Searchers Prefer Blended over Vertical Search for News, Images, Video

April 7, 2008

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Paid Search

Search engine users click specialized content – specifically news, image and video – within general search results more than they do within vertical search results, according to the iProspect Blended Search Results Study conducted by JupiterResearch.

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Google, Yahoo, and MSN have begun returning “blended” results for some percentage of the searches that users conduct; that is, a combination of one or more specialized search result types – such as news, images, and videos – appear alongside traditional web pages on the search results page.

Prior to Google’s launch of what it initially called “Universal Search” in May 2007, such specialized content was returned only as a result of a specifically targeted, “vertical” search (e.g., via a search engine’s “News” or “Image” tab).

Among the key findings of the iProspect study:

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  • 36% of search engines user click “news” results within blended search results, whereas only 17% click a “news” result after conducting a news-specific search.
  • 31% of search engine users click “image” results within blended search results, whereas 26% click an “image” result after conducting an image-specific search.
  • 17% of search engine users click “video” results within blended search results, whereas only 10% click a “video” result after conducting a video-specific search.
  • Images are the most clicked type of result after a vertical-specific search; news items are the most clicked type of result within blended search results.

“Since users have historically ignored the vertical offerings of the major search engines, a marketer might conclude that users aren’t interested in that [specific] type of content and, as a result, not invest in producing or optimizing digital assets,” said Robert Murray, President, iProspect. “But that would be a mistake – the findings of this study make that quite clear. Marketers have a great opportunity to claim more search shelf space by optimizing their news, image, and video assets.”

“Last year was revolutionary in how blended search suddenly became the norm,” said Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.com. “But despite the change, some marketers are still ignoring vertical search. That’s a mistake, as these vertical areas provide entirely new and valuable ways to jump into the main search results. And as the study shows, you not only get into the main results but you stand out there, more.”

The study also revealed some trends in user behavior derived from earlier iProspect studies in 2004 (Strategem Research), and 2002 (Vote.com) in regard to the first page of search results:

  • 68% of search engine users now typically click results on the first page of search results, compared with 62% in 2006, and 60% in 2004.

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  • Only 8% of search engine users review more than the first three pages prior to clicking on a result.
  • 49% of search engine users who continue their search when not finding what they are looking for change and/or re-launch their search after reviewing just the first page of search results, up from 40% in 2006, and 42% in 2004.
  • 37% of online users associate appearance at the top of search results with a company’s leadership within its industry or category, up slightly from 35% in 2006 and 33% in 2002.

Overall, the findings of the study have clear implications for marketers, according to iProspect:

  • Appearance on the first page of search results continues to gain importance, both from a traffic-generating perspective as well as a branding perspective.
  • Those organizations with a diverse portfolio of digital assets are best positioned to capitalize on the benefits provided by blended search.
  • Those who have not invested in developing and optimizing such assets should make it a priority to do so.

“Blended search allows marketers to capitalize on their digital assets without the need to effect a change in user behavior,” said Murray. “It essentially brings a variety of content types to users – where they are most comfortable and open to receiving it – and allows them to choose between the various result types. On top of that, it increases a marketer’s available inventory and their chances of being found.”

“The bottom line is that companies that have optimized a variety of digital assets will have a distinct advantage. Those who lack such assets will essentially forfeit page real estate to their competitors,” Murray concluded.

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