Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reviewing My 2008 Predictions

On Tuesday, I linked to my post on the RM Blog outlining 10 predictions for search marketing in 2009.

Today, I thought it would be fun to review my predictions for 2008 to see how I did. At the end of 2007, I used my Search Insider Buzz-o-Meter column to lay out the following predictions:

1. "Google to bow display ads on SERPs after the DoubleClick deal closes."

2. "More consolidation in the [agency] space, with large shops scooping up specialized search firms as they acknowledge how critical search is to all aspects of marketing and realize how hard it is to build search expertise in-house."

3. "More and more search firms [will] stick a flag in the sand regarding their core expertise -- some will embrace all forms of performance-based media, others will develop full-service digital marketing capabilities led by 'search-think,' and still others will remain true to query-based marketing only."

4. "Facebook to have a major impact on the search marketing landscape in '08, whether it be incorporating Web search (via MSN?), reacting to news feed optimization or spawning regulation around data portability."

5. "A[n economic] pullback could actually be good for search -- when times are tough, marketers load up on platforms with proven ROI -- I also think it could stunt innovation, with the Big 4 unwilling to take chances and upstarts unable to get funding."

6. "Search marketers to figure out how to leverage widgets beyond the mere link-popularity benefits."

7. "The next wave of opportunity is likely in the torso -- after all, as the tail gets longer, the belly gets fatter."

8. "[Microsoft's KSP platform aka AdIntelligence] will make search marketers smarter in '08, and hopefully it will push Google and Yahoo towards becoming more transparent with their data (although I'm not betting on that.)"

Now, to steal a page from Paul Harvey, "for the rest of the story..."

1. Wrong. Didn't happen outside a tiny pocket of experimentation with banners on Google Image results.

2. Sorta. iProspect gobbled up Range Online Media. Publicis snapped up Performics. That was about it though. Instead of acquisitions, we saw a trend towards large agency holding companies infusing resources from their search specialist shops into individual agency brands (eg, WPP creating Group M Search and infusing search talent into Mindshare, Mediaedge, and MediaCom).

3. Right. Search agencies definitely chose sides this past year. As I pointed out in yesterday's Search Insider column, Didit is positioning itself as a "company providing bid management services." 360i kept its "Search-Informed Marketing" approach but acquired creative shop i33 to deliver full-service solutions. Meanwhile, Resolution Media stuck with its laser-focus on Query Marketing (although per prediction #9, look to see expansion here). There were more examples but these 3 check each of the boxes I outlined in my prediction so we'll move along.

4. Sorta. As I suspected, Facebook finally launched web search in tandem with Microsoft but it didn't exactly set the search world on fire. Data portability was a hot topic with the launch of Google Friend Connect but regulation in the space came not from the government as I expected but self-imposed practices from folks like Yahoo shortening the duration of personal data storage to 90 days.

5. Wrong. The recession might not have been bad for search (after all, flat is the new up, right?), but it wasn't good for it either. And innovation among the Big 4 may have slowed but it certainly wasn't stunted. Google rolled out SearchWiki, Microsoft rolled out a number of cool features like Farecast integration and more (see my comments on this post), and Yahoo, despite being battered the most, still managed to roll out Search Monkey as part of its open initiative. Meanwhile, the search for the Google killer continued as startups like Cuil raised cash and launched to very little acclaim.

6. Wrong. 2008 was a big year for widgets, although they're now more commonly referred to as applications thanks to Facebook and the iPhone. Not much application for search marketers though.

7. Wrong. The power of the long tail shone mightier than ever in '08, helping Obama take the White House. There was much debate at the recent Search Insider Summit over the relevance of the long tail to search marketers with no clear consensus. The torso did emerge in a big way this year, just not from a search standpoint. Rather the torso reared its ugly, er, head as vertical ad networks become the "it" thing in online display media.

8. Right. MSFT AdIntel made Resolution Media much smarter search marketers this year. And, sure enough, Google followed suit becoming more transparent with absolute search volume data and a nifty Insights for Search tool.

If I take half-credit for the sorta's, the tally puts me at 38% accuracy. I certainly went out on a few more limbs with my '09 predictions so it will be interesting to see how I fare this coming year. One thing we can all bank on (sorry, bad word choice) for '09 -- it ain't gonna be pretty.


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