What's ahead for search and social marketing

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The online marketing space evolved rapidly in 2010 with significant developments in search and social media, as well as convergence between the two.

Google deployed Instant, and promises to continue revolutionizing search innovation with Google +1; Bing and Yahoo forged their search alliance; and Facebook and Microsoft partnered in search as well, bringing Facebook "Likes" to Bing search results. This year promises even more change in the online marketing sector. For online marketers looking to proactively respond to changes, Optify predicts three trends that savvy online marketers must prepare for in 2011.

1) Google and Bing will challenge Facebook for social supremacy. Many new features released by Google and Bing in 2010 focused on integrating social media not only into their search functions, but into the consumer experience. Looking to capitalize on the consumer-driven media trend, Google launched Realtime Search, and Bing incorporated Facebook's “Like” data into its search results pages. These new functionalities were aimed at socializing the search experience by allowing users to interact and engage with their social networks directly from the SERPs.

Ultimately, Bing and Google hope to use this to encourage consumers to spend some of their social networking hours on search engines, rather than just Twitter and Facebook. Although it remains to be seen how successful these efforts will be, online marketers must prepare for the impending collision of search and social media.

2) Search and social go mobile. In 2010, there was an explosion of new tablet and smartphone devices with the introduction of the iPad and Windows 7 Phone, among others. As these devices grow in affordability and usage, the market is seeing an increasing demand and expanding user base. As the user numbers climb, so will the number of searches issued from these devices. Content that is optimized for mobile will be critical in the future.

Although “apps” are all the rage right now, online marketers expanding into the mobile space should first make sure that their website is mobile-friendly, that they can monitor how many visitors are coming from mobile, and that the business' e-mails can be opened and viewed on Blackberry, iPhone, Droid and all the other platforms.

3) Online marketing strategies will increasingly focus on optimizing for preview. In the past, users haven't had the option of seeing a website they're interested in by any other means than clicking through. Now, with features like Google Instant Previews, users can be more discerning in selecting from results than ever before, giving publishers another hoop to jump through in driving traffic and a significant optimization for which to account.

Brian Goffman is CEO and cofounder of Optify in Seattle, WA, a search marketing software provider.

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