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Search Marketing Predictions for 2008, Part 2

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Last week, we shared some New Years Resolutions from several search marketers and social media marketers. I asked many of those same marketers what they thought 2008 had in store for search. We shared the first batch of search marketing predictions yesterday, and have several more today.

If you want to share your own predictions, or discuss any of the ones shared here, feel free to join the conversation in the SEW Forums.

Q: What do you predict will be the three most significant happenings in search for 2008? General themes, specific events to watch for, or even straight-out predictions would work.

Jeff Pruitt, EVP of corporate partnerships at iCrossing

1. Google Universal Search is just the beginning: Google Universal is changing the way results are returned to include videos, news, and blog results. This trend towards "all encompassing" search returns will likely continue. Marketers will have to get more creative: Trends like this are forcing marketers to get more creative in using the Web to build their brands. The pressure will only get greater next year as we see Google and others expand their reach.

2. Exchange networks like Right Media Exchange and AdECN will become utilized by more and more search marketers allowing for a further integration of search and display ads.

3. Privacy issues will not go away: For some users, their search histories, emails, and site visits all reside with one company. And if Google has their way, they could also have access to your phone usage. (could Google conceivably have your travel info via GPS-enabled phones?). Look for more visits to Capitol Hill by Google and possible regulatory action.

Jeremy Hull, account leader at Range Online Media

1. Targeting – I'm waiting for the engines to come out with useful and more integrated re-messaging, behavioral and demographic targeting tools.

2. Editors – The creation of a Yahoo editor and the upgraded MSN editor to allow marketers to shift spending without the pain of unwieldy management. I also expect more thorough integration of Excel into MSN's editor tools.

3. Tracking – My hope is that the ability to track user interaction across multiple programs – paid, natural, shopping engines, media, etc. – will improve significantly in 2008. These improvements will allow better attribution and conversion path optimization.

Jill Whalen, founder of HighRankings

1. SEO Becomes Top-Of-Mind Priority in Larger Companies

In 2007 larger companies and big brands put SEO on their radar screen and realized that it can't be done off the side of the desk. In 2008 we'll see more companies relieve the marketing manager who has a full workload by hiring an in-house SEO expert or bringing in outside, locally-based consultants to handle this task.

SEO as an after-thought will still happen in 2008, but it will not be as prevalent as it has been in the past. More companies will hire an SEO consultant during the first phase of website design, when it is critically important. Additionally, companies will recognize the importance of doing their homework on keyword research and creating "crawler-friendly" site architectures.

2. SEO Market is Maturing

The "cowboy" mentality of the past still lingers in pockets of SEO, but it will gradually go away in 2008 and beyond. SEO staff will begin to offer more than just traditional SEO services, becoming all-around website experts in usability and Internet marketing.

Success measures will continue to evolve and focus on the metrics that matter. SEOs have traditionally measured success by tracking the rankings in the search engines for various keyword phrases. Emerging factors such as personalized search, geo-targeted search and multiple search engine datacenters mean that no two searches show the same results. In 2008, SEO success will be more often measured by targeted traffic and how much of it converts to business.

3. Greater SEO Education Opportunities Will Emerge

The "SEO mystique" will disappear in 2008, as many more opportunities will emerge for education. For SEO agencies as well as for companies taking SEO in-house, we'll see more conferences, seminars, online training and certification programs to help them tweak their SEO skills. More in-house SEO training and local consulting available for online marketing managers that will unlock the mysteries of search engine optimization and put SEO within the reach of businesses large and small.

Jody Nimetz, senior organic marketing strategist at Enquiro Search Solutions

I'm not big on making predictions, but here is what I think we might see (and a few items that I would like to see) happen in 2008.

1. More Blended Search / Universal Search Results - the engines are working hard at trying to understand user intent. Look for engines such as Yahoo and Windows Live to focus on this area.

2. I think that we are going to see the search engines work together on more projects as they did with the Sitemaps protocol in the past. The walls are slowly breaking down between the engines. Look at the relationship between Ask.com and Google with Ask being one of Google's largest "partners" in advertising, if you will.

3. I think that after a difficult year for Yahoo, they will lay low for the first part of 2008 to regroup and look for them to make a bit of a splash in the second half of 2008.

