Universal Search – Strategize Your Way to the Top

While we all work to beat the competitors for targeted search terms, hoping to land that top ten ranking; Google’s Universal search provides additional opportunities to increase your website’s exposure by mixing in universal search results.

Most companies are not taking full advantage of universal search and are really missing the opportunity to increase their exposure and interact with their visitors in a new exciting way. We’ll show you how you can utilize Universal Search to push your website to the top of the search results and drive more traffic to your website with this exciting addition to Google Search.

Introduction to Google’s Universal Search

While Google offers up the paid search results via Google Adwords and organic search results within the center of their search results page; they are now mixing in other types of results in attempt to give visitors a taste of everything that is related to their search. This includes:

• Products (Google Product Search)
• News (Google News)
• Images (Google Image Search)
• Blogs (Google Blogs)
• Geo-targeted Business Listings (Google Maps)
• Video (Google Video)

Benefits of Universal Search

For visitors, the benefits of universal search are that they can see various types of results without having to leave the organic search results page. Another benefit is that it breaks up the page adding images, video still shots and information in a way that is appealing.

For site owners, there are quite a few benefits. First, there are now multiple ways to have your products and services listed on the 1st or 2nd page of Google.

Second, if visitors did not select your organic listing, they may select your image, blog or business listing; offering more opportunities to obtain targeted visitors to your website.

And finally, some Universal Search results are bumped ahead of the organic listings. If your website is listed in the #12 spot on page two and you just can’t get your site to the 1st page, you may be able to have your images, videos or products listed above the organic results for specific search terms.

Users Intent

If you searched for the word “Apple” using Google in 1999, you were presented with various types of informational websites; discussing the various types of apples, how to use them in recipes and other great apple related information. But over time, people who typed in “Apple” would complete their search and then run another search for “Apple computers”. As this trend continued to happen, Google’s Algorithm learned that a trend was emerging. Most visitors who typed in the word Apple were looking for computers, not fruit.

Now when you type in “Apple” into Google, you are presented with the Macintosh Apple website, websites that review Apple computers and e-commerce stores where you can purchase an Apple computer. Google’s focus is to not only provide searchers with relevant search queries based on their search term, but to emulate the thought process that is derived from the search term itself.

Universal Search Example

When a searcher enters a query, Google’s artificial intelligence attempts to understand what the visitor may want to see before returning the search results. They have come to learn that when a visitor types in a brand name or a product, that searchers may want to:

  • See Photos of the Product
  • Read Product Reviews
  • Purchase The Product
  • Research The Product

In an attempt to give the visitor what they want they try to return the types of results related to the users intent.

To use Universal Search to your advantage, you must understand the user’s intent when they type in the search terms related to your website. The best way to see which universal search products are being used for your search terms is to search them within Google. Once you enter the search query, above the search results in the top left area of the screen you will see a listing for the products pulled into the results.

For example, if I enter the search query “red scarf” I see the following Google Products listed at the top left area of the screen:

  • Web
  • Shopping
  • Images

Essentially this means that Google attempted to pull in (web) organic search results, Google Product Search and Google Images.

The Strategy

Creating a strategy to increase your rankings through Universal Search can allow you to locate opportunities that your competitors missed; giving you more exposure and targeted traffic.

In the example of the “red scarf”, you will notice that although Google attempted to pull in images, there aren’t any images displayed within the results. This essentially means that you could possibly receive a listing on the 1st page of Google via Google Images if you optimize your images and submit an Image Map through Google Webmaster Central. Additionally, you can upload your red scarves to Google Base to get them listed within the Google Shopping results.

Now if you visit the second page of results, you’ll see that they are now showing different universal search results.

• Web
• Video
• Images

Towards the top of the results you will see 1 video; however in most searches where videos are in the results, you will usually see two. This indicates that you could potentially have a video listed towards the top of the second page. As you continue to view the remaining results on page two you will again notice that you don’t see any photos on page two; another opportunity to gain exposure over your competitors.

Once you have completed this type of research and analysis for the keywords important to your website, begin creating and optimizing your shopping feeds, videos, images, blog posts and other universal search products to gain the competitive advantage before your competitors do.

