One of the finest but most subtle curses ever leveled against another is the ancient Chinese saying, â€œMay you live in interesting timesâ€. Interesting times are the stuff of history books and history is generally considered far more fun to read about than it is to live through. Thatâ€™s how it is for most people at any rate. For search marketers however, interesting times almost always bring more business. Today is proving to be a terribly interesting day.
The first of three major environmental shifts that will change the face of search engine marketing comes from Facebook. Earlier today, a message titled, â€œCheck out your Public Search Listingâ€ was appended to the top section of the personal home page of every Facebook member.
Check out your Public Search Listing
Now people can search for this listing from Facebook’s Welcome page. In a few weeks, it may also be found through search engines like Google.
You can control whether you have a public search listing, and where it appears, from your Search Privacy page.
Since your search privacy settings are set to “Everyone,” you now have a public search listing. This means that friends who aren’t yet on Facebook will be able to search for you by name from our Welcome page. Public Search Listings may only include names and profile pictures.
In a few weeks, these public search listings can be found by search engines like Google. No privacy rules are changing; anyone who discovers your public search listing must register and log in to contact you via Facebook. Learn More.
A social network profile appearing in search results is not a new phenomenon. LinkedIn profiles have been referenced by Google for almost a year and, as David Dalka and Danny Sullivan both point out, Facebook profiles started appearing in search results as early as May and June of this year. Todayâ€™s announcement however is official notice that Facebook is allowing spidering and listing of all member profiles, putting the onus on each member to set his or her own personal security settings.
While this is only one of several examples of how social media is opening member information to established search tools, Facebook is the largest and most well networked of the major social networks. The announcement signals a reciprocal relationship between search and social networks that will be of great benefit for SEOs and social media marketers. The key to getting a listing for a Facebook profile appears to be linking to that profile, like this: Facebook profile: Jim Hedger, or even better, Metamend Search Engine Marketing.
Over at the Marketing Pilgrim Blog, Paul Bennett asks â€œWill Facebook Adhere to OSW Bill of Rights?â€ OSW stands for Open Social Web,
â€œ… a consortium of social networking evangelists [which has] outlined the basis of a Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web – which supports:
â€¢ Ownership of their own personal information
â€¢ Control of whether and how such personal information is shared with others
â€¢ Freedom to grant persistent access to their personal information to trusted external sitesâ€
The second major change comes with the announcement Yahoo! has purchased the BlueLithium Ad Network for $300 million. BlueLithium is an advanced display ad placement provider much like Yahooâ€™s other interest, RightMedia.
The major search engines are actually advertising networks that use organic search results as a loss-leader product. The advertisements displayed by the major search engines have traditionally been text-based paid-search ads via Google Adwords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. Search is the dominant marketing media on the Internet and each of the search companies are expanding their abilities to contextually serve display and rich media content advertisements.
Search networks are providing an increasing number of advertising formats, a move that will eventually push the display advertising and search marketing worlds closer together. This will necessitate the evolution of search marketing firms, likely leading to strategic alliances and mergers between SEM firms and online ad brokerages. It might also promote change in the revenue models for the major search networks.
The third major shift in the search marketing environment is actually happening offline. Kevin Ryan wrote a piece in Search Engine Watch today titled, â€œHow Search Will Save Online Advertisingâ€¦ Again!â€ In it, Kevin notes how online advertising was a major driver of website revenues in the period between 1997 and 2000. After the dot-com crash in 2000, online advertising revenues virtually dried up as the exuberance was literally sucked out of the market by post-crash panic. Two years later, Overture and Google re-injected life into the online ad market with PPC. As Kevin notes, â€œâ€¦search went from a rounding error to a multi-billion dollar industry.â€
For some, the online advertising economy is reflecting a downturn in the US economy with 16% of all online ad spend coming from financial services firms. As the downturn in the economy stems from the zero-prime mortgages and unsafe housing loans made throughout the financial services sector, spending from that sector is expected to decrease over the coming quarters.
He goes on to outline a safely solid case for search spending to carry through without suffering major hiccups and for the entire online ad industry to rationalize itself fairly quickly. As one door (display advertising) closes, another (search marketing) opens and Kevin projects early benefits for SEO/SEM and behavioural targeting firms.
â€œSince 40 percent of the top 50 Internet advertisers’ spending lives in the financial services category, does that mean the Internet ad inventory crisis is over? Sure it does; if top advertisers cut their budgets, it will be easier to secure premium ad inventory.Easier, yes, but itâ€™s not going to look like the dark days of Internet advertising early on in the new millennium. Rich targeted formats will grow and flourish and mature when the financial category effectively â€œpulls outâ€ of the top slots in Internet ad spending.
Search will see some of the benefits, but categories that have emerged in the last few years will see the biggest gains. Behavioral targeting and related technologies (the unobtrusive ones, anyway) will see large gains in the face of the potential slowdown. Perhaps the large-scale convergence of search and behavioral targeting will shift into high gear.â€
In interesting times, the best one can do is find benefit from the chaos and work harder to solidify or advance their positions. I suspect all three environmental shifts will act as short-term accelerators in the marketplace of search marketing. Times will tell but one thing is for certain, the times are going to be interesting indeed.