Expert Roundup on The Future of Search in 2010 and How it Will Affect Your Business
Search industry experts weigh in with search predictions for 2010 to attain higher ranking and greater visibility for your business
One of the top questions facing marketers, entrepreneurs and web masters today is what specific strategies to watch out for to increase website traffic, conversions and relevancy when people search for their products or services online.
Here we’ve put together a list of leading industry experts offering their predictions on which areas of search you should be concentrating on in 2010 and why. Whether you’re a small business owner or managing the account of a Fortune 500 company, being aware of search predictions for the year will help you stay ahead of the curve, capitalize on major developing trends and tweak your business model accordingly for optimal results.
Introduction – the Current State of the Search Industry
Although the search industry has been around since 1993 when the world’s first web search engine was launched, it has exploded in growth only in the last decade or so.
Some facts to showcase important developing trends in the search industry:
- According to Pew Internet searching for information online is the second most popular online activity for the past 10 years; second only to email
- comScore says that over 25 billion search queries are generated monthly in North America alone with the bulk of the North American searches (63.0%) being handled by Google.
- Google remains the number one search engine of choice across the world.
- YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the US, usurping Yahoo’s place.
- Facebook services over one billion queries each month for its 400 million users worldwide.
- Over 50% of online users research a product or service online before deciding to buy it offline.
- Social networking accounts for 11% of time spent online by US users, making it one of the most engaging activities on the net.
- According to Nielsen, almost 50 million US mobile subscribers use their mobile phone to access the web each month.
- Some new categories that have been added to web search in recent times are real time search, mobile search and local search.
- The hunt for the best location-specific search is heating up, with the main contenders being Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook (in conjunction with EventBrite), Gowalla, Twitter and Booyah.
- On-page SEO factors like site speed will be incorporated into Google’s search strategy.
- Forrester Research estimates that 60% of American marketers will increase their online budgets by pulling money from traditional marketing expenses.
- Econsultancy and ExactTarget say that 24% of all marketing will be digital with 28% of firms shifting (not adding) budgets from traditional to online channels; of these 64% will increase SEO budgets, 51% will increase SEM budgets, and 70% will increase social media marketing budgets.
- E-Marketer, a digital marketing research firm, predicts that the search industry will grow exponentially in the areas of digital marketing and social media marketing in 2010 and beyond.
Rand Fishkin – SEO Moz, CEO & Founder
Rand Fishkin is the CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz, a leader in the field of search engine optimization tools, resources & community.
Matt Cutts – Google, Head of Webspam
Matt Cutts is Google’s go-to guy for the public. He joined Google in January 2000 and is currently heading the Google Webspam team which handles search quality.
Aaron Wall – SEO Book
Aaron Wall is the CEO of SEOBook, a site that ranks #1 for the term “SEO training”. He is an expert search marketer offering tips, tools and strategies via his blog and training program.
Jill Whalen – High Rankings, CEO and Founder
Jill Whalen started her career in search in 1990 and founded High Rankings, a SEO firm, in 1995.
Danny Sullivan – Search Engine Land, Founder
Danny Sulivan is the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, a respected online website giving some of the best and most in-depth coverage of the search engine industry.
Steve Ballmer – Microsoft, CEO
Steve Ballmer has been Microsoft’s CEO since 2000. In 2009, he made his first ever CES (Consumer Electronics Show) keynote address since the departure of Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates.
Eric Schmidt – Google, CEO
Eric Schmidt joined Google as its CEO in 2001. Recruited by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Eric has helped turn Google into a global company.
Marissa Mayer – Google, VP of Search and User Experience
Marissa Mayer is currently the Vice President of Search Product and User Experience at Google. She often speaks on behalf of the company, appearing in video interviews for the press.
Jeff Walters – Strategy Outfitters
Jeff Walters is a consultant at Strategy Outfitters and co-founder of two marketing firms, Clicksquared and Targetbase. His specialty is internet marketing and he advises businesses in brand building and marketing techniques.
Shashi Seth – Yahoo, Search Products
Shashi Seth has worked for several companies, working at AOL, eBay and Google before being appointed Sr. VP, Search Products at Yahoo.