Optimizing Images

You can increase the chances of your images showing up for relevant search queries by optimizing your images. There are a few key areas that will help improve your ability to increase rankings for your images in Google Image Search, as well as where images are shown in Google Search.

Although these tips are for Google Images, these examples can be used throughout various areas of your website; to improve all of your universal search results.

File Names – Give your images accurate names rather than defaulting to what your camera or image editor provides. If the image is of a cashmere red scarf, then consider naming our image cashmere-red-scarf.jpg. This help to further classify the image and show relevancy to the search terms you are targeting.

Image Alt Attribute – Ensure that you have provided a quality description for your images using the image alt attribute. Try using product colors, sizes, materials, brand names, textures, manufacturer names etc. Remember not to overdo it, but provide an accurate description of the product to assist with increasing relevancy for desired search terms.

Captions – Include a caption for your image that describes or relates to the product. The text that surrounds the image helps Google to understand the subject matter of the image.

Anchor Text – The text you use when linking to the image helps to describe and classify the image. Try using descriptive anchor text rather than words such as “click here”, “larger image” or “more photos” when describing the link.

Google Image Labeler – While you can do your part in helping to optimize your images, you can also increase your chances of having your images appear in Google Image Search by allowing others to help classify your images through Google’s Image Labeler. By simply enabling the Google Image Labeler from the Google Webmaster Console, you allow Image Labeler users to provide words and phrases they believe accurately describe your images in a fun online game. As users are shown images from your website, they type in a few words they feel accurately describe the photo, which is later used to further classify the subject matter of your image.


Google has provided many new opportunities for you to reach searchers in the ways they want to be reached. Search engine optimization has been taken to another level; it’s no longer about who has the most number of pages, the best density; or who has the most inbound links. It is about who is utilizing the all their available opportunities.

Almost every aspect of your website is being analyzed and classified; use it to your advantage. Now is the time to take advantage of these opportunities and increase your visibility in every area of universal search; allowing you to increase your traffic and exposure in new and exciting ways.

Organizing Website Content Navigation for SEO

If you have 300 newsletters that you’ve written that directly relate to the topics within your website, then the newsletter articles should be readily available from the other pages that relate to that topic. More often than not, they are only available by a link that says “Newsletters” and then the links to the newsletters have textual links that look like “March 2007 Newsletters”.

This can often be missed by a visitor who could have actually found this information to be of value. Still worse, it might also be missed by the search engine robots who would have found additional content to support your targeted phrases had your navigation been laid out a bit better.

Anthing that supports your targeted keyword phrases adds value and can result in an increase in rankings. In this scenario, you could be missing out on added value that might be given to your website by the search engines simply because your navigation is set up improperly.

Site Navigation

Just as there are different ways people search for the same products online, there are different ways that people may look for something within your site. You may feel that your navigation works well for everyone but this simply is not always the case.

Many times customer service reps field calls where an online searcher states that they “can’t find such-and-such on your site”. Although the rep may feel it’s a no-brainer, they fail to hear themselves when they respond “go to ‘x’, then click on ‘y’, then look for ‘z’ and you’ll find it under the ‘m’ category”.

If this is occuring with your clients then you have an issue with your website’s navigation that needs to be corrected. Look at how your navigation is set up. Did you group your products and information together by a a topical category such as:
•    High Heel Shoes
•    Tennis Shoes
•    Golf Shoes

Or did you group them by the types of people who buy them?
•    Womens Shoes
•    Mens Shoes
•    Kids Shoes
The latter grouping could mean that your visitors will have to click on the multiple links to find what they want. In the following example, the product they want is four clicks down from the home page:
•    Home Page
–  Womens Shoes
– Dress Shoes
– High Heels
– Red ¼ Inch Leather Pumps
That form of navigation may seem natural, however many visitors do not want to click 4 links to find what they want. And neither do the search engines!

Google’s guidelines (and this is a good rule of thumb) say that your pages should be able to be reached by 1 to 2 clicks from the home page. Otherwise pages that are more deeper down than 2 clicks are more likely to not be indexed.

The more popular your site is and the longer it is around (the more history it has) may help to get those pages indexed but that isn’t going to help you now.

A quick solution would be to just leave that form of navigation in place; but consider adding a new navigation within your actual content area. Often times the quickest way to do this is through “bread-crumbs”.

