Begone crystal balls, tarot cards, magic mirrors and other means of divination. The outlook for search future lies here within:
1. Consolidation. Search engine marketing agencies, particularly the small and midsized, will seek exits. This, of course, will only occur if there is consensus on valuation.
2. Multiples. On that note, the multiples for SEM agencies will most likely not be as high as in years past. Reason being, the services and technology have become somewhat commoditized.
3. Potential disintermediation. Organizational structures at SEM and other agencies will need to shift to map to the engines’ efforts to “own” the client. Google, in particular, has been rumored to be building a structure of global account managers to sell its various offerings across the board.
4. Insight. Search will be used as a diagnostic tool. Rather than focusing on data solely for optimization’s sake, keyword data and various metrics will identify linguistic patterns, consumer reaction to offline activity and inform the development of other marketing efforts.
5. Link building. While almost every search engine optimization program offers some level of link analysis, few actually help the client in developing a link structure. Either providing hands-on link services or outsourcing to a link vendor will be a primary differentiator.
6. Deep tagging. Deep tagging of video will be further developed, changing the way we archive, search and find video content.
7. Talent. Thanks to the development of multiple search education programs in 2005, the talent base will (finally) grow. Will this lead to more in-house execution? Only time will tell.
8. Legal woes. At least one major lawsuit will consume much of our time next year.
9. Mobile and local explosion. Both mobile and local search will give rise to even more firms attempting to solve the question of how best to serve each to consumers.
10. Click fraud. Click fraud will remain a top question on everyone’s mind.