General Search Industry
Search Engine Market Share
RAND FISHKIN believes that the search market will follow the 80/20 Pareto Principle with 80% of the data being controlled by 20% of the search engines. He gives his search engine predictions for 2010:
DANNY SULLIVAN seems to be psyched about Bing’s re-entry into search and believes it to be beneficial for healthy competition:
STEVE BALLMER, while hesitant to directly answer a question about whether Bing can be number one, does say that:
And where does Yahoo fit in the search game?
SHASHI SETH provides some perspective of Yahoo’s recent alliance with Microsoft:
RAND FISHKIN is also excited about the user experience for both Google and Bing’s search engines and believes that they will try to keep more customers on their search sites and provide results directly on the SERPs instead of via links, thereby showing relevant results the first time round and reducing clicks away from the site.
Google’s Strategy for 2010
MATT CUTTS gives the example of Google Squared to talk about relevance and semantics in search:
MARISSA MAYER sees Google’s future search strategy expanding in four well-defined areas:
- modality (how do you search)
- media (more richness and interactivity, realtime content etc.)
- language (translation)
- personalizing search experience
Modes of communication are the different ways that you can access search, the most recent one to be unveiled by Google is Google Goggles, (see image) a service on Google’s smartphone Android which lets you take and use pictures of objects and places as search queries, delivering results about the snap.
Media search encompasses the search for images, video and other multimedia formats including real-time search streams such as those from Twitter updates.
Personalized search is about building to the specifications of each individual user. Says Marissa:
MATT CUTTS also believes in this universal search model, and gives an example by saying if someone were to search for "I have a dream", they should immediately get to see Dr. Martin Luther King’s video rather than just a transcript of the speech. He says search will be more personalized, so for instance if I type in "Saturn", my browser will know that I mean the car not the planet.
Local SEO Firms
JILL WHALEN believes that SEO outsourcing is a major developing trend:
DANNY SULLIVAN expects to have new vertical search engines emerge in 2010:
“If I were Google, I’d be worried about vertical searches…”
The Future of Search
In an interview with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, MARISSA MAYER dispelled the notion that search is 90% done
Google CEO, ERIC SCHMIDT joked how Google’s founders wanted a search engine that would connect directly to your brain to understand what information you wanted to find and emphasized that he sees Google moving “from words to meaning”, which in turns means more contextual search and more relevancy the first time round.
In the long run, he says that Google’s aim is to give you fewer search results (perhaps even just one result) that exactly answers your question.
What This Means for Your Business
Vertical search engines such as Monster.com for job-related searches and Ticketmaster for tickets, etc are hugely popular and gaining in strength because they solve a very specific problem and usually with better results. In the end they provide a better, more satisfying user experience then a generic Google search would.
Google, Bing, et all are considered horizontal search engines, since they’re mammoths and cover everything on the net, while vertical search engines (VSEs) are niche-based, targeted and ultimately more relevant.
However, in most cases, you need thee horizontal search engines to get to the VSEs so today’s savvy marketers will need to employ more of a funneling approach—search engines will attempt to channel visitors in the right direction to find what they’re looking for.
Business owners will also need to create data in various formats (video, images, text, etc) so that their data can be found easily across channels.
SEO, SEM and Internet Marketing
Personalized Paid Search
RAND FISHKIN believes that "personalized search is here for the long haul".
However, he believes that personalized search is not a game-changer.
According to RAND FISHKIN real time search is not too useful in its current state:
RAND FISHKIN believes that in 2010 "SEO spending will rise dramatically".
These detailed graphical results from Forrester Research show the level of investment in digital marketing.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Most people in the SEO field focus very heavily on rankings and traffic. RAND FISHKIN says he won’t personally ignore that but in addition he’d pay a lot of attention to CRO. SEOMoz “more than tripled revenues” using Conversion Rate Optimization.
He goes on to say: "CRO isn’t just about testing; it’s about building a process for improving conversion over time. Online businesses can generate so much revenue from this, yet few invest. I think 2010 is the year, simply because it’s an inflection point for companies to assess their spend and where they derive value."
JEFF WALTERS while talking about the shift to digital marketing, says:
He goes on to say that social media needs to be understood from both the brand perspective as well as the customer perspective. Since social media has "shifted the power to the customer", the challenge for the brand marketer then becomes to link their customer’s social profiles and activities with the business’s transactional data in a way that customers then become Brand Ambassadors.
