I remember when the Google search results consisted of page after page of blue links. (I also remember Netscape, but I tell myself that makes me a veteran, not old.)

While search engine technology was simpler then, it was also a lot more frustrating. Not all results were relevant and, if you were looking for something other than a website, such as an image or video, you were pretty much out of luck.

That changed in April 2007, when Google rolled out Universal Search. In this article, you’ll learn why Universal Search results are still relevant and how to optimize your site for maximum visibility.

What is Universal Search?

Also known as Blended Search or Enhanced Search, Universal Search does exactly what its name suggests: pull from multiple sources to deliver what Marissa Mayer (then Google Vice President of Search Products and User Experience) called “a seamless, integrated experience to get users the best answers.” Instead of websites alone, information was drawn from image indexes, YouTube, online publications, and more.

When it was launched, this all-encompassing approach to answering queries made for a richer and more fulfilling user experience, and it only got better. For example, if you typed in the phrase ‘strawberry,’ you would be presented with everything from mouthwatering photos and health benefits to jam recipes and growing guides. To the right of the SERP, an infobox would display the Wikipedia definition of strawberries, nutrition facts taken from the USDA, and popular related searches, such as bananas and blueberries.

Fast-forward to 2020, and universal search results have become even more intuitive and sophisticated. For example:

●      Results from real-time platforms like Twitter often appear when searching for breaking news or current events.

●      Google Shopping results appear when the search query suggests a clear intention to purchase.

●      Google Knowledge Graphs present users with more information related to their search.

●      Instant results are available when searching for apps, weather information, flight times, and sports results.

Why is Universal Search important?

From a user perspective, universal search delivers the most relevant results possible by drawing them from multiple sources with information on the same search topic. If you search for the latest Avengers movie (it’s July 2020, so I’m guessing that would be Black Widow), you’ll find:

●      Teaser trailers on YouTube

●      A Wikipedia summary (of course)

●      A Top Stories panel with links to recent news coverage

●      An infobox with everything you want to know about the Marvel character and the movie)

With your SEO hat on, this means that you’ll need to create and optimize a broader range of assets than you did before 2007, but it all starts with a well-constructed website.

Optimize your website for Universal Search

The first step in optimizing a website for Universal Search is understanding what customers will be searching for and selecting appropriate keywords. If you operate a boutique coffee roastery in Toronto and offer local delivery, your target audience is probably using search phrases like:

●      ‘Coffee delivery in Toronto’

●      ‘Organic coffee Toronto’

●      Coffee roaster Toronto’

To attract more local search traffic, you need to:

●      Ensure that your site is well-structured, optimized for mobile devices, and contains the keywords that ideal customers are most likely to use.

●      Use short and descriptive URLs that signal page topics to the search engines—for example, www.joescoffeeroaster.com/toronto-coffee-delivery.html instead of www.joescoffeeroaster.com/page3.html.

●      Create appropriate and appealing meta titles and descriptions. You want them to include your chosen keywords and be interesting enough to make searchers want to click through to your site. To avoid truncation, keep your meta descriptions within 155 characters.

●      Give all page content a logical structure by using headers and subheaders. They should ideally include the main keyword that you’re targeting.

●      Internally link between various pages to increase search engine crawl speed and highlight your most important pages.

●      Build backlinks from other websites by creating content that these sites will want to link to.

That’s a lot, and it’s only for your website! In the next section, we’ll review best practices for your digital content and social media.

Optimize your content for Universal Search

Since Universal Search pulls content from vertical search platforms like YouTube, Google Images, News, Shopping, and more, you want to have as much exposure as possible in each of these areas.

●      Google Images: Optimize images of your store and its products with keyword-rich file names and ALT tags. These tags can also benefit the visually impaired and those who are only able to access the site in text-only format.

●      YouTube: With over two billion logged-in monthly users, YouTube can expose your business to a huge audience of potential customers. Change the name of your video files from something like ‘roastery_ad_004FINAL.mov’ to ‘Toronto_coffee_roastery.mov,’  insert keywords naturally in the video titles, and optimize all video descriptions. It’s also a good idea to tag your videos with popular keywords that relate to the topic.

●      Google My Business: Half of those who do a local search on their smartphone end up visiting a business they found there the same day. Sign up for a free account and fill in your profile, making sure it is as complete as possible and that all information is accurate. Add high-quality pictures, your local phone number, and operating hours to give your business the best chance of appearing in an infobox for Toronto coffee roasters.

●      Google News: If you’ve done something newsworthy, like imported a rare and desired coffee or participated in a noteworthy community event, distribute a press release to increase your chances of appearing in a News listing.

●      Social media: Social media content like Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram photos can all be indexed by the search engines and appear on the SERPs. Optimize all content the same way you would if it was going on your website instead.

What’s the bottom line?

Universal Search is a reminder that when it comes to SEO, websites are only the tip of the iceberg. To boost your search engine visibility and grow your traffic, you need to optimize all digital content and keep optimizing it until a successful new trend tells you to do something differently. While Google may one day become as archaic as Netscape, it rules the moment and, for the time being, won’t steer you wrong.

The views included in this article are entirely the work and thoughts of the author, and may not always reflect the views and opinions of Regex SEO.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    This article brilliantly emphasizes the significance of Google’s Universal Search Results in today’s digital landscape. Thanks to the author for shedding light on how this integration impacts SEO strategies, ensuring comprehensive visibility across various content formats. Great insights.

Write a Comment