Saturday, 12 January 2008

Masters of the Universal!

One of most significant developments in search engine marketing in 2007 was the introduction of new methods of displaying search engine results. made the greatest jump by releasing search engine results pages featuring image, news and wikipedia results. As always though, most eyes are on Google. The initial excitement generated by the launch of universal search has placated throughout the year. Universal search is apparant when searching on media and entertainment but is rarely visible on more commercially focussed areas.

For me, few organisations have capitalised on the opportunities afforded by image search. The latest figures from online analytics company Hitwise show that Google image search is more popular than the Yahoo! and MSN search engines.

For particular products, images are a far greater means for a user to select search results. Imagine searching for a particular pair of shoes that you have seen in a shop window or a hotel that you have seen in a brochure. Visual recognition is a far greater way of generating a clickthrough to a targeted landing page.

Website owners should work to ensure that an image naming convention is in place to maximise the SEO potential of the images already hosted on their site. As a basic principal, image names should match the targeted keywords for the page they are displayed on. For Yahoo! images should be submitted to a registered Flickr! account with the same titles as this has proven success in Yahoo! image search.

In more recent developments Yahoo! have been experimenting recently with placing images into their sponsored adverts in the Yahoo! directory whilst Google have registered a patent to develop technology that will recgnise text held within images.

Placing images in the public domain has its risks. It is fairly simple for SEO
adept webmasters to take images from other sites, in order to maximise their own performance, a practice known as Hotlinking. Site owners can mitigate this risk by placing a watermark or signatures on all hosted images or by blocking regular offenders.

Of course, these opportunities are available to particular verticals more than others. It is hard to imagine somebody searching for car insurance or electricity rates being influenced by image search unless a strong brand was involved. Industries such as retail, travel and automotive should look to take advantage of universal search or risk getting left behind their competetors.

Increasingly, real success with SEO will not be achieved by mastering keyword density or purchasing links. In 2008, the websites and organisations that will triumph will be those that have a holistic approach to website optimisation. Only when you rank well for text , images, news video can you call yourself a true master of the universal.

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