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Happy New Year! Cheers to big clicks in 2004!

In Tuesday’s issue we looked at Google predictions for 2004. As we all know, Google’s not the only search engine, and those of us whose rankings dropped after the Florida update learned that it’s not profitable to expect traffic from Google.

Luckily there are other search engines out there, and other search engine trends that will keep traffic coming to your site.

I asked our resident search engine experts, along with some I met at the Search Engine Strategies conference, what their search engine industry predictions were for 2004.

What are your predictions?

Local Search Disappoints. Localized search will finally begin to appear in more places, but advertisers and users will be disappointed with the results. In spite of early difficulties, advertising money will continue to flow into local search.

Dan Thies
http://www.seoresearchlabs.com

Local Search Explodes. Local search will explode in 2004. According to the Pew Internet Project, 63% of American adults now go online. That translates into approximately 126 million people. According to Pew, 88% of those with internet access use a search engine to find information. That translates into approximately 111 million people.

This is why the cost per lead using search is $0.29 while the cost per lead using the Yellow Pages is $1.18, according to Safa Rashtchy, senior analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. As more and more marketers — particularly at small and medium businesses — discover this fact, they will shift a much larger share of their marketing dollars into local search.

Discuss the future of local search.

Greg Jarboe
http://www.seo-pr.com

Search Advertising Decline. I also predict that search engine advertising will slowly begin to cease being the “hot” thing. People still don’t understand that search engine advertising is not too different than banner advertising. Instead of a graphic image, you have text ads. What are they doing with text ads? You can change the font, the colors, the borders. Not anything banner advertisers used to do, huh?

I predict that click-through percentages will eventually become the same percentages as banners. Maybe not in 2004. But the decline is already beginning to show.

Do you think search advertising will decline? Post here!

Shari Thurow
http://www.grantasticdesigns.com

The Yahoo Saga. Yahoo! 1: Yahoo will unveil a new Inktomi that is larger, faster, and more initially providing spotty relevancy results. It will contain a lot of spam but this will be fixed quickly.

Yahoo! 2: Yahoo will make a move to replace dmoz/ODP across all sites using any Inktomi index feeds as well as Overture results. The big win for Yahoo is that the directory is once again of value and that it will be used.

Yahoo! 3: Trusted feeds will be better controlled, but their results will be given a ranking boost in the non-sponsored area in apparent violation of FTC guidelines. Expect some legal issues here.

Yahoo! 4: Inktomi will have a new algorithm and while it will have some relevancy wins, it will likewise have some failures. Overall it edges up on the “I like the results” scale by the end of 1Q04.

Yahoo! 5: Big winner in geo-targeting area.

What do you expect from Yahoo! this year? Share your thoughts here.

Bruce Clay
http://www.bruceclay.com

Move Away From Search Engine Optimization. I predict we will see a shift from professionals who strictly do Search Engine Optimization into more “holistic” web marketing approaches including usability and copywriting, link building from a viewpoint of driving traffic, and PPC. There aren’t any simple formulas to increase rankings and traffic anymore – it’s going to take more creativity and effort to do online marketing well.

Scottie Claiborne
http://www.rightclickwebs.com/

eBay Search. eBay will become a top product search portal as Americans finally learn to haggle, and “eBay optimization” will become the hot new specialization for SEO/SEM consultants.

Dan Thies
http://www.seoresearchlabs.com

So that’s what’s coming in 2004, folks… but wait, we’re forgetting someone. Microsoft. Next issue focuses on what M$ has planned for search, and what you can do to prepare.

PubConference 2004: who’s going with me?

Happy New Year!

Garrett French + The WebProNews Team

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.

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