At SMX West a couple weeks ago, I moderated a unique session titled “Up Close with Google Blog Search.” I call it unique because there was only one speaker on the panel: Chris Pennock, Senior Software Engineer for Google Blog Search. As moderator, I also gave a brief, unscripted presentation of some things I researched in the days leading up to the session. This post is a semi-recap of what Chris and I spoke about, mixed in with a few nuggets from the Q&A session.
Google Blog Search Basics
Google Blog Search has a “home” page at blogsearch.google.com, but it also contributes results to the main Google.com search results on occasion; i.e., it’s part of the so-called “universal” search results, just like Maps, Video, News, and other types of search results. I’ll be referring to both access points below.
Google Blog Search home page
In October, Google changed the blog search home page and began showing hot topics in clustered results. There are also 11 categories you can browse, and each one continues to show clustered topics just like the home page.
At SMX West, Chris Pennock explained that Google currently tracks these hot topics for about 24 hours. And sure enough, if you click all the way through to the end of the clustered results, you continue to see almost no topic that’s older than 24 hours. As deep as page 102 (seriously), all clustered topics but one are less than a day old; the exception is a 2-day old topic.
What Blogs Show Up in Clusters?
As you’d expect, Chris wasn’t about to give away Google’s secrets. In his presentation, though, he made several mentions of “authority” and “prominence” as a major factor in getting visibility in Google blog search. During the Q&A session, I asked a question about this: I said that if I were in charge of deciding what is and isn’t a prominent blog, I’d probably use things like how many inbound links it has, how often it posts new content, how old the blog is, how many comments it gets, how many feed subscribers it has, etc. Chris shook his head in apparent agreement as I asked the question, and said that many of the factors they use are the things you’d typically use to judge the prominence of any web site, including its PageRank.
Blogs in Google “Universal” Search
Part of what I presented before Chris spoke was a very unscientific look at how blog results show up in the Google.com SERPs. I found five search queries that included blog listings in universal search: Rihanna, Brett Favre, Stimulus Bill, Michelle Obama, and Peanut Butter. Here’s what I learned:
Blog results = three: When results from Google Blog Search show up in universal search, it’s always three listings.
Blog results placement: In my findings, I only saw blog results appearing at the bottom of a Google.com search results page, after the regular 10 listings. But in his presentation, Chris said that blog listings may show up higher if Google believes they deserve to be there. (He showed some examples of this, too.)
Blog results timing: There were three blog results for each of my five sample queries, for a total of 15 blog results in universal search. Of those 15, only three blog posts were more than three days old. Most were one day old; the most recent was only an hour old and already showing up in universal search.
Blog results “authority”: Coincidentally, those three old posts mentioned above all came from Huffington Post, which suggests authority may trump timeliness when blog posts show up in universal search. In fact, Chris did say that authority/prominence matters a little more in universal search results than in Google Blog Search results.
Blog results SEO: All 15 blog posts that showed up in universal search had the exact keyword that I searched on in the title/headline of the blog post. Most had the keyword near the beginning of the headline, too.
Blog results topic: How does a blog topic qualify for inclusion in universal search? Google won’t reveal the full answer, but all five of the topics I found in universal search were also being featured as a hot topic on the first couple pages of Google Blog Search. To that degree, you can look at Google Blog Search similarly to Google Trends — it can serve as a barometer of what’s important enough to show up on Google.com, too.
Do all hot topics on Google Blog Search also show up in Google.com universal results? Probably not. Do all topics that show up in universal search also appear on the home page of Google blog search? Probably not. But if you’re looking for the type of blog content and the blog sources that show up in universal search, it seems like the Google Blog Search home page is a good place to start.
There’s much we don’t know about Google Blog Search, and much Google isn’t going to share. That means it’s our job to continue investigating how blogs can gain visibility from GBS and its inclusion in universal search results. The SMX West session focusing solely on Google Blog Search was the first of its kind, and hopefully the beginning of more knowledge and understanding of how GBS works and where it offers opportunities for bloggers. If you’ve done any research on GBS, or plan to do any, I’d love for you to share your thoughts or just drop a link in the comments below so we can all learn more.