Technology to Drive Changes in Search Engine Marketing
The coming years will be much more interesting as the business of search transits from its adolescence into adulthood. Search engine marketing has matured and is now viewed as an important component in mainstream marketing. The environment is going to change becoming more complex as new features and improved technologies create new opportunities for E-Tailers, marketers and designers. Practically all forms of communication will be digital in the coming years. As this trend continues, traditional mediums such as newsprint, paper phone directories, printed maps and commercial television will be transformed, likely absorbed by the growing digital world.
A few years ago a buzzword that used to hype the Dot-Com bubble was “convergence”. The idea that all forms of media can meld into each other over the Internet naturally leads to the idea that major media corporations should be working together to provide content and connectivity. Today, there is a quiet revolution happening in the business of Internet marketing and it is being led by the major search engines and supported by increasingly versatile technologies. I will be taking a closer look at new technologies, techniques and trends in coming issues. Here is a short overview of what I think are three major precursors for change.
Design: Flash Is Now Indexable by Google.
While FLASH movies provide an extremely rich presentation, sites designed using FLASH have traditionally frustrated search engine marketers as search engines were unable to extract information from .SWF files. Macromedia has spent a great deal of time and money to fix this problem and apparently they have.
According to an article by Robin Nobles in yesterday’s WebProNews, Google can now extract indexable information from .SWF files. Aside from the immediate effect this will have on site design and search engine optimization, the “opening” of .SWF files allows for the development of websites with each page resembling a traditional television commercial, each of which has a relatively good chance of achieving strong search engine placements.
Paid Ads: Contextual Advertising and the Changing Face of Search
Google is in an interesting position today in that much of its revenues come from the sale and delivery of contextual advertising. This, coupled with Yahoo’s purchase of Overture last year and the rivalry between the two has prompted both to innovate the way contextual advertising is sold and delivered. Contextual advertising can be defined as paid ads that appear in search results and other Internet media when associated with purchased keyword phrases. These ads appear in traditional search results as well as in online newspapers, private and commercial websites, Blogs, and will soon appear in email delivered through Google’s GMail system. According to analysts such as U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, the contextual advertising sector is expected to grow from $300Million today to $1.4Billion in 2008.
Recently, Google has relaxed many of the rules dictating where contextual ads might appear through the AdSense program, and how many ad groups can be included on a single page. Google changed these standards in response to an increasing scarcity of ad-display space. There is simply too much interest in paying to guarantee first page placement and multi-site distribution for the number of relevant content sites using AdSense. With increasing demand for direct contextual advertising, it is safe to expect Google to continue to present paid advertisements in as many places as possible. It is also safe to assume Google is examining other avenues for presenting paid advertising, the most notable being the Localization of Search Results.
Traditional Search: Search Localization
When you need a plumber or a pizza, the most logical place to look is a local phone directory, most likely the Yellow Pages. These thick books have been a necessity for home and business for decades. Most new business owner know the importance of being listed in the Yellow Pages and most are staggered by the costs. One of the many goals shared by Google, Yahoo and MSN is the replacement of print Yellow Pages by localized search results. Consumers are turning to search engines before consulting the Yellow Pages, especially during business hours when many are already sitting in front of computers. As phone services are moving towards digital distribution, commercial listings can be accessed by cell-phones. In areas where the production of the traditional Yellow Pages has been outsourced to another business by the phone company, it might soon be cheaper to provide digital listings derived from Google or Yahoo than to access the Yellow Pages database. As far as I can tell, this arena is fair-game for savvy search engine marketers. The Yellow Pages are not going to be an A-Z listing much longer.
Another obvious target of search localization is the monies made by regional or local directories. Most cities and regions around the world have localized online directories promoting business and tourism in their communities. For the most part, their continued existence is testimony to their usefulness to their communities: But what if the information seeker was able to find relevant information by simply visiting Yahoo or Google? It is less likely a small business will pay the 3 – 4 figure fees charged by most local directories if location specific results are displayed on the major search engines for simple search queries such as “2for1 Pizza” or “Cottage Rentals”.
As evidenced by the intense interest expressed by many of the largest corporations in the world and the media’s recent obsession with Google’s IPO, search is more important to the Internet today than ever before. As digital media becomes the mainstay of our information and entertainment systems, the search sector will grow enormously. Opportunities for designers, advertisers and SEOs will expand but will also become far more complex and in many cases, more expensive. The Internet is about to enter another revolutionary growth period and the search engines are lining up to provide as many information sources as possible. For those who are interested, these are interesting times.
Guest Columnist Jim Hedger is the SEO Manager at StepForth Search Engine Placement. Jim has over years 10 years of Internet experience as an entrepreneur and over 3 years as an Internet marketer.