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Will You Blend? Take Advantage of Mixed Media SERPs

Will You Blend

For better or for worse, mixed media or “blended” search results pages are probably here to stay. If you assume that raw authority is going to guarantee you a first page result  for a hot news story or push down a viral video that’s harmful to your brand, you should probably just quit now think again. Will you blend?

For those of us who consider mixed media SERPs as potential opportunities, SES Chicago 2009 put together a fantastic panel of experts with tips on using the blended results to ours & our clients advantage. Whether you are promoting a product, selling a service, or protecting a person’s online reputation, the Mixed Media SERPs session gave away some absolute golden advice.

Moderating the session was SES advisory board Member Andrew Goodman. Up first was Larry Cornett, VP of Yahoo Search.

An Overview Yahoo! Search Mixed Media SERPs
When Larry thinks about search, he’s thinking about little door ways to sites on the web. Clicking on a link is like opening a door. About a week and a half ago Yahoo launched a universal header to guide & blend data, even before the search page

Shaq Diesel

Yahoo are also bringing quicklinks & data into the universal search header. On the SERPs themselves, Yahoo is pulling in a diverse array of sources. Larry shows a SERPs for Black Eyed Peas (for some reason) images, music, data (Wikipedia) & deeplinks complementing algorithmic results. Yahoo also uses blending in their image & video search as well. With search monkey, Yahoo is also blending at the search result level with user reviews, photos etc.

In regards to ads, Yahoo wants to have more of a brand advertising experience rather than just text based. This includes thumbnail images, video results, additional links.

Blending is also going on within Yahoo’s various applications. During a query, Yahoo is deciding whether you’re doing  full-on research or just a lookup & they are changing the types of information displayed in the SERPs – apps like Search Pad, even Twitter or Facebook options may appear.

What is the Value of Mixed Media SERPs?
It’s a more comprehensive experience. Is the query for a breaking news story, an athlete or a product? We don’t always know what a user wants, so we need to make it easier to help the user to get what they “might” want. Yahoo also thinks their use of blended mixed media SERPs are good for SEO’s, offering more unique opportunities to rank and engage users.

Questions Blurted Out for Larry Cornett, Outside of the Structured Q & A Session
Q: Are video thumbnails in blended results going to be a optimization opportunity?

Larry: We actually do video playback on the search page, which is a little bit different than you’ll find in other search experiences. How that gets ranked and featured depends on the SEO.

Speaking next was Matt Siltala, founder of Dream Systems Media

Mixed Media SERPs- What’s Your Angle?
If you’re not taking advantage of these mixed media opportunities you’re not helping your brand. The straight ten normal algorithmic results, that’s not the way it is anymore. Whether you love it or hate it, blended search doesn’t seem to be going away. This is an important opportunity for brands.

What is Mixed media?
Matt used Andy Beal’s example of a recent good example of mixed media – just look at a Google search result for Tiger Woods. Half of the results are mixed media.

How Does this Help Me?
You want to know about what your customers are looking for, when to use blended results and how to use them properly, right? Research your audience first – use Yahoo answers, local review sites, Flickr -  just a few avenues for research.

Find out what people are asking questions about: What are they looking for review on? For blogs posts on?  For videos on? Use this to advise what content you create to serve users in the mixed media SERPs. Matt types a few queries into Yahoo answers to get ideas for content, for videos, images – cool tactic.

With shopping results, you should look at the networks that products show up in blended & join them. With press results, do a competitive intelligence on where your competitors get press & then go after those outlets.

Pay attention to review sites in the SERPs. It’s important to tell customers where to send their testimonies, just as important as asking in the first place. (Do not fake reviews!!!)

Taking the podium next was Dave Naylor, owner of Bronco Internet.

Blended Search Results in the UK
Are blended results proactive or non-active? Look at a keyword terms like “Guns”, you can’t PPC this. How do I get on the first page of Google, when there’s Wikipedia there, there’s a video there, there’s local gun shop results there? The organics don’t actually start until way down the fold.

Blended Search Pro – Blended search enhances user experience, and it’s good if you’re trying for a term like “Guns”.

Blended Search Cons – Dave says he had a client crying because he lost 25% of his clickthrough after his site became part of local search. Ouch.

Some Blended Search Strategies
Create a Google News sitemap, an about page, submit it &  then cross your fingers. Dave says he’s gotten into Google News so many times it’s ridiculous.(Matt note: actually that’s very impressive)

Get in Google Local Listings. Simply fill in your form to add your local business listing. Ensure you add as many categories and make sure you get reviews (even if you pay for them).

Create a product feed and upload to Google Base. This will help your products show up in search results. He finds this to be very effective for long tail results.

Youtube Videos – Dave hates these, his achille’s heel. For him it’s very hit and miss, hard to get consistent results with video. He generally likes to embed the video on the website and send a lot of traffic or post it as a response to other videos.

Image Results – His top traffic term is an image result and it doesn’t have anything to do with SEO. Make sure you add alt text and that the image links to an image actually. He’s also found that many people who come to his site via images do not convert, they’re at a different stage in that cycle.

Dave note’s that blended searches are inconsistent, your CTR’s are likely to fluctuate a lot.

Query Deserves Freshness
Tiger Woods was a perfect example of QDF. This allows certain keywords that are trending to be updated in realtime. This makes rankings difficult and temporary but the newer your content, the higher it ranks.

Query Deserves Diversity
With the research model (something like “guns”) you’re not going to get QDF unless there’s a big story. You will see a mix of information, commercial, pages, news, blogs, images, videos. Google will promote alternative things to the front even if they don’t “rank” high.

Up next was Mark Knowles, president of Pixelsilk

Fear & Opportunity
Mixed Media/Universal search is becoming more prevalent all the time. Right now, do a search for “New Moon” and you get theatre, news, image & video blended results.

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