Bread Crumbs

If you don’t know what a bread crumb is take a look below:

Where You Are:  Shoe Store>>High Heels >> Red ¼ Inch Leather Pumps

If you’ve ever seen this in a site, this is a breadcrumb.  It is a quick navigational bar that allows visitors to see what category they are in, but it also allows search engines to get deeper into your content with 1 to 2 clicks from the home page.  It also allows you to go back to the main category page or home page with just one click.

These types of breadcrumbs can be added to your pages easily and is a lot easier than reconstructing your left navigation.

SEO Content

For the busy shopper this removes a few clicks to find what they want.  It also makes it easier for the search engines to get to the content further down within your site.

Another reason for this is that to you, it may make perfect sense for your pages to be linked by the people who use them (mens shoes, womens shoes, kids shoes) but the search engines are looking for the concept and relation to the concept.

Once you do this, you need to ensure that your category pages are easy for everyone to find what they are looking for.  So lets say your home page looked something like this:
Webpage Optimization

Is it boring?  Maybe!  A good designer can possibly dress it up however they like. The main point is that the core elements are here and easily accessible by the search engines and your visitors.
If you want images, backgrounds or more stylish fonts, you can do whatever you need to make it your own but the concept remains the same.
Below is an example for someone who is looking to buy gym shoes (tennis shoes, sneakers, court shoes… whatever one likes to call them).

Category Page Example

With this example a man’s sneaker, a woman’s sneaker and a kid’s sneaker are all still a sneaker when all is said and done.  Having a page for sneakers that then breaks down by who wears them would also help the engines identify the relationship between your products.  An example would be:

Now if you look closely you could probably find many different types of navigation’s in place;

  • a header nav
  • a footer nav
  • a center nav
  • a left nav
  • and the original left nav

The purposes for these distinctly different navs is simply called ease of use, or accessibility.

Why should your visitor have to go click the back button to find what they want; here they can to the home, check their cart, click woman’s shoes and select from high heels or hiking boots. The concept is simple but so hard for some to grasp. This not only makes it easier for visitors to find what they want quickly, but this also helps the search engines find the information they want quickly.

If your website is not setup like this that’s okay; you can actually create additional pages that help to open up your site; you may find that it also increases your sales.  Remember that your site should continue to grow.

Take that one step further; allow your site to grow as your knowledge of what works online grows.
Often times people learn something new that they feel could help catapult their website, however they often feel that they should just dump their site and build a new one.  There is no need to dump your old or existing website; simply implement what you’ve learned into your existing site and move ahead.

Next post: Optimizing the web page

LSI & Artificial Intelligence Behind Google’s Algorithm

In order to attempt to understand how Google’s algorithm works and how LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) is applied, you need to first understand where it all comes from.

These concepts may sound strange at first but once you start putting it all together it begins to make a lot more sense.

First and foremost Google is using artificial intelligence (AI) and linguistics within their algorithm.  The whole purpose is for the search engine to learn and adapt based on engineering and computer sciences.

Think about the evolution of video games over the past twenty years. Compare the Atari system of 1983 to the X-box of 2006 and you’ll see a great example of how the use of artificial intelligence has matured over time.

Just like popular gaming systems the search engines are also evolving by communicating, adapting and learning with its users.  Google’s algorithm is using artificial intelligence to communicate with its searchers, learn from its results and queries and adapt to become more intelligent over time.

The best way to achieve top search engine rankings, particularly in Google, is to communicate, learn and adapt… doesn’t this sound familiar?

In order to communicate, you simply need to stay informed.  In order to stay informed, you need to become aware of how Artificial Intelligence works through concepts such as latent semantic indexing, natural language processing, ontology and synonymy. Once you are aware you will be well positioned to determine how to learn and to adapt.

Google’s Artificial Intelligence

LSI helps the search engine to understand the intent of the users query in order to return relevant information and results.

There are various forms of artificial intelligence being used in Google’s algorithm; to provide better, more accurate search results to their visitors.  This includes grouping and categorizing their database based on language, geography, topics, relation to other pages and more. This is determined by an artificial intelligence called Ontology.

What is Ontology?

Ontology within computer science and applied to latent semantic indexing; is when data can be used to identify relationships such as apple to computer, vs. apple to pie.  This allows Google to ensure they do not show computer related sites when someone searches apple pie and visa versa.

