Google has just sent us details of a series of updates to their interface and algorithm, as they move towards what they call a “universal search model”.
With Google’s universal search, every time you conduct a search, Google checks across all of its search properties – web, image, video, news etc – and presents a single unified results page, that incorporates the most relevant content.
At first, universal search results may be subtle. Over time users will recognize additional types of content integrated into their search results as the company advances toward delivering a truly comprehensive search experience.
For example, a user searching for information on the Star Wars character Darth Vader is likely interested in all the information related to the character and the actor â€“ not just web pages that mention the movie. Google will now deliver a single set of blended search results that include a humorous parody of the movie, images of the Darth Vader character, news reports on the latest Lucas film, as well as websites focused on the actor James Earl Jones â€“ all ranked in order of relevance to the query. Users no longer have to visit several different Google search properties to find such a wide array of information on the topic.
Google’s new universal interface is certainly the boldest change by the search engine in many years, and the company is having to significantly upgrade its technology in order to support the new roll out.
Google is also in the process of deploying a new technical infrastructure that will enable the search engine to handle the computationally intensive tasks required to produce universal search results. The company is also releasing the first stage of an upgraded ranking mechanism that automatically and objectively compares different types of information. As always, Google(TM) search results are ranked automatically by algorithms to deliver the best results to users anywhere in the world.
“Google has continued to concentrate on improving the quality of search,â€ said Udi Manber, vice president of engineering at Google. “The level and speed of search innovation at Google has increased. Most of this innovation addresses basic ranking algorithms and is often not obvious to users. Users just see more accurate results, more often, in more languages, which is our primary goal.â€
In addition to the new algorithm, Google’s made changes to the navigation options, presenting new menu options “on the fly” depending on the type of search query
New dynamically generated navigation links have been added above the search results to suggest additional information that is relevant to a user’s query. For example, a search for “pythonâ€ will now generate links to Google Blog Search(TM), Google Book Search(TM), Google Groups(TM), and Google Code(TM), to let the user know there is additional information on his or her query in each of those areas. As a result, users can find a wider array of information on their topic, including data types they might not have initially considered.
Google’s homepage and a number of applications have also been updated with a new navigation bar to provide easier access to popular Google products. Now, instead of having links above the Google.com homepage search box, users will see a navigation bar on the top left side of the page with various Google search properties and popular products including Gmail(TM), Google Calendar(TM), Google Docs & Spreadsheets(TM), and Picasa Web Albums(TM).
This is huge! Google’s basically telling users – and its competitors – that it has figured out how to identify the type of search query entered and provide a single set of results that it is confident will include all the information you could possibly want. While we’ve seen Google dip its toe in the water of predictive search – showing us images or stock prices – this overhaul of the search results page completely changes the way everyone interacts with Google.
Users will benefit, as they’ll likely find Google’s search results to be much more relevant, meanwhile search engine optimizers will find that their job has become a lot more complex. Now, instead of focusing on web search and battling others for one of the coveted Top 10 spots for a particular search term, they’re going to find the Top 10 now includes results drawn from other indexes such as images, news and video. SEO’s will be faced with two choices. Stick with just web search, and be content that they may only have 5-6 opportunities to be in the Top 10 on Google, or, look at ways to optimize content such as photos, videos, news items, and use a broader approach to gaining page one exposure.
Either way, it’s far too early to know for sure, just how much of an impact Google’s universal search will have on the search optimization space. But as Yoda would say, “on SEO, an impact it will have.”