Optimizing for Universal Search: What You Need to Know

When marketers began to focus on search engine optimization (SEO), search results were simple. However, search engine result pages (SERPs) have continued to evolve to serve up more dynamic and relevant content. 

What does this mean for you?

There are more ways to get your content featured at the top of SERPs, which increases traffic to your website. 

Keep reading to learn:

  • How your website can appear in universal search results
  • How to optimize your website to rank on universal search

Defining Universal Search

Universal search is where Google displays various content types on the right side of a search page. 

Search results can include: 

  • Images
  • Local businesses 
  • Maps
  • Rich snippets 

The unique content depends on the search’s intent. In other words, different keywords yield different types of featured content in universal search. 

Benefits of Ranking in Universal Search

Optimizing for search engines offers a variety of benefits to your business. 

First, search engines provide you with higher quality traffic. Unlike cold calls or other sales tactics, SEO brings you website visitors that want to learn more from your content or buy your products.

It’s no surprise that 59% of marketers report that their highest quality leads come from search engines.

Furthermore, your organic traffic will increase if you rank in universal search. If your content appears in the blended results, you don’t have to rely heavily on Google ads.

Appearing in search engine results also helps your brand image. Customers know that the search engines gather the most relevant information for blended results. 

If you appear in blended search results, your customers assume that you are an authority on their search topic. 

How to Optimize Your Website for Universal Search

With universal search, you want to optimize for blended search results. Blended results mean you have the opportunity to rank for different formats. 

1. Research Your Keywords

The type of content shown in blended results depends on the search keyword. Specifically, search engines choose the formats that are most relevant to the search’s intent.

For example, the search term “shoes” returns Google Shopping, a local business map, and the People Also Ask (PAA) box. In contrast, the search term “how to repair a watch” features a video tutorial followed by the PAA box.

So, before you develop new content and optimize your website, you need to identify the format that works for you. 

Draft a list of your important keywords and run them through Google Search to figure out which terms result in a blended SERP. Then, make a note of which universal search elements appear. Now you have a list of content types to optimize for depending on your keywords. 

This type of keyword research will let you know how you’re currently ranking. 

Furthermore, you’ll learn more about the search intent of your keywords based on the content types that appear. For example, keywords with buying intent will display products on Google Shopping, whereas keywords with educational intent might display featured snippets or video tutorials.

2. Optimize Images and Video

To optimize images for Google Search, focus on originality and relevance. Unique, high-quality graphics can boost your ranking in Google Images and universal search. 

Add your brand colors or logos to graphics, especially infographics. For best results, optimize your image metadata. To do this, check that your images load quickly and use keywords in the image title, description, and file name.

Video continues to top the list of best opportunities for marketers. Research shows that video results appear in 62% of universal searches, and often outperform traditional text results.

Video is especially useful as educational content. It often appears in the results for “how to” keywords.

To optimize video content, publish the video on your domain and your YouTube channel. Remember to add a call to action in your YouTube videos to direct viewers to your website.

We also recommend that you include a video transcript on your website page, which will help Google crawl your content for relevant keywords.

3. Optimize for People Also Ask (PAA) Box

Google added the People Also Ask box when it optimized for natural language processing. In short, Google updated its algorithm to provide relevant results for conversational search terms.

Specifically, Google uses the questions and answers (Q&A) format to find featured snippets for the PAA box. So, if you want to appear in the PAA box, you need to lean into the Q&A format. 

To begin, identify relevant query keywords for your business. You can use tools like AnswerThePublic.com to learn what types of questions people ask about your offering.

Decide what questions you can answer, and then publish content that contains a concise answer. Remember “how” queries might be better served by video content rather than the PAA box.

4. Optimize for Google Carousel

Google Carousel is a rich format list-style search result that shows multiple pages from the same website. Google can highlight various types of content in a carousel, including recipes, course listings, and movies. 

The key to rank as a Google carousel lies in structured data. Structured data uses a standardized code format to help Google navigate your page structure. 

For example, a film blog can use structured data to identify elements on their page, including movie poster, title, director, and film rating.

If you have multiple pages that follow a standard format, you can add structured data to your code to help Google crawl those pages. Reviews and ratings can also help.

Finally, make sure that you upload high-quality images and optimize your page load speed

It can be a challenge to keep up with SEO best practices and all of Google’s changes. However, search engines remain a valuable source of high-quality website traffic. Let these tips guide you as you work toward building a highly relevant website to attract the visitors you want.

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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