Google's steady rollout of universal search continues to fascinate and thrill me. It's the most exciting thing that's happened in search to date. The opportunities to make all manner of file types and media available to Google so it can provide the end searcher with a much richer experience in a combination of results is a major step forward.
In the not-too-distant future, however, it could cause a serious conflict for marketers. Increasingly, I see these multimedia results for queries appearing in the organic results. So what happens when I'm running a PPC (define) campaign, bidding on a keyword costing me anything from $0.25 to $25 a click on the right side of the page, while my competitor's video, podcast, blog images, and the like appear for free on the left?
I can't imagine any advertiser being thrilled about paying for a little blue box with a tiny amount of text, while his competitor has his promotional video pushing everything else on the page below the fold while it's playing right in the middle of the SERP (define).
A search for "dove beauty workshop" on Google brings the immensely popular Dove Evolution advert right to the top three results, just below Dove's own Campaign for Real Beauty site.
Click that video result and Dove entirely owns the organic side of the page. And with total views now somewhere in the millions, you could say it's a pretty popular result (if you haven't seen it, you must; it really is a thought-provoking ad).
In June, I saw a presentation by a Yahoo rep about the U.K. Panama rollout. I raised an eyebrow when I heard him say something along the lines of, "We could tie other results together with our paid results, such as video, news results, and other media." This was the same week Google announced universal search, by the way.
And I seem to remember a quote from Google's Marissa Mayer about how she thought Google's ads were also good content for the end searcher about the same time she announced universal search, though I'm a little hazy about that. (If you search for "marissa" on Google, you'll see a row of images of her at the top of the pile. Yes, she has her own universal result. Anyone know what's going on in the last pic?)
All this had me thinking it would be a logical move for search engines to actually switch the results around and have paid where organic used to be and vice versa. Crazy? Maybe.
But do a search at Google for "bourne ultimatum," and tell me that first paid result (clearly marked as a Google Promotion) is not on the left side.
There's a statistic I got from somewhere some time ago: only about 20 percent of searches are commercial. Yes, something like 80 percent of searches are informational/research type searches, such as this one for the "history of cookies." There's not a single ad in sight. You could surmise that those people making commercial searches are very happy to see commercial results. Perhaps even happier if they see them tied to video, blogs, podcasts, news, local, stock quotes, images, and the like.
And you could also surmise that people making those commercial/transactional type searches wouldn't be at all bothered if the usual list of 10 blue organic links appeared on the right side of the page.
Some of this may seem to SEO (define) purists a little as if I've going all heretic again (or whatever my detractors usually say). But it's not such a crazy notion as you may think. Or is it?
Maybe the rules could be about to change again, quite dramatically. Who knows?
I have a voracious appetite for books. And I'm very fortunate that I get many books sent to me for review, both on marketing and information retrieval. However, when you have up to 12 books at a time waiting to be reviewed, it's very difficult to know which to choose first.
One book that's been sitting on my desk waiting for my attention is David Meerman Scott's "The New Rules of Marketing and PR." And I feel very guilty for not picking it up sooner. For any search marketer scratching her head about how to deal with Google's universal search and anything else the search engines throw at us, this is the book for you.
With a forward by Robert Scoble, it's packed full of advice on how to use news releases, blogs, podcasting, and online media to reach buyers. I read it cover to cover. Somewhere in the middle, Scott declares (in case you hadn't figured it by then) that it's actually a book about search engine marketing.
If you're going to enter the arena of universal search, make sure you're armed with this book. In fact, I don't recommend that all search marketers read it. I almost insist.
Meet Mike at SES San Jose on August 20-23, in San Jose, California.
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Mike Grehan is Publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ and Producer of the SES international conference series. He is the current president of global trade association SEMPO, having been elected to the board of directors in 2010.
Formerly, Mike worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies, handling such global clients as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Mike came online in 1995 and is author of numerous books and white papers on the subject. He is currently in the process of writing his new book "From Search To Social: Marketing To The Connected Consumer" to be published by Wiley in 2013.
March 19, 2014