The Blended Search Revolution

Feb 26, 2008 - 2:24 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2008

Moderator: Vanessa Fox, Features Editor, Search Engine Land Q&A Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land

You and ask questions online via a special web page as the speakers give their presentations. Then in Q&A, the questions will be answered. Vanessa is modding up this panel. Ask was unable to come last minute, but Vanessa showed off the user interface.

David Bailey, Senior Staff Software Engineer, Google is up first. Universal search is all about organizing the worlds information and making it universally accessible and useful. Now we have more than just web results, we have news, video, books, blogs, maps, code search and so on. The best way to provide access to this information is through one search box.

The Google search box is where most users are and it wont require users to remember how to go to specific vertical engines.

Another reason for universal is to display custom features for specialized results such as pictures, maps, ratings, publications, blog names, and its not just for Google, it is for other properties as well. The most important thing is to keep it fast, simple but most importantly, relevant.

He then shows some recent launches in this universal front.

  • Local business review snippets within the search results
  • Ten local businesses for broad queries in search results
  • Much more video, mostly from external sites are displayed in search results
  • More images, with explicit triggering on the long tail (this is a new launch this week)
  • Grouped blogs, now found within the universal search, at the bottom (shows up rarely right now)
  • Grouped books for topical queries, typically at the bottom (been going on for 1.5 years now)
  • Comprehensive books blending as well, not just at the bottom of the results
  • Also they have been internationalizing the universal blends in non USA Google
  • Increasing the diversity on the page, that is the overall theme
How does it work? He says they have a lot of complicated stuff hidden behind a simple search box. But in reality... The Universal Search Architecture works through speculatively search against all Google's indexes, then they decide what to show only after they collect all the data, they use it for smarter ranking to add coverage anywhere on the page. The basically send the query to all the vertical engines and brings back the results and then the ranking algorithm decides what to show and where.

The challenges include the ability to expand and optimize the massive infrastructure, rank applies against oranges and how to display the information. They optimized the servers, queries and so on. Many of the techniques used to rank web pages can be applied to images and other verticals - they use PageRank, phrase matches, anchors. They also use other signals when available, such as freshness, user rating, table of contents matches. They also look at the web results for clues about other type of content to show. For example, a search for green bay packers is not looking for Wisconsin moving companies.

Universal search is a technology play.

He showed real graphs of how the ranking algorithm works but he did not explain them and no one picked them up - they are just graphs.

What's Next? - Keep improving relevance - Ramp up newly universalized categories (blogs, shopping) - Better exploration

What happens to SEO? - Business as usual with web results are still Google's bread and butter and will remain dominant and the usual webmaster guidelines still apply - Take advantage of specialized results by publishing high quality and well captioned images, create a Google Video sitemap, updated business listings in local business center, submit your feed to Google product search and create a high quality company blog.

Sean Suchter from Yahoo Search is now up. He shows Yahoo's old static, text based UI and now is more graphical user interface (showed an example search on Bob Dylan). Yahoo has a lot of music content, movie content, lots of quality photos from Flickr and others, videos from on and off the network, local business results also, maps. Plus the ability to refine restaurant options by location. City visitor guides, hotels by chains location, also with complete information for unique hotels. Athlete searches. Categorized results for consumer electronics. Health information results.

Now he talks about the new Yahoo open search platform, which we blogged about over here. He shows how Yelp can offer a plugin for the Yahoo Open Search platform giving them a way to dictate how Yahoo should enhance their search results. That is it, quick presentation.

Raju Malhotra, Director of Product Management, Live Search, Microsoft is now up. He was going to show us a skiers journey through blended search. Blended search offers a compelling consumer value and an SEO opportunity. It is to satisfy the evolving consumer needs and different expectations in different consumption modes (find/discover/explore) and SEOs can benefit by understanding #1 and #2 better.

Microsoft watches how people use search - they camp out and watch the consumers. Consumers use search in three main ways:

(1) Find: Targeted questions, high frequency of usage, short sessions, examples include weather, local, listings, stock and directions. (2) Discover: Clear need but less steps are less clear, long and repeated sessions, high emotional investments and examples include buying strollers, health information and so on. (3) Explorer: Browsing through with no specific target or goal, long and repeated sessions, examples include hobbies, entertainment and interests.

The rest of the presentation is done in live demo mode, no more slides... Here we go skiing...

Opens up Live Search in IE. He enters in the search box..."snow report tahoe" On the left hand side is the snow report by mountain and then you can click on mountain for more detail. Now he changes his query to "ski shops." Up come local listings for ski shops near San Jose. Then he shows the maps and reviews and one click directions.

Pause, 1/3rd of all queries are local intensions. More than 40% of people on the web use mapping online. If you own a ski shop in San Jose, make sure you are there. He then brings up Live Search Webmaster Center and explains you can add your biz listing there.


He then enters san jose traffic into Live Search, it brings up a map with traffic details.

Those were all "Find" queries, what about "Discover."

He enters in "Digital camera" cause you need a camera on your ski trip. Camera images come up, you see ratings, prices, guides and reviews. Clicking on a camera gives you more details.

Pause: Shopping queries are fairly significant on the web. Most shoppers start on a search engine. 70% of those queries are at the product category level (i.e. stroller). At webmaster tools, you can upload your product catalog there.


He then enters in "snow blindness" and it returns results from HealthVault in the search results. 80% of the online community looks for health content at least once per month.

He then enters in ski alpine video into the search engine mouses over some videos. When you mouse over the video, it plays right in the search results page. Then you can click on the results and see more videos. They give you an easy way to explore videos.

That is his walk through from find, discover to explore via blended search at Live Search.

Q&A Time...


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