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Predicting 2007: The Year in Preview

by Bruce Clay, January 2007

I am certain that 2007 will NOT behave in a traditional manner, whatever that is.

While we continue to see industry growth, this will be a year where the somewhat premature mergers and consolidations of 2005 and 2006 are going to be restructured, if not totally written off as bad investments, and companies that grew beyond their means will pay a heavy price. We have had growth through acquisitions and mergers, but 2007 will be a more cautious time. I expect there to be more multi-firm cooperation before merging so players can get to know each other first, and this is a really good thing.

I expect that, like us, more firms will venture into the international space, and find it to be exceptionally resistant to (and ignorant of) US brands. In fact, US companies will face a "who are you" question and will find themselves having to rebuild their brand from the ground up. The world is not as desperate for, or as aware of the benefits of, search engine optimization as folks in the US. Clever marketing won't be enough, you had better be able to deliver, because the entire world is from Missouri, the Show Me state, and nobody has earned their respect or trust.

On another front, many legal issues were "resolved", to the satisfaction of few, in 2006. I predict that there will not be any really major domestic fights over intellectual property- by now the trademark rules are pretty well understood, and the players have clear patent rights. What will be prominent in 2007 for legal issues will be international politics and ownership rights. Look for Belgium, France and Australia to be only the tip of the iceberg in the legal battleground.

Last year I predicted a rapid shift to a local search emphasis. The groundwork has been laid and for the most part debugged. Local search through new offerings will displace the market share that the larger search engine giants once enjoyed. I believe that 2007 will see the emergence of new companies, several exceptionally well-funded, that will open a lot of local offices and focus on bringing local businesses to the Web, making face-to-face contact and a handshake an important online strategy. The sales potential is staggering, and some of the brightest will certainly see it. Where else are the Google rich going to invest? Expect heavy hitters to emerge and fill this gap decisively. Just like local search, the extension into mobile is imminent, but not likely to be a major search issue until 2008. Mobile technology still has a long way to go. Early offerings from the top engines will be debugged throughout the year and will be ready for their prime time debut next year.

As predicted last year, the paid search advertising area became very demographically targeted. While the major search engines were slow to adopt the technology, the indication is that this demographic geo-targeted ad vision will be more than just realized this year. Yes, the realities of this program will make it much too complex for the small business to efficiently target ads. Enter a new wave of Analytics tools, designed to provide ROI numbers tracked to any source. PPC programs aimed at automating much of the complicated bidding, targeting and management of campaigns will start to be introduced within the first quarter. While this will not eliminate the role of PPC managers, it will certainly change how they do their jobs. It is our belief that, like us, a great many firms will focus on PPC Optimization and not just PPC Management. We are well along on this front, and expect others to follow suit.

We will see a resurrection of other "branding" activities. Local search will bring more players, and branding will go wild. We fully expect to see a resurrection in banners and other online ad methods. These ads will need to be better than ever, more interactive, more eye catching, and more targeted. The banners will be carefully tracked (Analytics again, but not as complex) against ROI so that new sites can make a living by embracing localized branding as an advertising strategy. Banner ads of the past that annoyed rather than informed will be swept to the wayside and a new generation of banner ads will emerge to meet the ever more engaged online audience.

The biggest Internet marketing news of 2007 will be the authoritative use of blogs. We've already witnessed the phenomenal growth of blogs over the last few years in all areas of interest. The consequences of the Times choosing "You" as the person of the year will only add to the exceptional growth of social networks. 2007 will usher in a blogosphere that is not just growing rapidly as it has in years passed, but also blogs that are built with a careful strategy and an eye toward authority. The power of a cohesive blog strategy will prove to amaze us all!

Already seen as powerful communicators, blogs will emerge as the evolutionary replacement to the forum. Forums used to be a great marketing tool, engaging readers and inviting community, but their popularity will see a slow death, perhaps into 2008. Where the forum was a great many moderators regulating a great many voices babbling on with welcomes and often misleading half-truths, blogs tied to experts will be more tutorial, expressing expert opinions by their owners. This format is an extension of the author, and basically can be seen as Web content driven by community with comments from the masses. But the first written opinion is that of the author, not something posted by the readers, and it is expert by design. I cannot emphasize enough that blogs are this year's news.

So what does this mean to Bruce Clay, Inc.? We are continuing our expansion into new areas and new markets in the same innovative way. We are already an industry leader for SEO--one of the few offering proprietary tools, SEO training and certification, and tailored services for large and small clients. Our PPC team understands the subtle operational and business issues of optimizing client paid advertising programs. We have broadened our offering into Analytics, SEO Design and Branding. And we have operations in London, Cape Town and Sydney. We want others. And, of course, we like to think that we have one of the better blogs around, with multiple daily posts and dedicated staff.

There's lot more in the works here too. 2007 is a year full of promise and we have a commitment to making things happen.