The Year Ahead in Search

It’s the time of year when experts and pundits gaze into their tea leaves and crystal balls to predict the trends for the coming year. On the search engine marketing front, Kevin Lee, CEO of New York-based search marketing firm Did-it, issued his top 10 predictions for 2005:

* Anonymous, voluntary user profiling will improve search results immensely.

* Local search results will improve as users recognize the importance of identifying their location to an engine when searching for local information.

* Contextual ad servers at the engines or at third parties will begin using behavioral and contextual targeting simultaneously to provide more relevant results.

* Major portals will crack down on affiliate spam in the algorithmic results of the engines.

* Affiliates will be banned from bidding for keywords that lead directly to the merchant site in Google due to overcrowding of similar results in the sponsored areas.

* Brands will discover the value of search in capturing consumers who have not yet formed strong brand preferences.

* At least one major marketer will sue another marketer and/or a portal for use of a trademark as a paid keyword or in the display of a pay-per-click (PPC) search ad.

* A major portal will start offering graphically enhanced search results to advertisers.

* A major portal will acquire a shopping portal to stem the tide of users moving to price comparison engines.

* Microsoft will launch an auction style PPC platform for MSN.

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