Today’s session on “Where to From Here? Wha’ts Next for the Search Engine Marketing Business?” panel featured Ron Jones of SEMPO, Rebecca Lieb of Econsultancy, and Mark Mahaney of Citi Investment Research. Each brought a unique position on the future of the search engine marketing industry — Ron from industry research, Rebecca from indpendent experience and research, and Mark from a business’ research and perspective.
Ron was first and basically covered the most recent SEMPO state of the industry survey. The slides were pretty fast moving, so for the full overview, you can read the survey overview at SEMPO.
Rebecca was next. She covered the future trends as she sees them with the engines moving forward. Some broad observations she shared for the short term:
- There will be more growth of universal search results, making it more competitive for SERP real estate.
- Search engines will get better at context, for instance, does a searcher querying “apple” want information on the fruit or the company?
- SEO and PR will become more married. Social will also become more integrated.
- There will be an increase in searchers going to vertical engines. For instance, most searchers looking for video will go to YouTube, etc.
- There will be much, much more mobile, including SMS, click-to-call, mobile coupons and location-based services.
For the long term changes, she suggested the following:
- More real time results. If something happened 10 minutes ago, how do you search for it? There will be more ways to do this in the future.
- Multimedia will become more searchable (such as videos, images, Flash, books, audio, etc.).
- Location, location, location. There will be more use of geo-targeting, especially with the increase in cell phone usage. She said that she feels that search engines, mobile and retail will all change to incorporate more geo-targeting in the future.
- Search will be the interface for everything. Already so much we already use is searchable — cell phones, TV listings, etc. are all searchable and are “search engines” of sorts. People are habituated to searching now, and it will likely increase and expand to other devices.
Mark started by reviewing how Internet company stocks dropped significantly in 2008, but are back on the rise slowly but surely. In 2008, we searched more but shopped less, leading to dips in search engine revenue. Some broad trends he sees that within there will be continued strong growth on the Internet as more people worldwide come online. This year online retail, however, will likely be down slightly and increase in 2010 by about 14%. Travel as well will likely be down this year, but will increase next year as well. Search advertising won’t pick up until those two areas pick up.
Mobile will see a great increase. He mentioned a note in the Google Founders’ letter that noted that 1/3 of Google searches in Japan come from mobile phones!! Amazing. While we are not there yet in the US, we often trail closely their usage in mobile. Also, this summer, there are many mobile smartphone launches, including for Palm and others. This will likely also drive up mobile usage soon.
Other trends likely include video advertising, mobile advertising and geo-targeted advertising. He concluded by reiterating that there has been a strong shift toward “performance-based” advertising, including search. This trend will only grow and continue. He finalized by summarizing and saying that the second half of 2009, he expects to see growth return to the search industry.