Google Universal Search Trends You Should Be Paying Attention To

The appearance of Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in search results grew by 118% throughout last year, according to a new study by Searchmetrics. The study also found that video results are ...
Google Universal Search Trends You Should Be Paying Attention To
Written by Chris Crum
  • The appearance of Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) in search results grew by 118% throughout last year, according to a new study by Searchmetrics. The study also found that video results are blended into 55% of keyword search results ‒ with four in five of the videos coming from YouTube.

    Have you been seeing more results from Google services lately? Let us know in the comments.

    “Overall a key takeaway is that Google’s own products (Google PLAs, YouTube videos and Google Maps) are becoming more prominent in Universal Search,” a spokesperson for Searchmetrics tells WebProNews.

    The company looked at search results for “millions” of keywords and analyzed the appearance of Shopping, Video, Image, News and Map integrations. Overall, they found that four out of five keywords produced at least one Universal Search integration. Video was the most frequent, appearing in search results for 55% of keywords analyzed. Images appeared in 40%, while PLAs appeared in 16%. News results appeared in 13% and Maps results appeared in 7%.

    Searchmetrics put out this infographic illustrating its findings:

    The Growing Presence of PLAs

    The biggest story here is the increase PLAs have seen, particularly as this has been a hot topic with Google’s European antitrust investigation situation.

    “In the case of Google I am concerned that the company has given an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service, in breach of EU antitrust rules,” said EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager last month. “Google now has the opportunity to convince the Commission to the contrary. However, if the investigation confirmed our concerns, Google would have to face the legal consequences and change the way it does business in Europe.”

    According to Searchmetrics, “The share of Google Shopping PLA integrations more than doubled over the year, with the proportion of keywords for which at least one Google Shopping integration was displayed rising from 7.5% to 16% between January and December 2014 (there was a dip in the summer months, possibly because of the seasonal retail market slowdown). In total, Google Shopping PLA integrations account for 44% of all integrations shown across the millions of keywords analyzed – more than any other integration.”

    “The growth in the proportion of keywords for which Google Shopping Integrations are displayed represent increasing opportunities for retailers to buy Product Listing Ads and for Google to generate income from the now paid for Google Shopping service,” said Marcus Tober, CTO and founder of Searchmetrics.


    The firm’s video findings continue to to validate an increased focus on the medium on the part of businesses and marketers. While the percentage of search results pages showing video results actually fell over the course of 2014, videos appear more often than anything else by far.

    80% of videos displayed in Universal Search results came from YouTube. This certainly illustrates how important YouTube still is to marketing as Facebook has become a huge rival to the service.

    We recently looked at a study from Visible Measures, which found that for brands posting video campaigns to both channels, Facebook dominates viewership in the short term, but YouTube continues do so over the course of the video lifecycle. Search is obviously a big part of that.

    “If something is hot and of the moment, such as a newly released campaign, the Super Bowl, or even a cultural phenomenon like Fifty Shades of Grey, Facebook and similar social media sites are incredibly effective for driving the spread of timely content due to the trending nature of the News Feed,” said Visible Measures CEO Brian Shin. “But the strength of Facebook to promote trending content also highlights how powerful YouTube remains as a platform for continued viewership.”

    “Content discovery on Facebook is very much dependent on the Facebook News Feed, which is a function of what a user’s friends are sharing, as well as recommendations based on trends and a user’s interests. Because discovery is so dependent on sharing, viewership soon after content gets hot’ is strongest on Facebook,” Visible Measures added. “Conversely, YouTube acts as a depository for video and millions of users go there first, or arrive via Google search, to find video content. This user paradigm enables videos to have a much longer shelf-life on YouTube.”

    Meanwhile, a study from Advertiser Perceptions and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that 68% of marketers and agency execs expect their digital video ad budgets to increase over the course of the next year.


    While the number of results returning maps content in Universal Search integrations is still much smaller than the numbers for videos, images, and PLAs, it’s worth noting that there’s significant growth here. In January 2014 only 2% of search terms delivered map integrations, but it was at 7% by December.

    “The more frequent appearance of map integrations in search results may be due to the fact that Google is skewing search engine results pages in favor of localized results which are becoming more important as search results become increasingly individual and more searches are conducted on mobile devices,” said Tober.

    Indeed, Google said in a blog post on Tuesday that more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.

    What do you think about the direction Google’s search results pages are heading in? Discuss.

    Image via Searchmetrics

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