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Digital Marketing Trends & Predictions For 2011

For search marketers, the holidays are all about giving—that is, giving an ever-increasing share of your advertising budget to Google. But for columnists, we get to give the gift of predictions. In this Industrial Strength column last year, I examined a number of trends in the paid search industry and even made several bold predictions. Before we stare into the crystal ball for 2011, it’s only fair to recap how my prognostications from last year played out.

It’s safe to say I was on target when predicting that rising CPC’s would drive increased interest in Quality Score optimization and the Google display network. I named 2010 the year that integrating offline metrics into search programs would go mainstream. The announcement of the Google AdWords call tracking program validated this prediction, but the word “beta” at the end of the program indicates I was a little premature. Finally, I predicted Facebook would release a search engine to compete with Google. I guess you can’t win them all!

So what should marketers expect to see for 2011? This year, let’s broaden the conversation to look at some of the macro trends in online marketing and how they will impact advertisers.

Rising Costs-Per-Click Create An Automation Arms Race

Only three things are certain in a search marketer’s life: death, taxes, and rising CPC’s. With ad dollars continuing to migrate from the offline to the online world, costs per click will continue to rise for years to come. To combat this cost increase, marketers will have to double down on match type and negative keyword management, creative testing and campaign structure optimization to lower costs and increase conversion rates. Expect tool vendors to respond with increased automation, allowing marketers to succeed with these optimizations at scale. Advertisers will be forced to re-evaluate the right level of automation for their business, and put the necessary controls in place to ensure automation delivers high quality results.

The Rise Of Mobile And Social Platforms, Fragmentation, And The New Rules Of Marketing

A long time ago, in 2009, advertisers could buy traffic for their website, customers would transact and all was well in the world. How we long for the good old days. With an ever-increasing number of mobile and social users, now advertisers must deliver content on more platforms, in more formats and account for more contexts. Advertisers will need to look past the website towards investments in mobile applications, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and even sites like Groupon or Google Places. Look for advertisers to increasingly convert users off site, whether via mobile, local or social apps. As they do, advertising campaigns will become tailored to the requirements of specific platforms, increasing complexity for the marketer without necessarily increasing revenues. As this shift occurs, early adopters will benefit from building a multichannel customer base at a time when acquisition costs are still relatively low.

Google Gets Social, Facebook Gets Serious

Call it the DecorMyEyes.com effect. By working to obtain thousands of negative review links, DecorMyEyes.com was able to increase its organic search rankings on Google, driving higher sales. And so the world’s most powerful algorithm was humbled. Look for Google to respond by overlaying a sentiment analysis on top of its organic results. This new, more social search algorithm will allow users to rate search results or even websites, and have user “likes” factored into ranking algorithms.

At the same time that Google is getting more social, Facebook will get more serious. To expand the value of its ad network, Facebook will extend its ads beyond Facebook to participating publisher sites. This new ad network will enable 1:1 targeting based on demographic and placement characteristics, increasing CPMs for publishers and offering the first true challenge to the Google Display Network.

Remarketing Comes Of Age, With A Little Help

Remarketing clearly offers a boost in click-through over traditional display targeting tactics, the question still remains: what is the value of re-acquiring someone you already acquired? In 2011, look for this question to be answered. Remarketing tools will become better integrated into attribution systems, allowing marketers to calculate a true cost-of-acquisition across channels. The first big shift will come from tighter integration of Google Analytics metrics for measuring the impact of Google remarketing on the overall attribution funnel. Pure play remarketing vendors will also get into the act, looking to partner with or get acquired by larger analytics or ad serving players to help close the measurement loop.

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” 2011 will be a seminal year for advertisers, as a slew of new marketing tactics and platforms begin to mature. I look forward to seeing some of these predictions come to pass, and would welcome your comments on the future as you see it.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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