SEO & SEM Tactics for 2010

Brian Lewis
by Brian Lewis 03 Nov, 2009

As search marketers look ahead to 2010, there are two obvious situations: Some things will remain the same, yet more things will likely change.

The basic motivation driving the purchase of a product or service is a constant. It has been, and always will be an innately emotional process based on our desire to fulfill various needs. Our purchase behavior, though, is largely influenced by information accessibility, market messaging and social commentary, all of which are changing at incredible paces.

Looking back at our marketing scrapbooks for this year, we can certainly declare 2009 as an eventful period for search marketers, filled with images of perhaps the most uncertainty, fear and limited marketing resources of our careers.

Navigating the treacherous waters of a recession and experiencing the slowest year-over-year growth in online spending have made marketers reach deep for more innovative, low-cost and effective solutions to grow, if not only to maintain their market presence. The term "ROI" transformed from a buzzword to a religion.

Many of the events in 2009 will help shape and define how search marketers prove their value in 2010 and beyond. Despite the economic downturn, the rate of innovation in search never blinked, and we'll probably witness significant changes in how we optimize search marketing campaigns more so in the upcoming year than in the last few years combined.

As we look forward to the prospects of a healthier 2010, there are four key areas that will likely impact our search tactics for 2010: enhanced marketing, refined measurement, greater role of social and rich media, and industry developments.

Enhanced Marketing


Landing page testing and optimization, previously considered by some search marketers as a secondary priority task, will instead become as routine and necessary to pay-per-click (PPC) success as proper keyword research. The continued enhancements of Website Optimizer, Google's free and easy-to-implement A/B and multivariate testing solution, removes all cost and technology barriers for even the smallest marketers.

Additionally, to learn more about visitor behavior and improve conversion, marketers will have greater access to visitor experiential tools. Armed with these apps, marketers will be able to refine their landing pages based on understanding on-page visitor behavior such as eye tracking, mouse movements, page scrolling and the order of clicks on a page.

Marketers should also look for opportunities as we see the evolution of search engines becoming more like information engines. Google continues to increase integration of maps, product information, site page listings and site search boxes within its organic listings. Yahoo! has begun testing the integration of video content in its paid search offerings (search on "esurance. com"). And Bing has firmly positioned itself as the world's first "decision engine," offering users a high level of customization and multiple options.

As the display of PPC listings begins to include other media and expand beyond the limitations of the traditional 70 characters, we can look forward to creative opportunities to flex our marketing muscles and drive more profitable traffic to our sites. Imagine the prodigious gains possible from testing various video vignettes, product demos or product images in our ad creative. Marketers could certainly hope that the days of searchers scanning versus reading ad creative would be over.

Marketers will also see the roles of demographics, geo-targeting, and mobile search become increasingly important. Despite privacy concerns, there will likely be an increase in collection of demographic and behavioral data of search engine users, which will result in the opportunity for search marketing tactics to become increasingly refined and more granular. We may even see opportunities to set up different bidding strategies based on a visitor's keyword search history or the pages they previously viewed.

Local search will also become more dominant. Firefox's Geode and Google's Location API (which allow sites to request your browser location), are strong indications of the importance visitor location will play in search.

Refined Measurement


One of the hottest topics of discussion for search marketers in 2009 was the importance of proper conversion attribution. Conversion attribution assigns appropriate credit to all marketing sources that eventually led to a sale.

Due to difficulties in accurate tracking, most campaign and keyword performance reporting was limited by an assumption that proved to be largely untrue - the last click that prompted the purchase was the only visit by that user. Without the ability to measure and assign value to all touch points that led to the sale, most reporting instead assigns100 percent of the conversion value to the last visitor source/keyword. This limitation can certainly lead to wrong campaign and keyword management decisions.

The good news is that several firms are in the process of rolling out conversion attribution solutions that will give marketers a much more accurate picture of the real ROI for search engine optimization (SEO), PPC, e-mail and other online marketing initiatives.

Accurate measurement of call-in conversions is another area quickly becoming a standard tool in a search marketer's arsenal. Most traditional Web analytics do not currently have a method for tracking sales or leads received via a phone call after a visit to a website. Similar to the problems with inaccurate conversion attribution data, lacking this information may lead marketers to incorrect decisions on keywords and campaigns.

In 2010, call tracking will likely become a key internal component of analytics. It will provide marketers accurate measurement of call-in conversions from visitors who arrived on the site from a PPC ad, organic listing, banner ad or e-mail.

Social Marketing, Social Networks, and Rich Media


The increasing convergence between traditional search and social media marketing will accelerate with more dramatic impacts on search marketing tactics in the upcoming year. In addition to its growing use as a micro-blogging tool, Twitter and social search sites like CrowdEye and Collecta are also now being used to search and research news, events and product reviews.

Applications such as SocialSeek allow users to search by topic and location to receive results in the form of tweets, videos, blogs, images and events. Although these newer methods may be slow to gain critical mass, they nonetheless provide opportunities for search marketers looking to extend their reach and better target their audience. Bing already indexes Tweets and it's likely that this form of communication will play a larger role in SEO.

YouTube is another site that is rapidly becoming a search destination. As more companies deliver quality video content detailing the features, benefits and demonstrationss of their products and services, more searchers will start their research at YouTube.

Due to the growth of social marketing, traditional search marketing will undergo a gradual shift from emphasizing keywords and bids, to marketing to communities of potential prospects who seek information on your products/services through their interest-centric groups.

Industry Developments


There is one industry development that will overshadow all others in 2010 and should have a dramatic impact on both search users and marketers - the Yahoo!/Bing partnership. The first hurdle for the newly-formed 10-year alliance will be earning the blessings of the U.S. and European antitrust bodies. Assuming they get beyond that hurdle, they'll then be faced with a myriad of marketing, and technology and cultural integration challenges. However, the biggest challenge they will face will be: How do you change the search habits of about 65 percent of Internet users who are loyal to Google?

Under the agreement, Yahoo! will display Bing on all Yahoo! sites, keep 12 percent of search generated revenue, and handle the sales and marketing for Yahoo! and Microsoft search advertising. Although it's expected to take another 18 months to fully implement the partnership, we may start seeing some changes in 2010.

Additionally, Bing already launched the beta of Visual Bing, a search engine that allows you to browse search results with images instead of lines of text.

Will the combination of a Yahoo! and Bing engine lead to a better search experience for the user? Will the alliance bring the opportunity for more targeted, refined, and higher ROI-generating marketing?

Among all of the unknowns, there is a bit of certainty - under the new alliance, effective SEO and PPC management tactics will change.

And those changes along with many others will place marketers under considerable pressure to learn new tactics, cost effectively implement, accurately measure, rapidly analyze and modify their strategies.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to all of the opportunities awaiting search marketers in 2010. It's a great time to be in a growing, albeit changing industry.


Visit this article if you're curious about the pros and cons of SEO vs. SEM.