Note: This article contains references to Advanced Web Ranking Desktop, a version that is no longer under active development.

Does anyone see the little red guy upfront?

It’s right there, in our face! Yet nothing sets it apart from all the other little red guys in the picture.

Let’s imagine now that this is a search engine results list and each golf tee represents an entry. Even if it’s not on the first position, I bet all eyes are on the white tee.

That’s the magic of Google Universal Search, where traditional organic results are blended with specialized search entries like Videos or Images, making the SERPs look cheerful like a sunny day.

This system gives you the chance to gain more visibility in the search engine by exploring different types of content. To stand out from the crowd, like our white golf tee here, you need to focus on three main steps:

1. Choose the result types you will target
2. Optimize the fresh content you create
3. Monitor your Universal Search rankings

Choose the result types you will target

A Searchmetrics study performed in 2011 shows that most of the results returned as Universal entries come from the Videos and Images specialized searches.

These are also the result types proven to have the strongest visual impact on the searchers. Since people are more likely to click on a video or image thumbnail than on an URL, you can definitely boost your clickthrough rate by creating video presentations and tutorials for your products and services, and use ingenious images on your web pages.

But other types of results should not be neglected, especially if they match your business profile. For example, if you are selling golf tees, it’s a good idea to also target the Shopping search results.

Just think about the different content and media aspects that you can approach. Here is a list with all the Universal result types (that I know of) Google includes in the SERPs:

Note: the link on each result type above takes you to a Universal Search example in

Optimize the fresh content you create

Creating the new, diverse content gets only half the job done. The next step is to prepare it for the search engines.

Universal Search optimization factors are similar to those used when optimizing content for web search.

Your techniques should include:

Here is one of Matt Cutts’ videos explaining how traditional optimization factors affect Universal video results:

Once you have the new optimized content ready, it’s time to publish and promote it on various channels like blogs, social media and video sharing platforms. This should help you make the new content accessible to a larger audience.

Monitor your Universal Search rankings

Now that you’ve seen where to focus your optimization efforts, it’s time to take a look at the results.

Below, I will show you how you can track Google Universal Search ranking results with Advanced Web Ranking. Let’s take as an example the keyword “golf tee” and the Google Canada search engine.

A quick search in browser reveals an Image result on the third position.

Here are the steps you should follow in order to track this Image result:

  1. Select your Google Universal search engine

You can do this from Project -> Search Engines. Just click on the [Add] button and choose the first option available – [Add Search Engines]. Here, type Google Universal in the filter box and the search engine will pop up in the list.

To target a particular country, you need to click on [See more countries], and then select the related search engine (in this case Google Canada).

Now just click [OK] and the search engine will be automatically added to your AWR project.

  1. Choose the results type you want to display

To track only specific universal results, you need to right-click on the search engine you just added in the project, and select [Properties]. All the Universal results available for tracking in the application are listed in the [Result Types] grid, as below:

To monitor only part of them, un-check the options that you don’t need. When you’re done, just click [OK] and your preferences will be stored in the application.

  1. Start the rank tracking process

To do this, click on the green [Update] button, from the left-bottom corner of the application window.

If you want the rankings update to run automatically, you have the option to create a scheduled task in AWR. This should gather the ranking data at a frequency of your own choice.

  1. See results in rankings report

When the update is completed, you can see the Google Universal ranking results in one of the AWR reports. For example, let’s choose Rankings -> Website Rankings and select the [Date Comparison] view.

To display the Result Type column, click on the [Select Columns] button, next to the [Website] column, and check the related check box.

Here is our Image result, on the 3rd position in Google Canada:

This way, you can easily keep an eye on the new videos, images or other type of content you promote.


Changing the way SERPs look today, and subsequently the behavior of the searchers, Google transformed content diversity from “nice to have” into a “must have”.

So dare to explore new challenges in your search engine optimization strategy and make your fresh content accessible on as many marketing channels as you can.

I’m sure there is a lot more to tell about Google Universal Search and how to make the most of each specialized search type. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Steven Depolo

  1. Videos are the best way to get publicity, by far. I see more traffic coming from Youtube than from any other resource I use. 

    1. I think it depends on the type of specialized search you rank in. For example, if you have a blog article that makes it to the News results, it will probably stay there no more than 24 hours. Video and Image results on the other hand are less volatile. I’ve seen some of our articles ranking as Image results for several weeks in a row 🙂

  2. Video does works great especially for competitive keywords where a spot in the natural search results might otherwise be out of reach. SEO for the page your video is embedded on helps. Implementing the rel=author tag and then linking to your Google+ profile is a great way to get your image in the the search results as a rich snippet along with your articles/blog posts. AWR is a great tool to monitor the results.

    1. Thank you Rick for sharing your strategies. Each of them is a very good way to enhance websites’ visibility in Google

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