This has been a year where search marketing truly matured. Mobile became one of the largest growth components, with its share of the overall search market now reaching 20 percent.
Looking ahead, expect 2012 to be the year when we push further into the Mobile Semantic Web 3.0, which presents opportunities that will drastically change SEO as we know it.
There will be “Four Horsemen” of an SEO apocalypse in 2012 and they will all be carrying a mobile device.
1. QR Codes
Quick Response or QR codes in 2012 will be near ubiquitous both online and offline in the U.S. to easily send people with mobile devices to online destinations.
QR codes are increasingly being used on billboards and various signage as nearly 50 percent of U.S. mobile users have a smartphone. Mobile devices themselves are ubiquitous with their users and are used often in tandem with using other media, such as magazines and television.
I envision these pixelized matrix barcodes present in the corner of all televised programs, especially news. Viewers will then be able to receive and share the latest updates on that televised news or programming with their mobile devices online. Television use will also be the medium which will explain how to use QR codes as its being used, so it takes hold in the mainstream understanding.
Ultimately, QR codes will then replace or be in tandem to URLs on all offline advertising and even online. This will cause search engines to rely less on text links and factor in interest from QR code use. Google and Bing can directly acquire this information from mobile users on their operating systems, Android and Windows Phone 7, respectively.
There will be reduced dependency on text for search and logins in 2012, especially on mobile devices.
Voice actions on Android and recently Siri on the iPhone have provided users a more direct way of getting answers and producing actions on their mobile devices. Just as Google used its free 411 service to build the database for voice actions, I feel it will, in turn, use the database from voice actions as a free/paid service to business users for logins and purchasing online by just using your voice.
Another means of logging in for mobile users will be touch-friendly image combinations that can also be used to refine certain search results. Voice capabilities at times avoid the need for search engines and/or present the need to change search tactics.
Search will be further fragmented in 2012 as mobile search is itself already fragmented by device-type to encompass feature phones, smartphones and tablets – with each offering different results not only between one another, but also with desktops.
The current landscape of mobile search to desktop is outlined with data and action items in a recently published Covario mobile SEO white paper. I envision that the search results of the three mobile types, as well desktop, will differ even more in 2012, as consumers’ ultimate search intentions and actions are different based on the device they are using.
A segmented search approach is needed, especially in mobile, as sites will need to be properly designed for each device type and optimized for the device user’s intent.
There will be further personalization in 2012 search results as Google – with its secure login, Google+ and Android -- know what you're searching for, where you are when you search, what you like, and who your friends and influencers are.
“The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want,” according to Google CEO Larry Page. Generalized search tactics become even murkier as results become so individualized to time, place, preference, and personal social trends.
The year ahead will also bring opportunities in the search space as we clarify and universalize our sites in the Mobile Semantic Web 3.0 with microformats and HTML5, while also being more granular by location and device with paid campaigns such as local paid inclusion. Is your site ready for the SEO apocalypse of 2012?