the right are the sponsored ads, aka Adwords, where you bid for your position.
Now, though, Google, Yahoo! and company have all decided to throw all sorts of stuff into the mix:
What the heck?! Now you’ve got a few images at the top, a video in the middle and even some related news results at the bottom of the page. Where’d all that come from?
Some companies call it universal search. Others call it blended search. Others call it whatever phrase they think will most boost their stock price. Regardless, it’s been around a couple years now, and it’s not going away.
The goal, aside from higher stock prices, is to deliver the most relevant content to searchers regardless of the type.
Not as many as I do, but a lot.
Most search engines aren’t actually a single engine. Instead, they’re a big jumbled pile of content that’s crawled and indexed (more about those terms tomorrow) by type. Google’s actually a bunch of engines:
Each of the options you see there are separate blobs of content — video, news, blogs, etc. — organized and ranked using subtly different algorithms. Google includes, at a minimum:
These separate search tools are great, if you know you want an image, or a video, or a bit of news. But if you’re just looking for the most relevant information, you probably don’t care what format it’s in.
So Yahoo!, Google, Ask, Microsoft and all the other hangers-on decided to create universal search and mush it all together.
When you perform a search on any of the big 3 search engines, they do this (or something like it):
That’s how it works, in a very tiny nutshell.
If you’re in internet marketing, you need to consider universal search because:
Universal search is important, OK? I’ll be spending a few more days on this. Topics for the next week are:
If you have other suggestions for topics, let me know. Talk to you tomorrow…
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More