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)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Anyone got prediction #10?