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2009 has seen a lot of changes in the search market, the recent introduction of real time search for one, so I've been asking some of the UK's search experts about the most significant events of 2009, and their predictions for next year...
What have been the most significant issues for search in 2009?
Ciaran Norris, Head of Social Media at Mindshare:
Twitter's tip into the mainstream, and the subsequent rush towards real-time search, has seen social and search collide like never before. Whilst I'm not convinced that the current Google/Twitter interface will stay, the thought behind it is the interesting thing.
On another note, the struggle by media companies to work out whether or not they want to be searchable anymore could have a profound impact on content over the coming years.
Will Critchlow, Director of Distilled:
I think with hindsight we will say that the increase in personalisation (and particularly Google's roll-out of personalisation even to non-signed-in users) will be viewed as the most significant event. It's really the end of the '#1 ranking' and it opens up an amazing array of new marketing tactics, especially for big brands.
Andrew Girdwood, Head of Search at Bigmouthmedia:
It’s hard not to talk about Bing when we examine what significant search events occurred in 2009. Even if you’re not a fan of Bing, even if you think Google will wipe the floor with Bing you would be wrong to suggest that Bing’s not had a visible influence on Google. If it was not for Bing we would likely still be waiting for Google to push its own real-time search and Twitter integration.
One of the areas search is growing is around personal identity. Google’s started to automatically personalise web search results. This is huge. Google and Facebook have been battling it out with competing “Connection” services; or universal logins. These are a corner stone to both companies' social media and personal targeting ambitions.
Kevin Gibbons, Director of Search at SEOptimise:
Personally from a UK search perspective I think one of the biggest issues in 2009 was Google’s broken UK search results. It’s very rare that an algorithm update from Google reduces the relevancy or quality of search results, especially over such widespread results and for a long period of time.
This has generated a lot of attention and caused many headaches for UK SEOs trying to figure out why their sites/clients are listed behind US and Australian sites when searching in Google UK!
Despite the changes Google have been rolling out recently, I don’t think you can look past the Microsoft/Yahoo deal as the most significant event of the year. A realistic competitor to Google has been long-overdue, especially in the UK where they have such a dominant market share. Potentially the deal could make a significant impact to how advertisers allocate their online advertising budgets. So once Bing and adCenter replace Yahoo search it’s likely online marketers will be taking Bing far more seriously for organic and paid search strategies.
Shane Quigley, CEO at Epiphany:
As well as Bing's inclusion of Twitter search capability and Google's wide-scale rollout of universal search, 2009 has shown us that social factors will play a major role in 2010.
It is clear to me that the Vince update aimed at identifying brands was also a step towards monitoring social barometers to measure popularity. Things like tweets, brand mentions, links, images, videos and product reviews will all play a part in Googles future algorithm calculations.
What will be the major search trends in 2010?
I think that next year will see the continued convergence of technologies and channels, particularly TV, mobile, search & social. The real-time search movement will continue in some way, shape or form, though the engines still need to perfect ranking & filtering.
The continued rise of mobile web, pulling in GPS & augmented reality, means that people will expect geo-results. And as TV gets webbed up (Yahoo TV Widgets etc...) people searching and chatting on and around shows will become a new way of reaching people, or at least learning about what they want.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think 2010 will see the beginnings of a backlash against Google. There have been murmurings for some time among the tech community about their all-pervading presence, ambition to gather everyone's data for their own marketing purposes and effective monopoly.
It wouldn't surprise me to see them take a step too far and face political push-back over their expansion into the desktop and mobile phone markets. If they use market power in one arena to manipulate another, that's classic monopolistic behaviour. Personally, I'd love to see Bing gain some market share. I think a strong competitor would ultimately benefit everyone.
We’ll see continued improvements in visual search. Google Goggles is one example but we’ll also see mobile applications that effect an augmented reality that combine search and location-aware search. These will let searchers show the engines what they want help with and get back results.
Privacy will also be a hot issue in 2010. Targeting becomes ever more important to companies and yet the ability not to be targeted becomes ever more important to people. It seems impossible that we’ll avoid tension on this front.
Of particular interest will be looking beyond the last click. DoubleClick offers Click Path Analysis. Atlas offers User Engagement Mapping. There will be other offerings from alternative technology providers who wish to remain competitive against these search engine owned offerings. 2010 will see sites wrestle with tagging and tracking but invest in the required technology in 2010 with the ambition of not having to return to this fight for a while.
As real-time search helps surface social media sites in the blink of an eye the aspects of ‘search’, ‘marketing’, ‘public relations’ and even ‘customer care’ will all get drawn together. We’ll see different types of agencies pitching against one another for the first time. We’ll see corporate departments defending their turf and fighting for budget against their colleagues across the hall.
Google page speed is going to have an influence over organic rankings in 2010 and is likely to have a strong impact on designers/developers as well as SEO’s. At the moment there are unanswered questions, such as how heavily will slow sites be penalised? Will fast sites be boosted in the search engines? So it will be interesting to see the impact this has.
Now that the Microsoft/Yahoo deal is now all tied-up, advertisers will need to start thinking seriously about Bing’s more sizeable market share and start to prepare for when this is integrated with Yahoo search.
Google Wave has been slowly rolled out to users so far during 2009, this has a lot of potential which is unlikely to be truly realised until it reaches a greater audience. There’s a lot of uncertainly about how popular Google Wave will become at the moment, so it will be very interesting to see if this can really take off in 2010. I’m sure they’ll be new social media sites coming onto the scene too, along with developments to many of the current top social media sites; Twitter business accounts, for example, will be a good one to look out for.
Rumoured for a while, and discovered live on the web by a clever person over at Gizmodo, there is a new Google Interface on the way for 2010. Being referred to as the three panel layout this change will mean it will become increasing important to rank highly in Image, Video and other search results as Google gives more prominence to these sections within its interface.
Real Time search has huge implications in terms of brand protection, what results people will click, as well as creating new opportunities to rank. Google also announced earlier this month that everyone’s search results are now being personalised (to an extent) based on your previous search behaviour, regardless of whether you’re logged in or not. Are the days of the ranking report now truly numbered?
Changes will come thick and fast as Google look to hold market share and the new Caffeine architecture should give them the processing power to do a lot more with their search application.