A couple of years back in the Search Engine Watch forums I made various comments that Google was more interested in pushing to rate authority more highly and that we’d not only see this trend continue, but also that we’d see established websites abuse this.
And these things have come to pass.
So I’m going to make a few more formal predictions for the Search Engine Optimization industry covering the next two years:
1. Local Search - will remain a niche interest. Local Search is great if you’re looking for services that can only originate locally (such as the nearest pizza takeaway), but the net can supply products/services to consumers nationally and internationally. Therefore as an internet concept it can only be applied on a limited basis. Established sites have already flooded local search terms, and Google and Yahoo!’s Local Search projects will not be able to provide a one-stop solution for most users.
2. Personalised search - is another niche interest. The problem is that human bahaviour on the individual level cannot easily be predicted, even with a clear history. Search engines will try and continue to employ personal search choices to some degree through favourites lists and similar, but the results will continue to be clumsy as an indicator of anything substantial. That won’t stop them trying to bombard you with Teletubbie site listings in search just because you were looking for something specific for the kids a few days earlier. And never forget - My Tivo Thinks I’m Gay. Useful Personal Search is a long way off.
3. SEO industry will fragment - into two clear main tiers. The top tier will establish themselves in pure marketing for search engine optimization purposes - viral and social marketing for quality link generation. The lower teir will be of bottom feeders simply provide links by volume, not quality, or by recommendation. At present the latter works fine to many degrees, but all of the search engines have showed long-term interest in killing its effects on search algos. The bottom tier will aggressively move more and more into links via form spamming on blogs, forums, etc, simply for volume.
4. Hacking for SEO - will become much more common. Forget Parasite SEO - it’s going to get much worse. The bottom feeding tier, in the search simply for links in volume, will increasingly apply hacking tools to search for - and hack - third-party websites for no better reason than to place links on them. Out of date software - especially blog and forum installs - will be particularly targeted by scripts. The cleverest SEO hackers will make their links invisible, and a number of sites will find themselves hit by a wave of search engine penalisations for this. Unfortunately, many SEO hackers will be nothing more than a highly destructive nuisance, and the practice be increasingly embraced as a “cheap” method of SEO link-building for affiliates.
5. Newer domains - will experience a small renaissance. So far Google especially is placing too much trust on websites for being more established - a trust which is widen open for abuse, and more specifically fails to deliver real relevancy. Though graywolf properly warns that if you want results now to buy an old domain, as the “Spamsense” phenomenon strangles itself Google will find itself able to kill some of the authority and return newer strong content domains to higher positions. The key here is “strong content”.
6. Corporate marketing - will make real intrusions into even low competition search. The men in suits will also make some real cock-ups here because they don’t know what SEO is - simply that if they throw enough money into it, they can get results. This blundering approach will be encouraged by clueless agencies competing with each other, and always willing to take the extra risk for commercial gain. Key to this mistake is the current misconception that SEO is more related to programming, rather than a niche form of marketing that requires a marketing mindset to best succeed.
7. Relevancy is not so important - or won’t be, for the big 3 search engines, as much as self-promotion. The continued fragmentation of Google’s services means Google will be forced to push these new Google services more and more into the SERPs. True, Matt Cutts will rightly evangelise that the natural search results will not be tampered with, but as Danny Sullivan has already clearly warned, expect to see Google’s own recommendations become more common at the top of SERPs, pushing natural listings lower down the screen.
8. Search will no longer be a search engine homepage - search will be anywhere and everywhere you want it. Moves into Desktop Search and online services show that the interest here is to provide search results whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it. The idea of having to connect to a search engine website to conduct a search will seem increasingly archaic. This won’t become big over the next 2 years, but we’ll see this become more and more a part of search engine development strategy. Just a shame their user history will provide headline winning cock-ups (See the Tivo link above).
9. Privacy will not be an issue - not an actionable one, for some time yet. Privacy issues are a time bomb, and even AOL’s big cock-up in releasing user data hasn’t been a Tipping Point. And though there will be continued growing concern about what sort of personally-identifiable user data ISP’s hold, it won’t really become an issue until Personal Search really goes more mainstream - by which point, people will realise the extent of the personal data they are giving out, and seek greater anonymity online, pushing Personal Search as a development back through a natural process of negative-feedback.
10. Social networks - will increasingly become a rich and niche surrogate for online search. Users frustrated with the increasingly confusing results on search engines will turn more and more to trusted users to provide trusted recommendations, instead of “Googling” for the answers. These social networks *won’t* be the big Web 2 applications that have enjoyed such hype and hysteria over the past year - instead, it’ll be the smaller niche communities, with a real sense of community - where the practice will be more pronounced. Think less of blogs as much as online forums, where group contribuions and the safeguards of active human moderating will help prevent the spam and noise that large communities encourage by their sheer existance.
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