Search 2009: Outlook Uncertain, Yet Optimistic

Last week’s webcast included a panel of experts who discussed the current state of search marketing, and gave their personal predictions for Search in 2009. If you missed it, head on over to Search Marketing Now, and look for “Search Marketing 2008: What We’ve Learned, Where We’re Headed.”

Some highlights:

Search marketing is currently experiencing “lots of uncertainty but also plenty of optimism,” according to Chris Sherman, who moderated the webcast.

Both Chris Sherman and Dana Todd took a “good news, bad news” view. The good news, anecdotally at least, is that search marketers are busier than they’ve ever been. The bad news may be lower-than- forecast industry revenues in 2008. Dana noted that SEMPO had predicted $15.7 billion to be spent this year on search marketing – she personally feels that number may end up closer to $11 billion for 2008. Chris pointed out a recent CitiGroup report suggesting 2008 might be the first year ever that we don’t see a growth in search marketing.

Jeffrey Pruitt sees a “radical shift in the way we live our lives” based on the number of ways we access the internet from all types of gadgets and devices, from laptops to cellphones. Marketers will need to optimize content across a variety of digital platforms, and he believes search has evolved from more than website optimization to digital asset optimization, requiring a holistic approach to search.

Recognizing that he is the “mobile guy,” Greg Sterling believes that mobile search is “really here” after being talked about for more than a decade. He feels much of this is due to the iPhone which “has done more than any other device or any other event to galvanize consumer consciousness” and the industry overall. He cited statistics such as 300 million downloads in 2008 and 6.89 million iPhones sold in Q3 of this year. “People who are not thinking about mobile as a marketing vehicle really need to be doing that,” he noted.

Each participant was asked to share several personal predictions. Here are a few:

Online advertising will drop 4-8% overall in 2008 (Dana Todd)
Yahoo will buy a major newspaper brand (Dana Todd)
Search will once again save the digital economy (Jeffrey Pruitt)
Search evolves into digital asset optimization and performance media (Jeffrey Pruitt)
Market share of US search engines will remain the same in 2009 as in 2008, unless Microsoft buys Yahoo’s search business (Greg Sterling)
Mobile search will grow and traditional media will use more mobile tie-ins (Greg Sterling)

For more details — and more predications, you can view the entire webcast at Search Marketing Now.

Thanks to Marin Software for sponsoring this webcast.