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How will 2007 be different for us?

The year 2006 has brought us new ideas, challenges and experience. Naturally, 2007 will have something new for us. What will it be for anyone managing a website?

Lately, Bill Slawski and I have talked a bit about the future in the search engine marketing industry. The first part of the discussion is located at SEO by the SEA. Check it out for quite an interesting discussion and more prophecies.

Below is the second part of the discussion plus my own musings. Enjoy (and feel free to link to it, too).

Let's list the trends first:

  • Google
  • a Google operating system
  • Matt Cutts leaving Google to become a SEO
  • a new Australian search engine rivalling Google
  • link bait sophistication
  • social marketing (bookmarking)
  • the future of Social Media Optimization
  • blogging networks
  • the future of blogs
  • local search
  • individual branding
  • China
  • India
  • Government regulations/policy
  • Jakob Nielsen redesigning his site
  • the continued success of Digg
  • personalization in search
  • a Tivo/YouTube mashup that challenges Network TV
  • the next focus of SEO
  • SEO replaced with ├втВм╦Ьonline business manager├втВмтДв/ Internet marketer
  • when marketers go with the customers
  • the next generation of content management systems

Google

It should be dull not to expect Google not to advance as far as it did this year. I'd figure the next direction would be

  • detecting and devaluing paid links
  • reducing the amount (or visibility) of spam sites (this one is pretty constant, isn't it)
  • improving local search integration with general organic results
  • continuous integration of offline world into search results or visa versa (mobile search, Google Maps, Google Maps for mobile, AdWords radio ads, etc).
  • work more with human-powered reviews, which go with Google Coop and Custom Search Engines and will probably build another way to mine only human-reviewed content (such as a search engine with all the human-reviewed (through CSEs) websites)

A Google operating system

Yuri:
Why not? They have excellent analysts and tools to analyze people. They have solid background on this. It├втВмтДвll be more like Linux than Windows, though, for Google-fans.

They already have a number of Desktop applications, so it is only a matter of creating a Google File Manager (the OS). ├втВм┼УGoogle Toolkit├втВм┬Э?

Bill:
It would be fun. Imagine having something small enough to be put on a USB drive, so that you can use your own operating system in public places like internet cafes and libraries.

Matt Cutts leaving Google to become an SEO

Yuri:
I├втВмтДвd expect him to just retire and live on his stocks. Or he could start a pure white hat company for fun (to see how it is from the other side of search). In fact, I can see him doing it still being hired by Google just fine ├втВмтАЬ or they├втВмтДвd just buy a couple of SEO/SEM companies.

Bill:
He seems to be having fun doing what he is doing. But he also seems to have fun interacting with the SEO community. Who knows?

Yuri:
Speaking of communication. I think we├втВмтДвll see more people from Google being open for the public to relieve pressure from Matt and Vanessa, because even Vanessa is getting questions she shouldn├втВмтДвt answer being a Google Sitemaps product manager.

Bill:
I agree. I think Google just hired another person for that team, too. I could anticipate some more openness from them. It makes them look good.

Yuri:
I├втВмтДвd expect to see at least five (5) Googlers being open to the public. Most importantly, they should be real Google workers (like Google engineers), not some PR persons, just hired to do the ├втВм╦Ьsocial├втВмтДв thing.

A new search engine coming out of Australia that rivals Google

Yuri:
Hmm. Australia? I can├втВмтДвt see how anyone can remotely close on Google now on search. Unless they develop a completely new algorithm, based on semantic text analysis (like the enterprise search you described). There is a search engine (used to be Haika?), giving out exact answers to questions, so it may give it a try.

Bill:
Been seeing some interesting patent applications sneaking quietly into the patent office database from that part of the world. Will they build something with them? I don├втВмтДвt know.

Yuri:
As I said before, I doubt anyone can rival Google search, but it will certainly rival MSN/Yahoo.

Link bait in 2007

While link bait gained a significant coverage this year, it is only a start. Now it is going mainstream. There are link baiting services opening up by the pros.

While the difference between linkable content and obvious bait for links has become apparent only recently, the chasm between them will be opening even wider. Some, hopefully, will spring to delivering value to their visitors through quality content. Some will be thinking of new ways to generate buzz about nothing and new ways and structures for their Digg titles.

Social marketing

Social marketing is related to link bait, because it allows it to spread. But it is more than just link baiting. It is about counting on the people to spread the message, not your ads on other websites. Savvy marketers will create new ways to build upon the new trend, probably through bloggers and blogging networks, to gain new ways to get exposure to the target audience.

