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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - January 2009

Welcome to the first issue of our monthly newsletters for 2009 and we would like to take this opportunity to wish all our customers and readers a happy and prosperous New Year.

As usual at this time of year we attempt to predict what might happen over the next 12 months, as well as look back at the predictions we made a year ago. As ever, the online market has changed significantly over the past 12 months, with many of the major events having been recorded in our regular web marketing blog.

There's little doubt that the coming year will also see many developments and opportunities in this sector, despite the current economic slowdown affecting many of the western economies. We think that this situation will benefit online businesses in many ways, so that 2009 promises to be an exciting and challenging year for many companies who want to stay ahead of the game.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered.

On to this month's edition...

A review of our predictions for 2008

These were our 5 predictions for 2008 that were made in January last year, together with a review of what actually happened:

1) 'Universal search' becomes a significant optimisation issue: the inclusion of all forms of search results such as images, videos, news or maps within the main search engine listings has become more prevalent over the year, particularly on Google. This has created many opportunities for companies to achieve visibility within the search results in new and more creative ways. Local business listings have been the most effective method for many companies who target a localised area, so much so that Google has had to control some of the more extreme methods by companies trying to get listings within these results. Video sites like YouTube continue to attract huge traffic volumes and videos do appear within Google's search results, when applicable. Google has also introduced new formats for PPC adverts although these remain limited to the content network and have yet to be offered within the main search listings.

2) Personalisation gains ground: the impact of personalisation has yet to be understood as no figures have been released by Google, or other websites that offer this option, to show what the levels of uptake have been. However, at the end of 2008 Google introduced the Search Wikia option for logged in users, so that search results could be adapted to suit user preferences and notes could also be added to listings. There were also hints from Google that this data may also be eventually used to determine search engine rankings which is likely to attract abuse of the system. We believe that personalization is still in the early stages of development with the vast majority of web searchers being aware of, or using, this option, although it is likely to gradually increase usage within the market and to become a more significant issue for search engine optimisation.

3) Behavioural advertising becomes the next 'big thing': this is still expected to become a key service for advertisers but has still to become a mainstream function, partly due to the technology still being developed and data being collected, as well as the privacy issues that are raised once individuals realise how their data is being used to target advertising. The huge mass of data that's being collected by search engines and other major web properties should provide highly targeted advertising opportunities but the balance between this and privacy concerns is still to be determined.

4) Content targeted advertising becomes the new PPC battleground: Google has made further improvements to the content advertising network for PPC advertisers in 2008, most notably with the introduction of Placement advertising, and with the use of display and video advertising options. This sector has not become a battleground as other PPC services offer weak alternatives, but with better data and reporting on Google's own service, the content network has become a more accountable resource to extend the reach of this targeted form of advertising.

5) Mobile search finally becomes serious: the launch of the Apple iPhone at the start of the year and the new Google-apps phone some months later has marked the start of the mobile Internet in earnest. The range of applications seems to be limited only by ideas at the moment and so as these type of phones gain market share and become 'the norm', then companies need to seriously think about focusing part of their online presence to the mobile market. This has yet to happen in any significant volume but the signs are there and examples can be demonstrated.


What is likely to happen in 2009?

Many of the trends likely to have an impact in 2009 have already started, but what are our predictions for some of the key developments this coming year?

1) The economic slowdown focuses attention online: there is little doubt that the economic impact of the 'credit crunch' in 2008 will have a significant impact on business in 2009, particularly in the US and Europe, although Australia will also experience some impact from this too. Progressive companies will still need to maintain and grow their business in the face of any downturn and therefore even if marketing spend is cut back, the focus on online marketing will be greater, due to the measurability and proven cost-effectiveness of this form of advertising for many businesses. Search advertising will still see an overall growth in spend and market share of online advertising and despite some companies withdrawing from this sector, many others will put more spend into this targeted advertising to support their business.

2) Analytics becomes more mainstream: partly because of the widespread uptake of Google's free Analytics tool and partly because of the greater need for advertising spend to be effective in 2009, the use of website statistics or analytics is expected to become more common, even for small companies. However, the interpretation of the data and the way that understanding can be used will still be the most important aspect of this trend, but companies can now access much better data on their online activities which in turn can help to improve their website and marketing strategy to get the most from their online spend.

3) Yahoo won't survive in its current form: it seems inevitable that Yahoo's ongoing saga that was the source of much news coverage in 2008 will come to some sort of conclusion in 2009. Whether this is with Microsoft eventually coming back on the scene and buying Yahoo's search business, or some other form of takeover by another leading online brand, it's likely that Yahoo won't be able to survive the next 12 months in their current form, despite or maybe because of the change in their CEO. It would be a shame for Yahoo to lose more search market share, as Google needs a stronger competitor, but with the economic problems in the US, it's hard to see Yahoo surviving much longer as a key player and we can expect more developments here sooner rather than later.

4) Video becomes the new marketing tool: as mentioned above, with the growth and impact of 'universal' search, video is now playing a more visible role within search and in 2009 this is likely to see a bigger impact in the business sector. Companies need to think about ways they can effectively use video to drive traffic and new business to their website, as it is becoming a more widespread medium and one that can play a bigger role within search and advertising channels. The 'optimisation' of video will be as important as the production if the effort of creating videos is to reap the rewards expected, particularly against the massive growth of user generated video content on sites like YouTube, but the creative use and marketing of videos will become more mainstream this year.

5) Reputation management becomes a core service: we've covered this issue before, but with the increasing growth and focus on user-generated content sites - such as review sites, blogs and comments on social networks - the need for companies to monitor what is being said about their business and brands, and to respond effectively to that content, will become a bigger requirement in 2009 as more businesses realise the potential dangers as well as the advantages of this trend. Online reputation management will therefore become a service in much demand from PR companies and search engine marketing firms, as web content is monitored and responded to in a more effective manner.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:


We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.