Google Launches “Universal Search” & Blended Results
In May of 2007, Google made the biggest change yet to its search results by introducing “Universal Search” to its organic search engines results pages (SERPs). MSN followed suit in July 2007, as did Yahoo in October with their version of Universal Search (also known as blended search). So three years later, what impact has this made on the overall user experience, PPC advertisers, and those who are trying to climb the organic listing ladder? And maybe more importantly, what opportunities might Universal Search hold for the B2B sector?
What Is Universal Search?
Universal Search is a term coined by Google to describe their new blended search method, which mixes results from their vertical search engines, such as News, Video, Images, Local, and Book search engines, with the standard results. These vertical search engines within Google aren’t a new thing – they have been a part of Google search for years, visible above the standard search area in tabs such as Google Images, Google Maps, etc.
But few searchers actually used these tabs – they were effectively invisible from a user standpoint – so Google decided to blend these vertical search services with the “regular” results to increase visibility and usage. That may turn out to be good news for users, but it also reduces the listing space available for standard web page results.
What impact does Universal Search make on the B2B sector?
Until now, B2B marketers have been very conservative in their approach to Search Engine Optimization, optimizing web pages only and shying away from more creative approaches that tie in other digital content. But with Universal Search in place, the B2B sector can no longer afford to be so conservative in its approach.
B2B marketers should regard Universal Search as an opportunity to branch out with a more creative online presence and as an incentive to leverage digital content. And if you don’t have any digital content apart from web pages, you should seriously consider creating some.
Universal Search allows you to dominate the organic SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) for a search term not only with your optimized web page but also with images, news, videos, etc. “Indeed, being able to leverage all of a website’s assets – showcasing products in Google images, a corporate blog or video content – allows businesses to give a richer brand experience to searchers and attract valuable traffic,” says Pascale Perry, SEO strategist at i-level.
Universal Search impact on PPC advertisers
B2B brands have always been heavy PPC spenders and sometimes depend solely on Paid listings results in their search engine presence, although it has long been known that 73% of searchers prefer the organic results. But what impact will Universal Search have on this preference for organic results?
“The ability to now introduce ‘rich media’ content to the organic SERPs has created a much more ‘sticky’ and interactive results page. Making it essential for online marketers to embrace and understand how to integrate their brand to the Universal opportunity,” notes Jon Myers, Head of Search at MediaVest.
His observation was confirmed in a recent Enquiro study undertaken to see how searchers interact with a blended Universal page: it was found that the historical eye view of the ’Google’ golden triangle’ (top left corner focus) changes significantly, as the eye is now drawn to the image-based content on the page.
Andrew Girdwood, Head of Search at Big Mouth Media, has this to say about Universal Search’s impact on PPC:
“Universal Search and the PPC creative – that tiny text ad – have a slightly dysfunctional relationship. Google rewards the PPC creative that searchers click on often by increasing their quality score and therefore potentially lowering the advertiser’s minimum bid. At the very same time, engaging elements of Universal Search such videos and images compete against the very same tiny text ads, reduce click-through rates, and potentially increase minimum bids.”
We can safely say Universal Search has already had an impact; how much of an impact is yet to be seen. One thing is certain: it’s necessary for B2B marketers to acknowledge that Universal Search also applies to the B2B sector and will have an impact on their online presence.
iProspect President Robert J. Murray perfectly summarizes the challenge ahead:
“B2B marketers should embrace Universal Search as it will ultimately create an opportunity for them to participate in more exciting and creative search marketing initiatives. Ultimately, it could present a real opportunity for forward-thinking B2B marketers to separate their brands from all the clutter in today’s search results.”
Google’s Universal Search Spells Opportunity For B2B SEO
So don’t be so conservative when you are thinking about SEO for B2B, being, and embracing these changes can give you a real advantage to your competitors. B2B Marketers are far too conservative in their approach and rely too much on PPC advertising to carry their search engine presence. Especially now when PPC advertising CPC (cost per click) is likely to increase with the Trademark rules for brand names is lifted from Google AdWords UK.
I will be writing about this subject in B2B Marketing June Issue.
If you have any experience using Universal Search to your advantage in the B2B sector, please comment, would love to see some real initiative embracing this change!