Guestpost: Andrew Girdwood predicts a busy year

Wed 6 January 2010 12:00, Bas van den Beld

Guestpost: Andrew Girdwood predicts a busy year

Today's guestpost is one of someone I have a very high opinion of. I first talked to Andrew Girdwood when interviewing him for a podcast. He then made some pretty good remarks. He makes some more in his post on the future of Search Marketing in Europe. He believes it will be busy, and I agree, it will be.

Looking forward to a busy 2010 of search marketing in Europe

I think 2010 will be a busy year for search marketing in Europe. I hope it will be. I hope we make continue to see progress.

Let’s make a start by looking at the agency scene.

In countries like France and Italy I think clients have become much wiser when it comes to recognising the importance of search. Right now it’s the “big traditional agencies” that tend to hold the PPC strings out there and, frankly, many do an awful job at search. 

One of the reasons for Google's aggressiveness in contacting clients directly in countries like Italy is that the search engine’s staff get frustrated at how badly run some agency search campaigns are.  

I expect to see companies across France, Italy and Spain (all of which are considered ‘region 3’ in Google’s internal structure) demand more from their agencies. For those of us reading Search Cowboys this is a good thing. We’ll be the people who can meet those demands. We’ll be those people making those demands. What it’ll mean for agencies that treat search like a media buy will be a loss of business. If they can’t finally adapt in 2010 then they’ll start to lose market share.

Spain will be hot in 2010
We’re reaching a tipping point with broadband; fast and cheap internet access. In 2009 we saw that Spaniards are good online shoppers. 

The banking system in Spain is very modern. It seems that despite the financial crisis, Spaniards are happy to trust their credit card details with online retailers. 
Combine the growth of cheaper internet access with Spain’s willingness to shop online and the result should be a good year for Search. 

Over in Germany we’ll see fierce competition among the agencies. The larger of the search specialists all now have a presence in Germany and will look to carve out more market share. Smaller agencies will innovate or perhaps merge to keep up and I expect to see something exciting developments there.

2010 will be the first full year that some agencies will have to cope without Google’s best practise funding. I fully expect this to be a near lethal kick in the teeth for a number of agencies in the UK, Germany and France. Some Googlers I spoke to at the start of 2009 were particularly worried about the situation in France and feared (totally off the record, of course) that they might lose some of the more progressive French agencies.

Here in the UK I expect competition to be high as well. We’ve already seen a rush of search agencies towards the social media side of the digital business as they attempt to tap into growing client demand.

Across Europe there will, of course, be search agencies that fail to adapt to the world of real-time search, social media and the loss of funding from Google.  We’ll weep for these agencies as they close shop but let’s also remember that dozens of new specialist agencies will start up to take their place. 
We’ll see some search engine trends across Europe too.

Bing will want to push out further into Europe. We’ve already seen Microsoft’s search engine launch out of beta in the UK despite very strong rumours that it would be delayed. In particular we look to Bing in Germany and France where Microsoft’s local team seems to be doing particularly well and the “anyone but Google” feeling seems to be gaining significant traction. 

The area for concern is how the Yahoo and Microsoft deal will integrate. According to the outline of the deal, we should expect Yahoo to become the sales force for the new search engine. Let me say that contrast between Yahoo’s European sales operation and Yahoo’s American sales operation was stark – back when Yahoo had a European search sales operation.  Yahoo pulled out of Scandinavia as early as 2004; closing their Nordic brand which was based in Copenhagen and there to serve Norway and Sweden as well as Denmark.

In the UK the Bing team have been very active, leading initiatives with the IAB and frequently making trade press comments and quotes. Hopefully, 2010 will not be a step away from that level of engagement. 

Let’s not forget Google. While we all wait to see whether the Nexus One will be available in January or February in 2010 as rumoured, many of us fear that that will be the American launch date and that Europe will lag behind. This concerns rises despite Google’s London office being a leading light in the search engine’s mobile efforts.

While the launch of the Nexus One is just a rumour, we do know that Google Voice, their universal telephone number and voice mail system, is not available in Europe. Given how progressive many European countries are with their use of mobile phones it would boggle the mind (and frustrate Google’s investors) if we didn’t see the search giant successfully push Google Voice towards Europe.

There are a number of general trends we’ll be able to see across all the search engines too. We’ll see the engines respond to the convergence of devices by providing more mobile support and assistance for lightweight devices like netbooks (just look at how Google already rewards speedy sites). 

We’ll see a continued interest in real-time and social search. The two are tightly coupled.  Real-time search works best when you can see, in real time, what your circle of friends have to say. The challenge for real-time is to move beyond relevancy, through trust and to authority. When is a tweet authoritative? That’s a question the engines will have to tackle in 2010. 

We’ll also likely see some Europe-wide trends across among searchers – people like you and I.
Privacy is likely to be a concern. Without a doubt there will be many people who are unhappy with the amount of information that the search engines are storing about them –  and who do not particularly care for personalised search results. 

Google Streetview has been a focal point of privacy concerns in recent times. The fact that actual photographs of actual homes and people are so easily available online has made the issue one discussed in mainstream media, households and workplaces around Europe.  It’ll be no surprise to discover more Streetview bans in 2010 as townspeople react badly to the search engine’s camera cars crawling down their streets. 

For every internet user who worries about their data there will be many more only too happy to make use of cloud computing. These users will be able to access their data on demand (from more than one device; including mobile devices) and this will result in more time being spent online.

Even more free time will be passed online as people increasingly get used to having the television on while accessing the internet at the same time. Successful TV ads will be responsible in creating search surges that can be tapped into and harvested by search marketers. Equally, though, we’ll find that people are more willing to slag off TV adverts that they find annoying or even misleading. Traditional advertisers may well find that their commercials come under the scrutiny of social media and search. 

In conclusion – 2010 will be busy. It’ll be busy on the agency front, the search engines will push, push and push but most of 2010 will be busy because people will be busy. People will be spending a large amount of time online, shopping online, being entertained online and working online.  It’ll be busy.

About Andrew Girdwood:

"One of the best known experts in the UK search business, he is widely regarded as an industry thought-leader, speaking regularly on the latest technical developments hitting the sector. An internet evangelist, when not appearing at events such as SMX, Ad:tech, Internet World, SES and the Online Marketing Show he spends his time reading patent applications from search engines, monitoring digital innovators and analysing algorithmic trends."

Andrew can be found:

On Twitter
On his blog
At Bigmouthmedia
On Google

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