More contrarian, dangerous and potentially humiliating SEM predictions
Being forward-thinking is second nature at Anvil. Since 2005, we at Anvil have spent many hours gazing into our crystal ball to put together search engine marketing (SEM) industry predictions. A look back at our 2008 SEM predictions indicates we were batting at least 700, but we hope to do better in 2009. Below is a collection of 2009 SEM predictions from the Anvil team.
Social Media Consolidation
While we predicted a degree of consolidation in the social media Web 2.0 world, it didn’t come to fruition to the degree we expected in 2008, but 2009 will be a different story entirely. A lack of viable revenue streams (including advertising) combined with non-existent funding sources will spell the end for hundreds of Web 2.0 platforms and portals. Those with the largest audiences or best technology will get acquired on the cheap, while a majority will vaporize overnight. MySpace and Facebook will take tremendous heat from regulatory bodies after cases of identity fraud and theft receive attention from mainstream media. The players that best address data portability, privacy and security will have the best shot at weathering the storm, and an elite few may even become big winners. The winners will likely be polarized, with niche vertical communities on one end of the spectrum and full-blown aggregators on the other end.
Online Brand Reputation Management
Consumer generated content is increasing in prevalence and in visibility with searches, which means companies large and small can no longer ignore it. Progressive companies will proactively monitor, market to and engage with consumers in the Web 2.0 world (i.e. Comcast on Twitter). Internet reputation repair for companies, executives and celebrities that get into trouble and pay top dollar to make negative listings in search results disappear, will continue to bloom as a service. Larger corporations will continue to invest in automated tools that track trademarks, competitors and industry buzz, building or buying expert teams to interface with sales, marketing, HR, legal and the executive suite.
Resurgence of Display & Rich Media Advertising
Online display advertising (i.e. banner ads), long been criticized for being expensive and largely ineffective as a driver for sales, will undergo a bit of a renaissance. Driven by Google’s growing adoption of display advertising options, industry consolidation (Google/DoubleClick) and evolving technologies will enable improved targeting, measurement, and possibly, ROI. Furthermore, there will be an increasing number of rich media ad options, complete with more robust metrics for engagement.
Local Search & Geo-targeted Advertising
A greater number of small businesses need to market in the down economy and are naturally turning to the Web. While existing localized and geo-targeted search services are fairly robust, they will continue to expand and evolve to meet the needs of one of the largest contributors to the US economy: small business. Small companies that understand SEO, PPC, social media and Google’s OneBox will gain tremendous competitive advantage. Similarly, agencies that provide a customized service set for local SEM will fare well in 2009 as larger companies compress marketing budgets.
Mobile Search & Rescue
For the past two years, Anvil has predicted the “year of mobile” with little success. Perhaps we’ve been too optimistic in this area. However, since the adoption of the iPhone, the smart phone market has exploded, giving marketers unprecedented opportunity to target end users. While applications are the hot new thing, offering a whole new level of brand engagement (and revenue potential for developers), mobile search is our area of interest. Google is now pushing PPC through mobile platforms, which means new opportunities to test. Look for a handful of breakthrough case studies to spur interest and growth in mobile search in 2009, with even greater growth in 2010.
International Search Expansion
The US economy is forcing companies to get creative. Beyond careful management of domestic marketing dollars, there will be a growing interest in expand to new markets abroad. The still weak dollar means International markets are more interested than ever in American products & services. The Internet can lower barriers of entry into global markets, but it does require translating and localizing Web content. This will be a big opportunity to for search marketers with International experience and service offerings.
Googleopoly: More Pain with Gain?
As Google continues to build and buy technology and eyeballs, extending its monopoly on the Web, concerns about the “Big Brother” aspects of the “do no evil” company are under increased scrutiny from legal, financial and regulatory bodies. Search engines like MSN and Yahoo! continue to lose market share of the US search market, while Microsoft fears their deepening integration into the operating system with powerful free tools like Google Apps and Chrome. As Cuil and Mahalo have proven thus far, Google is all but impervious to new engines (let alone established engines) from threatening their stranglehold on search. Google continues to extend its reach in the advertising market too, with tentacles into print, radio and mobile. The downside, according to advertisers in particular is the Google’s control over inventory and pricing means greater potential for increased price and decreased selection. Despite criticism and legal battles, we predict Google will recover a majority of the loss in stock price sustained in 2008 that took them from $700 to $300 per share.
Key Metrics: Beyond Search
We predicted a vast improvement in Web analytics tools back in 2006, but 2009 will see greater adoption of the affordable, yet robust tools by businesses large and small. Free applications like Google Analytics, Webmaster Central and Website Optimizer will be more expertly used, particularly by smaller companies looking to stay competitive in a down economy and globalized market. Metrics typically reserved for big budget consumer brands (i.e. audience segmentation, behavioral targeting, user engagement and customer loyalty) will be adopted by progressive small businesses, with the end goal of increasing conversion rates. The more advanced metrics will extend into the world of social media and reputation management, areas in need of greater validation in order to fuel further growth. Savvy search marketers will embrace new forms of measurement and extend services offerings beyond generating traffic. On one end of the spectrum, search will be used to a greater extent to test naming, positioning and key messages in early stage brand development. On the other end, SEM professionals will extend into integrated marketing, Web development and post-sale business consulting. Few search marketers will be able to successfully adapt, having bloated infrastructure, obsolete talent and tools.
Improved Integration Between Traditional and Online Marketing
Although the SEM industry will continue to grow, it will be at a much slower rate than in the past. As mentioned earlier, savvy SEM professionals will adapt and thrive by expanding and deepening skills in marketing, business and analytics. The net result will be search campaigns that incorporate video, rich media, mobile and social media advertising, along with traditional elements like print and broadcast advertising, events and public relations. 2009 will be the first year that small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) will launch effective and measureable integrated marketing campaigns with search as a key component, vs. an afterthought.
So check in with us in December of 2009, and see how we scored. We also encourage you to see what others in the Internet marketing industry are saying regarding 2009 SEM predictions.