Adapting To Google’s Universal Search

Before we go further, the bottom line. Specific to link building and link driven content publicity, the roll-out of Google Universal Search should not cause you to make any drastic changes in how you go about building links for your content.

However, it is worth looking at a couple aspects of the Universal Search results that may provide an opportunity for links that may not have been so obvious before.

Danny wrote an in-depth article on Google Universal Search that’s worth re-reading, and noted that Google Universal Search simply means your rankings may (or may not) drop from one to three positions in the organic results, since the searcher could be given results with new choices of content that until now had been more separated from Google’s core web search results. In other words, depending on what you are searching for, Google may include additional results from a number of other datasets they have, from blogs to books to images to videos to maps to products.

The knee-jerk SEO/SEM response will be a mad scramble to optimize for blogs, books, images, videos, maps, products, and any other datasets Google includes in hopes of showing up within the universal results. That’s fine, but to be honest, the better SEO/SEM/Link Builders/Content Publicists have been doing this for years and will now be rewarded for those efforts. Those who haven’t will have to play catch-up.

From a pure link building perspective, there are two core bits of advice I’d give. First, continue to seek links from high trust venues that are a logical natural match for your content. Why? Because Google uses these just as before to determine relevancy, and if your site is deemed relevant, it has a better chance of “sticking” to page one results rather than being bumped in favor of something else. Just because a video has been optimized for your search term does not mean it will automatically appear and shove you down the results. Anyone can optimize a vertical, so credibility, trust and links matter more than ever.

Second, take a look at this list of all Google’s vertical search boxes. Look at the individual databases (Web, Images, Groups, News, etc.), and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I have content that fits the subject/focus of any of these vertical databases? If you do, look at each individual database and identify the process for inclusion. For example, Google Video inclusion is pretty simple. If you don’t have content that fits the subject/focus of any of these databases, the question becomes 2. Does it makes sense to create the content to fit the vertical?

Remember, creating content just to fit a vertical is meaningless unless that content earned or earns some degree of trust, in the form of links, that will earn it a spot in the Universal Search results. Look at these Universal results for the term “mitosis“. See those images? Click on any of them and follow them to the source web site. The source web sites themselves are trusted in that topic. If I put an image of cell mitosis on the site in hopes of ranking for it, I’d be pretty stupid. Sure, I could do it, and I could even link to it from the three Pagerank 7 sites I own, but none of them have anything to do with mitosis, so why do it? I won’t rank for that term and I shouldn’t.

As a link builder the goal should be to identify the appropriate verticals, request inclusion, and pursue trusted links for that content as well as all content on your site. This is what I called holistic linking seven years ago. Depending on your site’s content and features, you may have many linkable content elements beyond your home-page URL.

Holistic linking is the smart linker’s response to Universal Search.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Week Column


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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  • smedia

    Great post Eric.

    Google Universal Search is just another way to make Google’s search results more relevant for users. The better search engine marketers have known that optimizing multiple relevant datasets pays off in the long run.


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