Oracle of Delphi & SEO

Greg Sterling recently posted his 2008 predictions for local search and I thought it only right that I take on the 2008 predictions for local search engine optimization, particularly because Greg’s post never even mentioned the subject. So here goes:

(updated 12/29/08 to see how I did) 

  1. Small Businesses Will Start to Understand the Difference Between SEO & Paid Search Advertising Whenever I speak with anyone in the local search biz and tell them I think the small guys are starting to get SEO, the typical response is that the small biz guy confuses SEO and paid search. All I can tell you is that not a week goes by without a small business contacting me to help them with organic rankings. And every SEO consultant I talk with says the same thing. SEO is pretty much mainstream. SEO is the iPhone of local marketing strategies – once you see the other guy doing it, you want to do it too.

    End of Year Update: This is absolutely the case, not just for small businesses, but for all kinds of businesses.  See SEOMoz’ Why Companies Are Investing in SEO In the Economic Downturn.

  2. Google Will Become Even More Important To Your Local SEO Strategy On average Google accounts for about 75% of all of my clients’ referral traffic and it looks like it’s heading for the 80% territory this quarter. And let’s face it, most of the yellow pages and other local search websites rely on Google for a good deal of their traffic. As more local search offerings proliferate they will be fighting amongst themselves for their share of Google traffic. And Google is going to keep pushing more of its own “local” results into the Web search results reducing the amount of traffic these sites will get (and watch out for Google Knol local). So if you’re a local search player you’re going to have to figure out more ways to squeeze traffic out of Google and if you’re a local business you are going to have to decide if you are going to try and compete against these big guys or pay them for your inability to do so.

    End of Year Update: This one came true for sure. Checked your search engine referrals lately?

  3. Video Will Start To Become An Important Part of the Local Marketing Equation As we saw with the dentist who gets leads from Youtube, video will become a medium of choice for aggressive local search marketers to distinguish themselves online. Many search marketing companies will start including video as a standard part of their offerings and at least one local biz will produce a video that goes crazily viral and sets a new standard for the industry. In addition small biz videos will start popping up in Google’s Universal local search results which will create a large demand for local/national small biz video production.

    End of Year Update: While I can’t say that small biz web video production is going through the roof, the emergence of a number of players over the past year that are trying to tap this market, along with the increasing influence of YouTube, makes me think I called this one right.

  4. The Small Biz Website Will Start To Beat The National/Local Directory At SEO Most of the money terms in organic local search appear to be dominated by national/regional local directories like Yelp, Citysearch, Superpages, etc. I have long held that as small business websites get their act together they should have a natural advantage in outranking these directories in organic results. Per prediction #1 this will start to happen and as a result the big local search players will follow Intuit’s acquisition of Homestead and make aggressive moves to own the small business website by acquiring companies like Market Hardware, Creating Your Space, etc.

    End of the Year Update: I may have gotten this one slightly wrong, although I think eventually this will be the case.  While I do see more SMBs showing up outside of the ten pack, the big event for me has been that everybody and his brother has launched a local directory which is making it harder for everybody to get a dominant share of search traffic.

  5. Scalable SEO Will Become A Product There are numerous start-ups working on automated SEO solutions and on “scalable” SEO services that can be sold in cookie-cutter fashion to small businesses. While SEO will remain for the most part a highly customized, manual process performed by experienced professionals I do believe we will start to see more low-cost entry-level services that will provide a tangible benefit to those who can’t afford the kitchen sink job. This will lead to even more work for skilled SEOs who will acquire more-educated customers who have had a taste of SEO and are ready for the big time.

    End of Year Update: A couple of companies have launched in this space and seem to be growing well (e.g., Hubspot).  Lot’s of SEO sites have added more automated tools (e.g. SEOMoz, SEOBook) so I think I will score myself correct on this one.

  6. Google Webmaster Tools Will Give Away Even More SEO Information It used to be that you needed a SEO to tell you what other websites are linking to what pages on your site. Now thanks to Google Webmaster Tools you can get a pretty good idea yourself. You’ll still need a SEO guy to interpret all of this data but I believe Google is going to counter the growth of automated SEO by providing as much of this data as it can for free. Maybe they’ll even sell you a site audit while they’re at it.

    End of Year Update: True.  A big thank you to the Webmaster Tools guys for making my job a bit easier.

