If you are self employed, a small to medium sized company or have a limited Internet Marketing budget then achieving solid search engine visibility can be tough – especially if you are in a competitive niche. So what can you do about it?

One option that I have found is incredibly useful when working with clients on a limited budget is (when appropriate to the business) optimising for Universal Search. If you are new to Universal Search it is the stuff that appears in Google’s results that look a little different, it could be images, news, local listings, shopping, and video or blog posts. It is time to think outside the box a little folks and utilise the options that others in your niche may be overlooking. This is not to say you throw away all your normal SEO efforts – you just may want to move away from getting a first page result for a keyword that is super competitive. If you can get a video on the first page for your keyword (and I bet the competition will be a lot less stiff for that!) then you must be onto a winner.

Universal Search Example

image via - www.smallbiztrends.com

And if you have been grinding out the same SEO techniques for a while now this will give you a break and stop you becoming stale. And so, on with some quick checklists for optimising for Universal Search:

Optimising for News – Get out there, promote your business and shout about it. If it is newsworthy then write about it.

1.    Get loads of Press Releases on the web – these are great for backlinks as well – and make sure they are well optimised (don’t get sloppy people).

2.    Make use of any anchor text links you may get and always include alt Tags with any images

Where should I go? (PRweb, free-press-release, mynewsdesk, pressreleasepoint)

Optimising for Products

1.    You will need an optimised data feed and you will need to include as many fields as possible. You can’t pick the object up like if you are out shopping normally so tell people as much about it as you can.

2.    Use all your normal SEO techniques

3.    Refresh your feed as often as possible – some recommend daily!

Optimising for Video –There are a plethora of video sites out there but it is always important to start with the big two – YouTube and Vimeo. If you have time and the inclination you may want to submit your videos to other sites as well

Optimising for Video

1.    Use original text; make it unique to each version of your video. If you have the same video across multiple sites then use variations on your keywords.

2.    Make your Titles and Descriptions unique and keyword rich. Think SEO – especially on YouTube.

3.    Get your URL in the description of the video (even if it doesn’t provide a link). On YouTube make sure it is right at the start so people can see it.

4.    Have a brief intro and outro to the video (3 seconds max) with your website address on it – SHOUT at people, tell them where they need to go to see more.

5.    Even on video sharing sites try and build internal links.

6.    Don’t be afraid to piggyback on popular videos within your niche – if there are videos that are flying high comment on them, tell the people watching that they may want to check out your videos if they enjoyed this one

7.    If you host on your own site embed the videos on relevant pages that are keyword rich – get loads of relevant text around the video, themes and synonyms.

8.    Get a video transcription and put that on your site as well (these guys are good - http://www.speechpad.com/) it will give you more relevant text around the video.

9.    Interact with any community members and videos/channels within your niche

10.  Tell people to comment or vote – use a Call to Action. You may want to say something a little controversial to stir up some feeling.

11.  Build inbound links with relevant anchor text

12.  Utilise Video Sitemaps.

Where should I go? (blip.tv, Metacafe, BlogTV, Dailymotion, Zoopy, Break, Google Video, Revver, vidilife)

Optimising Images –It may not bring you loads of traffic or loads of links - but every little helps (especially when there isn’t much work involved)

1.    Make the file name keyword rich and descriptive, again use all your general SEO knowledge the best you can

2.    Use Alt Tags. Recent study has shown that Alt Tags may hold a little more weight in the algorithm than previously thought. Again make them keyword rich.

3.    Always embed the image on a page that has lots of focused, relevant content and relates well to the image – context is crucial

4.    Like in normal SEO create internal and external links with keyword rich anchor text.

5.    Make sure image Search in your Webmaster Tools in turned on.

6.    Have a look at Google Image Labeler for new ideas

Optimising for Local Search – Local search is crucial to a lot of businesses and it is therefore incredibly important to get it right. Here are a few tips for helping you along.

1.    Have a local (fixed) address

2.    Have a local phone number (use any freephone numbers and mobile numbers as secondary contacts)

3.    Be consistent with everything across the Internet

4.    Have your full address and phone number on every page of your site.

5.    Complete your listing in Google (including photos and all other information)

6.    Make sure you are listed in all the other important local directories

Where should I go? I’m afraid this one will change with your location – you are gonna have to do some leg work yourself!