The New Year is upon us, and therefore all the resolutions are in place and online businesses are preparing for their biggest year yet. What better time to look into the crystal ball and see what 2006 has in stall for search advertising and the internet? Below are some of my predictions for the year ahead:
Organic versus Paid: The Scales Balance
The puritans of search still hold fast to the notion that search marketing is all about the organic listings and quality optimization. 2006 will see resurgence in the importance of this search engine optimization. While pay for performance advertising will become more mainstream, the corresponding increased competition for keywords and clicks will mean marketers will strive for a balance between SEO and paid advertising. The improved ability for search engines to determine the relevance of web pages and filter out spam/content poor websites in their organic listings through smarter algorithms will see an increased reliance and faith in organic optimization by genuine businesses.
2005 saw the blog world boom. Blogs created a platform for every man and his dog to become an expert and share their knowledge and opinions with the world. Accordingly, many blogs emerged as essential reading, and with the niche topics that many of them cover, it was only a matter of time, before legitimate blog advertising became hot property. Though early adopters are already testing the medium, 2006 should see many of the current limitations of blog advertising eliminated. This will include better tracking and statistics, more comprehensive selection to advertise on, improved functionality for user operated services and greater general acceptance of the service by readers, marketers and bloggers.
Online Rich Media Advertising:
Broadband adoption is growing at a phenomenal rate internationally and this increased usage will drive pricing down and make it even more affordable and accepted. This increased usage of high speed internet will be the driving force behind the significant rise in rich media advertising across the internet. 2006 will see the renaissance of animation, audio and interactive advertising (including video). Rich media advertising is nothing new, but the increased broadband acceptance will make it more accessible for the average Joe. Accordingly, display and sponsored advertising will gain a higher share of the marketing budget, drawing funds away from traditional advertising such as TV and print media.
True Mobility for the Internet:
Efforts over the past few years to make the internet mobile will really come to fruition in 2006. With significant research into wireless access, WAP services and mobile search, not to mention the investment in mobile computer technology; this year should see serious inroads into making mobile internet more accessible for everyone. The key to this will be through improved accessibility and more affordable pricing. Cell phones and PDAs with internet functionality will actually be must have accessories for everyone, from school kids to executives.
Everyone’s Getting Local:
2005 saw many of the major search engines investing heavily in the buzz of “local search”. While for most, search advertising and the internet was a great chance to tap into an international marketplace with minimal expense, the marketing medium has come full circle as smaller businesses demand ROI through localized targeting. This year will see local search really emerge as a key facet of the search marketing portfolio. With it will come even greater adoption of search advertising by small to medium sized enterprise, as they can tap into their local marketplace through the convenience of the internet, without the perceived wastage and clutter of traditional search. 2006 will also see the major search engines truly extend their local search services outside the borders of the US, with European and Asian demand leading the way.
Measurement Is a Must:
Web analytics will become a mainstream measurement and analysis tool for most businesses. Marketing spend on search advertising has been rising significantly for some time. The call card of search marketing is the great ROI available and furthermore the ability to accurately measure the returns of your efforts. This increased usage of search advertising has meant, especially for smaller businesses, that simple hit counters and traffic measurement tools are just not adequate for providing the necessary information to plan and evaluate online marketing efforts. Google’s recent investment in the area of web analytics is a strong sign of things to come in 2006. We are likely to see the other major search engines introduce their own versions, as smaller businesses actually realize the importance of understanding their online presence.
THE MAJOR PLAYERS:
Google Still King!
Google will remain as head of the search game. With no clear challenger for their search title, but some of the contenders will gain a slightly larger piece of the pie. Yahoo! and MSN will continue the quest, but diversification will be the key for all.
Serious Crisis for Google
Google will take a major hit in 2006. It will continue to dominate the search market, but it suffer more on the level of public opinion. Many believe Google is on the verge of a PR disaster similar to Microsoft’s during the mid 90′s.
Yahoo! wants to entertain you!
Well it’s been building for years. The portal and search engine will emerge as the source for online home entertainment, whether it’s video, music or games. They are perfectly positioned to take control of the space, but careful, as rumors have it that Google have plans to play a bigger role in the home entertainment space.
MSN & who:
Microsoft have had several major issues on the verge of release or fruition leading into the end of 2005, but small hiccups along the way have left us wondering where they will be in 2006. With Google stealing the AOL deal at the finishing line, and MSN AdCenter still not fully operational, 2006 could be a real make it or break it year for Bill Gates and his cohorts. Well, it probably won’t break them, but it will definitely confirm whether MSN is a serious search contender! They might just need a search ally – but who?
Well that’s some of my predictions for the year ahead. There are some more specific ones to come soon. Time will tell whether my psychic skills match my online marketing knowledge, but one thing is for sure, 2006 is sure to be a huge year for search and the internet, no matter what happens. Here’s hoping it’s a prosperous one for all!