The Microsoft-Yahoo bid put the spotlight on big winners and big losers in the search game. Your life won't change tomorrow as the acquisition plays out in the media. Here are eight trends that will change your company's search engine strategies.
Search Engines Are Now More Than Search Engines
Google started this trend long ago. It's clear the focus of their sales efforts are with organizations that will use them across media (inclusive of TV, radio, print, online display, and search).
Here's a secret to the Microsoft-Yahoo bid that everyone's overlooking. Yahoo is following close behind Google as they expand their "open" network and begin to leverage their content assets to drive additional sales outside of search listings. I'm not ready to predict that the focus on all things outside search will kill the golden egg -- but I'm also not ready to predict it won't.
Search Engine Use in U.S. Won't Change
As much as Yahoo and Microsoft try, they'll do little more than make a small dent in Google's U.S. market share. Hitwise shows the wide gap between Google and Yahoo-Microsoft in core U.S. searches. That's not including the anti-Microsoft crowd who may think of Google as a "white knight" alternative to MSN.
Search Integration Picks Up Speed
The momentum exists and, as 2008 goals are executed upon, it will become increasingly clear to marketers that search marketing should be integrated with all marketing initiatives. It not only should, but needs to be, integrated with online display (at a minimum) and elsewhere to help drive a cohesive digital strategy.
The data proving the positive correlations is very strong. I recently looked at data which showed that more than half of the consumers who generated a specific campaign's acquisitions were exposed to both search and display ads.
Search: The First Consideration
No longer will a digital strategy be focused on content development and "mass" online media. In 2008, we'll see more clients building out from search strategies. Search marketers will be increasingly asked to influence (if not oversee) more aspects of content creation and distribution, and will be the first line of allocation for digital media budgets.
Natural Search No Longer Optional
I find it amazing how many Web sites are built with no regard for natural search rankings. I think 2008 is finally the year when marketers wake up and refuse a Web development strategy that doesn't consider (from the beginning of the process) how the site will perform within natural search. Design firms that haven't yet begun to hire (or partner with) natural search experts will do so in order to retain their clients.
Indie Search Shops Become "Digital Agencies" or are Bought
Have you noticed that most of the independent search firms define their turf as search and much more (media, Web development, etc.)? I expect we'll see a good bit of mergers and acquisitions activity in 2008 as it relates to the search marketing space.
Companies Realize Their Huge Miss
Given all the money spent in search marketing and the focus on direct response metrics, it's shocking that more organizations don't realize they're sitting on a wealth of data that can improve their ROI (define) many times over. This data, of course, comes from Web analytics tools and is the equivalent to asking everyone that leaves a physical store without buying why they left and knowing all the items that person looked at before leaving. In 2008, we'll see many more organizations willing to invest in the technology and the resources necessary to utilize this data.
Graphical Search Ads Reappear
Microsoft's bid for Yahoo confirms the inevitable transition to graphical search ads. Are you ready? Remember the good old days when search advertising equaled buying keyword-targeted banners for $40 CPM? No, we won't revisit 1999, but we'll see the engines test graphical ads as part of the search listings.