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Friday, June 9, 2023

Google's Universal Search Spells Opportunity For B2B

News flash! The rules of the game have changed. Again.

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last couple of months, by now you’ve heard that Google recently rolled out a new interface called Universal Search. Not surprisingly, Google’s latest change has caused a lot of industry chatter, and understandably, many marketers are fraught with fear on how it will affect their rankings.

But how will Universal Search impact B2B marketers?

In the past, Google’s results were siloed under different tabs, with various forms of digital content including news, videos, images, and blogs, etc., served-up separately from the main Web page results.

But despite the plethora of offerings available, user adoption of theses channels stalled, essentially rendering them “invisible” tabs.

But about a year ago – in a move that many surmised was designed to encourage user adoption for these tabs – Google began to experiment with integrating results from these separate channels so that they would appear directly above the natural Web page results.

Today, Universal Search fully integrates relevant content from all of these other tabs within one set of unified or “universal” search results.

Google’s message? A Web page is no longer the ultimate form of digital content to address a user query.

Given that Web pages – the mainstay of many B2B marketers – no longer rein supreme as the de facto search result, the changes effected by Universal Search could have serious implications for B2B players.

Up to this point, B2B search marketing efforts have been conservative in approach, mostly relying on optimized Web pages, and largely shying away from more creative and exciting opportunities.

Ironically, and as cited by my colleague, Brian Kaminski, in a recent article, many B2B marketers lament that they can’t participate in the more “cool stuff” that their B2C counterparts are engaged in.

Not anymore.

Universal Search provides B2B marketers with a unique opportunity to expand their Web search presences more creatively. Now that Google has busted open their silos – essentially creating equality between all types of digital content – B2B search marketing efforts must branch out beyond their staple of Web pages. Failing to do so could lead to a competitive disadvantage.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s look at an example that demonstrates some of the changes on the way.

Do a search for “business intelligence” in Google.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page. You should see results that have been migrated from the News, Blog, and Image tabs. In the past, you would need to click on each of the individual tabs to see such results. Today, they are all served-up in response to a single user query.


The ramifications of such integration should be obvious. And while some may view it as a case of creep with the potential to eventually tank their rankings, it really is an opportunity to diversify your marketing, and expand your reach by leveraging every possible form of digital content available.

No matter how you look at it, one thing is for certain. Universal Search has changed the rules of the game. Smart marketers need to be aware of the changes, and start planning on how to address them. Below are a few tips to help you get ready.

  • First and foremost, B2B marketers need to acknowledge that Universal Search applies to them, and that it will have an impact on their Web search presence. Granted, the change affected by Universal Search may happen gradually, but make no mistake about it – it will have an impact. Smart marketers should start planning now for what will surely have serious implications in the future.
  • B2B marketers need to understand that their presence in Google today is no longer about rankings and positions. Rather, it is now about real estate, messaging, and branding. Universal Search changes everything. Smart marketers will embrace the change, learn the rules, and cover the bases.
  • B2B marketers need to realize that individual Web pages no longer rein as the supreme search result. Today’s marketers need to make sure they optimize all available digital content. And if you do not have other forms of digital content beyond Web pages, you should start thinking about creating some. Soon.
  • B2B marketers need to not only leverage all available forms of digital content, but also recognize that different formats can be used for different purposes. For example, videos or blogs could be used for branding purposes, where Web pages could be used more as a direct response vehicle.
  • Finally, B2B marketers should embrace Universal Search as it will ultimately create opportunity for them to participate in more exciting and creative search marketing initiatives. Ultimately, it could present a real opportunity for forward thinking B2B marketers to separate their brands from all the clutter in today’s search results.

Once again, the rules of the game have changed. But this time, the change holds special significance for B2B marketers. Smart marketers will realize that change really can be a good thing, and that this time around, it actually spells opportunity.

Robert J. Murray is president of search engine marketing firm iProspect and can be reached at rob.murray@iprospect.com. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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