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Universal Search: Which Formats Dominate in Google's Results? [Study]

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Google's current "standard" SERP model mixes links, images, news stories, videos, and more. But what appears most often? And who gets the most out of it? A recent SearchMetrics study has the answers.

How Mixed Results Have Changed

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Google launched universal search in 2007 and changed the world forever. How? Well, basically they started mixing in non-link content from a variety of sites. This content included videos, images, maps, shopping products, and beyond. But how has each category fared?

Unsurprisingly, videos have dominated the scene, rising dramatically in late 2010 and early 2011. It has since remained stable. Images also saw strong growth and, while they don't appear nearly as often as videos, they're showing the most steady increases.

With video and images on the rise, the path for SEOs is clear. As Dr. Horst Joepen, CEO of Searchmetrics, puts it, "It makes sense for marketers to increase the volume of video and image content they’re creating and to optimize it both on their own sites and on third party sites such as YouTube and Flickr."

Shopping is doing well too, and though it saw a dip earlier in the year, it's now starting to climb again. Maps and News items have remained stable, while Books are on the decline and Blogs are essentially non-existent.

Which Sites Are Helped?

The antitrust investigations (both European and American) of Google are focused on whether Google is unfairly favoring its own sites. When you see the sites that are benefiting from Google's Universal Search, you gain a better understanding of why:

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In videos, the top site gaining traffic is YouTube, which is owned by Google. In Maps its Google Maps, in Shopping its Google, and in images its Blogger (again, owned by Google). News is the only category where Google isn't getting as much benefit, and they still rank seventh for the category.

Of course, others are benefiting as well. The Wall Street Journal, Daily Motion, a variety of hotel sites, WordPress, Meta Cafe, eHow, the New York Times, Zimbio, Deviant Art, and Amazon are just a few of the other sites getting a lot out of universal search optimization. For anyone who hasn't taken advantage yet, let this serve as the wake up call for image and video optimization, at a bear minimum.


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