Customer Profit & Loss Statements
JEFF WALTERS also believes that businesses should maintain customer P&L statements in the same vein as financial statements. A customer P&L statement measures whether the investment in the customer (social media engagement and interaction) is worth the return (word of mouth, referral services, goodwill, etc) and whether the customer is a profitable long-term customer.
MATT CUTTS reiterates that “Historically, we haven’t had to use it in our search rankings, but a lot of people within Google think that the web should be fast."
What This Means for your Business
Online marketing is not just about selling a product or service online; it’s also about providing customers with information and value online so they can then make more informed purchases offline.
To increase your SEO, SEM and internet marketing efforts, you should:
- Utilize better conversion metrics such as tweak your landing page, convey pricing more clearly, have a better layout, intuitive navigation, write catchier headlines
- Have a strategy for measuring social earned-media goals (as opposed to paid media) and run estimates on what your fan base means for your sales and brand loyalty
Tweets as Links
RAND FISHKIN is of the opinion that real time search will fade away or evolve into something more valuable in 2010. He believes that Google jumped the gun in announcing its collaboration with Twitter and the race to be the first to show real-time search but the results of that search stream are not valuable or relevant; rather they are ranked in chronological order with the last tweeted result displayed first.
He elaborates on his vision:
He makes another interesting point regarding Twitter’s overwhelming weight in the web’s link graphs and says that "Twitter has been cannibalizing the web’s link graph“. Traditionally Google assigns relevance on it’s SERP via on-page optimization as well as incoming links – Twitter is shaking this up.
He gives an example of his interview receiving only a dozen or so links but thousands of tweets and reiterates that Google could be worried about the issue of core relevancy. If the way to find content changes from being through the link graph to the tweet graph or the Facebook status graph, then that "changes the playing field".
What This Means for your Business
Link builders must concern themselves with getting attention in the social media sphere and figure out strategies to get that attention. If you are a business owner or marketer, you should sign up for a variety of social media accounts (if you have not already done so) and start establishing a presence and growing your brand there.
Social Media Optimization (SMO) is being hailed as the new SEO strategy, and there’s enough industry credence to this strategy for small and medium-sized business owners to sit up and take notice.
According to JILL WHALEN, businesses need to learn about the big bad scary world of social media pronto because:
In a recent interview with UK’s Telegrapgh, MARISSA MAYER weighed in with social media analysis and talked about personalized social search:
What This Mean for your Business
Business can and should ensure that they have an active an engaging social media profile on networks such as Facebook and Twitter or wherever they’re customers are likely to be found on the web.
It’s important for businesses to view social media strategy as part of their overall search optimization strategy, and not as something separate and distinct. eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson, advises businesses that “"he voice of the consumer is only going to get louder and stronger. It will shape what social media is and what it will become. Not too long ago, a company might have made major changes to its products or services based on a few focus groups, some financial planning and a degree of gut instinct. Social media has already changed all that. And more changes will come."
This means that you need to pay attention to what people are saying about your business on social media channels and you need to start engaging with your customers and potential customers by listening to their problems and offering solutions that are in line with your offering.
According to AARON WALL of SEO Book:
And if you need some convincing, he provides some handy points to consider:
- Google’s interest in acquiring Yelp can be seen as a move for the search giant admitting to how important local search will be. Whether it wanted to snuff out the competition or make a strategic buy-out, the failed deal shows one thing: promise in the power of local search.
- Google offers a flat rate local AdWords pricing model for local businesses
- Local SEO strategy is sometimes equated with appearing in search results in Google’s 10 pack and maps – therefore it’s important to optimize your business for geographic location.
You know local search is important when RAND FISHKIN places it above real time and personalized search:
He gives an example of a consumer using local search:
What This Means for your Business
Consider this: local online ad spending will increase from 12% in 2009 to 14% this year. Lisa Barone of outspoken Media has put together a great list of companies on the forefront providing local search data; amongst the contenders Twitter’s geo-location tags, Foursquare’s popular location check-in service, and Yelp’s geographical results.
Businesses should use Google AdWords: Keywords Tool to find out local search volume for the keyword phrases they’d like to rank for. Businesses can also use Google Trends, Google Insights, as well as AdWords campaigns to conduct research on local keywords and their effectiveness.
