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What to Expect for Search Engine Marketing in 2009

Last year brought many important changes to the search engine marketing industry, and even more substantial refinements await in 2009 as search engines continue to tweak their algorithms and work to deliver the results that users are searching for. The experts at Apogee Results have compiled a list of their top predictions for search engine marketing in 2009. They are as follows.

  1. Search within a site will become more important for Google.
  2. Search within a site is a function that allows users to search the specific pages of a website from the Google search results page. This means that Google will determine which pages are important within a site, and users will be sent to those pages.

    “Google will be really aggressive with search within a site in 2009. They will be able to keep users on the Google search results page longer since users will refine their searches in Google before clicking through to a web page,” said Apogee Search's CEO Bill Leake.

    Every page in a site should be a conversion page in 2009 because site designers will not be in control of user navigation, Google will be.

  3. SEO metrics will continue to shift toward traffic and conversions, away from rankings.
  4. Natural search rankings will be less important in 2009. With the recession in full swing, executives will want to see improvements in the bottom-line, and rankings by themselves do not pay the bills. The search engine marketing industry will become smarter about what they track and what numbers they care about. Search professionals will need to focus more on tracking where traffic is coming from and the keywords users are searching for. As search engines adapt their user interfaces to the changing industry, traditional rankings will not drive traffic as they used to, and the traditional rankings report still used by the majority of the search engine optimization industry will become increasingly discredited.

  5. Universal Search will become more relevant.
  6. In mid-2008, Google implemented Universal Search, a version of their search algorithm that incorporates videos, maps, news and other media in addition to traditional text among search results. Currently only certain keywords trigger Universal Search, so there are still some searches that display only traditional text search results. “We will see Universal Search more in 2009. Google will get better at predicting which Universal Search options will be relevant to specific keywords,” said Brian Combs, Apogee Results’s Senior Vice President and Chief Futurist.

  7. This is finally the year for mobile.
  8. After years of expectations mobile internet usage will actually grow rapidly in 2009, reaching critical mass. According to a recent study by Mobile Market View, the number of mobile users who access the Internet from their mobile devices increased 20% in 2008 from 2007. The cost of data plans from mobile service providers is dropping, and mobile web-browsing software is improving by leaps and bounds, resulting in a steadily increasing usage rate for mobile search.

    This means that websites will need to be more mobile-friendly. Designers should use XML and XHTML when designing sites and consider the limitations of cell phones. Users do not have a mouse and are limited in their scrolling capacities, so sites need to be simple and user-friendly.

    Search marketers should consider the information mobile users will be searching for. Typically, it is information that is needed immediately. Searchers will not be looking for information for research papers from their phones; instead they will look for retailers, restaurants and other local businesses. Consider the information that users want when developing keyword lists.  Mobile searchers probably won’t look past listing number five, compared to traditional searchers who may typically look at eight to ten listings.

  9. Local search will become more prevalent.
  10. Local search has gained prominence due to its ability to make search results more relevant. For example, if a user enters a city name in their search, they probably want results within that city. Local search is a great way for Google to make search results more inclusive in these situations. Local search will continue to gain popularity as mobile search continues to grow at a rapid pace. With such rapid growth in mobile search, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to make sure consumers are able to easily locate their brick and mortar locations when they are on-the-go and ready to make a purchase.

    Businesses of all sizes can claim their listing in the Google Local Business Center. The importance of location will continue to increase in 2009 due to the visual distinction of local search listings within search engine results.

  11. Businesses will repurpose, redistribute and integrate through social media.
  12. Social media outlets allow businesses to reach and interact with more consumers for less money. Businesses are expected to take a more integrated approach to social marketing in 2009 to save money as the economy continues to struggle. Low-cost social marketing will become the tool to use especially as marketers realize the importance of repurposing offline messages and redistributing them through social networks (blogs, video sharing, etc.) to increase overall reach and natural search authority. By integrating social media into promotional strategies, businesses will reap the benefits of social marketing as both brand-building and link-building devices.

  13. Google search will become more personalized.
  14. Google will utilize more extensive tracking software to monitor user behavior on the web. Google will use this data to bias search results. For example, if a user frequently visits singles’ sites and then searches for vacation spots, Google might display vacation spots for singles. While this might make search results more relevant, there is also the risk that Google will misinterpret user behavior and incorrectly bias results.

    Google also recently rolled-out wiki-style user modification options to their search results page. Currently, only logged-in Google account holders can modify their search results by changing the order of the displayed pages. Users can rearrange their results and save public comments about the pages in their search results.

    Google might use this data as a variable in their algorithm, but they will have to be careful not to skew the results.

    “Google has made their mark in the search industry by being easy to understand by all searchers; if they skew heavily towards tech-savvy users, those results will likely confuse the casual searcher,” stated Nadia King, Manager of Natural Search Services.

  15. Display ads will remain the only format, besides search, to maintain double-digit share in online advertising spending.
  16. The current economic state has advertisers tightening their budgets, but with the expected economic upturn later this year, marketers will begin to reinvest in advertising and become smarter about where their dollars are being spent. Smart advertisers know that online marketing is one of the most effective and measurable ways to really see the impact of your efforts, and recent studies have shown that display ads are contributing more and more to improve that impact. 

    Many studies have been conducted within the past year to prove that display ads and search are directly correlated. Display ads might not have the highest click-through rates but they definitely aid in improving brand awareness. Use of display ads can result in significant improvement in visitation to the advertiser’s website, search queries using the advertiser’s branded terms, online sales, and offline sales, as AVC.com reports. “Search clickers exposed to display advertising were 22% more likely to produce a sale than those who were not exposed,” according to a September 2008 study of Microsoft's Engagement Mapping system by Atlas Solutions. According to David Hallerman, Senior Analyst at eMarketer, “there is a connection between display and search ads…often it’s not the search ad alone that gets consumers to act, but the context of all the marketing that preceded it.”

Now that you know what to expect for 2009, take a moment to recap some memorable search and online marketing happenings with this collection of 2008 year-in-review lists, articles and blog posts developed by Small Business Search Marketing.

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"We have enjoyed working with Apogee for years, and our long relationship is due to the consistent, high-quality results on both paid search and natural search."