Universal SERPs: Vertical Detail in First Results

Posted in Universal Search

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Greetings from the Big Apple! This SES New York 2009 session is all about keeping tabs on ever changing  advancements in universal & blended search- and what it means for marketing. The moderator is Kevin M. Ryan, SES Advisory Board Chair, CMO, WebVisible, Inc.

Olivier Lemaignen, Group Manager, Global Search Marketing, Intuit
Polls the audience to see who “knows what search is” and looked at how the interface evolved from a simple little box to lots of ways to search. “Go into each of the search categories (“verticals”) and find exactly what you’re looking for. Video, shopping, local , book, images, blogs and news are all examples of vertical search categories that are included in “blended” or “universal” search.

These verticals look different at each search engine but “all the engines are going the same way.” “This is a trend that advertisers need to look out for” as regards the impact of the SEO process. The percentage of people being exposed to universal results is increasing and it’s changing click behavior. There is a “drastic reduction” of users clicking on traditional results when blended search is available.

He quotes Enquiro Research to show the evolution of the golden triangle effect (upper left side) to a more fragmented eye tracking pattern. “There are not sexy videos out there for accounting software.” He quoted various universal search classic “warrants served for Chinese food restaurants” and speaks of the “business implications of universal search. Don’t ignore the implications of universal search.

Larry Cornett, VP, Consumer Products, Yahoo! SearchTodd Schwartz, Group Product Manager, Live Search, Microsoft Corporation

He spoke about the “intricate language of chocolate.” If you know the language, you know what you’re getting. If not, you might not be happy with your chocolate. He sees search results as the same. “Is the search result relevant for what I’m looking for?”

He sees blended result as “taking a little bight out of chocolate” to “take a peek” at what is in side. He showed a music artist results that shoed a shortcut, enhanced listings, news and videos. There is a media player at the bottom of the page, demonstrating Yahoo’s most “extreme” example of a blended page. He asks, how do we best serve the user by delivering a search results that totally serves the user. He showed the “Joe Shanghai” search result for New York, blended search within search characteristic of Yahoo’s Search Monkey technology.

the result includes Yelp rating, address, phone number, etc… Publishers collaborate to get structured data in the resultto give results which respond the the “meaning behind the link.” Now it’s easy easier. He shows a video of Hulu’s video with pre and post roll, right in the Yahoo search results. Some Yahoo SERPs actually have power point and Flash games. It is done by “just adding a few lines of code.” Literally it’s a few words of code, to give Yahoo access to your results in their blended results.

This changes the business for advertisers are palpable. Open the Victoria’s video right on the SERP. For users it’s about much more comprehensive search results. They need the information so this is about “helping them get what they’re trying to accomplish a bit faster.” This is unlike any other time in the search engine history, users have complete control over their listings.

“A traditional search result does not show the power” of a Yelp results. Get more qualified clicks because those folks clicking are are vetting content more first. It’s an “incredible” opportunity.

Todd Schwartz
He loves this blended search panel. It’s important to keep in mind the history of search, a relatively new market that’s been around for 10-15 years. There were only a 100K websites made up of users who liked more browser navigation and structure. Over the last 10-12 years there has been an explosion of content, with tens of millions of sites. There’s more than 50 billion terabytes. Users need to access the content. As the complexity of the data and user grows, a richer search is called for.

Deliver Better Results
Users are becoming are becoming more sophisticated and customers “engage deeply” in tasks and using search to help. 50% of queries are “long sessions” for research, shopping, travel, products and services. People are coming back to tasks over and over again. The same types of trends occur in the blended search results. Searches around entertainment, shopping, travel are common.

Blended search pays in giving users the best results possible and helping them with tasks. Todd showed the MSN blended results for “Oscars,” which is a “great result” to bring terrific insight to the query. Next he cited “March Madness” as a good example of bringing in “structured” blended data. He did the same for movie including news results, the trailer and other related content.

Simplify Tasks
He showed results that stem from their acquisition of FareCast, bringing very specific flight and other travel information extremely close to the services. Weather, traffic (including a rich map with traffic overlay) and flight arrival times compose an “end to end” experience in the vertical.

  • More and more engagement with Search
  • Reach more customers
  • Higher ROI

Keith Hogan, Vice President, Search Technology, Ask.com
The thing that he “gets the most enjoyment from” is analyzing user and session logs. Search users are broken into 3 areas: discreet task completion, investigation/research (50%) and entertainment/exploration.

The primary motivation of discreet task completion is the reduce the distance between the searcher and the answer. Search engines also blend to inform users about non-blue link features and reduce the depths of some “deep dives” in the investigation/research mode. In the investigation research mode, not every query is useful for this purpose.

In the goofing off mode, users are pretty much likely to “go anywhere” so Ask puts material to “expand” users’ horizons.” Search engines often will aggressively promote blended content to expose and embedded feature like Ask propietary Tv search features. In the research mode, SERPs can be “enhanced greatly” by bringing content closer to the surface.