Tis the season for predictions in the mobile and search industries, as my colleagues share their thoughts on where we’re collectively headed as an industry. Without claiming clairvoyance, here are a few things I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen in the next one or two years in SEO and mobile:
  • Blurring of the distinctions between SEO, social and mobile, as social data and mobile user experience data continue to supplement the core search ranking algorithms. Brands who build a positive user experience to mobile and social users today will benefit as more of this data is used to refine the algorithms.
  • With Marissa Mayer’s transition to local at Google, increased emphasis on making information offline more visible, to both desktop and mobile searchers. Image search optimization and local search optimization will see a resurgence, as more mobile searchers use Google Goggles and other augmented reality apps to discover more about the world around them with visual search.
  • Deepening rift between small business SEOs and enterprise SEOs, as Google and Bing continue to incorporate brand demand into the way they refine the ranking algorithms and user interface. Industry regulation from outside may result if the industry does not self-regulate.
  • Growing alliance between search engines and white hat SEOs will continue to help ethical SEOs help their clients build content in a way that provides a positive user experience for Google users, and a positive return for the client. Would not be surprised to see a Google Webmaster Tools certification program, similar to the Google Analytics and AdWords certification programs that exist today; and agency support for SEO departments at enterprise firms. Worth noting that I’ve been hoping for this since 2007, and while the Webmaster consoles have grown quite a bit, we’re still not where I think we should be.
  • De-emphasis on link building techniques that rely excessively on reverse engineering the ranking algorithm, and more on executing content creation and promotion campaigns that generate positive PR and ROI
  • Given Google’s rich snippets and acquisition of Metaweb in July 2010, and a growing importance on image and video search with products like Google Goggles and YouTube, I expect to see a de-emphasis on keyword-based search in favor of relevant results based on semantic relationships and social data
  • Continued de-emphasis of rankings as search engines continue to use personalization as a strong signal of relevance. Marketers will continue to develop ways of helping users promote content within personalized results, and focus on metrics like natural search impressions, clicks, CTR, conversion rate and others to demonstrate the business value of natural search
  • Mobile marketers will turn more to search data to define the mobile user, instead of making generalizations based on industry data and personal acquaintances
  • As mobile advertising continues to grow, mobile marketers will turn increasingly to organic means of mobile promotion, including social media and search

These predictions come with a money back guarantee.

Johnny Carson as the Amazing Carnac

Hope everyone has a happy holiday! More interesting things to come in 2011, including some changes for this blog, and a deep dive into best practices for mobile search optimization, possibly in book form. See you in 2011.