To ensure that your business is listed in Google’s local searches you can follow the 5 easy and free steps listed in the article. Just go to the Google Local Business Center and get started!
Of course, if you’re an Australian business then Start Local is here providing new, innovative ways to reach local customers as well. We’ve got a lot planned for 2010 as well to ensure that it’s easier for your potential customers to find you.
Consider looking into what other location based vertical search engines are appropriate in your industry. For instance, if you have a cafe then make sure you’re managing your business listing and reputation on appropriate cafe review sites.
Mobile Search Maturity
MATT CUTTS, and indeed most of Google’s top management, are a huge proponent of the mobile revolution finally coming of age in 2010.
When Matt Cutts says "Mobile will be a big trend" people sit up and take notice. He goes on to say:
PPC Ads on Mobile
STEVE BALLMER further adds to the mobile discussion by talking about mobile advertising at SMXwest:
Certain kinds of activities are supported more than others on a mobile platform: these include mobile banking and access to financial information as well as access to personalized and location-specific searches.
What This Means for your Business
Since most users search for location-specific information via their mobile phones, your first step is to ensure you’re listed in Google’s Local Business Center. Your next step as a small to medium-sized business is to ensure your website is optimized for viewing on a mobile unit or has a mobile-view option. If it’s appropriate in your line of business then you might need to chat to a web development firm and have this version available soon.
The mobile revolution is simple: mobile searches are just another (fast and convenient) way for users to find data about your business. As a business owner your priority is to ensure your potential customers have access to this data on their mobile phones.
AARON WALL predicts that 2010 will be the year of "information pollution". He cites examples of Demand Studios as a content mill spewing what he calls “answer spam, scraper re-purposing spam, social media recycling tools, freelance articles for a nickel spam, machine spun articles that are textually unique, etc”
He predicts that content creators “will aim to monetize the long tail of search via freelance articles of varying quality”.
He predicts that search results will be so polluted that:
- finding quality information will be harder
- paid niche content and private membership sites will gain popularity
- Google might be forced to change their “relevancy” algorithm
Duplicate Content is not Bad Per Se
JILL WHALEN talks about duplicate content:
Title Tags are Important
JILL WHALEN on title tags:
Keyword Density is going the Way of the Dinosaur
JILL WHALEN on keyword density:
Content is Still King
Well at least according to DANNY SULLIVAN that is. He predicts that quality content will reign supreme in 2010:
Asked by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch if Google would ever consider paying for content, MARISSA MAYER said:
What This Means for your Business
You should be striving to write quality content that is both search engine friendly and human-reader friendly. The smarter the search engines get, the better they are going to be at identifying and ranking excellent content.
Be sure to learn enough SEO to be able to optimize your content for the web, which is effectively about not getting things wrong as much as it’s about getting it right.
Conclusion – Top 10 Things to Watch for in 2010
According to the above experts, the top 10 areas to watch in the search industry for 2010 are:
1. Real time search
2. Personalized search
3. Local search and geo-targeting
4. Mobile search
5. Conversion rate optimization
6. Quality content
7. Social media optimization
8. Facebook & Twitter as Google challengers
9. Paid search
10. Universal search
A great succinct summary of the future of search and how you can prepare for it is available here from Charlene Li (Altimeter Group).
Conclusion – Top 10 Things to Act on in 2010
Based on the above analysis, the top 10 things businesses can do to increase visibility and rank in 2010 are:
1. Ensure excellent quality of website content that is optimized for search engines as well as human readers
2. Ensure a presence on vertical search engines by having appropriate (product and service) reviews and listings within your niche market
3. If appropriate, leverage listings on your local business directories
4. Get a mobile version of your website ready for users to access via their cell phones on-the-go
5. Put your content out in a variety of mediums (text, images, audio, video) to help you rank better for universal search results
6. Consider shifting your traditional marketing budget to online spending in targeted areas
7. Make a social profile on popular social networking sites where your customers are likely to hang out online
8. Start engaging with your customers one-on-one by listening to their concerns, praise, comments, problems and identifying how your business can help…preferably on Twitter
9. Measure, track and analyze social media goals for better targeting
10. Think about things you can do to improve your existing conversions (and SEO) such as site speed and conversion rate optimization which can cost little compared to benefits generated
Posted by Start Local Team
Category Online Marketing
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