The year 2012 is finally here. 2011 was a breakout year for Web marketing developments, and as the geography of the field has rapidly evolved, those who have taken greatest advantage of these new innovations have reaped the most rewards.
The year brought us Google+, Siri on the Apple iPhone, the Internet cloud, the Panda updates, and widespread changes across every major search engine and social platform. With all of these new technologies at our fingertips, the only thing that remains uncertain is what changes and challenges the New Year will bring. With that in mind, here’s our forecast for search engine and social media marketing in 2012.
Prediction #1 – Search and Social Will Become Irreconcilably Intertwined
Bing took a bold step when it upped the ante on social signal integration in May 2011 and pooled data resources with Facebook. You may have noticed that when you search through Facebook, beneath your standard Facebook search results is a listing of Bing-powered Web results.
By the same turn, Bing began to incorporate social signals from Facebook, creating a more personalized search experience for its users. It’s important to point out, however, that this isn’t a seamless integration. You have to sign in to Bing and use your Facebook log-in credentials in order to see the effects.
This integration is similar to – and, in fact, nearly mirrors – Google’s integration of Google+ social signals and +1 indicators. By using likes, retweets, and +1s as votes of confidence, these search engines are pooling the collective intelligence of your trusted social connections to influence the search results that you find.
As social media plays an increasingly larger role in the search algorithm, social media marketing will become a necessary component of SEO, likely to the point that they will nearly be indistinguishable.
Prediction #2 – Customer Interaction as a Vital Marketing Strategy Component
In 2012, Facebook will reach 1 billion users, and social network profiles have become an extension of modern identity as much as, if not more, than our cars, cell phones, and homes. Social signals have become a part of search, Google has started to index Facebook comments, and Google+ has started to play a native role in search engine results pages.
If search and social are indeed wedded for life, the companies that will outperform will be those who find a way to manage customer relationships while balancing perceptions. This is a bigger task than a marketing department can handle alone, and calls employees and brand loyalists to influence consumer perceptions of brands, services, and products through the creation and sharing of organic Web content.
So what are savvy SEOs and inbound marketers to do? Stay engaged. It’s much easier to say than to put in to practice, we know, but in terms of staying power, long-term strategy will trump a viral YouTube video any day of the week, for not only brand recognition, but also for conversion.
Prediction #3 – Mobile Search and Social Will Grow Exponentially
Try though you might, you can’t keep hardware out of the picture – tablets have fundamentally changed the game of content consumption.
Studies have reported that as many as one-third of American adults use smartphones, a number that’s expected to grow. An entire generation of teenagers and adolescents are growing up using smartphones and tablets, so companies who optimize their strategies for mobile devices will benefit the most.
Online purchasing has been moving in an irrefutably mobile direction – Google has estimated that 44% of last-minute shopping searches originate on mobile devices. Click-through rates are already higher on mobile devices than they are for their personal computer corollaries, and location-based services like FourSquare, Gowalla, and Yelp continue to expand as they battle one another for geolocation supremacy.
Whatever changes 2012 has in store, the path to success will be one that integrates strategic search and social campaigns, and we expect that 2012 will also be the year of refined social ROI tools so that marketers can effectively and efficiently monitor multiple channels of interaction.
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