Web marketers, your largest source of website traffic is at risk. What’s the future of search engine marketing?

In my last post, I referred to the last decade as “The Google Decade”.  In 2009, most commercial websites generated over 50% of their traffic from the search engines, primarily Google.  In fact, many DMW clients enjoy search contribution over 70%.  Both sources of search traffic, natural and sponsored (paid), are under attack in 2010 due to the rapid adoption of smartphones and social networking.  Digital marketers need to understand these changes and devise a proactive demand generation plan that includes mobile and social.

Google’s navigational value may diminish as users use mobile applications to direct navigate to brands they know and trust.  The improved usability and convenience mobile applications provide is real and they could change user behavior.  This could impact Google revenue line and share price.  Over the past few years, we have witnessed how users opt Google instead of typing brand URLs into their browsers.  The AdWords revenue from this behavior is huge. Google has responded to this threat to their revenue stream by expanding their mobile and display offerings including AdMob purchase, Android OS rollout and the recent Nexus One Smartphone launch.  With Nexus One, in fact, Google has made search front and center in the design of both the hardware and software.  There are 4 hard coded navigational buttons – Home, Back, Menu and Search.  The top of Home is a large search box.  Even if you load Nexus with your favorite apps, the search field and button are omnipresent.

The rise of the social web has forced Google to include Tweets and Facebook posts in search results, pushing down natural search results.  While the impact of this move to real time search is small today, it could become meaningful, if not significant, in 2010 and beyond.  This will lead to new search optimization tactics, some of which may border on spam, and best practices.  For example, if you Tweet exclusive offers to your followers, these could be found at the top of Google search results.  Also, can users searching Facebook find your company?

So, what should marketers do?  They should be proactive and anticipate this potential risk to their web traffic.  Marketers should get serious about these important and growing areas of digital marketing and devise new digital demand generation strategies.

  • Social Networking – start with a company audit and strategy framework and follow with paid social media. Social tactics without strategy are over-rated.  
  • Social Search Optimization – how can you gain better natural search positions by leveraging social?  How can you assure your brand is easily findable on Facebook and other social networks? 
  • Cross-media Measurement & Management – move away from “last click” measurement and understand the interplay between all digital media. Allocate and optimize digital media based on full revenue attribution.   
  • Social Media – Facebook’s targeted CPC program has real potential for marketers. It should, however, be tracked and managed with other search and digital media. 
  • Mobile Media – begin testing and measuring mobile search, links and display advertising. As Google builds out Android (AT&T just decided to carry Android phones!), mobile search volume will increase. 
There will be a lot of changes in media consumption and user behavior in 2010 and digital marketers need to stay ahead of these changes and understand how they will impact their demand generation plans, traffic, revenues and profits.  On this blog, we will try to keep you informed and provoke new thinking and discussion.  We welcome the dialogue and debate.  Please comment and share your thoughts below.