SES East: insight on universal search

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Search has come a long way in the last 10 years. So it’s no surprise that its progress was a hot topic today at Search Engine Strategies East in New York. Along with evolving search engines comes evolving search engine results pages (SERPs)—which for many queries means blended or universal results. The panel “Universal and Blended Search: An Update” gave some fresh insight on how marketers can harness video, blogs, news and other assets in natural search results.

Moderated by the always hilarious Kevin Ryan, SES advisory board chair and CMO of Webvisible, the panel of programmers and agency folks updated the audience on new features available on three major engines (Yahoo, MSN and Ask) and how brands should embrace universal offerings.

Larry Cornett, VP of consumer products at Yahoo, Keith Hogan, VP of search technology at Ask.com and Todd Schwartz, group product manager of Microsoft Live Search spelled out unique tools marketers can take advantage of on each engine. I won’t pitch all the engines’ features here, but let just say the new features are pretty sweet. (slides from each presentation should be up on the SES Web site shortly).

Olivier Lemaignen, group manager of global search marketing at Intuit said while universal search can give users a more robust idea of your brand message, companies also need to think about reputation management. He cited an example of searching for a particular Japanese restaurant by name and city. While local results pop up, a YouTube video featuring “the dangers of sushi” might also appear. That’s when companies need to think about optimizing more of their online content.

Unsurprisingly, the importance of social media was also stressed, as networking sites can also appear in blended results. Vic Drabicky, director of international and market development at Range Online Media, said brand representation on social networking sites is a minimum and what you really want is to interact with your audience on them.

He went on to explain how search can no longer be siloed. “Search has to be handled by IT, marketing, PR, the creative team, the brand managers, e-commerce and customers together,” he said. “It’s becoming more about digital asset management. If you’re effectively managing text, images, multimedia assets, user generated content and traditional assets you’ll end up with one pretty picture of your brand.”

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