4. I am a big fan of Ask.com. I think that they have the best SERP in the business. I'd like to see them gain a couple percentage points of market share in the search space. They continue to be innovative and may turn their focus on areas such as local search and mobile search.

5. Live Search and their team will work very hard in 2008 to right their search product. Look for them to improve the user experience on Live Search by focusing on more relevant results and blended search results. I can see them drastically modifying their results page similar to Ask's.

6. I think that social networks are over-hyped. I think that you will see Facebook run out of steam in 2008. It will become passe as there are so many social networks popping up. I think that maybe in 2-3 years we will see a surge in the popularity of social networks, but for right now they appear to be a dime a dozen. Sure we may see a new startup emerge with much hyped fanfare, but for the most part I expect this to be a slower year in terms of social networks.

The three biggest overall trends in 2008? 1. Mobile Marketing; 2. Blended/Universal Search; and 3. Focus on user intent.

Joshua Palau, group director of search at Avenue A | Razorfish

Search tools will really take off this year. Blended results and search assist type tools were dabbled with in 2007. For 2008, I think the engines will look for ways to increase loyalty through satisfaction. By more "forcefully" advertising these tools they should give users' more satisfaction.

Kevin Lee, executive chairman and co-founder of Didit

1. The message and the means of displaying that message will become more varied. For example, keyword targeted ads will include much more than just search text links. The keyword targeted banner will make a comeback as will unique new formats which might include video and rich-media.

2. One of the major search engines will figure out how to roll out some kind of a loyalty program without degrading search quality.

3. Personalized search will mean more and more divergence between what you and I see in our SERP, both in organic and paid listings.

Matt Naeger, VP and general counsel at Impaqt

1. Large brands will finally understand the value of the most generic keywords and will dramatically increase the price of low-target, high-volume terms. Meaning these brands will finally recognize the value of search results and dramatically increase the price based upon a buy that is not ROI-specific.

2. Offline brands will begin to understand how to track the value online impressions.

3. Blended search results will be eliminated by the end of the year (Yahoo, Microsoft, Google's blended search will be taken off their respective homepages).

4. Paid ads will move to the left side of the screen, moving organic to the right at a major search engine.

5. The federal court system will finally decide that search is not trademark protectable once and for all. This will make it legal to buy other peoples' trademarks.

6. The hype of social media will die off and will be replaced by the Google cell phone (Gphone).

Nico Brooks, VP of search engine marketing at Local Matters

1. I believe that the overall division of search share won't change much – Google will continue to dominate, but will gain less ground, if any, mostly due to Microsoft. Live Search is vastly improved as a result of recent updates, and Microsoft's massive install base gives them an ongoing foot in the door. Yahoo will continue to struggle as the pace of innovation heats up even more.

2. US consumers will start catching up with the rest of the world regarding the boundless potential of mobile technology, including mobile search. And if US mobile carriers don't loosen their stranglehold on devices, the ensuing upheaval could be even greater still.

3. We need to rethink the industry we are in. It is no longer accurate to call what we do "search engine marketing." The major "search engines" are integrating vertical content and a host of other features in order to keep people from clicking away, and are well into a race to control distribution of online media in general. Agencies and practitioners who embrace this evolution will outpace those with narrow focus.

Philip Stelter, director of business development at Range Online Media

1. Social media will either sort out privacy concerns and become a major avenue for marketers, or it will perish under the weight of privacy concerns.

2. Mobile is pushing into the year with significant hype. There is great potential around the monetization of mobile search with compact, efficient, well-monetized search listings; well-poised to take advantage of slower connections as mobile users seek information. Costly data plans and manufacturer/carrier "walled-gardens" may be the last hurdle.

3. Inevitably, there will be some "innovation" among the major three engines that will have a significant impact on searchers and advertisers. My conservative guess is an increase along the lines of "universal" search incorporating various vertical search results. My wild prediction for a the game-changer would be graphical and/or video ads mixed among standard PPC text ads on SERPs within a limited set of verticals; whatever can be used to crack the big entertainment and CPG budgets.

Richard Zwicky, CEO of Enquisite

1. Universal search, blended with personalized results, will continue to spread. I think everyone can surmise that, and be accurate.

