In a series of features, we’ll be looking at the industry’s responses to the questions we posed, to determine the challenges and trends facing search marketing in 2012. So, what trends can we expect in search in the following months?
Tina Judic, managing director, Found
If the current rate of change in 2012 is to continue then we will see many more experts in different areas emerging. Agencies will have to expand their core services into much more specialised areas and integration across teams such as social, development and SEO, will be essential for successful online projects.
We fully expect to see the matching algorithms within paid search relaxed on all match-types on Google (as part of a push to hit their new target of $100bn turnover?). Marketers will therefore need to pay even more attention to the searches they are matching to and step up their use of negative matches.
The Search Alliance between Bing and Yahoo! is now fully coming into effect in the UK and marketers will have to spend extra time monitoring their campaigns and learning to gain visibility and insights from a single interface that refers to two separate search platforms. However, I do not anticipate much change to traffic levels.
Enhanced Sitelinks are expected to be introduced by Google at some point this year. This is a potential game-changer, as their size and their ability to contain a large amount of additional information means that P1 PPC ads could see CTR’s rocket to previously unseen levels and natural search results move further down the page.
Finally, much of Google’s recent work has been around new and interesting ad extensions such as email extensions and offer extensions - I expect to see them continuing to explore the possibilities here, particularly with new ways of linking up to Google+ and other social platforms.
Neil Jackson, head of natural search, I Spy Marketing
Increase use of mobile devices/tablets and therefore local search in all of the senses. Panda to keep rolling out as well as targeting poor quality. So more of the same but faster and in greater depth. Increased use of social media and jumping on new bandwagons, and then quickly jumping off again.
Ed Stevenson, managing director, Global Agencies & International, Marin Software
A big trend in the search market has been advertisers looking to optimise search based on offline conversions. There has been a lot of talk over the years about integrating the online and offline experience, but in search terms this is now a reality. As a result of search technologies integrating with call tracking vendors and online couponing analytics platforms, advertisers will be able to attribute and optimise search spend based on conversions happening over the phone or in-store. Expect more and more savvy advertisers to take advantage of this opportunity over the coming months.
Also, despite not being the most talked about area of online advertising, the strength and continued trend of the industry is the continued bullishness of paid search spend. The IAB’s UK stats this year showed that once again paid search has outgrown every other area of online advertising year-over-year, despite already being the largest sector of online advertising, with 58 per cent of all spend going to paid search. That’s 17.5 per cent year-on-year growth - with the next closest acceleration coming from display, which had 13.4 per cent year-on-year growth. This continued growth comes as a result of continuous innovation from the likes of Google, as well as technology vendors making search spend increasingly efficient.
Bryan Adams, managing director at Ph.Creative
Google+ will definitely appear on people’s radar much more, as we see its content integrated and returned more and more in regular Google search results. We will also see the rise of social commerce - businesses selling directly from their social profiles rather than directing traffic to a traditional website to complete a transaction. And of course, mobile usage will continue to grow until it out ranks desktop browsing as the number one focus for search marketers.
Another issue to be aware of from a brand protection perspective is that of underhand businesses looking to utilise the industry changes to discredit, or damage the reputations of their competitors. I’ve already heard reports that this is happening and it could be disastrous for any business, especially those in highly competitive sectors.
James Lowery, head of SEO, Latitude
We’ll see more focus on search as a social channel, greater emphasis on branding activity, and more intelligence applied to understanding personalisation at a customer demographic level.
Subscribers can download a copy of the full report for free here.
Binoculars image via Shutterstock