The Difference Between Synonymy and Polysemy

Search engines use artificial intelligence to determine which synonyms and polysemes apply to your site.  When synonymy is used within your site, it helps to build the relevance of your pages for specific phrases.  The use of polysemes within your pages lowers the relevance of your page for specific phrases.

What is Synonymy?

Synonymy (multiple words with the same meaning) Google has identified specific phrases they consider synonyms; these synonyms are then considered the same and are counted towards your density and frequency for a specific phrase.  An example would be if you used the word car, auto, automobile, and vehicle in your page.  Your keyword count would be 4 for the search “car” and would be more relevant than if you used car and cars as your keyword phrases.

What is Polysemy?

Polysemy (single words with multiple meanings) also called homographs.  Polysemes create potential issues with relevancy; when polysemes are used, Google relies more heavily on the surrounding content and the context in which the phrase is used to determine what the synonyms are.

An example of this would be the use of the phrase “vehicle”.

If you use the phrase vehicle to describe your motorcycles for sale, you will be considered less relevant. Why?

Vehicle is a polysemy and synonyms for vehicle have been determined as auto, car, automobile and automotive.  Therefore you would need to use phrases such as Honda, Suzuki, Bike, Harley-Davidson and cycle; which are predefined synonyms for motorcycle to be more relevant.

The Google Neural Network

Neural Networks is pattern recognition used in Google algorithm to help identify what is considered natural patterns, verses unnatural patterns.

The pattern of what is considered a natural pattern is compiled on a per keyword basis across all trust rank websites and top ten websites showing up for that particular phrase.  A bell curve is then created of what is an acceptable and natural pattern that is applied to the neural network pattern recognition area within Google’s algorithm.

With LSI, ontology allows them to build concepts and relationships through words and phrases. In order to use ontology and apply it to LSI, they must create and determine which words are synonymies and which are polysemes.

Data Clustering and Classification

When determining what search results are relevant, it would run through the database of synonyms and ensure all are included; then run through the list of polysemes and ensure they are all removed.

This process is called data clustering and classification.

The end result being search results determined through information retrieval with latent Symantec indexing applied and an attempt to ensure the most relevant results being shown.

Most people think Google uses a stemming technology; however they opted to use n-gram models which have proven more effective for word matching, sequence matching and comparisons. In September, Google made their n-gram database public; which is now powered by one trillion words that they have gathered from public web pages.  N-gram models help Google’s algorithm to identify words that are dependent of one another, or words that are often times found together to complete a phrase.

The database is available for purchase at the Linguistic Data Consortium.

1st on the List has been a leading search engine optimization services company since 1997, providing professional SEO consulting services to clients throughout the United States and Canada.

For more information about 1st on the List search engine optimization services call Toll Free at 1-888-262-6687 or email our SEO Consultants.

Keeping Your Web Pages Out of Google’s Omitted Results

Now that you have identified why your web pages were moved to Google’s omitted results and how to correct the problem; it’s time to ensure that you keep them out.  Below are a few good pointers for moving forward and keeping your web pages out of Google’s Omitted Results.

  1. If you use a Dynamic Web Template (DWT) either from Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver, it is imperative that you set an editable region within the <head></head> section. Once this is done, insure that you have your title, meta description and meta keyword tags within that editable region. This will ensure that you have the ability to provide unique titles, meta descriptions and meta keywords to each web page.
  2. Always use your domain name when linking to your home page.  Often times websites use index.htm, ./, #, or some variation of this to link to their home page.  Keep your home page linking unified.  This will ensure that you do not end up with a couple of home pages listed in Google and what may look like duplicate content.
  3. If you have a content management system that automatically creates titles or meta descriptions for you, chances are it may replicate the same title tag or description across various pages within your site. Ask your web designer to ensure that you can have unique titles and meta descriptions for each page. This may require a few extra database fields to be created, but it is well worth it.
  4. Utilize your robots.txt file to purposely remove content that you feel is low quality, duplicated or was created for visitors (such as log in pages, checkout pages, privacy statements etc.).