2. I expect Microsoft to continue to make interesting, and possibly spectacular moves as it progresses into search. I don't believe Microsoft expects to beat Google this year, or anytime in the next 3-4 years. But if they can eat away at Google's revenue stream, they can slow them down enough to catch up. Acquisitions? Certainly. New products, services? Highly unlikely. That's Google's strength. Microsoft extends innovations.

3. Most importantly, I do look at 2008 as the year of analytics. Companies need analytics services and reporting designed to meet their purposes. They don't want to adjust their business methods to work within the toolsets at hand. There are a lot of web 2.0 analytics firms, each one is unique, and most are attempting to do something entirely different. The new wave of analytics services coming available is designed to make your life easier. You shouldn't need to have to figure out if something is working or not; the reporting should let you know, and provide you a means to act and react.

4. As more and more traditional firms get involved in search, their demand for simple, easy-to-use, and manageable reporting services increase. The reason these firms didn't get on board sooner was because it was complicated, and hard to monitor and/or calculate ROI. That's changing (still improving). These customers don't want big complicated packages of services. They want clean and simple. Most of the ad networks interfaces are relatively clean and simple. I expect the analytics will catch up.

Why will this shape search? Because as the analytics gets more simple (and sophisticated), so do campaigns. Companies will discover just how valuable their campaigns are, and invest more heavily online.

Robert Murray, president of iProspect

2007 turned out to be a big year for search, with the most notable developments being universal search and the near-epidemic rise in popularity of social media. As the category continues to evolve, I think the most significant developments for search in 2008 will include performance-based banners, continued growth of video ads, and the further development of universal search.

In addition, I believe that the freshness of content will be a new twist added to search relevancy, much like it has with news results. But overall, the category is poised to continue to grow, and I think global expansion will be the driving force behind that growth.

Russell C. Horowitz, chairman and CEO of Marchex

First, we are obviously big believers in local and feel that 2008 is going to be a significant tipping point, with more advertising dollars, development resources and companies focusing on the local opportunity: That is, reaching locally focused consumers and matching them with local businesses that are migrating online or expanding their online presence to address local consumers.

As many analysts have been saying recently, we believe local advertisers will adopt online advertising at a record pace, while national-level advertisers will designate more budget to local online advertising given the magnitude of their local interests.

As part of this large-scale local migration, we believe there will be a continued mix of consolidation and innovation. We think 2008 will continue the pattern of increasing M&A activity in the local markets, with deals both large and small.

Finally, we believe call-based services, such as pay-per-phone call and call tracking, will continue to gain traction at rates that exceed the overall growth of search marketing and online advertising. As local continues to gain traction this year, we anticipate demand for call-based local advertising services to emerge and accompany what has already been a healthy and growing demand for click-based services.

Sage Lewis, president of SageRock

1. Business is going to get more personal. Businesses will wear their emotions more on their sleeve than ever before in history. And it will all happen online.

2. Buying links for link popularity will virtually disappear. On top of that, it will be hard to find anyone that will admit that they ever bought links for search engine ranking.

3. Most businesses will give up on social media campaigns. It simply won't fit the traditional marketing mold. Social media will go back to the people.

Simon Heseltine, director of search at Serengeti Communications

1. I believe that this year is going to be a huge year for people that deal with reputation management. We're seeing a lot of companies start to realize that what's said about them online can hurt them, and doesn't go away as easily as it went up. As more and more come to that realization, they'll look for reputation management / de-optimization experts to push unfavorable results down or get rid of them.

2. Consolidation in the SEO agency business. It seems as though some agencies are moving to a paid 'exclusive club' model. This lets them show repeatable revenue which may make them more desirable to be purchased, as they're not just reliant on client work.

Vic Drabicky, account director and client development at Range Online Media

1. I predict the continued integration of re-messaging, behavioral and search. The boundary between direct response search and direct response media is already becoming blurry. Expect these to be even more integrated, and expect advertisers to be able to scale their budgets accordingly.

2. Improved analytics – As re-messaging, behavioral and search become more integrated (not to mention the further integration of online and offline), analytics have a duty to catch up. Everything from more effective campaign overlap to more sophisticated attribution metrics will be developed so advertisers can get increasingly closer to the true value of their marketing efforts.

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