How does universal search affect paid search marketing?

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In the same way that cable transformed television, universal search has significantly altered the search landscape. Today, the search engine results page (SERP) is a digital shelf with a variety of offerings designed to best meet users’ needs. As a result, it offers marketers new ways to connect with their audiences.

However, universal search can also impact a b-to-b marketer’s paid search strategy. To start, the influx of additional assets in the search results means decreased visibility for paid search overall. In addition, your ad copy can easily fall behind the new ways your consumers are accessing and discussing your brand, thereby reducing resonance and response. On top of that, universal search has altered audience expectations—engagement can decrease if consumers are not driven to the best possible asset for their particular needs.

To successfully navigate the universal search landscape, b-to-b marketers should strive to do the following:

  • Take inventory: Examine your overall digital shelf space in the search results, assess what is there and determine how you can stand out.
  • Observe: Constantly watch how your audience searches and let that inform your ad copy. Make sure you appear on the keywords that your audience—not your executives—are using to reach you.
  • Listen: Pay attention to how your audience talks to, and about, your brand. Social media should help you do exactly that. In turn, re-engineer ad copy to reflect your audience’s language, then drive them to landing pages that people enjoy and will share.
  • Test: The only thing you know is that you know very little. Dust off your old ad text-testing matrixes; make sure you test the new forms of paid search ads. Find out what language your audience prefers now that they have so much else to see.
  • Integrate: Seamless integration leads to a great user experience, which means a positive brand association. Be sure all your digital assets are available to search.

Universal search has created tremendous opportunity for users and marketers alike. Smart b-to-b marketers will follow these tips to capitalize on this evolving search landscape.

Cate Dunn is a client services director for iProspect, a search engine marketing and interactive agency (

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