The future of Social Media Optimization

Yuri:
More focused social bookmarking websites will appear (focused on a particular topic). I can see environmental, political and sports bookmarking services being extremely popular. Maybe there will be Digg clones on a wide, wide variety of topics. The more long tail, the better.

Bill:
I noticed a number of sites like this in the past year. I think it is a trend that will continue.

Yuri:
More marketers will learn of SMO and try to enter the arena. Some successfully, some not so well. However, the same thing happen to it as it did to link bait. Marketers will learn to manipulate the people on the new level and people will have to learn how to avoid the manipulating marketing message from the social optimization efforts.

Then something new will have to evolve, such as a way to manipulate people for them to write good product reviews. Human reviews is the next thing after SMO, IMHO. Most likely, there will be a mix of social marketing and human reviews. Human reviews will be the currency of social marketing, not digs or links.

Bill:
Good point. I think that the ability to add reviews will grow, and they will become more popular.

Blogging networks

Most likely, blogging networks will go main stream, as it has proven to be a quite interesting type of cooperation between bloggers. Especially, when blog networks can be used to reach a much wider audience, they will be used by the bloggers themselves and by the advertisers.

In 2008 (nah, not 2007), probably, a blog network will be as common as a blog. A close ring of friends or of sites about a single topic can simply create their own blogging network to be more credible and noticeable.

The future of blogs

Bill:
More, more, and even more of them. And more blogs from companies.

Yuri:
More corporate blogs, indeed.

I├втВмтДвd expect related blogs to form in networks: blog networks, the new blog format of the future (IMHO).

Local search optimization

Local site optimization has long been a secret of experienced marketers. Now it is becoming more and more well known, thanks to numerous blogs on local search, such as:

I'd expect the search engines (Google, for instance) improve the efficiency of detecting the location of the customer, their goals and the physical location of the business (along with the quality of the local search results, embedded in Google organic results).

Individual branding

Gone are the days when the companies alone were brands. Now real people, with real names become brands as well (or more) known as the companies. Haven't you heard of:

Quite often, the companies are themselves dependant on their stars. For instance, Danny Sullivan leaves SEW/SES. What happens? The crew leaves with him. What becomes of SEW/SES? Anything, but not much (IMHO).

So, in the next year, we'll see the rise of this phenomenon and, probably, it will be as common as company branding in the recent decades and centuries.

China

Bill:

Baidu presently allows paid search results to appear in the regular organic results, without indicating that those are paid to be there. I can see that causing more people to turn to alternatives.

Yuri:
Will still be filtering its population access to the outer world. More companies not to enter the market or enter through agreement to filter information.

India

Bill:
I don├втВмтДвt know when it will happen, but I expect at some point for a number of Google India employees to leave, and start something on their own.

Yuri:
India will continues to be a sweat shop of the web industry, while several quality companies are bound to appear, after all.

However, I don't see a reason why a Google employee prefer to leave such a company (especially in India with its SEO cheap labor), while I certainly see them starting or consulting on various side projects.

Government regulations/privacy

Yuri:
It is amusing (as I don├втВмтДвt live in the US) to observe how much info the US government can get about a citizen. Much more than Google. More battles between ├втВм╦Ьyour info is needed to protect you against the terrorists├втВмтДв and ├втВм╦ЬI want my life to be private├втВмтДв people/politicians/bills/etc.

Bill:
Yep. It├втВмтДвs a pulling in two different directions that could freeze them into not doing much at all.

Yuri:
I├втВмтДвd expect a major outbreak, this or next year, for the government to realize that prying into peoples├втВмтДв lives isn├втВмтДвt what people love. It won├втВмтДвt significantly stop them from doing what they do, though.

Jakob Nielsen redesigning his web site

Yuri:
Ain├втВмтДвt gonna happen. He has long gone to promoting NNgroup and won├втВмтДвt return to UseIt. Unless some ├втВм╦ЬNielsen mocking site├втВмтДв creates a sign up form and sends him a letter to redesign a site and ask him to really deliver value, signed by thousands of people. May be, he├втВмтДвll do it, then. Then again, probably not. He is way up there and shouldn├втВмтДвt notice those little ants asking him to change his shoes.

It is weird though. UseIt got him the popularity he enjoys now.

