Web U: Searchology Made Simple

Google's integration of its various engines will redefine relevance

Google's decision in May to roll out "Universal Search," a model that involves combining information from videos, news, Web sites and other sources into one set of search results, has raised more than a few eyebrows. At every search-related conference since Google's announcement, speakers have displayed screenshots of Google search results that show inserted video and news results--all in an effort to frighten us about how little real natural search is now available above the fold. A few pundit-type friends of mine have even published pieces decrying the end of SEO as we know it.

Whoa, Nelly. Rein in those horses just a bit. Has anybody seen search results lately? Yes, that's right--Universal Search at its finest. I dare say it's much nicer and significantly more user-friendly than anything Google has managed to pull together.

Still, one of the biggest concerns most people have right now is how to get video into Google's search results. For the most part, when people talk about video, they're really talking about entertainment. When you look at all those examples getting thrown around at conferences, they're usually search results for top celebrities like Shakira or Madonna.

But there's also a wide array of other, non-entertainment clips online, such as those aimed at people who are searching for, say, cell phones or running shoes. For now, however, those business-to-consumer clips are even harder to find through regular Google results than music or comedic videos.

The dearth of results makes it appear that Google is testing its model with entertainment content. But once the company works the bugs out of its system, we'll likely see video walk-through clips of hotels and homes for sale.

For now, however, Google appears to be focusing on some very specific data in determining which clips to display in the results pages. Consider the top-watched video of all time on YouTube: The Evolution of Dance.

What do we know about this video? It's been viewed 51,227,598 times and people have left 42,918 comments on it. The clip has been favorited 215,268 times, rated 131,212 times, and is tagged comedy dance. The description is as follows: "The funniest 6 minutes you will ever see! Remember how many of these you have done! Judson Laipply is more info including song list!"

As for rankings, it's the top Google result for searches on "evolution of dance," "comedy dance" and "funny dance." It's the No. 2 Google result for a search on "Judson Laipply" (by the way, Google suggests the correct spelling of Laipply for users who type in terms like "Lapply"), and the No. 9 Google result for a search on "6 minutes."

For argument's sake, I applied the same basic analysis to a top video at Metacafe and found similar results, though not quite as strong placement as the YouTube video.

As you push out your videos to the most prominent distribution points--YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe and the like--there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood that Google's Universal Search will find them. You need to title them appropriately and describe them with relevant keywords. Also, you should include a link to your site in the description. And, of course, the video should be inherently interesting enough to get the ratings, views, favorites and links you need to be viewed as relevant by the almighty Google.

Wait a minute--that sounds like regular old SEO. Yep. It really does, doesn't it?

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