Greenlight reveals its top 10 predictions for Natural and Paid Search in 2010

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London, 12 February, 2010 – As we head into 2010 the big question is what
will the year ahead deliver for search marketing. In its ‘Year in Review
Briefing’, Greenlight, the UK’s leading independent search marketing agency,
provides a summary of developments in natural and paid search. It outlines
what 2009 will be remembered for and gives its top 10 predictions of what’s
to come in 2010, from Twitter data itself being relegated to a separate
results page limited to signed in users to the potential of Google’s Audio
Indexing to be used to analyse the content of videos on other sites, and for
that content to be factored into the relevancy score for a page.

1. Investment into ‘TwitFaceSpace’ will continue to rise

Although social media sits within its own channel, many advertisers are
trusting search agencies with their social strategies and investments. For
paid search specifically, Greenlight has seen an increased investment from
advertisers wanting to appear across Facebook’s placement targeting
programme. The ‘new
improved’ demographic breakdown launched in November 2009 – allowing an
advertiser to target a specific group of consumers – has actually delivered
some very promising results. “While social media has been seen very much as
a branding tool – it is positive to note that affordable
cost-per-acquisitions (CPA) can be acquired if used effectively”, says
Hannah Kimuyu, Director of Paid Search at Greenlight. “This said it’s all
in the tracking. Without sufficient tracking in place (3rd party sources
only – Facebook doesn’t offer any conversion data), advertisers will quickly
pull away from the social phenomenon as it somewhat still feels like an
extravagant investment.”

2. Google’s Twitter integration will change fundamentally

Google’s “real time search” offering has so far been underwhelming at best
(usually replicating or linking to information that can be found in the
pre-existing news results), and ludicrous at worst (see Greenlight blog
‘Hold the front page…man has Turkey sandwich’

ront-pageman-has-turkey-sandwich.html> ). Greenlight’s prediction is that
the Twitter data itself will be relegated to a separate search results page,
limited to signed in users as part of search results from your “social
circle” or removed from the SERPs entirely. “99% of the time it’s just not
useful, nor is it clear that people actually want the ability to search
Twitter from Google”, says Adam Bunn, Head of SEO at Greenlight. “Where it
is useful is as a barometer of what is current. Expect to see more subtle
integration of Twitter data into indexing processes and algorithms.”

3. Google factors the content of videos into page relevancy scores

Google Audio Indexing [1], or
“Gaudi” for short, is a system currently in Google Labs. It allows Google to
index audio content, specifically from YouTube videos. Its speech
recognition software transcribes a video in order to allow the usual
indexing process to take place. Gaudi can then send you directly to the
point in a video where a word or phrase is mentioned. Of more interest to
Greenlight is its potential to be used to analyse the content of videos on
other sites, and for that content to be factored into the relevancy score
for a page. “Natural search may no longer be confined to the written word,
with video presenters having to ensure they use their target keywords as
liberally as possible,” says Bunn.

4. Internet use on mobile phones will accelerate and mobile search will take
off

Mobile search and integration will become a more tangible and credible
advertising channel. Google and Yahoo! are seriously pushing this channel
again, having invested directly into the product offering and marketing of
it. With the introduction of wider advertising opportunities such as
targeting maps, street view and the coinciding developments with all Smart
phones and not forgetting Apple’s iPhone, and their associated applications
– makes mobile a much more attractive proposition for advertisers. Although
the intent to purchase still remains quite specific to certain sectors,
Greenlight expects big things from mobile internet search – with it expected
to reach 7% of all internet searches by the end of 2010.

5. Search will be a two horse race by the end of the year, attention to
“Microhoo”

Microsoft and Yahoo! finalised their tie-up in early December, shortly after
the competition regulators in Canada and Australia approved the deal.
Greenlight expects other countries to follow suit, paving the way to
integration before the year is out. That will mean that Bing powers the
natural search results for Yahoo!, while Yahoo! handles advertising for
Bing, leaving the search landscape a two horse race.

“Having pledged 5-10% of their operating profits ($22.5 billion in 2008) to
promoting Bing over the next 5 years, Microsoft has a good chance of
increasing Bing’s market share over the next year (much as they have in the
US). That could make ‘Microhoo’ worth paying much more attention to from an
SEO perspective”, says Bunn.

