Jolina Pettice

SES New York: Universal Search Panel

Universal Search Session

Today’s Orion panel at SES NY really took a different spin on the topic of universal search. I went in expecting to hear the same info  about what it is, how info is gathered and how to optimize for universal search. Which, if you are interested, can be read about in a previous SES Chicago post regarding universal search.

This session was moderated by Kevin Ryan and Mike Grehan. The session was lively and engaging. Panelists included:
John Battelle from Federated Media, James Lamberti from comScore, Lyndsay Menzies from Big Mouth Media and Jack Menzel from Google.

James led the group by presenting not-seen-before data about universal search from a study comScore recently conducted.

Of the 1.2 billion queries studied, 220 million contained a universal result, categorized as news, video, images etc.

The Google Universal search penetration by type was:

  • 58% anything universal
  • 38% video
  • 34% news
  • 19% images
  • 15% multiple (results that had more than one universal result present)
  • 10% map/stock/weather

Overall when reviewing universal search results, the study found less clicks from the consumer because the information they were searching for is now appearing directly on the results page such as maps, stock quotes and weather.

According to James, the two major implications of universal search include:
1. Organic search will become increasingly critical

  • search result pages becoming the destination
  • technology and content supercede marketing spend
  • inherent ‘view thru’ value will challenge measurement

2. Paid search will become more competitive

  • fewer paid click options on fewer pages
  • consumer in control, not marketers
  • conversion rates should increase

Next up was an open discussion regarding universal search and fair or not, the panelists had many questions for Jack about about universal search and its impact at large.

Question: How is universal search impacting Google’s business model, when the SERP as the destination is causing fewer clicks on paid ads?
Answer: Returning relevant results to the searcher is Google’s primary goal and incorporating universal content into the search results does this.

Question: How is Google balancing its move toward being a media company (as was insisted by John) and fairly ranking entities like Google Finance among other non-Google entities?
Answer: Google takes the high moral ground and there is no bias in the ranking of Google-owned sites

Comment: The inclusion of images and video in the results has changed the game in a big way, especially since Google has not yet taken the stance of a media company, as Yahoo! has always done.
Response: What Google wants to do is unite people with all the content available. It’s not that we have avoided this because of a particular business model, but rather because returning universal results is not easy to do.

This session was fascinating and talked to universal search at the strategic level, as opposed to diving into tactics which was a rare treat.

Here’s the panel’s final take on Universal Search (for today anyway :))

Kevin – Tell us something that hasn’t been in the the press regarding the next generation of search

Lyndsay – We think a lot about searchers as they were in the past, but the searchers are different. Pay attention to the next generation of web users and conform to the way they want the information. Advertising may be rocky for a couple years and it take awhile for advertisers to see the benefit (of universal search).

James – The big picture is painted by the consumers and this has to be the way the engines go. This is what the consumers want and sometimes we get too gloomy about this. Search is growing, and while Google may face a brand identify issue (batting off opinions that they are becoming a media company), but overall it’s good.

Jack – Google is striving to be comprehensive and relevant. It’s not about video/images being awesome, we’re reflective of the kind of content that is out there – more video, more images – giving the consumer what they want. We don’t view this as a direct conflict with the current advertising models.

John – I think Google is the interface of the web. Instead of the content being determined by coders, it’s being determined by users and the content they want.
Universal search as an interface is the next step, the step after is like The Matrix – creating a cockpit for our experience on the web. We need to work with, but not controlled by the interface that is Google.

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  1. Avatar Cathlyn Driscoll says

    My colleagues and I attended this session- “lively” was a good word to describe it. Jack Menzel, who is working in the Universal Search area for Google, was put on the hot seat several times by John Battelle from Federated Media on the issue of universal search lowering the numbers of clicks on SERP pages, and also ‘changing the 10 link’ business strategy that Google has offered for years. ComScore’s James Lamberti’s new data on January 08’s universal search, was a revelation – especially that now SERP pages are becoming the destination pages. People are getting their answers right in the SERPs. Marketers will not have as many clicks & data to support campaigns- and as the panel concluded, Branding will become more important, even though not as easily tracked.


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