SEO

Search engine predictions for 2004

The year 2003 was, generally speaking, a good year for the search engine industry. While for some that may have got hit hard with the Florida update in November, the balance of the year was good. I predict 2004 will be even better, albeit you should expect some major changes. 2004 will be a year of consolidation, if there is such a thing in this rapidly changing industry.

While in the year 2003, some search companies such as Looksmart and Espotting had more than their share of problems, especially in the case of Looksmart, I predict there will be a few newcomers.

2004 will be a year where you can expect news to hit this industry on a daily basis. In 2003, hardly a day went by that there wasn’t something happening at one company or another. Expect 2004 to be even busier.

Additionally, 2004 will be a year where the stakes are getting higher- much higher, and not just for Google! The level of competition among search engines will get tougher, in a race to land what I call “targeted eyeballs”.

Will it be GOO, GOG, GLE, GGG or simply GO?
As you must have read or heard about it by now, 2004 will also be the long-expected year where Google is supposed to transform itself into a public company, with all the advantages and the pitfalls that it entails. Google won’t have a choice but to go public in 2004. The reason for this is because of a little-known SEC rule in the US that forces American companies to issue quarterly statements once their number of employee-shareholders have surpassed a certain threshold.

It is estimated that over 700 to 800 of such employees are current shareholders, in effect forcing Google to become public, whether it likes the idea or not. At least by going public, it will receive many billions of new money that it will be able to use in its massive, continuing research and development programs at the Googleplex. Many are expecting the 5-year old company to make an IPO sometime in late March or early April.

The Microsoft wildcard
As for Microsoft, there won’t be any MSN search engine developed in 2004. Microsoft is still in the early stages in the development of its search engine, which many think will simply be integrated into Longhorn, the new version of Windows expected to hit the streets sometime in late 2005, early 2006. However, it might be before that, given the current urgency of the major search players to maintain their lead positions.

The Yahoo Factor
Whatever happens in the Google stables, one major player that cannot be neglected is Yahoo. Yesterday in fact, the CEO of a very large Canadian company and client of mine asked me what I think of Yahoo and what it might do to fight back the ever-powerful Googlemania? I strongly believe that the Sunnyvale California company should be considered as the “sleeping giant”, but not for long. After having bought and ‘digested’ Overture and All The Web in 2003, Yahoo is the number One search directory in the world and the number Two search engine (although I prefer to call it a search directory) on the Web. Yahoo is also the current owner of AltaVista.

In 2004, there is no question that Pay-per-Click (PPC) will be an extremely popular derivative of search, and one that will grow well into 2005 and 2006. Overture and Google, through its AdWords program currently have the two best PPC search properties.

New search engines to be born in 2004
After having successfully developed and deployed our paid inclusion search engine Global Business Listing in 2003, in 2004, we will begin the development of our new PPC search engine, Net Globe Media, which should be completed some time in the third quarter.

Although somewhat slightly different, Net Globe Media will operate on similar principles that Google currently uses for its AdWords program and will be similar to some of the features Overture offers. What will characterize Net Globe Media from its competition will be its drastically lowered bid prices and the way the ads can be rotated by its advertisers. There will also be an added tool to help you make the best bids on your ads, while lowering its cost at the same time, plus a few additional value-added features.

Where I see the SEO industry as a whole
After the Florida update and the many sites that got penalized in the process, I strongly believe that the SEO industry will probably ‘endure’ its largest shakeout ever in 2004. I feel that the search engine optimization firms that are serious, that have always and consistently produced good results for all its clients and the ones that constantly keep up with all the many changes in technology and new developments are the ones that will thrive in 2004.

And the others, the ones that resort to unethical practices or to techniques that are forbidden by the search engines will disappear. Google and many other major search engines are constantly developing new technology and algorithms, in an effort to detect that sort of thing and search engine spammers will get caught at their own game. As a result of all this, I think that the SEO’s and the SEM firms that will remain after this shakeout will be stronger than ever, and will represent the best marketing investment a company can make today for 3 its online advertising programs.

In conclusion
2004 should be an interesting year, both for the search engines themselves and the SEO community as a whole. There will be no place for second best. Companies and businesses that will have their sites optimized professionally will benefit greatly.

Companies, site owners and their webmasters that continue to produce good content for its users will continue to be viewed positively by search properties such as Google and the others and will continue to produce higher than average ROI.

The ones that don’t, well they could end up on the sidelines- way out of the results pages.

Article written by Serge Thibodeau,
President & CEO,
Rank for $ales
Copyright (c) Serge Thibodeau 2003

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