The search engine marketing industry experienced a plethora of changes in 2008, and yet even more significant advancements will be introduced in ‘09, as Google’s algorithms continued to be tweaked. As I look at the 11-year old fledgling industry of search engine marketing, I see new innovation on the horizon, and would like to share what changes I predict for the coming year.
Prediction #1 – Apply time and money where Google give the most weightLinkbuilding
It has been assumed that 80% of Google’s algorithm is based on off-site factors and the remaining 20% is focused on on-page optimization. If this be the case, then it would be wise to spend the bulk of our time on cultivating multiple, authoritative and high quality links from other websites. This is particularly crucial if you have a small budget since this is a time consuming endeavor. Essentially, the most important task that you can carry out in order to increase your search engine rankings is Link Building. This process involves creating high quality, “no spam” backlinks to your site – with the correct anchor text, suitably varied and built gradually so as to avoid being penalized by Google. My prediction for 2009 is that Google will shift the algorithm to 90% link building and 10% on-site optimization. With webmasters more proficient in optimizing websites at the onset of design, the real attention needs to be focused on securing backlinks.
Prediction #2 – Mobile will be King!
According to a recent study by Mobile Market View, the number of mobile users who access to the Internet from their mobile devices increased 20% in 2008 over 2007. Mobile web-browsing software is improving by leaps and bounds resulting in an uptick of usage of mobile search. Consequently websites will need to be redesigned with XML and XHTML to become more mobile-user friendly. Users will search differently when using their phones. They will have more immediate needs and probably will not search past the first 4-5 searches on Google. This is extremely important for hotels, restaurants and car rental companies, when travelers are on the road and need quick answers. Keywords for mobile search will differ from traditional keywords, and Google will be able to factor in the variations to their algorithms. New this year, when you go to google.com on your iPhone and do a search, you'll see search results that are better optimized and more graphically appealing to the eye.
Prediction #3 - Metrics will shift from traffic to conversions
With the recession at full throttle, companies will want to see improvements to their bottom-line and ROI, and visitor traffic by itself does not pay the bills. Consequently, more search marketing firms will need to focus more on tracking where traffic is coming from and the keywords users are using to turn a visit into a sale or a request for more information. As search engines adapt their algorithms and user interfaces accordingly to the keywords that are more “conversion-friendly”, traditional rankings for keywords that produced traffic will be replaced by keywords that drive conversions, and ultimately increased revenues.
Prediction #4 – Universal Search will become dominant
In 2008, Google introduced Universal Search, a version of their search algorithm that incorporates videos, maps, news and other media in addition to traditional text among search results. Currently only certain keywords trigger universal search, so my prediction in 2009 is that Google’s algorithm will factor in those Universal Search keywords and place more emphasis on searches that offer the user results that contain greater content options than just traditional text searches. According to Google, with universal search they are attempting to break down the walls that traditionally separated various search properties and integrate the vast amounts of information available into one simple set of search results.
Prediction #5 – Popularity of Local Search will costLocal Search Local Search has gained prominence in Google’s algorithms because of the ability to make search results more relevant for the user. For example, hoteliers and restaurateurs find that by adding a city name to their organic or PPC keywords, they will attract more potential buyers. In tandem, Local Search is an excellent means for Google to make search results more targeted for the user. As with the growth of mobile devices, local search will continue to gain popularity as mobile search continues to gain traction. With such rapid growth in mobile search, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to make sure consumers are able to easily locate them when the on-the-go public is ready to buy. The importance of location will continue to increase in 2009 and it is my prediction that Google will begin to charge for Local Search, due to this increased popularity!
Prediction #6 – Social Media will become a major brand and link-building device
Social media outlets allow businesses to connect and interact with more consumers for less money. I predict businesses will take a more integrated approach to social marketing in 2009 to save money as the economy continues to falter. Low-cost social marketing will become the tool of choice. This will become especially true when marketers realize the importance of repurposing offline messages and redistributing them through social networks (blogs, video sharing,wikis, etc.) to increase overall reach and natural search authority. Hotel companies and airlines have pioneered the social networking space, and this trend will heighten in 2009, as the late-comers will learn from the best practices of the major brands of Marriott, Starwood and British Airways. Google’s adsense ads will continue to pop-up on “free social network” sites, and in 2009, I predict Google’s algorithms will drive more and more traffic to social network sites where they can benefit from the advertising on these sites.
Prediction #7 – Top SEO Companies will thrive based on Survival of the Fittest
Top SEOPresently there are more search engine marketing firms than one can shake a stick at. The success of SEM and SEO in 2009 will be based on the Darwinian theory of evolution, where the companies that have been in business the longest, with the greatest track records and accomplishments will be the ones to survive in 2009. Companies in the US and the UK that will build upon their stellar reputations include Customer Magnetism and Greenlight Search Marketing. Customer Magnetism was recently voted as the #1 Best Link Popularity Service by Promotion World and the winner of the “organic optimization category" by Top SEOs, and Greenlight has been named one of the UK’s fastest growing search companies in the 2008 Deloitte Technology Fast 50.Both of these companies excel at following and tracking Google’s changing algorithms and as a result can provide their customers with the most updated attention and service in compliance with these changes.
While some of my predictions may be a leap of faith, I hope it has started you reassessing what you are doing in the search engine space. It is wise to take a moment to assess your own 2009 search engine marketing strategies, and determine where your time and money can be best spent. As large an enterprise as Google is, it is not going away, any time soon. So it may serve of us all well to put our best foot forward by taking their lead, understanding their evolution and keeping pace with Google’s “algo changes”… particularly in a downturned economy.
As the Algo turns… let’s hope it turns for you!