Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Search behaviour and 'universal' search results

A new research report by iProspect in the US has been reported by Media Week and it seems to show that most web users still tend to prefer making general web searches, rather than use the specialised 'vertical' search options, such as news, images or blogs. However, reflecting the more recent move by the search engines to present 'universal' or 'blended' search results, the study did find that these searchers are responsive to search results that now display multiple forms of results in one place, including text, video, images and news.

The research reports that only 17% of users who conduct a news-specific search actually click on a result, while 36 % of users click on news results that appear within general searches. In a similar way, 26% of users find satisfactory results when conducting an image-specific search, while 31% click on image results within general search results and for video there was also a similar pattern (10% versus 17%).

The report concludes that this trend is due to a common “aversion to vertical search” (or perhaps an unfamiliarity with these options) among web users. However, following the introduction of Ask's combined search results and Google’s launch of “universal search” in 2007, more web users are becoming familiar with the combined search results and are therefore becoming more familiar with these options.

This will therefore strengthen the role of universal search and highlights the need for business websites to consider how they can optimise for all the different search results that may be presented. However, as iProspect also point out, vertical search also still exists as an option and companies shouldn't ignore the need to optimise for these results as well since they can be more focused and less 'cluttered' (and competitive) than the main search results list.

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