It’s a new year, it’s another new list of search marketing predictions… but what do search marketers really want? What would liven up the year ahead?

Nine is my lucky number so here’s my top nine, to be taken with a pinch of salt and a reminder to be careful what you wish for….

1. Consumers learn the difference between PPC ads and SEO listings

Google has done a great job of making PPC ads look natural. The formats have changed, the background has changed from blue to practically white, and typically anyone outside of the digital marketing arena can’t differentiate between them.

Imagine if there was an anti-Google backlash and the public boycotted all of the ad listings, what would Google do then?

Move all non-PPC listings to page two?! Charge for SEO listings?!

2. Agencies become more specialised and cowboy agencies decline

Every media agency now offers ‘search’ as part of their offering.

While the last few years has seen consolidation and some really strong group and independent agencies exceeding best practice, there are still some cowboy outfits and plenty of horror stories around like SEO agencies buying links but not telling their clients and PPC agencies paid on % of spend pushing low-converting broad match terms instead of optimising around targeted, higher-converting keywords.

It would be great if this was the year that saw agencies differentiate more in their offerings, and also saw the cowboy agencies decline, perhaps through publicly naming and shaming them.

Perhaps this is one for us digital marketers to take on as a New Years Resolution. The more we educate others outside the industry on search marketing best practice, the better it will be for the industry.

3. Digital marketing becomes a popular career path

Search marketers are in high demand and as far as I’m aware there are only a couple of Universities in the UK offering this as a degree.

It would be great to see an industry push (perhaps a campaign from the search engines and big agencies) to encourage investment in the education and training of this area, getting the message across to today’s teens that one day they could work in this exciting arena and what a great mix of maths, creativity and fun it is 😉

4. Yahoo and Bing take some of Google’s share

Who remembers the great Yahoo Panama migration of 2007?!

The Yahoo-Bing alliance sounds like even more fun, but seriously it would be great to see these engines increase their share in the UK, not just for the sake of bashing Google, but just to make our day-to-day work lives a bit more interesting. (Variety is the spice of life!).

5. Paid links get penalised

Google’s recent algorithm changes e.g. Panda have all been about quality but there are still so many examples across so many verticals of companies buying poor-quality paid links to spam their way up the rankings.

It would be great to see this practice ironed-out once and for all while we all continue to increase our focus on quality and share-ability of content.

6. Google shares the love

Google has so much data to share, on the one hand it taketh away (SSL), so on the other why not share more data… I’m thinking PPC site-link specific data, PPC demographic targeting, more ‘actual’ impression/visit data in Webmaster tools. 

7. Google makes life even easier for us with one login

Is anyone else constantly logging in and out of different Google accounts to access PPC accounts, your company’s Google+ page and your own personal Gmail/+?

Wouldn’t life be grand if you could be magically logged in to them all at the same time? It’s in Google’s interests, and I’m sure it would increase activity across all of their products.

8. Something new comes along to talk (tweet) about

Search marketing news for the last year or two has been dominated by the ‘rise of social media’, ‘the year of the mobile’ and ‘privacy issues’.

As these should all be part and parcel of any business strategy by now, can we talk about something new please? Which brings me on to….

9. A disgruntled employee leaks the Google algorithm

Imagine if 2012 was the year that the Holy Grail of Google’s algorithm code is leaked. Twitter would crash, Google would probably be taken down for a few days while they built a new, un-beatable code… it sounds like a movie in the making!

PS If I had to pick a 10th wish  – then it would have to be Teddie Cowell’s SpendRank algorithm prediction, how exciting would that be?! Clients having to choose between investing in TV or Google for the best overall return?!