Commentary

Grading The 2005 Predictions

OK, so Nostradamus I'm not.

Looking back on my predictions for 2005, I'm humbled. They were all over the map. I wish I could take credit for being the first to predict the Google-AOL deal, Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr, or InterActiveCorp shelling out $2 billion for Ask Jeeves. You didn't read about those deals here first, but other forecasts were more on target.

The moral here is that I'm learning with you, dear reader. That being said, I also hope to learn to make better predictions, if there's an art to that science. We'll take a look at how my predictions for 2005 fared, and then next week I'll once again offer some expectations for the year ahead.

Bullseye: A few of the predictions were right-on: "The line between search engines and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) will fade further." That line's receding faster than the Knicks' chances of making the playoffs. "Expect more search-related technology acquisitions." Okay, so that was like predicting we'd exhale carbon dioxide, but expectations were fulfilled. "Pay-per-call will be offered by a top-tier search engine (if not all of them)." Everyone who's anyone now offers this, at least on an experimental basis.

Nice try: "Natural search will be sexier." Natural search optimization is still big business, and growing, but in terms of sexiness we're talking Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt" to paid search's Marilyn Monroe in Playboy. "Search engines' legal bills will skyrocket." The legal battle of the year was Google vs. Publishers, which is still a long way from unfolding on a Court TV special. "Expect more search engine marketing firm acquisitions." Yes, this happened, with such companies as Innovative Interactive (owner of 360i) acquiring SearchIgnite, but it was hardly a feeding frenzy. "Everyone will be in the desktop search business." I think everyone was, by the time those predictions were published. "SEM will benefit from tighter cross-media integration." The trend's in this direction, but 2005 wasn't any landmark year for it.

Wishful thinking: "ROI measurements will include branding, latency, and offline actions." Help me hold back the giggles. "More research will show the impact of SEM on [all of the above]." I credit Yahoo! for spearheading several vertical industry studies along these lines, which it had already done in 2004. Where's Google with the major industry studies? Its educational efforts need to extend beyond the cutesy Zeitgeist.

"Publishers will be more rigorous in measuring the value of contextual advertising, especially as other potentially lucrative formats such as rich media jockey for space." I'm amused to see this written over half a year before I took a more hands-on role with rich media. No such space-jockeying occurred. However, given the new Google deal with AOL, perhaps that prediction came a year too early.

Better luck next time: Other predictions simply didn't materialize. "All eyes turn to international search, fueled by alliances." So, I'll ask you, are your eyes darting internationally? It's hard with so much happening in our own backyard. "Keyword prices will keep climbing." According to Fathom Online's index, keyword prices have been all over the map, jumping from $1.64 in January 2005 to $1.95 in April and then sinking to $1.46 in November. If this index is on the money, then my missed prediction is good news for marketers.

Major league baseball players make the All-Star team by getting three hits per ten at-bats, and venture capital companies can get away with funding nine duds if the tenth is a bona fide success. Perhaps a perfect batting average isn't quite the point; the learning process is far more valuable. Thanks for allowing me the privilege to share what I've learned along with you week after week. I can't wait to see what we unearth together in the year ahead.

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