With the power to influence rankings on the most popular search engine going, it seems Google is having no qualms with boosting the visibility of its own products.
New research indicates that having additional media like maps and videos feature alongside conventional search listings is now commonplace. Four in five keyword searches at Google.com now yield at least one “Universal Search” integration, billed as the pairing of web media with an organic search result.
There is a catch, though; the additional media appears to be coming largely from content hosted on Google’s own platforms, as integrations with YouTube, Maps and Google’s own Shopping Product Listing Ads (PLAs) saw a huge uptick over 2014.
The analysis comes from Searchmetrics, whose review of the lean towards a more ‘Universal’ search landscape shows Google coming away in a favourable position.
YouTube gains a push
For regular users of Google search, video is the most likely form of content to appear next to an organic search listing. Web-hosted clips accounted for 55% of all universal search integrations in December 2014 despite falling from 66% during January.
But when it comes to the original source of these clips, there are signs of preferential treatment. YouTube was found to be supplying 80% of the videos found alongside search listings in December - a majority stake which rose 30% from January.
Searchmetrics also claims to have seen a decline in the number of video integrations powered by Muzu and Metacafe, which has paved the way for YouTube to dominate.
“None of YouTube’s video hosting competitors have ever accounted for more than 10% of the market, and every video hosting site, except Dailymotion and Vimeo, closed 2014 with negative growth,” explains Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics.
“If you’re a marketer and you want your video to appear in search results, then YouTube continues to be the best choice.”
Another Google product that has been given a greater amount of exposure on the engine is Google Maps, whose integrations with organic search results rose from just 2% at the first month of last year to 7% by the end.
This has been attributed partly to Google looking to provide more localised results. In this case, Maps for helping people identify a location have been deemed appropriate for those on mobile devices and searching for tailored results.
Still, lauded as the ‘winner’ of Universal Search in 2014, it was Google’s Shopping platform that saw the biggest growth in visibility.
Although searchers can only expect to see 16% of integrations containing product-listing ads, this grew 118% throughout the year from a base point of 7%.
“The growth in the proportion of keywords for which Google Shopping Integrations are displayed represent increasing opportunities for retailers to buy Product Listing Ads and for Google to generate income from the now paid for Google’s shopping service,” Tober added.
Marketers take note
Searchmetrics says Google’s big move towards enriching its search listings came on April 2007, when additional media started to appear alongside the regular “10 blue links” available.
The baking of web media into Google results has been dubbed “blended” or “enhanced” search by some corners of the SEO community. Google itself has been known to prefer the ‘Universal’ tag, as also referenced by Searchmetrics.
It’s not just about keeping up appearances, either. Depending on the user’s intention, having additional media complement a plain search listing can lead to higher click rates, according to Searchmetrics, as browsers look out for the most attractive results.
In 2014, images were the second-highest Universal Search integration, taking a 40% share, with news results falling behind those for videos (55%) and PLAs (16%) on 13%.