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2009 Web Predictions - Website Magazine on Social Media, Ecommerce, Internet Advertising, Affiliate Marketing and SEO

Posted on 12.22.2008

2008 has drawn to a close, and many Web professionals are wondering what next year will bring. It may seem arbitrary to make predictions, but the Web business is not a static industry and forecasting often shines the light on our practical hopes for the future. Website Magazine’s predictions for 2009 reveal that in spite of our current economy, the Web as a whole will continue to see strong growth and investment over the next year - a prediction that many industry analysts don't necessarily agree with. As companies large and small see the value in genuine participation, it will pave the way for even more adoption over the coming year.

Without further ado, here are Website Magazine's 2008 Web Predictions:
Please note: You are encouraged to comment below and share your thoughts on what 2009 will bring to your business and the Web as a whole. Just log in to comment.

A Major Social Media Shift
There will be a noticeable, albeit slight uptick in social media usage (using weblogs and leveraging online networking sites, for instance) due to increased and continued layoffs across all business sectors. Few small enterprises, however, will effectively master social media, despite claims that it's possible. Genuine creativity and original thought will have their time in the social spotlight, for sure, but those instances will be few and far between and overshadowed by massive social media campaigns initiated by those with the biggest budgets and resources. A serious backlash at communities like Digg and other social media sites might occur as messages from the less connected are drowned out. This may create an opportunity for social micro-networks to establish more active communities or move to where their voices can more clearly be heard. Should things get worse for the economy as a whole, many social sites will attempt - ultimately in vain - to charge their communities for participation. This will lead to major social media shifts, such as more robust niche communities or participants abandoning social networking altogether.

E-Commerce and Internet Retailers Get Smart
Once reserved for only the most elite Internet retailers, small and mid-tier merchants will embrace innovation in the form of recommendation technologies and alternative payments, which both increase their margins and the profit of their enterprises. Those shopping cart providers that do not provide even the most basic merchandising and marketing tools will see an exodus from their platforms to more sophisticated offerings. Smaller start-up merchants will increasingly turn to open-source e-commerce solutions who will be forced to provide support, creating an opportunity for the open-source community as a whole to monetize development. Technologies will also become more openly available, which will enable Internet retailers to efficiently manage feedback across multiple networks with ease to help ensure the integrity of their brands and secure mindshare with their customers over the long term. While the record-breaking growth and profits of past years will not be met in 2009, gains in technology efficiency  will  force the e-commerce industry and Internet retailers to get smart and creative.

Internet Advertising Will Rebound - Big Time
While Internet advertising growth has slowed on the whole, an increase in spending is expected for 2009, thanks to advances in geo-targeting, greater local advertising opportunities and a general "me too" attitude among small local merchants who refuse to go down without a fight. This presents an opportunity for search marketing agencies (on both the SEO and SEM sides) to create new revenue streams and further drive growth in the future.

SEO (As You Know It) Will Change: Personalization and customization of search results will send the majority of SEOs into a tizzy, as Google makes major adjustments and tweaks to its search results to place more emphasis on how consumers use the search results. In the continual effort to play catch-up with Google, both Microsoft and Yahoo! will make notable in-roads with behavioral advertising. The behavioral insights gained will slowly begin to influence search results and steal market share from Google.

Affiliate Marketers Will Reap What They Sow
As Internet merchants find ways to reduce costs, a shakeout of massive proportions will negatively impact the opportunities of many affiliate marketers. Affiliates who develop their own active communities - not just a sales-driven message - will be the only ones left standing in the end. Others will be forced to innovate through the use of application development and the creation of vibrant content communities based on paid subscriptions and features. Affiliates will experience lower payouts overall in 2009. It's already started. Best Buy reduced their affiliate payout by 75% for two of its best-selling product lines (laptops and Nintendo Wii.) Expect others to follow suit. Marketers will also receive closer scrutiny from social communities where the opportunity to push messages has been open for far too long and open to abuse. Social networks will crack down through new assessment policies and remove participants which are not abiding by community-established guidelines.

Video Will Become Truly Viable for Marketers
Online video is continuing its explosive growth, thanks to everyone with a recording device and an idea. It's no different for marketers, except that promotional opportunities are set to boom. Video delivery is getting more sophisticated, evidenced by YouTube's ability to broadcast HD videos. Existing technologies allow for minor video customization, but new abilities will go even further. Companies like ZunaVision are taking product placement and custom in-video advertising to a new level - blurring the lines between ads and content, without impacting the viewer experience. And for now, it's free - leveling the playing field for advertisers of all sizes. It's up to marketers to get creative and have their videos sought-after, rather than eating up valuable hours forcing videos through social networking and bookmarking sites. User embeds are easier than ever, and no social profile is complete without a good video. BlendTec is perhaps the best example out there.

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