In 2010, online business marketers saw a tremendous amount of growth and innovation in the search and social media space. Google introduced Instant, Bing and Yahoo completed the organic and paid search transition of their Search Alliance, Facebook handed over exclusive "Like" data access to Microsoft, and Google +1 has everyone guessing what's coming next.
Here are six predictions expected to unfold from key players in search and social media in 2011.
Six Predictions for 2011
- The wall between social media marketing and search marketing will begin to crumble as more businesses recognize the potential for integration of these marketing messages. With Google and Bing integrating an increasing number of social results within SERPs, businesses need to invest in more than just SEO efforts, and to make sure their keyword strategies extend to their social media optimization (SMO) efforts and that they're actively participating in conversations about their brands across the social Web.
- Companies will see social media start to overtake search in referral traffic to their websites. With a growing number of businesses joining Twitter and Facebook each day, and Google and Bing shifting to an increasingly social search experience, businesses should expect to see a direct impact on their referral traffic. While Google, Bing and Yahoo may account for much of your traffic today, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will inevitably become a larger part of the equation -- possibly surpassing search in the long run.
- Responding to the exploding influence of social media, Google and Bing will incorporate "Likes" into their search algorithms. Google and Bing have both demonstrated that they consider social signals good predictors for gauging relevancy in a user's search. Between Google introducing "Shared by" results from Twitter, Facebook and Buzz, and Bing rolling out "Liked" results via Facebook into SERPs, a further step to incorporate this social data into their search algorithms is likely.
- Bing will expand their own version of "Instant" search from the properties (e.g. Images) to their main web results. Now that Google's rolled out Instant, Bing is likely to follow suit with its own version of Instant search. While Bing's Instant features are currently limited to Bing Images, we expect to see this eventually integrated into their main search results page.
- The percentage of searches generated from mobile devices will increase significantly as new smartphone and tablet devices enter the market. As smartphones and tablets continue to grow in affordability and usage, the market will see big increases in consumer demand for the devices. Likewise, as enterprises look to mobilize their workforce and integrate usage into their business, mobile will account for an ever-larger percentage of Internet access. As the user numbers climb, so will the number of searches issued from these devices.
- Salesforce.com will change its name to Cloudforce.com. In 2011, Salesforce will extend itself beyond a focus limited by its moniker and will work to position itself as the top platform for all work productivity applications (not just sales-centered applications), extending accessibility to everyone in the cloud for a broad cross-section of applications. From there, Salesforce will gather insights as to which of these applications perform best for customers, then acquire them.
What These Predictions Mean for Your Online Marketing Strategy
First, use social media as a way to listen to and connect with your consumer base. Google and Bing have recognized the importance of listening in on the social media conversation by incorporating "Likes" into search results. Businesses should likewise have their ear to the ground to figure out what is and isn't working.
Second, although it may not seem like it, consumers are doing a lot more with mobile devices than playing "Angry Birds." As more people use mobile devices to stay connected, businesses must make their websites and email blasts mobile-friendly.
Finally, remember the fundamentals of SEO. The sector is developing rapidly, and it's easy to get distracted from the basics when trying to adapt to new models. Clearly, it's important to stay on top of SEO developments and make sure you adjust your tactics accordingly, but don't forget that the durable elements of SEO will always stay the same.