Where is search going?
Search represents a growth opportunity within the overall marketing spend; and the opportunities aren't just online.
Search and display – the yin and yang of online advertising, they each representing over 40% of online ad spending - $31b in 2011. It used to be that display ads were the stimulus and search captured the intent when consumers went looking. A recent paper from IMPAQT (attached) discusses how search is changing, particularly how it is being integrated into other areas of marketing beyond just acquisition – direct marketing and customer service to name two. They also show how search can be used to understand retail shopping behavior for Back-to-School and Holiday periods. Thus, coordinating flyers, direct mail and search should be the new order of business.
Search as branding tool – it pays to use a branded term in both the query and the ad copy. While the majority of spend (and traffic) is from non-branded terms, it is the combination of an individual using a branded term and that interest being reinforced in ad copy. This suggests that print and other content should be used to reinforce the brand and its purpose or benefit.
Search is mobile – while mobile search is growing, and is expected to be ~20% of search spend next year, the ROI isn't the same as 'desktop search' possibly because the intent of search is very different – find vs. transact. And nearly 3/4 of mobile traffic for retailers is coming from tablets, and you might as well say iPad since they outsold Motorola+RIM +Samsung combined 5:1 in the last quarter. The tablet isn't a desktop and it isn't a phone – this suggests that optimizing for the device will take on a new form and user experience.
Search is automated – this is a ripe area for technical innovation. Real time bidding systems exist for both display ads (infersystems) and search (finch) based on conversion. Given the vast amount of data, these tools focus on setting bids based on what works. These tools allow for either agencies or publishers to play in space that historically was owned by the folks with green shades because it can scale across properties.
I'll leave SEO and attribution to another day….