Understanding the Search Engine Landscape for Your Industry

Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of discussion surrounding blended search results.  And for good reason, as the major search engines have been increasingly incorporating blended results with traditional results, and it’s had an impact on SEO strategies – or at least, it should have.

Before I go further, though, let’s clarify on what a blended (or “universal”) result actually is:

Blended results are a mix of different types of search results that the engines occasionally serve to users based on their query.  For example, if my search query is “digital cameras”, I will typically receive Product Search / Shopping Results in the major engines, which is one type of blended result.  Here’s a screen shot of Product Search Results for that query in Google:

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Screen shot of a Product Search Result for "digital cameras" in Google.

There are a lot of different types of blended results that can be incorporated into search engine results pages (SERPs).  Here are a few:

1. Image Results
2. Video Results
3. News Results
4. Local Results
5. Product Search Results
6. Blog Results
7. Book Results
8. Financial Results
10. Health Results
11. Map Search
12. Job Search
13. PDFs
14. Social Results

These are just some of the different types of blended results that you may come across during any given search.  To be clear, these types of results don’t always appear in SERPs; however, they are becoming increasingly prevalent.  The search engines will try to determine the intent of a user’s search, and incorporate blended results when they deem relevant.

Here are a couple of examples:

Let’s say I’m looking for pizza joints in my area, and I simply search for “pizza.”  Here’s what I see in Google:

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Google SERP for "pizza".

You can see that even though I didn’t specify that I was looking for pizza restaurants in my area, Google took it upon itself to incorporate Local Results based on my intent and location.

Let’s check out Bing as well, since it’s boasting some of its new features and is looking to capture some of Google’s market share. Here’s what I get when searching “pizza” in Bing.com:

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Bing SERP for "pizza".

You can see in the top left, Bing offers users an option to click on different types of results, such as Images, Videos and Local for this particular query.  Google offers a similar feature at the top of its search results; however, the options for different types of results in Bing vary depending on your search query, whereas Google’s stay constant.  Additionally, this feature in Bing is a more prominent call to action than in Google SERPs.

In addition to providing the option to browse different types of blended results by category, Bing, similar to Google, also blends these universal results with traditional results, as seen on the bottom of the SERP for the keyword “pizza”:

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Bing blends universal results with traditional results, as seen on the bottom of the SERP for the keyword "pizza".

Let’s quickly take a look at another example.

Since it’s summer, and it’s not quite hot enough up here in Michigan, I’m thinking about taking a trip to the Cayman Islands and I want to do a little research first.  I start with Google and search “cayman islands”:

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Google SERP for "cayman islands".

As opposed to the “pizza” example in which Google only incorporated one type of blended results (Local), here you can see that Google’s decided to give me four different types of blended results: Image, Video, News & Maps.

Here’s what Bing serves for the same search:

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Bing SERP for "cayman islands".

Going beyond what Google served in terms of blended results, Bing actually incorporates seven different types of results when searching for “cayman islands.”

So what is the purpose behind these blended results?

It’s to enhance the user experience.  As different forms of content become more and more prevalent across the web, and as the demand for this content in all forms continues to climb, the engines are faced with the ongoing challenge of finding, organizing and serving it when it’s appropriate for their users.

So what’s the purpose behind this post?

In two words: relentless optimization. Blended results are here to stay, and the search engine landscape is going to continue to evolve, with even more content in new formats. Whatever your industry and whomever your audience, blended search results should play a significant role when it comes to your overall SEO strategies.

For a pizza chain or mom and pop establishment, garnering real estate in Local Results (as well as Image & Video Results) will be key.  As we can see for those in the Travel industry, several forms of blended results should be considered as part of a holistic SEO strategy.  For e-Commerce websites, Product Search Results will be critical.  For a mobile software provider, it may be News Results.

The point of this post is that for organizations of all sizes in all industries-in order to take advantage of every opportunity for search engine exposure, traffic and sales-analyzing the entire search engine landscape as it pertains to your particular industry is critical.

And it’s not only about what you see now in search results, but looking ahead and seeing what could be.  Social outlets are one example.  Real-time search has proven its value and the engines are taking a hard look at ways to incorporate results from social media outlets into their SERPs.

You can’t tackle everything at once, and relentless optimization is a never-ending process, so the question that should be continually asked is, “what’s next?”