Blended search, also known as universal search, is starting to change the way searchers see search results—and consequently, the way search marketers and Web site owners approach search marketing.

Much of the search strategy has revolved around textual content and keywords on Web sites and getting links to sites.

Not only has content expanded to include video and audio, but the content format itself has also evolved—personal Web sites, basic brochure-ware company sites, and simple ecommerce have been joined by forums, blogs, review sites, social media, and more.

Over time, the search engines began developing specialty search spiders that focused on various subsets of the online world to handle this additional content and formats.

Searching for and indexing specific content could be fine-tuned to account for the challenges and nuances of the medium, as well as allow searchers to locate this content easier. Searches for news, blogs, products, images, videos, or other content could be handled differently, and hopefully better than, through regular searches.

Though the search engines built special vertical searches, not many searchers came, at least not in the overall scheme of things. Regardless of what people were searching for, the majority of searchers continued to perform searches through the "standard" web search interfaces.

In fact, most searchers, even today, are probably fairly oblivious to the various specialty, or vertical, search indexes. In part, this helps explain some of the rationale that lead to blended search.

So what is blended search? Blended search involves blending different content from the engine's various vertical indexes into the traditional, standard search results. Search results may include special news results, images, videos, maps, blog posts, product listings, patent information, or financial details alongside the usual search results.

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Brian R. Brown is a consultant with natural-search marketing firm Netconcepts ( and blogs at