Keeping Score: 10 Predictions for 2009 — How’d Bruce Do?
Let me just declare to the world that I’m extremely proud to be employed by a fortune teller. I apparently can’t even read the expiration date on my cottage cheese, yet some people like Bruce can read trends and project them into the future.
Tomorrow we’ll be publishing the SEONewsletter (sign up in the sidebar!). Being that it’s the first edition of the new year, Bruce has authored his annual predictions for the SEM industry in 2010. The article holds the promise of intelligence on which to build a strategy for the coming year.
They always say hindsight is 20/20, so just imagine the accomplishments you could achieve with a clear map of the future in front of you? Sure, no one can actually tell the future, but there’s a definite advantage in having an idea of emerging technologies, of those search marketing services with high upcoming demand, and of how the economy will affect the industry.
Don’t believe me? Check out how on-target Bruce was with his 10 major predictions for the search industry in 2009.
Prediction: “I predict that user behavior and related community tracking will be expanded (collectively “personalization”) and increasingly applied Web-wide to all search results, paid and organic, regardless of whether the user is signed in to Google or not. By looking at the user’s recent searches, visited sites, bookmarks, communities (common behavior groupings) and other online choices, the search engines adapt the results to what will be most relevant to that individual. […] Google understands what communities, loosely speaking, a searcher is part of.”
Verdict: This prediction gives me goose bumps. In December, Google announced that personalization of search results was being rolled out to signed-out users through cookie technology. Also, in October, the search engine announced a Google Labs experiment called Social Search.
In its Social Search announcement Google explained: “The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you’re following on Twitter or FriendFeed. The results are specific to you, so you need to be signed in to your Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, we’ll also include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, we’ll include some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results.”
Prediction: “As companies have their Yellow Page ads expiring, a fair share of companies will opt for smaller ads and will switch spending to online.”
Verdict: All available evidence points to this being true. In 2009, two major yellow-pages publishers, Idearc and R.H. Donnelley, filed for bankruptcy. Advertising produces the core revenue for yellow page directories, and advertisers just aren’t paying for the saffron-hued real estate any longer, thus the sad state of Yellow Page finances.
Prediction: “I predict that in the second quarter those companies that have survived [the economic recession] will recognize that online is a growing revenue source, and is quite frankly cheaper to operate than storefronts. We have businesses that are getting a larger share of their business from the Web and are closing storefront operations.”
Verdict: I think we can all agree that in 2009 a wave of businesses moved online. We can see a clear example of this in the UK where brick-and-mortar retail stores have been closing their doors, and economic analysts are recommending that the government invest in online retailers to help stimulate the economy. In the U.S. we find that small businesses opening shop online have seen a growth in revenue, and many small businesses have shifted marketing budgets online.
Prediction: “By the end of 2009 we will see SEO as a mandatory defensive move, part of every business and absolutely a discussion at the Board of Directors level.”
Verdict: In 2009 nearly every conference featured sessions (or even full tracks) targeted for an audience of C-level executives — whether convincing executives of the value of search engine marketing or getting them up to speed on the terms, tactics, and economics of the field.
Prediction: “I predict Google will implement Universal Search-driven algorithm changes most likely during the first quarter of 2009. Engagement Objects™ such as images, videos, Flash objects, audio, maps, news, books and blogs will weigh much more heavily than ever before as ranking factors.”
Verdict: Today more than ever, Google’s Universal Search results are filled with engaging content beyond the ten blue links. Among some of the additions made to the results page: expandable Search Options make it easy for a user to filter results by time, by content type (such as news or blogs), and by shopping sites; Google profiles now populate results of queries that are names; real-time search results add movement and interaction to the results page; and even ads are now engaging thanks to images and videos.
Prediction: “The search engines, after resolving personalization factors, will determine if the intent of the query is research, or if the intent is shopping. This was easily seen in Yahoo Mindset before it was withdrawn, and clearly showed that the search engines will present different pages after the query based upon the search intent. […] Added to this is the automatic inclusion of geo-targeted bias.”
Verdict: In April, search engine marketers noticed that Google was delivering local search results for queries that didn’t include a geo-modifier. Rather than taking the cue to return a local 10-, 7- or 3-pack when a town name or zip code was included in the query, Google was confident that it could determine local intent based on other clues in the query. Queries with shopping or commercial intent were the obvious targets of this change, but they’re definitely not the only ones.
Predictions: “I predict that pay per click bids will go up sharply as Web site rankings destabilize. However, PPC ads will also be influenced by behavioral search, causing them to appear to a better-targeted audience.”
Verdict: I’m counting this as two predictions. The first he missed. The second he nailed. According to my PPC sources, PPC bid pricing was stable. Fluctuations were attributed to the normal flux of seasonal demand, though to be fair, bid pricing overall may have been dampened by the effects of the recession.
To the second point, PPC ads are currently the object of tests related to interest-based targeting. Similar to Google’s organic search results, personalization occurs through a cookie that tracks sites the user visits, later using the information stored on the cookie to deliver targeted ads.
Prediction: “I predict that in the first quarter of 2009 that there will be an increase in do-it-yourself PPC spending on advertising.”
Verdict: The jury is still out on this one. We’re awaiting SEMPO’s Annual State of Search Survey for 2009. However, we still expect to see that this was the case, with spending on in-house PPC advertising having gone up.
Prediction: “I am predicting that in the first quarter of 2009 agencies will see decreased services spend per client, tougher collections, and in general that this will be a tight 3 months.”
Verdict: Here’s another prediction that can’t quite yet be confirmed or denied. We believe that it will be much clearer following the release of SEMPO’s Annual State of Search Survey. As with the last, we expect to find this prediction came true.