Google-launches-Universal-Search-EngineGoogle is the world's most popular search engine and its typical Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are therefore familiar to most users worldwide. Google search results consist of the so-called "organic index", which means natural search results, but also Google AdWords ads, which are located on the right side or above the actual search results. However, most Google users will have noticed that search results have started changing and there is an increasing mix of traditional results and results from ulterior Google services. Exactly these heterogeneous SERPs are the result of Google Universal Search, which is radically changing the rules of SEO strategies.

Changing usage patterns to pay attention to

A study in 2006 showed that Google users give most attention to the top 5 search results. Newer studies, however, show that user behavior has changed significantly since Google Universal Search has been established. With the incorporation of new visual elements, the viewing-and-click behavior of the user has an impact on the search results list. With the universal search, it becomes an obligation to be found not only in the classical index, but to ensure an adequate presence throughout other Google services.

Most likely, the best known example of universal search elements are the local industry results that are consulted in particular for search queries related to the region. However, depending on the type of search results, other vertical services are included as well: Google Image Search, Video Search or offerings from the Google Product Search are among the most popular items and services that Google uses to extend its search hits. Google News and information from Blog Search appear in search results as well.

The following are the most prominent channels of universal search that I want to present briefly:

Google Product Search provides operators of online shops with a platform where products can be showcased. Registration is free and reserved exclusively for online retailers on Google Products, allowing them to reach potential customers via the separate product search or directly from the SERPs. Product search is not just a mere collection of links to various online stores, but rather a kind of interactive online catalogue. Customers can rate products and retailers, providing advice to others who are still in the middle of their purchase decision. In addition, the service has many search and comparison capabilities, so that the product search is not only interesting due to the insertion of results directly on the SERPs, but the general use of Google products is becoming increasingly important, too.

Google Places: Local search has been renamed Google Places and is connected to the well-known Google Maps service. At Google Places you can create a free listing for your company and lodge the most important information. When Google users search with a regional focus, they usually get local business results and a corresponding map that visualizes the search result prominently. With one click, the user reaches either the provider’s website directly or the additional information about the company stored in Google Places, which can be contact details, business hours, for example, or photos. Similar to its Product Search, Google offers the option to review or comment on the listed company, providing information for other users. Google Places is particularly interesting for businesses with several local offices that can all be managed from just one user account.

 Google News is a service that aggregates latest news from various sources and publishes them. This service can be used separately, but at the same time news results increasingly enter search results pages – especially when there are inquiries in terms of current affairs. If you want to post reports from your own blog or Website, an application for Google News is required. Furthermore, certain technical requirements have to be met to guarantee a proper and uniform presentation of the news. However, acceptance from Google isn’t guaranteed automatically.

Google Blog Search: Relevant blog entries appear within the regular search results, currently mostly at the end of the search results list. Different from Google News, no separate application is needed and Google indexes all available blog posts automatically. A high degree of timeliness and relevance of blog posts related to search queries will increase your chances of a high listing with universal search.

• Google Image Search is an interesting element of universal search. Traditionally, image search could be reached primarily via the navigation menu bar, but now results are directly displayed in SERPs. A separate registration for Google's image search is not required, and Google automatically indexes picture elements of a site as best as possible.

Google Video Search: In regard to Google Video Search the situation is similar to image search. Video search results are no longer only available separately, but mostly integrated into the classical result pages. In fact, the videos that are displayed by Google mainly come from the video-sharing sites YouTube and MyVideo, but other video content can be indexed and spread by Google's Video Search, too.

In addition, there are some less well-known services such as the search for books or discussions. And let’s not forget the newest element of the universal search - the so-called real-time search - that allows Google to enter social web content, such as Twitter messages, within just a few seconds and include it in the SERPs. This element will certainly gain importance in the future

Identifying and exploiting the opportunities is crucial

For Website owners, Google Universal Search provides a lot of new opportunities and huge potential. So far, only the first page of search results and its top 10 spots have been of importance to users, but now there are further possibilities for a good listing on the first page through the additional channels at offer.

In fact, Google delivers an accurately fitting auxiliary result for more and more search queries, providing users with a higher comfort level. At the same time, it offers advertisers new opportunities for a broader search engine presence.

Provided that marketers recognize and exploit the opportunities of Universal Search, the chances to leverage rich media to engage consumers and monetize search in new ways are simply perfect thanks to Google. Still, it is highly recommended, not to leave anything to chance, as the comfortable looking Google services nevertheless hide complex algorithms and features. Thus, for a sustainable search engine optimization the various Universal Search channels should be targeted systematically.

By Daniela la Marca