Feb 01

Are You Using The Alternative Search Results?

So you’ve begun your organic search campaign, dabbled with some Adwords or even dipped your toe into the world of social media. But what about alternative search results. Are you leveraging these to bring more visitors to your site?

Alternative search results are a part of the organic search results and are shown within the normal organic results when triggered by a certain search query or intention. Products, maps, news, images and videos are what we term, the “alternative search results”. When these results are shown within the normal organic results, this is also said to be a part of “universal search”.

Google especially has been integrating these alternative results within its organic listings (SERPS) for some time now and if you are not making the most of these, you could be missing out on some good extra traffic.

Not every one of the list below will fit in with your own business, for example I run an SEO company, but do not have any products as such, so adding my site to Google Products is not an option. I am able to take advantage of other opportunities though such as videos, images and local listings.

Let’s take a brief look at three alternative search results, so that you can find out more about what each one is and whether you could use it as a part of your own online marketing strategy.

Google Image Search

Images

If you sell a product or have images on your site which could bring more visitors into your site, then it makes sense that you would want them to show up in Google images directly or when a user goes to google.com or one of the other local Google sites and makes a specific search (universal search).

To do this you need to do a few things.

1. Give your image files a nice descriptive name, for example if I am selling a nokia mobile phone I might want to name the image something like nokia-6301-mobile.jpg or something similar. So keyword rich.
2. Use the correct alt tag text. So within the image code on the web page you will have something like img src=””/images/cameras/nokia-6301-mobile.jpg”” alt=””Nokia” Notice the use of the “alt” tag. This is another signal like the file name and helps Google and the other engines to learn more about the contents of an image.
3. Optimise the page itself for the relevant keywords including page titles and H tags. Also surround your image with relevant and descriptive text.
4. Use an image caption to describe what the image is about.
5. Make sure that you have not denied access to the specific image file/folder via robots.txt! Tut, tut.
6. Setup a Google image sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools. This will help Google to find your images more easily.

YouTube

Videos

Video marketing is a huge opportunity. As cameras become cheaper, bandwidth increases and hosting costs fall, video will become even more popular than it is today. YouTube is the #2 site on the web in terms of searches performed and #3 in terms of overall traffic.

With so much traffic and search queries, YouTube represents a great opportunity. Or you may want to use a distribution service such as TubeMogul to upload your video to a number of social sites including YouTube, Facebook, Metacafe and Vimeo.

But you may not want to put your site on YouTube at all. If you want brand exposure, YouTube is the obvious choice, but if for example you want links, it could be that you place the video on your own site or blog and then allow users to embed the video on their own sites which in turn includes a link back to your site.

Or alternatively, by hosting the video yourself and promoting it through social channels such as Facebook and Twitter, you then look to get users to link directly back to your video, either via Facebook and Twitter, or by linking to the video via their site or blog. This of course is good for organic SEO as each link acts as a vote of confidence or personal citation.

There are other options and this is just a brief summary, I recommend you read this great post on video optimization by Kate Mats over a SEOMoz for further info and strategies.

There can be no doubt that video is a great medium. You never know, if you create something really exceptional, it may even go viral! Happy days!

Google Places Example

Maps/Local/Places

If you have a local business with premises, then you will most definitely want to add your site to Google Places (formerly Google Local).

Google Places listings are normally triggered when you use a place name in your search. For example in the above search, I searched for “restaurant london” which triggered the places listings in the middle of the image and to the top right with the map view.

When you add a Google Places listing, there is a good chance that you can get to the top of the SERPS for a broad competitive keyword.

You must make sure that you try to complete your listing as much as possible. When completing your listing information, you will see a percentage complete indicator. Make sure you try to get as close to 100% as possible to give yourself every opportunity of getting listed in the top seven.

When configuring other elements of your listing, make sure that you use a non spammy title (i.e. your business name). You can add one or two keywords in as well but be careful. So as an example if your business is called “Toms Expert Plumbing” it’s ok to stretch it a little. So you could have a title of “Toms Plumbing Services London” or similar. Just don’t over do it or it may affect your chances of being placed in the top seven.

You also need to add good keyword rich descriptions and as many relevant categories as possible. Once again, don’t over do it. Write your description naturally with a good mix of synonyms and relevant keywords.

Once all fields are complete you will need to verify your listing. Google does this by sending an automated phone call to your listed phone number which asks you for a pre assigned authorisation code. Just receive the call and enter the code and you are done.

For me, adding a Google Places is a no brainer and may even give you a rankings boost due to the fact that you have to verify who you are. A good sign of trust for any search engine.

There are other alternative search results that you can target depending on your business including Google News and Google Products.

The three methods above if done correct can give you lots of good relevant traffic. Get an image on the first page for some of the broader searches can give you hundreds of extra visitors every day. The same applies to videos. Create a good one and it could go viral. You never know unless you try.

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