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2010 Buzz: Social Search Optimization

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Follow the gingerbread crumbs into 2010 dropped by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo during 2009, and you might find yourself smack-dab in the middle of social search optimization (SSO). While there are other growing trends in search, let's begin with SSO, which will likely emerge next year as one of those acronyms you love to hate.

Justin Kistner, senior manager, social media marketing at Webtrends, was among those predicting the rise of SSO, which he defines as the practice of reverse-engineering a social search engine's algorithm to optimize a site's raking.

To date, there hasn't been a social search engine with significant traffic to warrant reversing the algorithm, Kistner says. The introduction of Twitter content into Bing and Google changed this. And adding Facebook, MySpace, and others will solidify it. "There are now algorithms with significant traffic to make cracking them attractive," he says. "Because SSO is socially based -- meaning it relies on people, not pages -- this will create a shift that will have real-world ramifications on people's relationships."

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David Harry, founder of Reliable SEO, also believes SSO will become something to watch. While the jury remains "somewhat" out on real-time search, the emergence of what he calls social-connection search and recommendation engines could become reality in 2010. He believes experts will emerge to support the content, similar to image search, video, news, etc.

Aside from personal information from Twitter and Facebook being dumped into search engine results, Harry points to search engine queries that answer questions, rather than send people to a Web site to find answers. He believes this trend will strengthen in 2010 and could become a real "problem" for publishers.

I think it could become a problem for retail sites that want to cross-sell merchandise and rely on people clicking on the item description to get the full details, as well as suggestions for other purchases.

"If you look at the snippet pop-ups at Bing or Google's interest in longer, and rich, snippets we can see a trend," Harry says. "Google hired a fella that worked on algorithms for 'no click searching.' That is a disturbing prospect from a webmaster and marketer stand point, as you might imagine."

Harry wonders if companies will write copy and have SEOs optimize it, only to have search engines present the information in query results, rather than forcing users to click to the Web site.

Along with Harry, Peter Young, head of SEO at U.K.-based Mediavest, agrees the information served up in the search engine query will continue to evolve.

Brands will allocate more of their marketing budgets to SEO. Some might think that's wishful thinking, but Young believes the increase in awareness among marketers will carry the industry through 2010.

Young's prediction supports a conversation I had with Jeremy Liew, managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, outlining a shift in advertising and marketing budgets from traditional marketing in radio, television and print, to online marketing and SEO strategies. He also thinks Google will move deeper into behavioral targeting for display advertising through its $750 million acquisition of AdMob.

Ask Telmetrics President Bill Dinan his predictions for 2010, and he'll say how advertisers are willing to pay publishers per call. He refers to it as performance-based advertising, where agencies buy the online ads with specific phone numbers listed in the advertisement, and bill the client per call.

Dinan says Telmetrics witnessed a huge spike in pay per call growth in 2009. Data he provides to support his forecast include the TMP Directional Marketing comScore study, suggesting consumers research businesses online and then follow with a phone call.

Citing the comScore study, Telmetrics notes that after viewing an ad online 83% of local search users contacted businesses offline, 46% of consumers contact the business via the phone, and 37% visit the business in person.

As online media evaluate call performance metrics, expect advertisers to more closely evaluate caller lead data, such as demographics information, duration of the call, call content, and repeat callers, Dinan says.

1 comment about "2010 Buzz: Social Search Optimization".
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  1. Anshuman Misra from ICICI Bank Ltd, December 24, 2009 at 2:02 a.m.

    I think it is the 'now' that is becoming more and more important on the web than history. Social Search/Real Time Search are manifestations of the 'now'. It would be easier for start-ups to challenge entrenched businesses if they could create the right buzz on top of a good product offering. Exciting times ahead for sure.

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