Reviewing My 2006 Predictions

Most of the time, when a columnist makes a prediction, you never get to hear about how they did. When I was back at eMarketer, Senior Analyst Ben Macklin would periodically look back on how well the researchers did with their forecasting, and perhaps he was the inspiration for me doing the same.

Here’s a bonus: I knew for weeks this column was coming, so I didn’t have to worry about what topics I’d cover during the holidays.

As far as my predictions went, I was 3-3-2 by my own-record-keeping, which I think was fair enough (if I was too generous on one, I probably was too hard on another). Now you get to decide, if you’re so inclined. In two weeks, I’ll come up with some predictions for 2007 (another fun one’s coming in between).

The full column’s in the extended entry and, of course, at MediaPost

Column: Reviewing My 2006 Predictions

ONCE EVERY twelve months, as tradition now dictates, I
get to publicly eat my hat. It’s both humbling and cathartic, and it’s in line
with the values of accountability that search marketers preach.

Of the eight
predictions for 2006
that I penned in January, I aced three, was way off on
two, and got partial credit on the others. Let’s reminisce.

How sweet it is

My biggest coup was just barely realized in time for this year’s
roundup: "Jeeves goes local." I wrote that InterActiveCorp would get its $2
billion worth from Ask Jeeves by making a big push with local search. IAC
delivered a few weeks back with AskCity, a move that was discussed in depth last
week
. It launched too late to make an impact, but it’s one of the better
search sites that debuted this year, and there’s a lot of room for Ask.com to
build on it.

For another entry in the win column, I predicted last year,
"Measurements debut for engagement; search is neglected." Sure enough, the
Interactive Advertising Bureau released a campaign for interactive advertising
that touts search marketing below mobile marketing, but it never bothered
explaining the role of search in engagement. Bill Wise explained in
a column he penned this month
,  "The IAB doesn’t
seem to be looking to search. You can see that clearly when you look at the
IAB’s ‘Media More Engaging’ page
Digital and display are on top; search is at the bottom, and appears
below-the-fold on my laptop. Perhaps more tellingly, the page itself is entirely
Flash-based. And as any search marketer can tell you, Flash is completely
unreadable to the search engines."

The final win was predicting stagnation
for MSN, despite raves from the press and marketers. Microsoft has done a great
job of reorganizing its account groups and is much better equipped to cater to
advertisers in the year ahead, and its adCenter Labs has so many free tools, you
can spend weeks just getting a sense of the intelligence you can mine (read Aaron Goldman’s recent
column
for a review). Still, consumers are tougher to win over; comScore
showed a slight decline in MSN’s market share year-over-year based on its
September and October search engine rankings, and data from Hitwise’s blogs and
Compete’s site rankings also showed MSN was treading water this year.

Whoa, I was halfway there

My first prediction for 2006, which some mobile properties vowed
to prove wrong this year, was "Mobile search remains confined to text
messaging." It wasn’t quite that bleak, as Google and Yahoo, among others, have
rolled out mobile search properties and ad models. Yet if you’re an agency
advising a marketer on how to broaden the reach of a search campaign, how high
would mobile rank on your list? Now is a great time to start testing mobile
search marketing campaigns, especially while there are far fewer competitors to
worry about, but 2006 was not the year of mobile search, even if a lot of the
groundwork was built and some early adopter consumers came to swear by it.

I also predicted, "Google Wallet goes Base jumping," which was
mostly right. Instead of Google Wallet, this summer we were graced with Google
Checkout, which has become one of Google’s most heavily promoted offerings,
especially during the holiday season. Google Checkout can be used with any
Google Base posting, so you can complete a transaction through the Base-Checkout
pairing. Such usage remains minimal, though, and Google hasn’t given Base enough
of a push to even remotely consider it a challenge to eBay, or view it as a
significant revenue stream.

Another prediction was that in 2006, behavioral targeting and
search would join forces. Several companies have made strides here, and some
marketers are tapping into various forms of this, but it might be another year
before marketers run such campaigns en masse.

Rudie can fail

There were two outright misses. One was the out-on-a-limb
prediction that iTunes would improve its search functionality and become more of
a music search engine. That just didn’t happen; the iTunes search experience is
no better than it was this time last year. Given that you can only use iTunes to
search for content within its system, the major engines trump iTunes handily for
music search.

Then there’s the more humbling prediction: "Yahoo is the partner
everyone wants to dance with." Yahoo had its big wins, held on to search share,
made strides with social media, released industry-leading research, and struck
some notable partnerships, but from Panama postponements to peanut butter
manifestos, this was a year Yahoo would rather do over.

Fortunately, we all get a do-over, even columnists. Thanks for
forgiving some of the missed calls in 2006. While I’ll share some predictions
for 2007 in an upcoming column, here’s my first one: you’ll have a wonderful New
Year. If I just get that one right, I’ll be happy.

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