According to SEMPO (the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) it does.

Apparently money is shifting into search and away from print and classified at an increasing rate. The reason for this I’d surmise is that search is being seen as a way to follow consumers rather than just trying to put an ad in front of them. It’s now widely accepted that most markets have a need to be active in search so it’s natural for spend to shift towards it.

Key findings from the SEMPO study are:

  • The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
  • North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up significantly from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
  • Marketers are finding more search dollars by poaching budget from print magazine spending, website development, direct mail and other marketing programs
  • Paid placement captures 87.4 percent of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5 percent; paid inclusion, 0.07 percent, and technology investment, 1.4 percent.
  • Google AdWords remains the most popular search advertising program, but both Google and Yahoo sponsored search spending has decreased from a year ago

Here’s how the spend is shifting:

Shifting to search is great for all the SEO agencies out there but is also going to make their jobs a lot harder as they have to work for their money to get clients to the top of the listings. As competition grows, so it becomes more difficult to get dramatic improvements in position, some SEO agencies have had an easy ride in recent years and that’s going to get harder.

Other developments will also affect SEO such as the introduction of semantic search technology (as announced by Yahoo recently). Developments such as this could change the rankings entirely and again will mean the agencies have to stay ahead of the game and work hard (not a bad thing).

So says Tim Berners-Lee in this article on the future of the web, search and semantic technologies over on the Times website.

I tend to agree with him unless Google move into the semantic search space pretty quickly. With Yahoo announcing support for semantic mark-up within their search index Google will surely not want to be left behind.

I’d like to think the future of Google will embrace semantic technologies and make it a real ‘discovery engine’, surfacing links of high relevance to searchers through much stronger understanding of the content within.

As an aside; one thing I’ve been thinking would be a nice app would be a semantic web robot which you could set off to scour the web for content and with the added semantic features (rather than the more usual boolean profile based robot) it could learn as it went by allowing you to score results for relevance to you. The first really intelligent agent?

So Yahoo recently announced their Open Search platform. Now more details are emerging and Yahoo have announced they will be supporting semantic mark-up and making use of the structured, meaningful data that can be applied to web pages to help them index better and serve up more relevant results.

This is a big step forwards and if released into the main Yahoo Search will surely help them in their fight for users with Google and Microsoft.

Relevance is king in the search engine world, being able to interpret results by more than just standard search algorithms of content density and link equity has the potential to deliver a much more relevant results set to every search. As semantic mark-up and web standards increase in usage this could give Yahoo and edge they badly need.

There hasn’t been a major move to optimise relevance in search results for years, this could give SEO’s something to keep them busy. Rather than following the usual tactics of copy optimisation and ensuring pages are well formed, developers will now need to ensure they use the relevant semantic tags to add meaning to their pages.

The one thing that will bring the users flooding in is if an engine finds a way to deliver highly relevant results. Returning three truly relevant links is far more useful than delivering one thousand arbitrarily ordered links. I for one would immediately switch to using an engine who gets semantic search right.

I hope to see this implemented asap if Yahoo have any chance of capitalising on this move. Google will be hot on their heels otherwise…

MicroHoo updates

February 23, 2008

Some updates on the Microsoft-Yahoo approach:

Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft Platforms and Services Division sent an internal email yesterday. The email was obviously designed to be leaked (and ended up on Microsoft.com after it got into the blogosphere) judging by the language in it and the mentions of looking after both companies employees in the event of the merger going ahead. Trying to stop people jumping off the ship? Or just a good PR exercise?

Yahoo are facing another lawsuit, this time from some pension funds who claim that by declining the Microsoft offer they are not returning value to shareholders and are actually risking their investments by dragging it out looking for other parties to strike a deal with.

Lastly, Sergey Brin has expressed his nervousness at the deal going ahead, saying that ‘when you start to have companies that control the operating system, control the browsers, they really tie up the top Web sites, and can be used to manipulate stuff in various ways. I think that’s unnerving’.

So no progress really, rumours still fly about Yahoo trying to find anyone else to deal with and Microsoft seem confident as ever that the deal will go through in the end.

Interesting fact about the possible Microsoft-Yahoo merger. It turns out that 90% of Yahoo’s institutional investors also hold shares in Microsoft and most of them have more interest in Microsoft than in Yahoo.

That could mean that they are more interested in the deal going through than in securing a higher valuation for Yahoo.

It would be a real shame if shareholders decide the future of Yahoo. Times like this you need a strong CEO…

In a letter from Jerry Yang Yahoo have explained why they turned down the Microsoft bid. Is this just an attempt to appease them to prevent any further lawsuits (via Techcrunch)?

Lot’s of Yahoo coverage in the blogosphere at the moment. Here’s a few key pieces:

Yahoo are still launching new products and innovating. Examples include the News Globe mashup (via Mashable) and the exciting new mobile product oneConnect (an app allowing email IM and social networking to all come alive on your mobile phone, very promising).

The layoffs have started (again via Mashable).

Key players are leaving, Bradley Horowitz a key figure responsible for the area of Yahoo who come up with new and innovative products is apparently jumping ship to Google (via Techcrunch). This is a big loss, I’ve seen him at conferences and he’s a very sharp guy.

Microsoft are still pushing for the merger to happen and rumours are that they may take their offer straight to the shareholders (again via Mashable).

And to top it all, Yahoo are said (via Techcrunch) to be in continuing talks with News Corp about a deal which could see them become a massive powerhouse with the properties to compete with Google (although not quite on eyeballs).

Where will this all lead? Who knows, but Yahoo need to resolve the merger issues and rebuild confidence in their employees and shareholders, losing key hires and all this talk of deals is going to begin to hurt them if they don’t settle on a direction to follow soon.