In the context of search engine optimization, “Universal Search” (also called “Blended Search” or “Enhanced Search”) refers to the integration of additional media like videos, images or maps – displayed above or amongst the organic search results of search engines like Google or Bing.
Since April 2007, the search engine results list has been more than a listing of 10 blue links. Since then, Google has embedded boxes with additional media, which appear above, amongst, and/or alongside the actual organic search results. Depending on the user intent, these results have higher click rates as well as promising additional traffic.
This expansion including videos, images, maps, shopping results or news in the Google SERPs is commonly referred to as Universal Search Integration, sometimes also as “enhanced” or “blended” search. Now these elements, especially images, are also sometimes part of the Google Knowledge Graph, which frequently concerns maps and images.
The purpose of Universal Search
Google integrated the vertical search engines in the results of the organic search for relevant keyword searches in 2007. The term “Universal Search” covers results from areas such as News, Images, Maps, Video, and Shopping, now implemented in the organic search results and can be individually selected via the menu at the top of the search, which is not fixed but changes according the user’s query. Enriching the results pages of certain search queries with integrations is an extremely important factor in Google’s intention to always deliver the user ‘the best result’ for their individual search request in as short a time as possible.
Universal Search is intended to minimize the user’s effort and time to search for further results, eliminating the need for long tail queries. This means the integration of media in the SERPs allows Google to better determine user intentions. This increases the probability of instantly providing content which fulfils the users’ needs, while at the same time minimizing the search effort and number of search queries. In short – the user should find exactly what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.