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If you have not yet started optimizing for blended search, you should begin now. We have mentioned on numerous occasions that we are seeing more and more blended results in the search engines... especially in Google. When Google launched Universal Search in May 2007, we expected to see more "blended" results within Google's main results. While Google has been experimenting with these blended search results over the past 18 months, we were a little disappointed with the limited blended results that have been displayed. Probably more so with the inconsistencies of the displaying of blended search results.
What Are Blended Search Results?
Let's discuss blended search results a little. There are numerous types of blended search results that show up in the main results of search engines. From images to video, from local results to news results, blended results are simply those results that appear in the main search results of a search engine that are somewhat unique or different than the typical blue text links that we have all become accustomed to seeing within a results page of a search engine.
Try a search in Google for "Barack Obama". The results that are returned for me show blended results at the top with some News results. Further down the results page (I have my results set to display 100 results) I see more blended results with some video results including an A&E biography on Barack Obama.
In addition, there are also some social networking blended results showing up including links to Mr. Obama's My Space, Twitter and Facebook pages. The results being displayed are already quite different than we saw less than two years ago and even less than six months ago.
We expect that in 2009, we will be seeing more blended results appearing in Google. Especially if the results are relevant to a users query. This is why quite often we see "news results" appearing in the prime organic space. Users are finding these results as being more useful to their query. No surprise there, as the sponsored listings are often ignored as users scroll right down to the organic results which now quite often are being occupied by a blended search result. This is substantiated by Google's Marissa Mayer as Greg Sterling over at Search Engine Land pointed out.
It appears that Mayer hinted that we can expect to see some changes to the results page of Google, especially based on this comment:
In the near term, Mayer also suggests some new interface changes will be coming this year:
Mayer reveals that the team has been evolving the interface design and user experience of the rich media-heavy search results since the launch in May 2007 and that we’ll see the fruits of this experimentation in the coming months.
So while Google has been moving cautiously with changes to their results pages, we are beginning to see more universal a.k.a blended search results appear. Look for more of this to happen in 2009, especially in conjunction with personalization of search results. Other engines have started this as well, with the ASK 3-D experience being one example of the move towards blended results on a SERP.
The fact is that if you have not yet began optimizing your content for blended search, the longer you wait the harder it will be to gain visibility on the results page. Organic search (SEO if you will) is all about content optimization and the next phase of content optimization is optimizing for blended search.