Search in 2011.

Search in 2011 ...

2010 has been a year of consolidation for online marketers. With budgets being affected by the economic downturn many brands have had to focus on core activity, minimising growth or channel testing. Luckily for search, being so accountable, the market has seen growth across 2010 of 20%. The shift in advertiser trends has seen retail overtake finance to become the no 1 investor in search engine marketing.   

For 2011, major change is on the cards for those optimising search campaigns. As ever the world of online is rapidly evolving, with results become more personal, more relevant and overall faster.

Marketers need to be prepared for 5 major themes to take over their lives in the next 12 months: social media, visual search, real-time search, local & mobile. No doubt these will result in numerous product and technological advancements.

Social Media and Search

Following the launch of Google’s real time search,  Bing & Facebook collaborated, enabling Bing to display the ‘likes’ of Facebook friends within both natural and paid for links, making search results even more personal to the user. Word of mouth has been shown to drive 40% of brand searches, making this development one of the most personal and effective recommendations around. Currently Bing users are still in the minority.

Does this impact on Google? Google gives you the most relevant popular pages. Bing will give Google style results identifying what your friends liked. If this feature were available on Google, we would all be shouting about it a lot more. Google already integrate Twitter results for some searches, giving you real information and opinions for your search results. Not hugely personal to the user, but interesting to watch, and can heavily influence brand opinion.

All social media will at some point feature in a search result and its going to become crucial in 2011 for search strategists to develop optimisation techniques for social media results so they appear within search engines at the right time with the right message. This is not just Facebook and Twitter but extends to blogs, YouTube, Foursquare and LinkedIn amongst others. With this development comes evaluation and search strategists will need to be able to measure the impact of social media on search trends. How does brand search volume & natural search ranking increase following a discussion on facebook or recommendation & link by an influential blog? What value can be assigned to this?

Visual Search

We are increasingly online via pc, laptop or mobile devices, whilst watching TV and over the next year, we can expect to see the merging of TV, Internet and on demand media, especially with the anticipated launch of Google YouView and existing Apple TV. Visual search revolves around universal search results and the ability of each of the search engines to provide a multitude of results; videos, images, news, shopping. This means that optimisation of an advertisers’ digital assets will become relevant to not only the entertainment sector but also retailers, and fashion retail especially. How great would it be if a search for ‘maxi dress’ yielded video results of the products available?

Paid Search ads are also becoming content rich, including Videos and images as expandable features to 'preview' the content to the user. These features are only going to grow and become more advanced in 2011.

Real-Time Search

It has been well documented that the future of search is about ‘giving you the results you want, now’. What this means is that search needs to become more relevant and faster, ultimately predicting what you are seeking before you have ‘searched’ for it. The launch of Google Instant took this to another level in 2010, the first step in predicative search results.

For search engine optimisers, Google instant has placed more relevance on the head terms, those terms that are short and used often in search, meaning it is going to be as important as ever to optimise towards these in 2011. While Google Instant has yet to show a major impact on either natural or paid search results it is rolling out to mobile platforms, which indicates that this is the future of search. Mobile search will one day deliver results personal just to you, and where you are at that moment.

Local

Combined with real-time search, ‘Local’ encompasses all media consumption for search. Natural, Paid, Mobile, Desktop. Users want relevant, location based content, now.

Google has developed an attempt to ‘predict’ the searches where local content is desired, even if a location or local service is not searched for. This means the previous approach to PPC / SEO optimisation has to adapt. Google maps & Geo-targeting capabilities take prominence, and must be optimised to provide relevant information, quickly.

How this will develop is yet to be seen, but one thing is for definite, ‘local’ is only going to get bigger.

Mobile

Mobile is expected to be the second largest online ad revenue by 2014. For search, to date this has seen the launch of mobile apps for big retailers such as John Lewis and M&S.

The IAB’s consumer m-commerce study found that 51 per cent of UK mobile users (22.95m people) have made purchases via their phones while 59 per cent (26.55m people) have used mobile media such as apps. With the rise of tablet devices from Apple, Blackberry and Samsung, this figure is only going to increase. 

Mobile is set to be the biggest growing area in terms of search and display ads in 2011 and it’s not something that companies should be thinking is a nice to have, but something that they must have.

In terms of search on mobile, consumer behaviour must be analysed and applied when assessing the site for optimisation and user experience. Paid search ads should be treated separately to desktop ads, fully utilising short, sharp messages and functions such as click to call.

There are a lot of emerging technologies come to the fore in search and the key for brands will be to start exploring how these can help with increase the success of their search campaigns. If brands are able to get on top of all of these developments and find a way to bring them together in a coherent campaign then I think we will see some really creative and impactful work in 2011. Search is no longer just a keyword.

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