6. Google will find more ways to monetise the excess inventory in AdWords

With the recession kicking in last year many advertisers pulled back their
investment into search. Spending for spending’s sake became something of
the past, and was replaced with strict cost-per-acquisition (CPA) targets.
With many advertisers placing more emphasis on understanding their true
return on investment (ROI) – Google was left with a surplus of inventory
(impression share). Although the recession isn’t completely over, Google
has had to find different cost effective ways of monetising the AdWords
programme. Towards the back end of 2009 Google introduced a few promising
beta programmes, allowing the advertiser to spend more but in an effective
way. For example, advertisers invited to the ‘Sitelinks

> ‘ beta saw up to a 30% improvement to their click-through-rates (CTR) –
ultimately improving their quality score but also seeing a greater return on
investment from their advertising spend. Having already tested the
‘Comparison Ads

> ‘ beta in the U.S – Google is about to launch the programme here in the
UK. Where invited, advertisers will be able to set a target CPA against a
group of specific keywords – and not have to worry about inflating
cost-per-clicks as a result of a poor quality score or aggressive
competition. According to Kimuyu, this programme alone not only assists
Google in monetising its excess inventory but also allows the advertiser to
feel confidence in securing a positive ROI.

7. Winning the click will be more important than ever

December’s introduction of near universal personalised search by Google
means that almost everyone’s rankings are determined in some part by what
they’ve clicked on in the past. “If your site is regularly clicked on by a
user, then it will start to rank higher across the board. Conversely, if
it’s never clicked on then its rankings will start to drop for that user,”
says Bunn. In addition one of the ranking methods described in Google’s most
recently granted patent relies on clicks to assess what sites should be
ranking for the first search term in common query paths. “For example, if
enough users search for “football”, then “american football”, then click on
NFL.com, NFL.com could start ranking for “football” under the assumption
that a significant proportion of users searching for “football” are actually
looking for american football”.”

8. There will be increased spends across Google’s Contextual Network

According to Google, its content network already reaches 80% of internet
users. From an advertisers perspective the content network has always been
a challenge. ‘So many impressions, but so few clicks.’ However over the
last year Google’s made some dramatic improvements, making targeting on the
content network a lot easier and effective. Introducing Interest Based
Advertising

l> (IBA) or behavioural targeting, allows advertisers to deliver ads based
on hundreds of interest categories driven by previous interactions with
users. Users are categorised according to behavioural trends, for example
as sports enthusiasts or potential property hunters. The interest
categories are then used to direct the most relevant possible text and image
(display) ads to individual users. “The benefits are clear for both the
consumer and the advertiser: behavioural targeting increases your overall
visibility in search and adds that much needed relevancy to the content
network”, says Kimuyu. “Furthermore, it reinstates confidence in the
advertiser, knowing that their brand is in safe hands and not presented in a
negative way. Equally, the investment made into contextual search is now
delivering a positive ROI.”

9. Latency becomes part of the Google algorithm

Latency, the response time of pages on a site, has long been a factor in the
Google AdWords quality score. At PubCon in November Matt Cutts gave the
clearest hint yet that it will soon become a factor in the natural search
algorithms too. According to Bunn “benchmarking response times against
competitors, and improving those times will become part of search engine
optimisation (SEO). We think pages will have to load in under a second to
qualify for any increased rankings.”

10. Domain structure will play a bigger role for Paid Search

At the back end of 2009 Google announced the expected change to its display
URL policy

> for the UK (following on from the U.S who saw the change on April 1st
2008). In short the display URL must now accurately reflect the URL of the
website you are advertising. It should match the domain of your landing
page so that users will know which site they will be taken to when they
click on your ad. The initial worry for all advertisers is ‘how will this
affect my quality score’ – as making changes to the display URL will
fluctuate cost per clicks. The second concern is how the change in policy
will affect advertisers using tracking parameters that massively alter the
URL structure. From a marketing perspective, advertisers have lost the
option of shortening the URL following on from their ad text message – hence
the display URL historically being referred to as the vanity URL. For most
of us though, it’s just Google being stricter with its policies – and
playing the ‘relevancy’ card (after all it doesn’t make sense to advertise
one thing but send the customer to another). “Considering how Google
approaches a new dimension to the quality score, it’s quite possible the
display URL policy update will have a direct affect on an advertisers
landing page quality (LPQ)”, says Kimuyu. “LPQ is based on having unique
content on your site, and providing a user with a positive and informative
experience. Google doesn’t award a score against doing this well, but will
punish sites (advertisers) that present irrelevant landing pages. Linking
the two (display and destination landing page URL) makes perfect sense.”

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