Google has been saying for a few years now that more searches happen on mobile than on desktop, and it is increasingly focused on improving the mobile experience. But as most marketers will know, the challenge of getting seen in mobile searches is extremely intense.
On a mobile screen, searchers have to actively scroll down – often several times – to even view the results appearing lower on the page. On top of this, Google currently displays only 8.5 organic results on average on its first page in mobile searches – it used to be 10 in the old days.
For these reasons, the Universal or blended search integrations – such as videos, knowledge graphs, direct answers and app suggestions – are an increasingly important consideration.
Many of the Universal Search boxes appear above the fold (before scrolling), catch the eye and generate higher click-throughs. It makes sense for online businesses to target them by optimising their content and websites.
Having analysed half a million search results to identify the makeup of the first page – including which Universal Search items appear and how often - we’ve identified the biggest opportunities for marketers to get their content on page one via Universal Search. Here are some of the main takeaways.
1. Get seen - and feature in voice search - via Direct Answers boxes
Direct Answers (also known as featured snippets) boxes get shown in 4% of mobile searches, appearing when Google senses that someone is looking for a specific answer to a question or some instructions (such as “how to make honey” or ‘‘what is a classic car”). They appear at the top of the mobile page so they are highly sought after.
And they also increase the chance of breaking into the voice search results on smart assistants. Google Home, for example, only reads out one answer to a question – and this is usually the result that features as a direct answer in search results.
The text in direct answer boxes usually comes from websites with high authority that follow a clear well-ordered content structure, with coding and tags that help Google’s crawlers understand it. A good start is to look for typical questions and ‘how-tos’ that customers ask within your industry.
2. Drive app downloads with Google’s App suggestions boxes
If your business offers a mobile app then you should explore the possibilities for targeting Google’s app suggestion boxes. They appear in 11% of mobile searches – for queries related to tasks or activities that can be supported by apps (dating, banking and music are prime examples). A searcher that clicks on a suggested app is taken directly to the download store to install the app.
You can boost the chances of appearing in the app suggestions boxes by following many of the recommendations for App Store Optimisation such as writing highly relevant titles and descriptions on the app store and encouraging positive reviews.
3. Knowledge Graphs: a branding opportunity for well-known organisations
The Knowledge Graph boxes now appear in nearly every third mobile search result (32%) and usually at the top of the page when searchers are looking for a known brand, organisation, destination or person. They display a brief description, images and relevant links. If you work for a brand you should know that Google pulls text and images for Knowledge Graphs from pertinent trustworthy sites, very often Wikipedia. It also sometimes extracts contact details from a company’s “Google My Business” profile and links to a company’s own social media profiles.
4. Engage searchers through video boxes from your YouTube channel
Video has long been a recurring presence in search results. 23% of searches on mobile trigger at least one videos integration on the first page and the share of video from YouTube in them now stands at 92%. So, your main aim should be to upload videos to YouTube – and optimise them by using the most appropriate keywords and phrases in titles and descriptions. Including subtitles – which gives Google a much better understanding of the content in videos – can also help. And the search engine is also more likely to display videos that show positive engagement such as likes and comments.
5. Make your latest news highly visible through news boxes
News results boxes – which feature in 9% of mobile results – usually include current or breaking news related to the searched for topic or organisation. Obviously, they are a branding opportunity and a great way to get your company’s latest activities seen up front when someone is googling your brand name. You can increase the chances of appearing by maintaining good relationships with the media and ensuring they are kept updated with your latest news.
6. Consider fast-loading Accelerated Mobile Pages
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which are optimised to load faster on mobile phones, now appear in 21% of all organic results. The Universal Search integration with the most AMP pages is news boxes (78%). Non-news websites including e-commerce sites are starting to adopt AMP and Google’s Speed Update, which makes speed a ranking factor in mobile results, is likely to spark wider interest from brands that want to make it part of their mobile marketing strategies.
There are actually hundreds of Universal Search integrations appearing in search results, from Twitter cards, Maps and ads, to stock updates and even song lyrics. If you’re an online business you need to work out which ones are relevant and important to target within your sector.