Remember, if your goal is to gain the most of your search engine exposure, your pages have to show up in the results.  Ensuring your pages are truly search engine friendly will provide you with one of the highest return on investments possible.  Continually watch over your site and check Google’s omitted results to ensure you are helping to provide a high quality visitor experience for all users.

Finally, be sure to sign up for a Google Webmaster Console account, it is fast and simple and can provide you with a wealth of information pertaining to problematic areas within your website; and help keep you out of Google’s omitted results!


Why Web Pages End Up In Google’s Omitted Results

Are omitted pages within Google’s search results preventing your website from gaining the organic search engine exposure that you deserve on Google?

In order to maximize your search engine rankings you need to have content (web pages) that are recognized by the search engines. Each of those pages has the potential to rank within the search engines and bring traffic through the search engines. When you have pages that are omitted from the search results then those pages cannot work for you and are unavailable for visitors to find.

Why Are Web Pages Omitted From Google?

One of the main reasons why Google omits certain pages from their search results is to ensure that multiple pages that are mostly the same do not inundate their results.

From a visitor’s perspective, imagine how it would be if you clicked on 10 pages and found that they were all the same variation of the same content; that would be quite boring. If this happened to you each time search results were delivered to you, it is likely that you may decide to complete your searches elsewhere.

In many cases it is fairly easy to correct the problem with omitted pages, as they are usually attributed to webmaster / site owner oversights. Omitted results are in no way considered a penalty, but they can be detrimental in the way that they limit your abilities to gain the exposure your website deserves.

How Do You Check If Your Pages Are Being Omitted?

One really easy way to check if your pages are being omitted is to use Google’s advanced search operator and check what Google says is being included and being omitted.

Below are the steps to check if your pages are being omitted:

  1. Go to Internet Explorer (or any browser) and in the address bar type in
  2. When the Google Search Field is present, type in (replace with your actual website domain).  Select the search button.
  3. When the results show up, look at the top right grey bar which indicates the total number of results (something like 1 of 10 of about xxx from
  4. At the bottom of the page is a list of numbers representing 10 results from your site, keep selecting the last number to get to the last set results Google is showing. If you get to the end of the results and see a message “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to xxx already displayed.  If you like you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.” then you indeed have omitted results.  If you do not see this message then all of your web pages are being indexed properly.

Reasons Why Your Pages May Be Omitted

Now that you have determined whether or not you have pages that are being omitted, it is time to figure out why your pages are being omitted from Google. Select the text link that allows you to review the omitted results.  You will now be presented with all the pages within your website that have been indexed by Google.

Below are the steps to take to locate the reason why pages are being omitted:

  1. Look at the title tag
  2. Look at the text snippet / description provided
  3. Look at the URL

After you have looked at these areas determine if you see any similarities between them.  Here are the most common problems that cause web pages to be omitted from Google’s results that typically come up in our SEO Site Audits:

  • Title Tag replicated across multiple pages
  • Meta Description tag replicated across multiple pages
  • Title Tag has no meaning to the content within the page
  • Meta Description tag does not accurately represent the content within the page
  • Multiple pages within the site have the same content
  • Multiple pages have minimal content within them to be considered unique
  • Pay Per Click landing pages have accidentally been indexed
  • Low quality pages have been indexed
  • Content Within the site has multiple URL’s

Getting Your Pages Back into Google’s Search Results

If you have spotted the possible reasons why your pages are being omitted from Google’s results, you need to take the time to correct these areas in order to begin gaining better exposure.  Below are a few tips on how to correct these problematic areas:

  • Ensure that each page within your website has a unique title tag
  • Ensure that each page within your website has a unique meta description tag
  • Ensure that you have not replicated a large portion of your page content across many pages within your website.
  • Ensure that your Pay Per Click landing pages are marked “Noindex” or placed within a folder that is disallowed / excluded via the robots.txt file.

Ensure that all pages within your website are created with good quality content…any pages that are created for the visitors and are not good representations of what your site’s theme and content is about should be removed via the “Noindex” or via the robots.txt file

Continue reading Part 2 of this Post: Keeping Your Pages Out of Omitted Results – Tips on Omitted Pages

If after this tutorial you still need assistance in getting your web pages indexed and ranking well you can fill out this Contact Form and have our SEO consultants take a look at your website. You can also contact us Toll Free at 1-888-262-6687 or send us an email.

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