Universal Search, sometimes referred to as blended search or federated search results —which returns specialized results, such as a video, as part of a general search engine query—is encouraging web users to explore a wider variety of online content, according to a recent survey of 2,400 online consumers.
The survey, conducted by search engine marketing firm iProspect Inc. and research and consulting firm JupiterResearch Inc., found that search engine users clicked on image, news and video results more often if the content is included in results from a general search query than if it is returned in a targeted search. In a video search, for example, there are many videos, which means a retailer's video might get overlooked. However, a potential consumer may be more apt to view an e-retailer`s video if it comes up in a general search.
When such content surfaces in blended search, SMBs and other marketers can capitalize on digital assets, like images, that they already have on their sites without trying to change consumer behavior, the authors say.
According to the study, 36% of search engine users click news results within blended search results, while only 17% click a news result after conducting a news-specific search, the study says. News items, in fact, were the most-clicked-on content type within blended search results. 31% of search engine users click image results within blended results, versus 26% who click an image listing when returned as part of an image-specific search. 17% of users click on video results within blended search results, compared with only 10% who clicked a specific video listing after conducting a video-specific search.
"Since users have historically ignored the vertical offerings of the major search engines, a marketer might conclude that users aren't interested in that type of content, and as a result, not invest in producing or optimizing digital assets," says Robert Murray, president of iProspect. "But that would be a mistake. Marketers have a great opportunity to claim more search shelf space by optimizing their news, image and video assets.”
"The bottom line is that companies that have optimized a variety of digital assets will have a distinct advantage," Murray says. "Those who lack such assets will essentially forfeit page real estate to their competitors.”
The three major search engines—Google, Yahoo and MSN—all have introduced blended search in the past year.