What is Google’s Universal Search and how it works?


Let us start by telling you a simple story.

Long long ago, Google showed only blue links in search results.

  • Looking for directions? Google didn’t have it.
  • Want images for better visual understanding? Google couldn’t show you just the images.
  • Need a video explanation? Sorry, Google didn’t have it either.

Then in 2007, Google got a glow up. Besides the pretty evident cosmetic changes, SERP layouts became a thing. And functionality shot up to the skies.

Universal Search was introduced. You could find content in different formats from various sources at the same time. In one single search query result.

And that’s Google search how we know it today.

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Images, video, news, maps, whatever you need, find it in one place.

And there are other options too…

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Videos for those who want it…

Other options, if you please, and related search queries too.

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Google does offer a lot more than users expect.

And that’s not all. There are several other segments.


The Google Knowledge Graph segment, for example. And then there is the Local 3-Pack, GoogleMyBusiness listings too, that are specifically aimed at businesses.

But, these aren’t a part of the Universal Search. They are a part of the Extended Search results.

Universal vs. Extended Search

Extended Search results are based on an analysis of the organic search results. And on external and internal sources of data. Like the Google Knowledge Graph is displayed based on GMB listing data that you have.

Universal Search, on the other hand, combines the different segments of the search engine. Different vertical search engines (Image search, video search, and map search come together)

What you see in SERPs depends on the type of search query. And what Google deems fit for display. Based on past responses from different users. And, of course, Google’s algorithms.

Okay, so Universal Search is great for the searchers. What about businesses? How do you optimize your web presence to get the best outcome from Universal search? How does it work? Let’s find out.

What is Universal Search – An SEO Perspective

At the time of its launch, Google’s official statement defined universal search as the ability to search all content in an enterprise through a single search box.

From an SEO standpoint, it means that Google allows you to make not just your text content rank, but also other formats.

Your images could pop up. Videos you upload could rank.

Universal Search opens up new dimensions for businesses and SEO experts. Users get multiple formats of content. And you get an opportunity to rank with the help of multiple formats.

But what if those who prefer videos don’t read the links and just watch videos?

What if someone just gets the direction without having to click anywhere?

Isn’t Google losing its link traffic?

Well, you see, the traffic shift is happening within Google’s universe. Even if you don’t generate link traffic, you are adding to the YouTube viewership. Or you are using Maps.

Google doesn’t really mind that.

Why Do You Need to Consider Universal Search?

You need to consider Universal Search, as you would get negatively affected if you have content in just one format.

What to rank and for what search query is Google’s job.

Your concern is how to woo Google into making your content rank.

You also need to consider Universal Search because your competitors are doing it. You have off the mill content, but your competitors have videos, images with the right Alt tags, and other formats too.

When someone makes a search query, you show in the top 10 organic search results. Kudos to your SEO efforts.

But your rival shows up in the video carousel. The visitor preferred video over text, and even before finding your super awesome blog, went ahead to watch a YouTube video from your competitor.

You don’t need us to tell you what happens next.

And there can be a hundred other possibilities. Opportunities that you shouldn’t be missing.

How Does Google Select Segments to Show in Universal Search Results?

According to individual users’ preferences? Well, we would have surely loved it. And businesses would have indeed gone berserk with such personalized results.

So Google found the middle ground.

Google considers user behavior. But not an individual user’s behavior. If the general response to a SERP layout is videos being clicked on more often than content, Google will take note and list videos higher.

Also, search intent matters. Let us take an example.

Here is what Google returns in SERPs for a broad and straightforward query like ‘pizza.’

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And the first thing I get in the center space are recommendations for the nearest pizza places. (Google does understand that I am too hungry to type anymore.)

And there is plenty of other information that I might be looking for.

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  • Want to know what’s pizza? Check.
  • Want to get details about pizza? Check.
  • Want to get pizza and need outlet recommendations and directions? Check.
  • Want to eat something else? Hell yeah, here’s what people also search for.

Google now covers every possible search intent. Either through Universal Search or the Extended Search.

That satiates the users.

But what can businesses do? Of course, other than ranking in organic search for pizza?

Update your GoogleMyBusiness listings. This will let you land in the Local-3 Pack for local searches. (Extended Search is Universal Search’s sister concern, after all.)

Create content in multiple formats.

Optimize all formats of content.

In essence, that’s how Google works. It realizes what the user would have wanted. And you need to do that too.

Google takes into consideration two things –

  • Past behavior of the users, and
  • Search intent as understood from query data

Now, there is no guide book to help you work your way around universal search. And Google, no matter how great it is for users, doesn’t easily give away its secrets to businesses.

Understanding search engine algorithms is complicated.

Well, we know the question you are irking to ask…

How Do I Rank in Universal Search?

Hire experts for professional SEO services.

An SEO company will have the right experience, tools, and manpower to help you tap the potential of Universal Search.

Uplers is an SEO services company that can help you utilize universal search to your best advantage.

How are we so sure?

They have increased search engine rankings for clients in as little as six months. And they have enhanced conversions. And direction requests. And even phone bookings.

And that’s how we know for sure that they have the required know-how and experience to replicate the results for you as well.

Also, their offerings aren’t limited to Universal Search rankings. They can help you with Extended Search too.

Universal and extended search are great tools in the hands of experts who can help you get not just the top spot in organic search results. You have an option to rank in multiple content formats. And cater to a wider range of audience intent and preference.

All you need is a partner by your side. Understanding algorithms, minutely observing results, and fine-tuning strategies to get better results every time isn’t what you should be focusing on.

You should be seasoning that pizza of yours. For your customers, if that’s what your business does, or have your snack if you please. And let the experts take care of wooing Google for you.


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