  7. MSN Will Roll Out A Huge Upgrade of Its Webmaster Tools And beat Yahoo to the punch, stimulating even more blog posts about how Microsoft is going to buy Yahoo.

    End of Year Update: Honestly I haven’t even looked at MSN’s webmaster tools in months, so they may have improved it.  Any more data you can get is great, but Google is drowning out everyone else.

  8. Google Will Make A Major Change To The Link Popularity Algorithm There are just too many ways to game it. I don’t know what it’s going to be – BritneyRank could be a good idea – but it’s going to happen. For more ideas on this check out Patrick Altoft’s post on How Google Will Change SEO in 2008.

    End of Year Update: Not sure if SearchWiki qualifies but it certainly was a major change.

  9. Local SEO Will Be One of the Bright Stories in an Economic Downturn At least I hope that’s what will happen. If the economy slows down marketers are going to look even harder for better ROI. When done right it’s hard to beat the ROI of SEO. And then all of those out of work sub-prime mortgage brokers will start selling SEO services.

    End of Year Update:  Totally glad that this one came true.

  10. Anyone got prediction #10?

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27 Response Comments

  • David Saunders  January 10, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Local SEO Will Be One of the Bright Stories in an Economic Downturn

    Great quote Andrew I see that happening now 🙂


  • Will Scott  January 10, 2008 at 7:00 am


    Great post! Very timely, and I particularly love #9.

    A few points:

    In regard to point #1 I’ve said it before but in my opinion once you get off the coasts (including our north coast on Lake Michigan) SMB don’t know SEO. They know Google, they know Yellow Pages and they might know PPC — but most I’ve talked to still think you’ve got to buy your way in.

    You’re probably right on video though it’s going to take a SpotRunner type approach to really commoditize it.

    In re: the small business web site, we’re already doing it. We have the #1 position for CITY SERVICE ahead of national and niche directories in a number of locations and verticals…

    … it’s totally doable (hint: think like a domainer when possible).

    Finally, scalable SEO: here’s a thought — how ’bout a firm which does both? Scalable and custom (or boutique as we call it ‘roun here).

    Again, great post — looking forward to your insights for the new year.


  • Mike Blumenthal  January 10, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I would agree with Will on two counts:
    -In the hinterlands SMB’s knowledgeable about search are the exception
    -that the small biz websites are starting to beat the national directories.

    To add to that I would say that it really is the web designers that are designing for small businesses that are beginning to understand the need for this. They are just beginning to build sites that perform well on local search. Once they give Google something to work with, these sites can easily rank well and provide increased ROI for the smb.


  • David Mihm  January 10, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Kudos for your last comment, Mike, and for your comments as well, Will.

    As a small business web designer, I can tell you that as long as you don’t use Flash, have friendly URL’s, and good title tags and descriptions, you can do quite well in Local with only 20-30 incoming links. The big directories’ pages are either not targeted enough or are too targeted and so look spammy.

    (Not to toot my own horn, but I posted about both of these items here and here.)

    It’s my contention that Google desperately wants small Mom & Pop’s to succeed organically to force national advertisers and directories with lots of money into PPC. They know that $3-$4-$5 clicks are going to be untenable for Mom & Pop, but not so for deeper pockets.

    Andrew, I hope you’re right about #8. We need to end this unnecessary debate over paid links!! 😀

    Great post.

  • משחקים לסלולר  January 10, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    There is one important question: until when SEO will be affective?

  • Mike  January 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    I really hope you are right with #1. This would be great for people in the SEO industry. I think smarter customers would be better for every one. If #8 happens I think things will get very interesting.

  • Andrew Shotland  January 10, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    To my friend with the Hebrew – the evasive answer is that SEO is really just marketing and so it will continue to be effective in some way shape or form forever. The non-evasive answer is I have no idea.

  • Hmmm, how about
    – Integrating the Earthbooker site tightly into their results? Oh wait, that’s a check.
    – Integrating Panoramio’s pictures into their results? Oh, right – check. (Watch out Flickr, Google’s after you.)
    – Integrating hotel reviews straight into the SERPs, whereas you used to have to click to see them? Check again.

    That and more duly noted and reported by yours truly in the above name/title link, or here if that doesn’t work:

  • Oh, and your clever friend with the Hebrew is playing in a competitive niche, so I think he knows the value of SEO pretty well. “Cellular games” in a country with two phones per person? Nice market…

  • Sonia Carreno  January 11, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Nice predictions Andrew! I had:

    “Vertical directories start to compete heavily with the national directories and gain visibility in the organic playing field.

