Blended search results are most clicked

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Users are more likely to click on specialized content — such as news, images and video — when it appears within blended (or universal) search results vs. vertical results, according to a study sponsored by iProspect and conducted by JupiterResearch.

“Most people just go to universal results rather than various sectors,” said Rob Murray, president of iProspect, a search marketing firm with US offices in Watertown, MA, and San Francisco. 

Blended search results consist of a combination of traditional text-based links as well as links to news stories, videos, maps, local information and images. Google, Yahoo and MSN first started presenting blended search results for some users' searches within the past year. Before last year, users accessed specialized content via targeted vertical searches.

The study, which took place from December 2007 to January 2008, was based on a survey of 2,404 people.

According to the study, when presented with blended search results, 35% of users tended to click on news results, 31% clicked on image results and 17% clicked on video results. In contrast, after conducting a vertical-specific search, 17% of users clicked on news results, 26% clicked on image results and 10% clicked on video results.

Marketers need to pay more attention to what the typical search results for their keywords look like in Google, Yahoo and MSN, because “people are twice as likely to click on a blended search result,” Murray said. “They then want to build a holistic plan that assures that they are creating and optimizing content in these different formats,” he continued. It's important that marketers have different, diverse digital formats showing up in these results, he added.

The study also revealed that users have become less willing to click past the first page of search results, a growing trend iProspect said it has seen in past surveys. According to the study, 68% of search engine users will click on the first page of search results, while 8% will review more than three pages of results before clicking on a result. And, when users cannot find what they are looking for, 49% relaunch their search after reviewing the first page of results.

Users are definitely refining their keyword set when they don't find what they're looking for much quicker, Murray said. “And that abandonment rate could lead to someone entering a new keyword search or someone going to a different engine,” he added.

This, Murray said, might be one reason why the engines have introduced blended search results. “It might be what's driving the engines to say, ‘Well, we don't fully understand the intent of certain types of queries, [so] let's make sure we have a robust set of results to actually influence and/or provide better relevancy,'” he continued.

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