March 25th, 2008 | Published in Google Webmaster Central
Universal search and personalized search were two of the hot topics at SMX West last month. Many webmasters wanted to know how these evolutions in search influence the way their content appears in search results, and how they can use these features to gain more relevant search traffic. We posted several recommendations on how to take advantage of universal search last year. Here are a few additional tips:
- Local search: Help nearby searchers find your business.
Of the various search verticals, local search was the one we heard the most questions about. Here are a few tips to help business owners get the most out of local search:
- Add your business to our Local Business Center
- Make sure your business is listed under the appropriate categories
- Make sure your business name, address and phone number appear on your website, and that they're accessible to search engines
- Add your business hours, images, coupons, or additional information to help searchers determine whether your business meets their needs
Several site owners asked whether they could specify a preferred thumbnail image for videos when they appear in search results. Good news: our Video Sitemaps protocol lets you suggest a thumbnail for each video.
A few observations from Googler Phil McDonnell:
- Personalization of search results is usually accomplished through subtle ranking changes, rather than a drastic rearrangement of results. You shouldn't worry about personalization radically altering your site's ranking for a particular query.
- Targeting a niche, or filling a very specific need, may be a good way to stand out in personalized results. For example, rather than creating a site about "music," you could create a site about the musical history of Haiti. Or about musicians who recorded with Elton John between 1969-1979.
- Some personalization is based on the geographic location of the searcher; for example, a user searching for [needle] in Seattle is more likely to get search results about the Space Needle than, say, a searcher in Florida. Take advantage of features like Local Business Center and geographic targeting to let us know whether your website is especially relevant to searchers in a particular location.
- As always, create interesting, unique and compelling content or tools.
One panelist presented a case study in which a client's images were being filtered out of search results by SafeSearch because they had been classified as explicit. If you find yourself in this situation and believe your site should not be filtered by SafeSearch, use this contact form to let us know. Select the Report a problem > Inappropriate or irrelevant search results option and describe your situation.