Blended Search, it’s everywhere I look
Yahoo unveiled its new mission is to get users from "to do" to "done" in one search today (catchy, eh?) and the blogosphere immediately went into crazed "OMG Google Killer" mode. The first and most developed step in Yahoo’s plan of global search domination is the Search Assist feature.
We first began seeing signs of this last summer and the feature does everything you would expect it to do, working very much the same as Google and Ask.com’s offering (only with more AJAX!). Basically, when a user starts typing, Yahoo will populate a box to offer real-time search suggestions. Take a look at this Halloween-inspired search:
See? Pretty, right?
Yahoo’s update comes in part because research has shown that people don’t search for the fun of it, unless they’re an SEO. Normal users are searching because they’re looking for something. They want to do something and Yahoo is getting out of their way and trying to help them do it. They’ve changed the look and feel of the site, the logo has been moved over, there’s more multimedia (including an inline video player) and user-generated content showing up in the results. It’s clear that blended search is in full bloom over at Yahoo. We like.
If you’re interested Yahoo’s new design, there’s plenty of coverage out there. Go stop by Techmeme and see what the folks are saying. There’s lots of ooh’s and ahh’s.
For me, the importance of Yahoo’s release isn’t necessarily tied into all the new features they’re donning. It’s important because, with Yahoo finally getting on board, it means that each of the top four search engines have now embraced blended search in one way or another. And that’s something everyone needs to pay attention to.
We hear a lot about blended search these days. We hear about how blended results are pushing those "ten blue links" lower onto the page and how we have to protect our position by creating all sorts of multimedia for the engines to index. The conversation is very much focused on the search results and not at all on the site level and how this new content will help users.
To me, that’s a mistake.
I really don’t think the goal of blended search is for every webmaster to go out and buy a video camera, to start adding UGC to their site or to make sure you have an optimized image for every product on your Web site.
Sure, you’re going to hear recommendations to do all that, but I think people are missing the point. What blended search really does for site owners is give them new ways to strengthen the theme of their site by using all these other forms of content to explain what they’re about. Sites aren’t ranking because of all the flashy applications being added to them; they’re ranking better because site owners have been able to better tie together the theme of their site and increase its usefulness and educational quality to users. That’s what the engines are rewarding.
And to me, that’s really what blended search is about. It’s not about getting fragmented media to rank well; it’s about using the new forms of content to strengthen the theme of your site. It’s about enhancing the users experience and making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for. On your Web site, not in the search results.
Look at the "Will It Blend" video. Sure, that video ranked for the highly competitive [iphone] query for awhile (and was damn impressive at the time), but where is that video ranking today? It’s not on that front page anymore, that’s for sure. Those aren’t the kind of videos or media you want to be making.
You want to create and highlight media that’s going to complement your site and tie all of the elements together. The idea is to create great content and then get the content to rank, not the video. If the content is ranking, then that video will stay put on the SERP and users will find you. If it’s just the video that’s ranking, sooner or later it will be gone.
The great thing about blended search is that it’s retraining searchers to utilize the entire SERP. It completely changes that notion of the "golden triangle". Yeah, because a video is showing up on the SERP, it may push your listing below the fold, but I question how much that really matters. Users are being trained to use the entire SERP because there may be new content like blogs or news of images down there. It’s going to encourage scrolling, and as long as you’re on that first page of results, people are going to find you. That’s what’s exciting about this whole “blended" thing.