Vertical search engines focus on specific niches of web content like images, videos, news, people, etc.
Universal Search and Blended Search
2007: Google creates Universal Search for any type of online content, which integrated vertical search results into main web results. Before that, Google’s main search was a vertical search , only for web pages, not images, etc. Yahoo and the other engines quickly followed suit. In general, this type of search is called a blended search.
Some ways to gain visibility in the SERPs:
- add a blog
- release online press releases to authoritative wire services
- upload videos to youtube
- add a Google Places listing
All of these increase chances of having search results that may directly or in directly bring traffic to your site.
Optimizing for Local Search
Search engines have sought to increase their advertiser base by moving aggressively into providing directory information. Google Maps, Yahoo! Local, and Bing Maps all use mapping technology, and provide mashed-up maps with directory listings, reviews, satellite images, etc. All of this is tied together using keyword relevancy. This area of search is still evolving, but people like the mapping.
The local information market is still extremely fractured, with no single dominant provider of local business on the internet. Online users use multiple sources to find, research, and choose local businesses.
Sources of information people use:
- traditional search engines
- local search engines
- online Yellow Pages
- newspaper websites
- online classifieds
- industry-specific “vertical” directories
- review sites
Businesses have a real challenge on their hands, whether they are small businesses or huge corporations. This means that the opportunity for local search is HUGE.
Check the Local Listings
Where does a local business start?
Directories can be built from the local phone company’s database information, but no one phone company covers the entire country. Companies with nation-wide directories get their information from data aggregators to form the basis of their guides.
The top three aggregators: InfoUSA, Acxiom, TargusInfo. The first step in managing the online presence of local companies is to check and update the business’s listing information in each of these three. Make sure that the contact information is correct above all else.
Check/update your listing information on the top Yellow Pages sites, industry-specific vertical directories, and top local search engines. Try using the Local Search Guide to find these. Check your listings on as many of these as possible, make sure the information is up to date.
The major advantage to going directly to the search engines is you can validate your information directly. Your information is seen as highly valuable.
Additional Local Information Guides
- Additional local online Yellow Pages: check the print editions for URLs, mae sure your information is accurate on all of those
- Additional vertical directory sites
- Chambers of Commerce
- Online classifieds and eBay: Craigslist is very popular, and eBay allows for regional search
- Local guide sites
- Specialty yellow pages
Local Business Profiles
Many online directories and local search engines are adding more dimensions of information on a businesses basic listing. Give as much detail as possible filling these out:
- hours/days of operation
- products and manufacturers carried
- special offers
- years in business
- business categories
- payment methods
and so on.
Local Profile Management
Companies who will tend to this for you:
Optimizing Your Website for Local Searches
All the basic SEO factors come into play and help drive up your rankings.
Other steps to take:
- If your company has multiple locations, it is not necessary to have a website or subdomain for each location. In fact, it’s better if you don’t, as they would all be really similar to each other, creating duplicate content issues. Do create a separate profile page for each location on the search engines, however.
- Have page title, H1 tags, and content include the business name, type of business, and location name: “Acme Café: French Restaurant in Boston, MA”
For multiple locations, make the title different on each location’s page. Include neighborhood, street address, area nicknames, and all other location-distinguishing information.
- The home page and/or contact page should have the basic listing information displayed in HTML text. You can also add basic information in hCard microformat. If you have multiple locations, display basic information on each location’s profile page.
- Place differentiating information on each store’s page, including map, hours, etc.
- Be aware of your proximity to your city’s centroid (the location that the search engine defines as the center of the city). Many of the map search engines will display businesses closer to the centroid for an non-specific search. This is something search engines downplay as a factor, so it’s not as important as it used to be.
- Be aware of zip code centroids as well.
- Good user ratings are one of the biggest factors for ranking high in the SERPs, particularly Google Maps. Always encourage people to review your site.
- Develop external links pointing to your site.
- If your local business has its own blog, add a blog map or feedmap to it. Add a local signal to the blog, which will attract the attention of other area bloggers also participating in feedmaps.
