Next year may just prove to be one of the most challenging times for pursuing online or Internet marketing on the web. It may just be a watershed moment for many marketers struggling to keep abreast of all the different factors which have come into play in recent months. Most of these changes will stem from two main sources for potential upheaval: the first being the New FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Guidelines regarding Testimonials and Endorsements and the second being “ALL” the recent changes within Google.
Actually, we already have the new FTC Guidelines which came into effect on Dec. 1st of 2009, but how these new rules are enforced will play out in the coming year as test-cases are brought to court. Basically, these new rules call for absolute disclosure and full transparency regarding Testimonials and Endorsements when a product or service is being offered for sale. Any business (monetary) relationship between the endorser and the company must be made known to the potential buyer. Obviously for those in online or affiliate marketing this could have a great impact if these new rules are strictly enforced. Just imagine all the website owners and bloggers who slap a few banners or affiliate links on their sites to cover hosting or operating costs… will they now have to disclose all these business arrangements?
For professional affiliate marketers and the companies/products they’re promoting, these new guidelines could cause potential headaches and/or legal ramifications since a general blanket disclaimer on their sites will no longer be suffice. To help solve this problem, many of the major companies are now placing an “affiliate” tag on all their banners and making it obvious a business relationship exists with its affiliates. In addition, many online marketers are placing additional disclaimers, affiliate seals and in other ways making it known certain links are indeed affiliate links and a relationship does exist with the product and/or services being promoted.
With these new guidelines, another big issue is email marketing, one of the major marketing techniques of most online marketers. Will a full disclosure be necessary for every email sales pitch? Savvy web marketers know the key to increased sales is in the “follow-up” and the “cookie-ing” of potential buyers; how will the new Guidelines affect this very effective marketing practice? How all these new rules or guidelines play out will make next year a very interesting one for marketing on the web.
Despite this, perhaps the greatest cause for upheaval in the coming year will be Google. There are countless reasons why Google will be a major game changer in 2010 for online marketing. Ever since Bing and more recently the potential Bing/Yahoo competition, Google has gone into complete overdrive, implementing new changes and debuting new programs like there was no tomorrow.
First, we have Google Caffeine which Google is introducing (full force) early in the new year. Google Caffeine, which is a major overhaul of its search engine, will no doubt cause many a marketer some sleepless nights as the total fall-out becomes evident. Other Google updates in the past (Florida Update comes readily to mind) have wreaked havoc on many top ranking sites, but this time Google is doing things a little differently and have even given webmasters a beta version of the new search engine. Still, rightly or wrongly, many online marketers are bracing themselves for the full impact of Caffeine. Will it mean smooth sailing or a stomach sickening roller-coaster ride for marketers and webmasters?
Second, we have the introduction of “Real Time” search which will be featured in Google’s SERPs. This will make the social media sites like Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace… much more important. Again, the implications for online marketers could be enormous since many can now reach the first page through a different route. Will it also mean more “Real Time” spam? But more importantly, will it mean a greater marketing opportunity for the online marketer who exploits it?
Third, we are seeing Google moving more and more towards “Visual Search” with the introduction of Google Goggles for mobile phones. Just take a picture and you get the Google results instantly – no typing, just point and click. Just envision countless clueless teenagers or more importantly helpless shoppers suddenly being empowered with knowledge and wisdom. Could do more for education since the invention of the printed word and the info-commercial combined. Talk about scary! But will the implications for web marketing be just as revolutionary and enlightening?
Fourth, Google has made it known through its spokesperson Matt Cutts, that site-loading times will be a ranking factor in the new improved Google. Also, proper and correct page coding will also be more important if you want your site to be at full advantage. Broken links will be a big “No-No”, while linking out to important related sites a big plus. All this is only logical, Google’s main product is and has always been its search results, anything which improves those results and provides a more pleasing experience for the Google user should be front and center. Obviously, one way for Google to stay on top, is to provide the best search results to its users.
Fifth, in order to please the end-user, Google is also moving more towards “Personalized Search” which will make SEO and ranking in the top spot for your chosen keywords a total nightmare for many professional SEOs and online marketers. If everyone can choose their own top results, isn’t SEO more or less, a lame duck? Again, the ramifications of personalized search will further play out in 2010, but will professional marketers like what they see?
Finally, while no one would argue Google is King of the Hill when it comes to online search, will all these new changes strengthen or weaken Google’s grip? Will the combined Bing/Yahoo be able to give this giant some much needed competition? Or will Google’s main competition come from an unlikely source, such as big name multi-national corporations who are moving their operations online. Can these big-name keyworded domains start directly pulling in the majority of the web’s traffic, making all search engines secondary? As people become more web savvy, will they go directly to what they’re looking for on the web, bypassing the search engines altogether – including the mighty Google? Such a scenario could have greater consequences for the affiliate marketer since a direct line to a company’s site or product will obviously mean less sales for the online marketer, who really works in coordination with the search engines, either through organic search or PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising in these same search engines.
Overall, the new FTC Guidelines and recent changes to Google, will make next year one of the most interesting times to be pitching anything online. Throw into this the full effect that a combined Bing/Yahoo might bring to the table, and you have the recipe for a tumultuous white knuckle ride, until the dust finally settles and marketers make adjustments like they always do. Until then, hold on because things will probably get a little hectic for many web marketers before we see the light at the end of the tunnel.