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The future of SEO, PPC and Social Media in 2012

By Paul Morris
Every digital man and his digital dog with a blog are going to put something similar to the below together that showcases their amazing ability (or perhaps inability) at predicting the future. Hence without further ado I’m joining the masses and giving my predictions for the future of SEO, PPC and Social Media in 2012:

New ways of searching: Augmented reality will still reside in the novelty e.g. the ability to virtually try on clothes via Xbox 360 kinect and Blippar however other ways of searching will continue to develop such as voice, image and Google Goggles.

Quality, freshness and personalisation will guide Google’s development. This will lead to more personalised/ relevant results based on your own surfing habits and those of your friends. Google et al will use more signals such as Google +1, the author tag, brand noise, Google+ circles & Twitter to determine your SERPS positioning.

Buying links to skew the SERPS will still be prevalent in 2012 however link bait, such as infographics, will become more important for obtaining links from high quality/ trusted sites.

I’m not sure if 2012 is ready for this however we might see a platform specific SEO algorithm from Google with mobile bookmarks on android, Mobile versus desktop search volume, mobile usage data in Google+ & Google Reader and GOMO Meter inferences (is the speed, site images, site text and navigation fit for purpose?) all affecting Search positioning more on mobile than on desktop.

More companies will utilise multi click attribution modelling to ascertain the value Social Media has on the purchase funnel.

PPC will utilise more feeds with real time stock, share, weather, price information and currency rates improving ad CTR. As an example why not utilise super local and destination weather feeds information in your travel ppc ads?

Mobile platform targeting will become even more accurate i.e. more personal in terms of where you are, what you have previously looked at, the search terms you are entering in, what your friends have previously viewed/ rated that are relevant to your search and the relevance of the various universal search components. More relevant mobile services will spring up to help when shopping in the real world such as mobile comparison shopping, vouchers and affiliates.

SOcial LOcal MObile will continue to grow as long as brands start thinking a little more intelligently than simply offering huge irrelevant discounts. They instead need to offer true reciprocity that includes great engaging content, super relevant offers and has the right balance between push and pull. SOLOMOCO (COmmerce) will grow in 2012 however people will still primarily use their mobiles for bite size research further up the purchase funnel rather than significantly moving their transacting behaviour from the desktop to the mobile.

YouTube’s recent redesign intended to turn it in to a personalised EPG (Electronic Program Guide similar to TIVO – not the more basic Sky functionality) that knows what you are interested in and thus fuels engagement will affect Search and Social Media. Whilst I’m sure this to be the case I’m unsure what ‘affect’ means at this stage!

Google will continue to dominate however I can see Bing starting to catch up. Bing will power all of Yahoo Search in the UK from Q2 2012 and is doing a reasonable job of innovating with the Bing Ipad app, Project Emporia new approach to personalisation, partnerships with sites such as DealMap that brings great promotions from sites such as Groupon + Living Social and innovative tweaks such as mall maps). Let’s also not forget that Google is not dominant in all markets e.g. Russia and China.

Whilst I think +1’s are a little stupid for ads PPC experts need to focus more on +1’s in 2012. +1’s already indirectly affect the quality score (improvement in CTR when +1’s are present), they already improve conversion rate (as a result of seeing your friends recommendations – what better incentive to convert than a trusted friend referral?) and in 2012 +1’s will directly affect the Quality Score by becoming a direct Quality Score metric.

The likes of Marin, doubleclick, tagman, DC Storm, etc will become more common as PPC campaigns become increasingly complex + global (Bingoo! Google, Baidu, Yandex, etc).

Online brand sentiment and ratings from sites such as Doo you, reevoo and review centre will impact Search rankings more thus online reputation management will become even more important to bury the negatives whilst stimulating the positives.

With the Q4 2011 amends to quality score (that hiked the importance of the landing page relevance) PPC and CRO (conversion Rate Optimisation) will have to become better bed fellows or your Quality Score will suffer.

PPC will take click/ sale market share from SEO. Google are increasingly rolling out innovations that improves PPC real estate to the detriment of natural search results being seen above the fold. Unfortunately I see this continuing in 2012.

After 2011 developments from Google and learning of Yahoo’s grand plan direct from the horses mouth expect more Search without websites. What I mean by this is that Google et al will bring more results (maps, images, answers, social data, contact details, etc) directly into the SERPS via AJAX and HTML5.

Google+ stays tiny. I said Google+ would never work right at the start and due to the fact it still has less than 1% of the Social networking market share I stick by that statement (although i can see egg being left on my face in 5 years time)! …HOWEVER millions of users will still help Google obtain more user behaviour thus further refining Search Engine Marketing with further integration of Google profiles (rel=author), Google+ Circles, Google +1, etc.