Universal Search's Affect on PPC

  Written by on March 27, 2009

If you’ve been keeping up on our blog you’ve probably heard of Universal Search by now, where on the search engine results page (SERP) you’ll find pictures, videos and other vertical search results where once only web page listings resided (if you are not familiar with Universal Search, here is a good article on what it is). This feature within the search engines is meant to enhance the searchers experience by providing the most relevant results to their search, no matter what form of ‘rich media’ it comes in (whether an article, video, photo or something else – read a previous post discussing why to keep up with Universal Search).

We think this is great for search engine users – providing a greater pool for which to pull relevant results is fantastic. The drawback? Website owners and marketers may find it difficult to keep pace with this change, having to keep finding ways to include rich media on their website in order to be at the top of the SERPs. Recently we came across another significant bump in the road for website marketers when it comes to Universal Search – its impact on PPC advertising.

Yes – we said that Universal Search has an impact in PPC. How can that be?

It has to do with the way that the ‘rich media’ appears on the page. When a SERP has rich media within its results, visitors are more likely to disregard the PPC ads surrounding the results and head right for the videos, photos or articles. Take a look at the below SERP. You see that there are photos at the top of the rankings, followed by a few organic listings. Then there are screen captures from a few videos and underneath that there are links to news articles on the subject. Much more than your ordinary organic and sponsored listings.

google universal search
Google Universal Search Results Page

For searchers this is great – the enhanced results page hold more relevant information than they once had (just as Personal Search has helped searchers get better results). As a paid search advertiser however, the lower click through rates (CTRs) can affect website traffic, leading to a lower click-through rate and fewer conversions.

Is Universal Search Affecting Your PPC Campaigns?

The best defense is a good offense – stay ahead of the game and start thinking of ways to include rich media within your site. Test new PPC ads to see if you can improve your positioning and CTRs so that when Universal Search starts appearing on the pages with your ads, they remain highly visible and relevant.

Universal Search Isn’t a Bad Thing – It’s Just a Different Thing

We truly believe the search experience is enhanced when there are more options than just text links. As a marketer, is that you need to keep an eye on the SERPs, as well as any PPC programs you have set up. If the keywords you are targeting start bringing up photos and other rich media with their searches, be prepared to act so that you minimize any dip in CTRs and conversions.

Have you run up against Universal Search with your PPC program, or have you made adjustments to your advertising program? Have you made adjustments to your program or site that worked out? We want to hear what your thoughts are – let us know!

Posted Under: Link Marketing & PPC
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About Brian McGrath

Over the past 17 years, Brian has experienced many aspects of marketing, including brand management, copywriting, campaign coordination, paid search marketing, social media marketing and internet marketing. Brian now uses this knowledge to help our clients maximize their presence on the internet. His expertise in all things marketing gives our clients – and the Mannix Marketing SEO team – a distinct advantage in all areas of search. His extraordinary analytic skills provide SEO, social media and paid search clients with real, measurable results. To maintain his cutting edge expertise, Brian stays current on the latest trends in social media and digital marketing by reading industry publications, attending conferences, and consulting with peers. Google+ Profile

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