    Rich media throw wrenches into the algorithms (for a short while)

    Some developments in advanced taxonomy take place. The inclusion of pronouns etc. to get deeper SEO results combined with the human engines that are cropping up will enhance user experiences and challenge SEO agencies.”

    Possible 10…
    Over-tagging is going to create a major mess for internal (monetized) SEO on the major directories. As SMBs get “tag-happy” on their half understanding of SEO, the directories will have a big clean up ahead of them.

  • Michael D  January 11, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Andrew, spectacular as usual. Your quote “compete against these big guys or pay them for your inability to do so” is spot on and I see 3 ways this will go.

    self site optimization
    pay big site monthly fees
    community site of 3 or more local businesses that can create 3x the content of the 1st and better compete with big YP.

    Have seen BIG changes in the LA metro area already this year with Google results. Big metros will change first so watch NYC, Chicago, Seattle, LA, etc. to keep up on what’s coming down the pipe.

  • Krunal Chauhan  January 12, 2008 at 1:41 am

    What do you think about New Smaller Engines coming on internet with local search ? Their Role and Importance for SEO ? any ideas

  • Andrew Shotland  January 12, 2008 at 11:01 am


    My guess is that there will continue to be new competitors in the local search game – national, regional and vertical – who will chip away at the major players audience and customers. The ones that are successful will get acquired but many will fail.

  • Martin Bowling  January 12, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Andrew great prediction list I see alot of these things happening right now. A ton of our local seo clients are going for the Videos and like you said I think it’s only a matter of time before one of these local videos goes super viral and sets the market on fire. As always a great read 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  January 12, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks Martin. I appreciate your participation and enthusiasm.

  • Courtney  January 13, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Some great prediction in here Andrew. I think that Video will really take off and I really hope that MSN (and Yahoo!) can come through with the goods in improving webmaster tools. Should be an interesting year ahead.

  • Andrew Shotland  January 13, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Thanks Courtney! I am feeling pretty confident about these predictions. Now if only I could do the same for 2008 presidential election predictions and housing predictions. 2008 is going to be a wacky year.

  • Mike Blumenthal  January 15, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I will go out on a limb and predict the presidential outcome: the winner will be from the business party (hint: they both are).

    And on the housing front: it will continue to tank as more foreign capital pours in.


  • Andrew Shotland  January 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

    The true Oracle has spoken. Thanks Mike.

  • Steve  January 15, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Most everything is spot-on. I can’t come up with #10 but I have some thoughts about 3 & 7.

    #3 is really tough for the smallies – I just don’t see them prying limited marketing budget to do anything semi-professional.

    Anyway, what would they do? I’ve seen a site that put up Music videos (Seal) — not sure that will sell any swimming pools.

    #7 does not matter – or does it? For the traffic and poor quality I get from them, why would I spend time on their tools?

  • David  March 26, 2008 at 12:41 am

    #10 – Scammers will tarnish Local and SMB SEO / SEM efforts. (Already happens. Got at least two people who fell for it, and three sales pitches from nice indian fellows. Gosh)

    Gotta have one negative one in there 🙂
    Although I do agree with you that this is a big year for it. Working on a couple of big SMB plays in different verticals.

  • Joshua Steimle  April 17, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    So what are a few of the “numerous start-ups” working on scalable/automated SEO? I can only find one out there at the moment, although I’m sure there are others.

  • Andrew Shotland  April 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Right now Ranksense is the only one I can talk about that I know of but I have seen a few that are in development.

  • Eva White  September 15, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I think Andrew your prediction No. 2 is coming true. With Google becoming more and more strict towards SEO techniques. Google has started seeing the content and value of site rather than the SEO techniques applied to get it on top with false methods.

  • zara clothing  January 9, 2009 at 9:34 am

    To add to that I would say that it really is the web designers that are designing for small businesses that are beginning to understand the need for this. They are just beginning to build sites that perform well on local search.

  • Seeking men  December 3, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thanx for the info very much actually seo is a night mare to many webmaster .

  • Gravitate  March 31, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Great predictions, I don’t think small business owners really understand SEO yet they are trying and it doesn’t take much to explain it to them. I rarely get a small business that knows how SEO works and will help their company. They mostly believe that you have to pay to get to a spot on a search engine.