We did a survey amongst Yahoo! users almost a year ago. One of the findings was that more than 70% of all the participants would not understand the concept of local search, hence more than 70% of all the users on our site – even if they had a question we could perfectly answer – would not click on the local search tab and therefore the great content and service we offer would stay hidden for a significant number of our customers.
That is a classic situation of a customer who needs advice. But not advice somewhere out of sight and context.
And this is not only true for local search but for video, image, shopping – well ultimately every so called vertical search today.
And after years of denial – and due to technical challenges that needed to be overcome – 2007 was the year when universal / blended search really started off to change the landscape of the search world. For users, marketers and the search engines themselves.
There are multiple areas of impact for each of the groups. For the user ideally this should ease their access to the most relevant content for any given query – and will unveil content previously hidden for them.
For the marketers this means they will need to increase their focus to the vertical engines and play in multiple leagues in order to get or stay successful.
For the search engines themselves it means that being good in just one area of search will not be good enough anymore. In order to provide a comprehensive and most relevant search experience you have to succeed in the battle of vertical search and as an added challenge you will need to get that done with a one size fits all – single input box search.
Now lets take a look at one more specific area – the visual impact on the search engine result pages.
You will all remember the golden triangle – an expression based on an eye tracking based study that came up with this heat map.
Now that was true till blended search started to change the game.
The examples below show how significant the change of peoples focus on theses new search engine result pages is.
Yahoo! classic SRP
Google classic SRP
Google with Local one box
Google with video result
Yahoo! with video result
Its more than obvious that the classic SRP shows a way more evenly spread number of visual hot spots. As soon another source is blended into the SRP the focus clearly shifts towards the “eye candy”.
Today this does mostly impact the head traffic of searches but over time when the algorithms to match other sources and formats of content to a given query improve – the tail traffic will see more and more vertical content as well.
And as long as blended search does not overcome its teething troubles mobile search will suffer too much as to be an mass marketable service – not to mention the lack of proper devices.