Bill:
Would be shocking if he did. He has had people do redesigns of his site (without his permission), and display them, and they turned out pretty good. But I have been surprised by him commenting on some blogs where I didn├втВмтДвt expect to see him, and offering some great suggestions and ideas over the past year. Who knows.

Yuri:
Jakob lacks the connection with his audience to follow what interests it. If all his major clients tell him his site needs to go Web 2.0 and someone offers a way to do it (that├втВмтДвs an idea for you, Nielsen fans), he might redesign.

That being said, he did say his site design is good for what it is supposed to do: to let people read. It won├втВмтДвt surprise me, if he adds an ability for the readers to rate and comment on the content, some day.

The continued success of Digg

Yuri:
Digg will need to find a way to tighten its algorithm and keep good relationship with its users. Hopefully, it├втВмтДвll do so right and get rid of spammers, while keeping the interested folks. Or it├втВмтДвll pass its glory moment.

Most likely, Digg will reorganize its content, tweak its algo once more and make it harder for members to get to the top (to promote the stories).

Bill:
I wonder. Will it have the staying power of a slashdot? Should it reward more for intelligent and insightfu and interesting material found on the web? I think it will become more heavily moderated, with human moderators, but that might not be a bad thing.

Yuri:
Rewarding quality stories and comments as well as adding human moderation is one of the ways to go. I suspect inside human moderation is the way to get rid of Digg manipulation.

Personalization in Search

Yuri:
Google gathers a lot of information about people, so, if Google clearly proves and guarantees not to give out the data to anyone (including the US government), personalization of search should become popular.

Bill:
I don├втВмтДвt know if we will see a lot of advances in personalization over the next year. Instead, query refinements and suggestions based upon groups and communities, like Google coop may become something that Google pushes.

Yuri:
I agree ├втВмтАЬ one of the major directions Google is going now is to find the human-reviewed websites to base his quality on. Google Coop and Google Custom Search Engines (also using Coop) is one of the ways to achieve this.
I├втВмтДвd expect Google add (and use) some algorithm to determine site quality by human behaviour, but that├втВмтДвs another story.

While Google certainly won├втВмтДвt be aiming at collecting more information, it will have to make an effort for people to persoanlize their search results.

A Tivo/YouTube mashup that challenges Network TV

Yuri:
├втВм┼УGoogle buys a TV network to broadcast YouTube movies and splitter ads around them├втВм┬Э
├втВм┼УGoogle shows video AdWords ads on his TV YouTube network├втВм┬Э Could be quite popular, why not?
├втВм┼УA new folk video movement starts: creative movies are shown on the Google and other TV networks├втВм┬Э

Bill:
It would be fun. I could see a Google TV network.

The next focus of SEO?

Bill:
Two different major directions:
1. more focus on local
2. more focus on multimedia ├втВмтАЬ images, video, audio including radio.

Yuri:
1. Local search, yes. Absolutely.
2. Blogs for traffic links, too, I├втВмтДвd guess (some SEO friendly templates should become popular, such as Cutline by Chris Pearson).
3. Agreed on other media ├втВмтАЬ I├втВмтДвd think SEOs will need to communicate with the customers.

SEO replaced with ├втВм╦Ьonline business manager├втВмтДв/ Internet marketer

Bill:
I can see more companies trying to do SEO type stuff internally, and as part of their marketing departments.

Yuri:
I├втВмтДвd expect SEO to be at least remotely known by the designers and web developers. Real SEOs will transform to Internet marketers and will be consulting the rest of the crowd.

When the marketers start delivering value instead of tricking people into buying stuff

Bill:
There may always be a small fraction of the industry out for a fast buck, misleading people.

Yuri:
Yeah, but I├втВмтДвd expect their customers to know who they are hiring, thus decreasing the amount of old school or low quality marketers.

The next generation of CMS

Bill:
There are a lot of people working for free, building templates, plugins, widgets, and improvements on open source systems like WordPress, Drupal and others. I can see a percentage of those trying to do something more commercial, and working on their own CMS systems.

Yuri:
Yes, I can certainly see a couple of commercial CMSs appearing, along with more sophisticated free templates.

The number of employees at SEO by the Sea :)

Bill:
One for now, but possibly growth in the future. Maybe even within the next year.

Yuri:
Same here at ITW.

Do check out the second part of the discussion and predictions with Bill Slawski at SEO by the SEA.

Since we are soon into 2007, you can well read about the 2007 predictions:

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