2012 seemed to fly by, yet the world of search engine marketing (SEM) changes even faster. Once again the Anvil team is collectively throwing our hat in the ring and sharing thoughts on where the SEM industry is headed in 2012 and beyond. We’ve also included our 2011 predictions for reflection – overall we’d say our somewhat out of the box predictions were on the right track. Some predictions may not have come to light in 2011, but we feel they are closer to truth than a year ago!

The biggest change we saw in Pay-per-Click (PPC) this year has been in the targeting department. As technology advances, marketers are given the ability to hyper-target consumers. Whether targeting by location or interest, marketers are closer than ever to being able to reach the exact person they want.

2011 Predictions:
We may have been partially ahead of the game on these predictions, but things are definitely still headed this way.

  • You’ll be able to serve ads and offers to users based on where they are physically located.
    • Mobile searches will be targeted based on location (if you’re standing by a Target – you’ll see a Target ad).
    • Users will be able to point their phones at a store and get served ads/coupons from that store.

Where We Predict Things Are Headed in 2012:

  • PPC advertising will become bigger in social media and YouTube, as an increasing number of searches are now taking place outside of search engines.
  • PPC advertising will become more interactive and engaging as non-search options increase viability.
  • In an attempt to maximize revenue and decrease fraud, Google will update and change the way their PPC advertising works 3 to 4 times throughout the year, allowing advertisers just enough time to master it before having to re-learn it all over again.
  • PPC advertising will start appearing in some form on television sets, as more and more start integrating with the internet.
  • PPC will also make its way onto console video game units, enabling more free games to be offered (much like free games with ads in tablet and smart phones).

Website Conversions
Conversions are the key to success – if marketers can’t get the consumer to convert, what is the point of all of their efforts? Emphasis has definitely shifted from quantity to quality in 2011 with companies realizing that it all comes down to a sale or a download rather than high traffic numbers.

2011 Predictions:
Videos are definitely big – consumers want more engaging and interactive content and companies will continue to provide all the way to the bank.

  • Videos will convert more than ever before.
    • Having videos that focus on unique selling points of a product and show a consumer the difference rather than just tell them the difference between your product and a competitor’s will drive conversions.

Where We Predict Things Are Headed in 2012:

  • In 2011 more businesses shifted marketing budgets from generating leads to converting the leads they have already generated. This shift will continue into 2012, as markets ramp up conversion tools, including marketing automation platforms.
  • More focus will be placed on automation within the conversion optimization process. Generic forms with static entry fields will be a thing of the past, replaced by customized forms based on user profiles, behavior and preferences.

Social Media
Where would we be without Facebook, Twitter or Google+? If they didn’t exist, we might actually have to call our distant cousin to find out what they had for lunch. As the years go by, new social platforms launch (many of which fail) – the challenge is staying apprised of the fluid world of social media. Keeping connected is key to the consumer and it’s up to the big game changers like Facebook and Google to continue to improve the social landscape and offer companies and consumers ways to connect to each other.

2011 Predictions:
We’ll admit it – we missed the ball in a few (Facebook) places. However, we did see an increase in integration between traditional (offline) and online advertising, including featured use of QR codes, Facebook and Twitter profiles.

  • Use of Facebook Places will overtake other location-based system (LBS) platforms, which will struggle to maintain marketshare.
  • Social media marketing spend will increase as a percentage of media spend, at the expense of traditional media (broadcast and outdoor).

Where We Predict Things Are Headed in 2012:

  • Companies will focus increasingly on Social Media Analytics, as the importance of measuring the ROI on social media campaigns continues to increase.
  • Social’s integration into search engines continues to increase as social signals and sharing will have an even greater impact on search engine rankings.
  • Mobile and local will continue to expand and integrate as personalized social marketing grows.
  • Video will continue to gain popularity as a sales and marketing tool, fueled primarily by YouTube consumption.
  • Google will purchase Facebook and rename is Facebook+ in order to further take over the online world.

Local SEO
Local search engine optimization (SEO) continues to grow – however there is still a long way to go until companies big and small will be able to have complete control of their local presence. Erroneous contact information and false reviews can takes months to correct and can be difficult to manage, although Google, Bing and others know the issues and are trying to help. We hope, but do not expect, local SEO management will become easier this year.

2011 Predictions:
We believe 2011 was The Year of Local. With an increase in attention on local search by the media, marketers are following.

  • Reviews, reviews, reviews! A marketer’s job will be to get (positive) reviews, which are going to be the key driver in rankings, reputation and ultimately sales.
  • Local search will become “socialized” with companies interacting with consumers directly through listings/local portals.
  • The online reputation management (ORM) industry will continue to grow, fueled by the need to manage “bad” reviews and undesirable customer comments on blogs, forums and articles.

Where We Predict Things Are Headed in 2012:

  • Local search will continue to experience significant increase in spend—some verticals will see 25% of their website traffic come from mobile by the end of 2012.
  • Check-in services (like Foursquare and Gowall) will begin to consolidate, and Google’s Plus check in service will likely flop.
  • NFC will gain popularity as all new smartphones now incorporate the technology, making hyper-local advertising more accessible for smaller businesses. NFC will likely spawn a new form of advertising: a pay-per-in-store-visitor (where customers checking in with NFC receive rewards, but also generate a commission or fee).
  • By the end of 2012, people will have forgotten how to read street signs or navigate a city without GPS, making it impossible to open a business without a strong local search presence.
  • In a state of confusion resulting from our importance placed on the online world, online royalty (Foursquare Mayors, Yelp Dukes/Duchesses) will begin to be elected to office in real life.

Search Engine Optimization
The goal of search engine optimization is to get in front of the right customer at the right time. As search engines continue to adjust algorithms to weed out bad content, it will be more important than ever to ensure that you are delivering fresh, relevant content to users (in order to stay on top).

2011 Predictions:
Quality of links definitely came to the forefront – especially with Google’s algorithm updates in 2011.

  • Page Authority will become more important than PageRank and an increased emphasis will be put on quality links rather than the quantity of links.

Where We Predict Things Are Headed in 2012:

  • Google will personalize search results even further for individual users based on their previous activity and searching habits.
  • Google will update its algorithm to increase rankings based on a website’s usability/user experience. This is currently happening with site speed and will expand into other areas of usability.
  • Google will expand its focus on Semantic data and tagging within a website to better understand and categorize information.
  • Yahoo will move into the #1 spot for search engines as Google continues to spread itself too thin and neglect its roots.

Be sure to read “2012 Search Engine Marketing Predictions Part 2” to see the newest categories that have been added to the Anvil Media’s yearly predictions.