Optimizing for Universal Search

My previous column on the death of SEO (define) had the usual effect at the vapid pool of disinformation and vanity posts known as Threadwatch.org.

The column had a much greater effect, however, on my colleague and industry doyen, Bruce Clay. Not that he disagreed with what I wrote (though he felt it may have been more revolutionary than evolutionary). But because he’s apparently responsible for coining the phrase “search engine optimization.”

I’ve written many times over the years that the term is more suited as a description of a search-engine engineering function than the intermediate page-tweaking this industry provides. So we’ll just have to amicably agree to disagree on that one, Bruce.

My friend and ClickZ colleague Bryan Eisenberg had a good shot at changing the emphasis to where it should be: on the end searcher, not the search engine. The end searcher is in for a treat as Google progressively rolls out Universal Search. The treat is coming in all manner of additional content. So, yes, the focus is certainly on providing a much richer end searcher experience.

One of my favorite punk-era bands is back together and on tour. I did a search for the jam on Google and was delighted to find not only a Google Music Search result (plus image) at the top of the pile but also two of my favorite videos, which I can play right there on the page.

And Google’s not the only show in town. Ask.com has already made a bold move, and I know both Yahoo and MSN have plans to incorporate additional content in the SERPs (define). However, Google is the biggest and is making some interesting moves. One that I didn’t get a chance to comment on was its acquisition of FeedBurner.

This is great news for not only bloggers but also podcasters. Google will be able to detect (with the tons of analytics and metrics data) which blogs and podcasts (audio and video) have large subscription bases. It could then integrate those elements into the SERPs along with the regular results, just as it’s doing with elements from Google Base and YouTube.

I have a feeling the really rich content sites, such as the 800-CEO-Read bookstore, with its focus on becoming a resource site full of books, blogs, podcasts, and other great editorial content, will become very popular with Google’s Universal Search.

I started a kind of a podcast a while back. I didn’t bother with it much as I didn’t have the time, to be honest. But when I did manage to throw something together, that’s exactly how it happened. I didn’t give any form of optimization a thought. But now that I’m due to relaunch (largely due to the Google-FeedBurner deal), I’ll go to great lengths to ensure it’s optimized.

An RSS 2.0 document used for syndicating blogs and podcasts contains a single statement. This is the place to load with keywords and information relating to the content.

Similar to an HTML page, the podcast has a title tag. The text here explains exactly what’s inside the podcast, that is, the subject matter. There’s a link entry where you can place a link back to your Web site. There’s also a description entry, which, much like your title, gives you an opportunity to give a short, keyword-rich content overview.

Perhaps the most important entry at the channel level is . This tag indicates the last time the feed was updated (the publication date). Fresh content, particularly in blogs and podcasts, counts for an awful lot. Be sure to change the so your new content doesn’t appear stale. And now that Google is including so many images in the SERPs, you can leverage that opportunity by including an image tag.

With my first go at podcasting, I didn’t bother with any of that. But it will definitely be worth the bother as SEO evolves and the SERPs become more of a multimedia experience.

Information retrieval on the Web is evolving rapidly. And SEO (even with the misnomer) must evolve as well. These are very interesting times indeed.

By the way, if you hadn’t considered podcasting (audio or video) and this column has you thinking about it, pop over to Podcasting News, where you’ll find a neat tutorial on getting started.

Finally, I’m researching a column on latent semantic indexing (LSI). I’d really like to get some feedback from anyone who’s bought into an SEO package with LSI optimization or reference to LSI built into it. I’d like to know what you got (or are getting) for your money.

Or perhaps you just know some SEO firm Web sites suggesting they can optimize around LSI. Along with my dear friend and colleague Edel Garcia, I’d like to expose some of the nonsense written about LSI. And hopefully, for the last time, dispel some of the many myths that abound.

Join us for SES Travel on July 26-27, in Seattle, WA.

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