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Epiphany Search

It’s that time of the year again folks when I take a look at the upcoming trends in digital marketing, SEO and the Web in general for the coming year. There are set to be massive changes in the world of online marketing in 2011, with many ‘game changers’ all on the horizon. Brands are going to have to pay attention to these changes if they want to retain the level of online visibility and conversion generation they currently hold.

So without further ado, let's get out the crystal ball and delve into digital marketing in 2011.

Mobile Web & Device Diversification

Google has estimated that by 2011 mobile searches will be equal to the amount of desktop searches in 2007. That statistic might be a little optimistic for the UK alone, but there is no denying the fact that mobile web usage will continue to grow strongly during 2011. Next year will be when everyone has to take the mobile web and mobile search seriously if they want to (at least) maintain their current level of online exposure and conversions. Increased mobile usage will change how users search through text, voice, and images; what they search (shorter searches, mobile/location-related searches), and how they view the content when they find it (limited screen real estate). Mobile websites, mobile SEO and mobile conversation rate optimisation will be essential for those wishing to prosper in this ‘new’ environment. Of course we're not just talking smartphones here. The growth of tablets opens another whole new area of optimisation possibilities:

  • Have you got mobile strategy?
  • Have you got device strategy?

‘Appification’

The advantages that software-based Apps offer, both publishers and users, in terms of delivering and consuming content, and functionality, in an ever increasingly diverse device market, will ensure their strong growth during 2011. In addition, the continued growth of cloud computing (websites as applications) means that for many, the line between what a website is and what a software application is will blur. Eventually many users may not know (or care!) the difference between the two. It is my own personal belief that the continued growth of Apps will eventually lead to them being considered as a direct competitor to traditional websites. Apps are already a Universal search option within Google Mobile Search, and this functionality will eventually make its way into the traditional desktop search results.  Have you got App Strategy?

Internet TV

Next year might not quite be when TV search explodes, but Google will look to grow this channel strongly during 2011. Early adopters here in TV SEO might gain themselves a march on their competitors. Will we eventually see blended TV results in Google like we do with Google Mobile? How about blended tablet results? If Google is committed to delivering users the most relevant content for the device, then this would seem like a logical route to take.

Social Media Marketing

In 2010, both Google and Bing confirmed that Tweets and (possibly) other social media factors directly influence the traditional search engine ranking positions. This comes as no real surprise. Search engines in many ways are a mirror of the environment in which they find themselves. Why would they not use this data to deliver ‘better’ results? If your company is not present on Facebook and Twitter, and is having its content and URLs passed around on these and other networks, then your brand is in decline in the eyes of Google. These kind of social signals (and user ‘sentiments’) are going to become increasingly more important to search engines in assessing what is an authority website in any niche. A well thought out social media strategy can lead to a number of pre-defined outcomes: the creation of brand champions, the generation of incoming links (traditional & social) to your website, and good reviews (for Google Places optimisation). Social Media Marketing, or Social Media Optimisation (SMO), increasingly becomes an integral part of everyone’s overall marketing strategy, as the lines between disciplines blur. During 2011 we are going to see much more campaign integration, not just with SEO and social media, but through utilising traditional off-line marketing to help drive both SEO and social media campaigns..... Have you got a Social Media Strategy?

Personalisation

Personalised results in search engines will continue to grow and become an important part of the listings, forcing organisations to think more intelligently about how to gain exposure. Local optimisation could play a big part for organisations in addressing this issue. Personalisation won’t just be limited to the search engines though. Expect to see personalisation across more and more websites as universal logins (ie Facebook Connect) continue to proliferate. Users will get used to this and come to expect it. If you’re not making product suggestions based on your user’s social graph, expect your competitors to steal a march on you. Personalisation in display advertising will also continue to grow strongly. After proving itself in 2010, this method of banner advertising will go truly main stream in 2011.

Web Analytics & Conversion Rate Optimisation

It’s been important to us as a specialist search agency, for Conversion Rate Optimisation to continue to grow strongly across the sector in 2011. As mentioned, this becomes even more important in an ever growing divergent device market. Expect new screen sizes, new interfaces, and new user needs. I expect Facebook to ramp up their web analytics offerings, possibly even buying out a current supplier to quickly improve their offerings. No doubt Google will have some interesting things up their sleeve over the coming year, watch this space…. Have you got CRO?

Local, Location, & Places

If you are reading this post, no doubt you are probably aware of Google Places and the impact it’s had on the search results screen real estate. Local search optimisation in Google Places, traditional SERPs and mobile search may well become crucial for many organisations during 2011.... Have you got local?

Semantic Data & the Rise of the Aggregator

The inclusion of semantic data on your own website will become increasingly important for websites wanting to send the right kind of signals to the search engines, in terms of their locality and topic niche. Specifically, all brands should look to include Micro formats and implement Facebook’s Open ID during 2011 (if they haven’t already). Appearing on other sites that also publish semantic data that Google utilises will also be important for many brands. The Semantic Web and Web 3.0 are just around the corner. To stay visible in this new environment/‘platform’, brands need to start publishing semantic data today. Those that adopt the use of semantic data across the board today may very well end up enjoying a significant advantage over their competitors, in terms of search engine visibility in the future. The availability of all this new data and personalisation (from social graphs such as Facebook) will see a plethora of aggregator websites popping up. Some focused on specific niches (shoes perhaps) with others delivering completely unique content to each and every visitor that views the site. Many predict user’s behaviour will change and switch away from the search engine to more targeted semantic aggregators. Think Amazon and its listing of others products, but on a much bigger scale across the web. Visibility in the major engines alone may no longer be enough.... Have you got semantic data?

Battle of the Giants (to the death, with laser beams)

Google vs. Facebook, Google vs. Apple, Google vs. Microsoft, Google and Twitter vs. Facebook and Bing/Yahoo. Whichever way you look at it, the battle to become the dominant player in the consumer computing industry, never mind just the web or just the most popular website/search engine, will intensify. This is a fight that crosses over devices, operating websites, search engines, and third party websites. The ultimate prize here is us and our eyeballs, and the advertising dollars those eyeballs bring. This topic is huge and spans every aspect of the online world and consumers computing industry. There is however, a few key things we should look out for in 2011. In the US, a combination of Bing & Yahoo could finally deliver a real challenge to the Google behemoth, clearing and increasing the importance of those engine(s) in terms of visibility. If Facebook is (even partially) successful in ‘replacing the web,’ as it is currently attempting to do, we could expect to see search behaviours change significantly. Facebook already has Bing there ready and waiting to deliver search results… Online Marketing takes a bigger bite of the budget One thing every organisation can expect to do in 2011 is switch more of their marketing budget into digital marketing. The new opportunities, the conversions, the consumers, and more importantly the better ROI, are all there. Digital marketing will undoubtedly continue to grow. If you’ve got this far into the post, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you think is going to be big in digital marketing in 2011. Fill out the little form below!!