- It may be beneficial to add photos of celebrities who have visited your business.
- Community interaction can help with online promotion: support charitable efforts in the area, sponsor local events.
Optimize for Image Search
You need to weigh the benefit of image search capability against the costs and other SEO opportunities on your site. People can easily steal your images, so depending on the type of business you are in, maybe image search optimization is not worth it.
A significant amount of traffic can come from image search, and there is less competition than there is for general web search.
- Subtle reputation management: lends an implicit message of openness to your business. It says you have nothing to hide, increasing your chances that a user will choose to do business with you.
- Shopping via image search results: increasingly, shoppers use image search to find what they are looking for quickly.
- Increase your chances of showing up more frequently in Universal Search, which oulls image search content into main SERPs for some keyword search terms.
- Empower others to promote you: If you have a flexible organization and hold legal copyrights to images, you can allow others to take and reuse images in return for promotion of your site/business.
Image Optimization Tips
Image search is much more difficult that other types of search: the image itself provides few clues about its content or meaning. Although some search engines are experimenting with OCR (optical character recognition) to read text in images, moat images do not have text. There is also an effort to bring in facial recognition technology to tell faces from other body parts.
Basically, you have to do some work to help out with SEO: the web page’s title, h1 tags, content & links support the image ranking. Alt text, titles, and captions also help a great deal.
Some things to do:
- Make sure the image filename or img src string contains primary keyword.
- Always use the image alt attribute, and make sure it’s valid:
<img alt=”Abe Lincoln” src=”…”> If the alt text has spaces, use quotes.
- Avoid query strings for img srcs just as you should for URLs. Query strings are parts of the URL that contain data to be passed to web apps like CGI platforms. Their use permits data to be passed from the HTTP client (often a web browser) to the program which generates the web page. If you have to include them, use only 2 or 3 parameters: more than that and spiders may refuse to come to the link.
- Use good-quality images which read well in thumbnail form. If the thumbnail is crappy, chances are it won’t be clicked.
- Do not save images as graphics files with embedded thumbnails. Search engines may copy the image, reduce its size, compress it and use it in all its crappy glory.
- Don’t store the image in a sidebar column with your ads or inside the header or footer navigation elements: it might get ignored as irrelevant.
- Have a proper copyright license for the image or get sued. Do not steal.
- Be sure to create all image sizes you need. Don’t resize it using the HTML.
- Add a watermark with your site URL listed in it.
- Try altering the aspect ratio of images that are found elsewhere on the web: by changing the image files somewhat, you help ensure the search engines see it as original content, not a duplicate they can toss.
- Ensure your server configuration lets your images display when called from web pages on other domains.
- Make sure your robots.txt file does not block access to your image directory.
- If it’s ok, let others use your images if they’ll link back or otherwise promote your site.
Optimizing through Flickr
Flickr is one of the strongest image sharing sites in terms of SEO potential: domain authority, crawlability, keyword-focusing signals, cross-referencing potential. Flickr does allow you to link back to your site, but it’s a nofollow link. No juice is passed. The advantage is that you can gain another listing in the SERPs.
- Always add tags (keywords). Place multiword tags in quotes.
- The Flickr tag cloud generates a good link navigation system for users and spiders
- Have your images as publically viewable.
- Descriptive title: adds more keyword weight to the photo’s page within Flickr.
- Enter a description under the photo
- Consider adding a note or 2 directly on the photo: this encourages users to participate on the photo’s page, helping the page to perhaps gain a higher quality score inthe eyes of the search engines
- Lf it’s applicable, geo-tag the photo
- Create thematic sets for your photos and add images to them. This provides contextual clues for search engines regarding the content of the photo’s page and give users an easy way to find related/similar photos.
- Find and join Flickr groups with similar keywords and photos, the bigger and more popular the better. The more links to your photo’s page, the more important the photo will be considered.
- Link all photos to your site: better still, to specific pages that are relevant to the photo.
- Post as many images as possible. The many pages of pictures linking back to your site will help build overall authority. The more pages you have, the more likely other Flickr users will find and link to your content.