You may have noticed that for some searches, Google features a variety of results, such as news, images, and video. These are “blended” or “universal” search results.
They appear because Google takes your search query, runs it through its other search verticals (images, video, news, etc.), and if it finds relevant results, displays them amongst the rest.
These multi-media results also offer you a way to better manage your brand’s image on the search engine results pages (SERPs). As Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine said: “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is.” And by optimizing for blended search, you can capture more listings in the SERPs andmake your own content stand out more.
All major search engines feature image search, video search, and news search. Since they generate blended search results based on what ranks well in each of these search verticals, optimizing for blended search means that you have to have a content strategy for each of these verticals. This means producing and optimizing content in each of these verticals, both onsite and offsite.
Onsite Blended Search Optimization
Your site probably has more than just text on it; it has logos, images, and maybe even video. When the multi-media content on your site is optimized for your brand’s name and keywords, it’s a very strong indicator to search engines that this content is relevant to your brand.
There are two sides to onsite blended search optimization. First, there’s optimizing the content that’s already there, and then there’s producing additional content in these verticals that search engines can index.
There are three things you can do optimize the logos, images, and video that’s already on your site: (1) use keywords in the file names – e.g. name your logo “brand-logo.gif,” (2) use “title” tags to tell search engines the name of that content, and (3) use “alt” attributes to describe the content.
In terms of producing additional content for blended search, you can also add a blog, photo gallery, and/or newsroom if you haven’t already done so. Site features like these offer an opportunity to (1) link to pre-existing multi-media content, and (2) produce additional verticalized content for search engines to index, such as images, news items, and videos.
Offsite Blended Search Optimization
Most search engines will limit how many times a domain can appear in the SERPs. Google, for example, limits domains to two listings per SERP. So it’s necessary to take your blended search strategy offsite, as well.
Fortunately, there are a number of popular online services that allow you to do just that by offering an opportunity to distribute your branded content on their sites. Essentially, individual pages can rank very well when they’re on a very strong domain. So by uploading content to established sites, you can (1) help ensure that that content ranks well for your brand name, and (2) leverage the authority of that domain and link back to your own site from your brand’s profile on that authority domain.
News: The best way to have news results in the SERPs is by getting mainstream news media coverage; but that requires pitching journalists with a “newsworthy” story they care about, and then you have no control over what they write. Alternatively, you can issue press releases through major online newswires. While you should avoid the free newswires, a handful of paid ones offer affordable distribution rates and rank well with Google News.
While PR Newswire also has UK and Canadian portals that can help you geo-target your news results, and specialize in targeting journalist where they work, they are also on the pricier end of the extreme. Meanwhile, PR Web has a range of affordable distribution packages, including an SEO release and a social media visibility package. And TransWorldNews lies on the most affordable end of the extreme, and while your releases might not end up in a newsroom, TransWorldNews is very good at getting your content into Google News.
Images: Your brand can also distribute its branded content on popular photo sharing services such as Flickr and Photobucket. Again, make sure to use appropriate keywords to (1) name all the image files before uploading them, and (2) write tags and image descriptions that feature strategic keywords. You can then also embed these hosted images in your blog posts to give them a bit more relevancy, and use title tags and alt attributes when you do so. Also make sure to add others in your industry as friends so that your account gains added traction.
Video: Optimizing video for blended search is a lot like optimizing images. Simply upload your videos to popular hosting sites, describe and tag them appropriately, and then embed them in your blog posts so that they can get a bit more link juice from a relevant authority – your brand itself. And again, find others in your industry on these sites and add them as contacts.
Social Media: You can also capture added space in the SERPs by setting up branded profiles on popular social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. The catch here is that these profiles shouldn’t be left idle. Aside from not ranking well, idle profiles also reflect poorly on a brand because they’re not being used for what they’re for: being social. This can make your brand seem apathetic and like it “doesn’t get it.”
A Final Touch: make sure to link back to all of your content profiles from your actual site with appropriate anchor text – i.e. “my brand on Twitter.” The sidebar of your blog is a great place to do this, but you can also do so by creating a kind of “community” page on your actual site.
Managing Your Brand’s Search Reputation
Now the first page of search engine results (SERPs) has become ground-zero for managing your brand’s reputation, your brand has to deal with headlines that don’t change on a daily basis. Blended search optimization offers you a powerful way to influence what search engines say about you. It can help you (1) capture more of the listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs), and (2) make your own results more appealing to users.
Overall, in a world where brand’s are less and less in control of their image, blended search optimization can give you a little bit more control.