Why you need to be analysing Universal Search

Google is no longer just a list of classic blue links – that’s something we all know, regardless of whether or not we work in marketing. Monitoring our ‘Universal Search’ is more important now than ever.

When did Google introduce Universal Search?

Google introduced Universal Search in 2007, initially blending secondary engines such as Google Images and Google News into its primary listings.

What is Universal Search?

In terms of SEO, Universal Search refers to the information, media and features that are collected from different databases, and merged into a search engine’s primary results.

Universal Search features include:

SERP Feature Key - Pi Datametrics

From ‘Images’ and ‘Video carousels’ to ‘Answer cards’, Google now displays a vast selection of Universal SERP Features which offer fantastic awareness and experience opportunities; enabling brands to open up their content, answer customer questions and jump out above the competition.

If you are not owning or monitoring your presence across Universal Search features, despite what your opinion may be of them (i.e. whether or not they reduce your traffic), you will be losing out on valuable real estate to your competitors!

Find out more about individual SERP Features here.

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Why are Google’s Universal Search results so important?

Universal Search features now completely dominate page one, and in many instances, organic classic blue links get pushed far down the page.

In fact, on mobile, we’ve seen organic positions only be visible after 3 to 4 scrolls. And, if that isn’t enough to prove the importance of these features, a study by Nielsen Norman Group suggests that users’ eyes flit to those more visual results before ever reaching the classic blue listings – even those that sit further down the page – in what is known as the ‘Pinball pattern effect’.

search engine users focus on universal search features before looking at organic listings in what Nielson Norman called the pinball pattern effect


The once coveted organic ‘Position one’ is no longer as visible and, therefore, owning that space is no longer as valuable.

At Pi, we want our data to be as truthful and value-focused as possible, which is why we’ve begun tracking top-level Share of Voice across Universal Search features, as well as classic blue links, in our platform and quarterly ‘Market Leaders’ leaderboards.

pi datametrics universal search feature share of voice leaderboard

Pi Datametrics Leaderboards now analyse Universal Search features

As part of our free quarterly industry leaderboards, we analyse the SERP landscape to work out who the best performers are across a total of 11 industries.

Each leaderboard monitors the performance of every player returning in the SERPs, against several thousand search terms.

For example, in our Fashion leaderboard, we analyse 14k commercially valuable terms across 40k+ websites. Over the course of Q1 in 2020, that equated to a little over 91 million searches.

This huge pool of data now takes into account the additional competitors appearing in 18 different Universal SERP Features, as well as competitors in standard organic listings.

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How has the Share of Voice landscape changed since analysing Universal Search?

After analysing the entirety of Google’s real estate for the first time, we noticed some subtle differences in each competitor landscape, including:

  • Leaderboard positions for the top five remain the same in a lot of our sectors
    Top brands are focussing on their search presence more holistically than others.
  • Universal Search Share of Voice % is much smaller than ‘Classic’ SoV
    As an increased number of doorways are now being tracked, SoV has diluted. However, this also means that visibility opportunity has increased.
  • There has been greater prevalence of YouTube and Pinterest results
    These social media sites have seen significant uplift, highlighting new content opportunities for brands.
  • Many ‘New entries’ have appeared
    Brands that were once unnoticed as competitors within certain industries have been revealed as strong contenders across Universal Search features.
  • There’s been lots of volatility
    Players that were once mainstays in our leaderboard, quarter after quarter, have disappeared entirely.

Overall, this new analysis is a more accurate reflection of the SERP landscape, and a hugely important tool in the Competitor Discovery process.

Now is the time to get a handle on your Universal Search SoV

We are currently experiencing a global crisis, and business across the world has slowed.

Seeking out new opportunities is key to staying relevant, and in digital, there is no better opportunity than organic visibility.

In fact, in this moment of rare downtime, it’s more important now than ever to be organising and optimising for when things return to normality.

And getting an accurate view of your entire ecosystem is critical in enabling you to do so successfully.

The time to assess and improve your Universal Search SoV is now.

Discover your Universal Search SoV

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If you want to find out more about accessing Pi Datametrics’ Universal Search feature Share of Voice / Leaderboard data, book your demo. We’ll be happy to take you through the platform.