Google first announced a new kind of search - universal, or blended, search - back in 2007 that, in addition to text-based results (web pages), would integrate different kinds of results such as video, images, and news, just to name a few.
Roll out has been slow (a Google rep recently reported that 1 in 4 searches now contain universal search results) and research on the effect on consumer behavior is limited and potentially inconclusive (both OTO Interactive and iProspect have conducted studies - iProspect mid-2008 and OTO late 2008, to be released soon).
Still, there are a few clear implications of universal search results for businesses who want to better optimize their web presence for this new search landscape.
1.) New Real Estate
Before universal search, SEO (search engine optimization) was all about creating remarkable content that people would link to and would be optimized for certain keywords so that your web pages would show up as one of those top 10 search results (the first page). But now, those 10 spots are cut down to 9, 8, 7, or fewer. Some of that old real estate is now reserved for different kinds of content across the web - video, images, etc. - that are on their own ranking algorithm.
There are new opportunities to get on that first page of search results, and businesses need to create multimedia content to take advantage of this new real estate. That means posting videos to YouTube, photos to Flickr, and tagging this multimedia content as thoroughly as possible.
2.) More Emphasis on Top Search Results
With these new, visually appealing, search results part way down the first page of search results, there is now a visual barrier that focuses users' eyes even more on the top of the search results page. We already know from eye tracking heat map analysis that users focus on the "golden triangle" (planted in the top left hand corner of the SERP) and few people scroll to the bottom of the page or go on to the second, third, etc. SERP.
It's very possible that this multimedia will continue to focus users' eyes on the top of the first SERP, so your website better be one of the first search results.
3.) How Do You Convert Viewers of Multimedia?
Creating content is the absolute best way to attract more prospects to learn about and engage with your brand - on your website as well as social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, or Flickr. But how are you supposed to turn YouTube video views into leads and sales for your business? With this new SERP real estate going to multimedia content, this issue has become even more pressing.
For all of your multimedia, give people a way to further engage with your company , whether it's by including a link to your website or relevant blog article in the video/image/etc. description, or including your logo or call to action within the multimedia.
4.) Are You Listening to Your Customers?
This multimedia content is yet another way for content written about you by you, your customers, or fans, to bubble to the top of search results. While you may not yet have posted any multimedia about your company, your customers are most definitely already talking about you online, in a variety of ways and mediums.
Universal search results make it that much more important for you to listen and engage with your customers online , so that you know what they're saying, and so that you can promote flattering content and respond to negative criticism.
How does your business plan to create multimedia content to leverage universal or blended search?
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