What is Universal Search?

Since April 2007, the search machine results list has been more than a listing of 10 blue links. Since then, Google has embedded boxes with additional media, which appear in addition to the actual organic search results and, depending on the user intention, have higher click rates as well as promising additional traffic.

This expansion including videos, images, maps, shopping results or news in the Google SERPs is commonly referred to as Universal Search Integration, sometimes also as ‘enhanced search’ or ‘blended search’. Now these elements are also often part of the Google Knowledge Graph. This frequently concerns maps and images.

An overview of integration

There are various integrations of Universal Search in the search engine history, which in some cases greatly differ from one another. For our analyses, which we repeat on an annual basis, the following integrations that are considered the most relevant are:

  • Videos
  • Images
  • Maps
  • Shopping/Product Listing Ads (PLA)
  • News


Our data is compiled in a calendar year, from January to December, and its development is evaluated over the course of this period.

Get the latest Universal Search Study

The purpose of Universal Search

Enriching the results pages of certain search queries with integrations is an extremely important factor in Google’s intention to always deliver the user ‘the best result’ for their individual search query in as short a time as possible.

Universal Search is intended to make further query results obsolete, eliminating the need for long tail queries. This means the integration of media in the SERPs allows Google to better determine user intentions. This increases the probability of more quickly fulfilling the users needs, while at the same time minimizing the search effort and number of search queries. In short – the user should find exactly what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Influencing factors

The number, position and frequency of Universal Search integrations not only vary depending on the search queries (=keywords). They are also influenced by a user’s personal search history, which is in turn determined by user behavior itself, and additionally depends on whether the user is logged in with Google, whether their location can be localized using their IP, or whether any cookies have been saved. Last but not least, Google itself also changes the variations of these integration types.

As taking into account these many individual factors would lead to an excess of complexity, our analyses focus on the variations of the integration types by Google itself on the most neutral, national basis possible.

Searchmetrics analyses of Universal Search

Database and data timeliness

This analysis is based on search results for many millions of keywords. The database is generally the display of the first five search results – in several detailed analyses, only the foremost SERPs. For example, this means news results are only shown on the first page.

Our data is compiled in a calendar year, from January to December, and its development is evaluated over the course of this period.

Absolute distribution vs. market share

The integration of Universal Search can principally be analyzed from two different angles – by its absolute distribution and by its occurrence according to keyword share.

1.  Universal Search Analysis: Distribution by ‘market share’

What we call ‘market share’ of the individual integrations refers to the share of all inspected keywords for which the one respective integration – for example, videos – is shown. Even though there are also search results without Universal Search integrations, the sum of all the elements is above 100%. Often numerous integrations are shown per keyword, with their added share then making up more than 100%.

For example, the search query ‘homer simpson’ includes news, images and videos:


2.  Universal Search Analysis: ‘Frequency of individual integration elements’

The second possibility for analyses is the absolute distribution and frequency of the elements. Most often numerous integrations are delivered per search result – this is primarily true for images, shopping (PLAs) and news. Our calculation is based on the sum of all individual integrations of images, videos, etc. that, when added up, result in a total value of 100%. Accordingly the shares of the elements of an integration type can be determined by the totality of all Universal Search integrations.

Furthermore, we take into account the absolute frequency of individual Universal Search integration types in their percentage developments in order to be able to even better illustrate the trends.

3.  Analysis of individual integration types

The third section of the annual Universal Search study is the detailed analysis for individual types of integrations. Here some – such as the type video – of the shares of individual market participants are analyzed. The analysis of news integrations also plays an important role. For this type, alongside the number of elements that are played out per news integration, there is also a focus on the number of different domains that Google delivers for the news results.