Universal & Blended Search Update from SES New York

By Amanda Sides | Mar 25, 2009
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Several presenters gave comparisons between universal and blended search tactics, and where the blended search results page is headed. Presenters included Olivier Lemaignen of Global Search Marketing, Larry Cornett of Yahoo! Search, Todd Schwartz of Microsoft Live Search, Vic Drabicky of Range Online Media, and Keith Hogan of Ask.com.

Olivier Lemaignen, Group Manager of Global Search Marketing, made the point that as results become more blended, and the more they change, the more your searchers click behavior will evolve.He displayed an example of a vertical search results page next to a blended results page.The vertical search results click activity resembled an “F” pattern, whereas the blended results click activity was a little more varied, with most clicks happening around the image result.The eye is drawn to the image and what surrounds it.Be sure to scope out your searches in various result types (news, images, etc.) and know that you may be side by side with pretty horrid results.Just be aware of where you stand.

Todd Schwartz, Group Product Manager at Microsoft Live Search, focused on how Microsoft is trying to use blended results to simplify key tasks users are pursuing.They want to deliver the best search results, as well as make finding what the users want faster.Implications from blended search: More user engagement, better reach, and increased ROI.

Larry Cornett, VP of Comsumer Products at Yahoo! Search, compared universal search to a box of chocolates. Unless you are a seasoned chocolate swirl expert, there’s a good chance you’ll bite into a piece of chocolate that you wish you hadn’t. He is saying that searchers might click through a result and find out once they land that they regret the decision. Blended results help avoid this problem. He also says that a main goal is to help users complete a task. Cornett discussed their Search Monkey application.Yahoo has even started displaying (at the request of the company/site) thumbnails that when clicked on, show the video, power point, or game, right there on the results page!For users, it becomes a more comprehensive, relevant, and useful experience.For the site owners and developers, they find unmatched opportunity and control, improved click-through-rates, and most importantly, more qualified clicks.

Keith Hogan, VP of Technology at Ask.com, explained his theory on how searchers have 3 different search activity modes.

  • 1. Discrete Task Completion: One and done type of search.
  • 2. Investigation/Research: Focused activity.
  • 3. Entertainment/Exploration: Goofing off.

The primary motivation of blended search results is to reduce the distance between the user query and the answer users are looking for in the discrete task completion mode. Ask.com also includes commercial blending if the user intent is obvious (“buy digital camera”).

Vic Drabicky, Director of International & Market Development at Range Online Media, spoke on the Top 5 reasons blended search will have such a big impact on the industry.

  • 1. SEO has never been more important
  • 2. Social Media is growing and is more important. Representation in social media should be the minimum; interaction is ideal.
  • 3. Search Marketing can’t be siloed. It needs Marketing, PR, Creative, IT, and its customers.
  • 4. Search has more potential.
  • 5. Search is becoming digital asset management.

So the moral of the story is, the way the world searches is changing.We are just changing to make it easier for them to get it done.What will be next?

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