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Universal or Blended Search guidance

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 19 Nov, 2010
Essential Essential topic

How important is it and how well are you using it?

Marketing impact: [rating=5]

Search Results PageOur commentary:  Now well into its third year, blended (or Universal) search is now a widely accepted & expected part of search result pages.

But is it really important? Has it improved user experience? Are businesses using it to to improve performance & engage potential customers?

First and foremost for those who are unaware of the term blended search let me explain. Search Engines for the last 3 years (at least) have refined their search results pages to enable different types of content to be displayed within the results. More often than not this will be, news, video or images.

Universal results can however include products, twitter / Facebook, forum discussions, maps & more. A good example, shown in the image to the right (each different type of content in a red box) is if you were to search for Harry Potter in Google. Currently a hot topic again with the launch of the new film this week, a results page for Harry Potter displays, webpages, news, social network updates, images, reviews, videos as well as the most traditional paid results.

searches-results-aug2010Recent research from Comscore reported by SEO blog SearchEngineWatch indicates that blended search is becoming increasingly important with well over 33% of searches now displaying a blended results page. The report goes onto say that Bing is currently leading the field in terms of the % of searches it will display a blended results page on. With over 50% of searches now displaying various types of results rather than just the typical webpage. Between all 3 major search engines the % of searches which display blended results averages out at 33%. Its quite obvious this is only going to grow and users are going to interact and utilize rather it more as time goes on.

Marketing implications: Its clear from the data presented on SearchEngineWatch & from just regularly using search engines that universal / blended search is increasingly important to businesses. So how do you make sure your business is competitive and taking advantage of this technology. The easiest way to do this is to structure your search strategy around universal / blended search. There is a good reason for this & it doesn't mean radical changes so don't panic.

You still need to understand your keywords, but more importantly you now need a clear understanding of your customer & their motivations etc. The reason for this is that universal search boils down to having the right type of content. This content has to be optimised for your business and distributed to places where your customers "hang out" but most importantly it has to be content they find interesting / entertaining / valuable. Approaching search this way means you still do everything on your own website (onpage optimisation) as per usual but you start to approach link building & essentially building referral traffic in a slight different way. Consider the following types of content some of which maybe relevant for your business and how your business could use them to reach new customers, appear in blended search results & as the core of your link building strategy.

  • Blogs
  • Podcasts / Audio books
  • ebooks
  • Presentations
  • Videos
  • Press Releases
  • Articles
  • Images
  • Shopping Feeds
  • Tweets
  • Facebook updates
  • News articles
  • Reviews / Ratings

Clearly the hardest part of all this is creating the content and this is where the effort is required & remember not all content types will be relevant for your business which is why you need to understand your customers. The more effort put into creating the content the easier your marketing will become. If its interesting / engaging / entertaining to your audience they will share it, refer it to friends and it becomes what some people would say "viral". Each piece of content above adds a great dimension to your website but it opens 2 key opportunities:

  1. The possibility of appearing in blended search results, which often interject standard webpages
  2. Hundreds if not thousands of websites are now available for you to go and engage with (e.g. YouTube, Blogs, Press & article networks, the list goes on) all of which are a source of traffic & links

Please comment below or get in touch here if you have any thoughts / ideas or questions.

Recommended link: Search Engine Land Report
Recommended link: Content Marketing & Social Media
Recommended link: Content Marketing Truths
Recommended link: Digital Content Radar

Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site,, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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