Every year it gets harder and harder to predict just what is actually going to happen in search and 2012 is proving to be no different. Things are changing and evolving on an almost weekly basis amongst the big boys. Here are some topics to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.
2011 was billed by many as the "Year of Mobile" which in many respects it was as mobile traffic continued to grow. 2012 looks as though it might be the year that many sit up and take this growth seriously. There are lots of studies doing the rounds with some suggesting that mobile and traffic share could hit over 1/5th of searches by the end of next year. This growth makes it all the more important to ensure that the user on their Smart Phone has the best experience possible with mobile optimised websites and mobile web apps.
Hot on the heels of mobile, and in many respects hand in hand, is localisation within search. Google is very much leading the way in local search, with the ever changing SERPS paying testament to their testing. Localisation of campaigns, and the ability to target so specifically, means that over the next 12 months we should expect to see an explosion of local search improvements across all of the networks.
The release of Google wallet in the UK in the coming months will add an extra dimension to the whole party with promises of a new toy - Google Offers. This means that advertisers will be able to reel people in to a physical purchase direct from their stores. This is likely to be something Google will roll out as an ad extension which will give ads even more stand out in the local ad wars.
One of the hot (non –Google) topics of the next 12 months is the delayed transition of UK accounts that is expected in Q2 next year. Although the overall share within the UK is small there have been many reports across the US at the end of 2010 that traffic had declined since the merger with various theories about why.
Some have cited that the quality of searches has increased and that ROI has subsequently improved. It will be interesting to see how the UK reacts (if at all) to the change.
A depressing headline for sure, but one that is at the front of everyone's minds. Last year was seen, by many, as a year of consolidation with budgets being stripped back and core activity becoming the focus.
This will undoubtedly impact Paid Search as advertisers will be working harder to make their campaigns more efficient, in an ever more competitive market. Good optimisation techniques and accurate tracking will make or break campaigns.
The 2012 Olympics in London may prove another challenge for advertisers next year, especially for those targeting the capital. Brands and advertisers have been warned that they could be "criminalised" if they try to ride the 2012 Olympic bandwagon without being official sponsors. The London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) really forces this home protecting not only the brands and logos but also restricting some related words that can be used in advertising copy.
This means that some advertisers in London next year will have to tread carefully so as not to end up in violation of these new rules. Seemingly innocent ads legitimately advertising "Hotel Rooms in London for 2012" could end up being disapproved. It will be interesting to see how Google polices this and what creative ways are found to circumnavigate these rules to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.
Of course all of this may pale into insignificance if the "Misinterpretations" of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar and recent /wp-content/uploads/film prove to be correct and the end of the world arrives in late December 2012.
Whatever happens over the next year I think we will see some significant advances in the world of search.