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2007 Predictions - the rise of new media optimization, the peak of pay-for-review, SMO takes a back seat, link baiting tackled by engines

Well, it is that time of year again. The time of year when I boldly make my predictions for the coming year.

I have to tell you that over the past few years that I've done this I've been pretty successful. Granted some of my predictions may be considered “safe” by a few, but all in all I'd say my success rate has been in the high 70% to low 80% range.

So keeping that in mind, let's get right to it, shall we?

Prediction one – Social Media Optimization (SMO) begins to lose favor with online marketers.

I already know what a lot of your might be saying (aside from those who are saying what is SMO?). You are saying “SMO is relatively new, how can it already be dying?”

And to be honest, I wouldn't say it is dying, just changing form. As with all methods for improving online positioning, this one is growing up.

Early this year we saw the rise of sites like Digg and Reddit. Sure they've been around a while, but it wasn't until 2006 that the SEM community embraced them as a legitimate form of online marketing.

Similarly, MySpace, which has also been around for a while, was also a target for online marketers.

And, as one would expect, these sites began to fight back. We are just hearing now how Digg is banning some domains from participating, while it appears that users are reacting against MySpace because of it's apparent commercial shift.

And this is why I think the current tactics will change – Digg will lose favor among online marketers – mostly because it's algorithms have made it harder to appropriately position a page for an adequate return, but also because we'll see more and more “big” names in the industry get banned by Digg.

And because some of these names are influencers, we will begin to see others in the industry fall in line, causing a boycott of Digg.

But all is not lost – there are other sites such as Reddit which doesn't appear to have targeted online marketers (yet).

As for MySpace, I do think it will continue to evolve but I think it will become more of a professional site – much like LinkedIn wanted to be. Sure there will still be those who use MySpace for fun and entertainment, and as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, but I don't see the commercialization of MySpace ending any time soon.

Prediction #2 – Link Baiting tackled by engines

This may be another term that some people say “huh?” when they read it.

Link baiting is a method used to increase the number of links to a site in an what may be percieved as an unnatural way. While linkbaiting itself is not an unnatural form of link building – because at its very essence it is natural link building – it is still a method used to artificially increase the number of incoming links.

Personally I don't think link baiting is bad – people have been doing it for years even before it was called link baiting. It is really just what happens when you write a really good piece of web content – people want to link to it.

But now that it is called link baiting, more people are paying attention.

And this is why this makes my list of predictions – because I think the engines are going to try and figure out a way to discount the effects of link building on rankings.

While I don't know how they will do it (I'll leave that up to all the PhDs at the various engines to figure out) I do expect that some time in the latter ½ of 2007 there will be an attempt to tackle this issue. And here is why:

Already we are seeing SEM Firms offering link baiting as a service. And many of these are very good at it. But I think as time goes on we'll find the editorial value of these pieces of link bait begin to fall. People will be writing trash simply for the purposes of link baiting.

Since the engines don't want their indexed filled with useless content, they will begin to consider ways to reduce it, much like they tackled link farms, sitewide linking and other tactics SEMs have used to influence rankings.

Prediction 3: The rise of New Media Optimization

First, let me say that I've called this “New Media Optimization” because I just don't know what else to call it.

By new media I mean things like YouTube and Google Video. And to a lesser extent Flikr, Picasaweb and others.

Now I know video and picture sharing sites are nothing new. They've been around for a few years now.

But the question has always been – how does an SEM take advantage of these sites? After all, you can't link back to a site from a picture hosted on Flickr. And even if you could, the engines aren't yet smart enough to understand what the picture is about.

Similarly, aside from a URL embedded in a video description, there is no way to “optimize” a video to improve a websites search engine rankings.

But I think marketers are soon going to realize that these sites offer something new. Something that can be done in addition to more traditional online marketing techniques.

Take YouTube as an example. A local computer technician can not rank highly on the search engines for competitive phrases because they are competing against much larger sites like Dell's technical support website, and Microsoft's support website.

But, he can use YouTube to illustrate his abilities via a short instructional video. He can use YouTube and other video sharing sites to further his reputation online without doing a lick of optimization.

Similarly, he could use sites like Flickr and create a slideshow showing how to replace RAM in your computer (for example) or how to install a new video card.

All these sites are going to emerge as opportunities in the coming years for online marketers.

Prediction #4 – The rise of Pay for Review sites

This is a new type of website, just introduced this year. With these services, you pay bloggers and other online content creators to write a review of your product or service, and then post that review on their website.

Obviously there are many reasons to do this. First, you get a good review from a reputable source in the industry, and second you get a link (or even a few links) back to your site from that review.

From an SEO perspective this is an ideal situation – you will get multiple links back to your site on pages which talk about your products or services. Over time, these pages earn more link popularity on their own which then transfers back to your site.

That is why I see these pay for review sites popping up all over the place in 2007.

Much like we saw an influx of video sharing sites because of the success of YouTube, we'll see variations on the pay-per-post theme.

Who will win this new online battle is hard to say at this point – mostly because right now there is only a handful of players – but I bet that by the end of 2007 everyone will be talking about pay-per-post.

Conclusion

So there you have it – my (somewhat safe) predictions for 2007.

Overall I see 2007 continue where 2006 left off – people looking for other avenues to improve their online presence. Because it is getting so hard nowadays to position either organically or via PPC on a search engines, people will be looking to these alternatives.

Those who are ready to take advantage of emerging opportunities will be the most successful while everyone else plays catchup.

Rob Sullivan
Search Engine Marketing and Brand Development Strategist
Get In Position

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