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Five Trends for B2B Search in 2012

1          Increasing Personalisation
The search industry has been telling us for a few years now that generic search results are less meaningful than content that is personally relevant to you. 2012 is the year when this is really going to become a reality – starting with Google’s  new Search plus Your World functionality. Essentially this uses data from those you are connected to on the Google+ social network to add content to your searches.  So if you are searching for a replacement laptop, it automatically brings up relevant Google+ posts and content from colleagues and other people on your network to give a personalised result. And this is probably just the start – Google already collects data about people's online habits from their Gmail accounts, Picasa photo libraries, Chrome browsers and Google+. It's likely to use this  to help further personalise search results and make them more relevant to individual users.  Remember that B2B searchers will be impacted by personalisation just as much as individuals, so this provides another reason to investigate Google+ and build a presence on the network.

2          Greater localisation for mobile searches
More and more searches are happening on mobile devices, with a large proportion of them looking for a location specific answer. So search engines will increasingly look to access geolocation information from searchers' mobiles and smartphones in order to tailor both organic search results and PPC (pay per click) adverts to where they actually are. For B2B marketers, particularly if you offer local services, it is time to ensure you have factored location specific information into your programme. 

3          Social’s influence on Search will increase
The impact of social media on search results will continue to increase in 2012. As I’ve already mentioned Google’s Search plus Your World function brings in Google+ data to focus results, building on its existing Social Search tab. Both Google and Bing are now starting to assess the quality of web pages and how highly they should rank in searches by analysing how often and by whom they are shared on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Ensuring you are top of the search results is therefore another reason for B2B businesses to invest in social.

 4          Panda will continue to bite
Last year’s Google Panda update had a dramatic effect on search rankings. The aim was to drive out sites that relied on poor quality, mass produced content and reward genuine, fresh and relevant information. In 2012 expect Google to continue sharpen this technology, meaning marketers will need to pay close attention to how Panda evolves if they want their sites to maintain high search rankings. 

5          Bing v Google - the fight intensifies
While Google still leads the search engine market, Microsoft has invested heavily in Bing in an attempt to challenge it in areas such as mobile, social, new devices and international markets. In mobile it has partnered with a number of carriers (such as Verizon) and handset manufacturers (including Nokia and RIM) with the aim of becoming the default provider for mobile search. Through a close partnership Bing has access to Facebook data in order to experiment with ways of creating personalised results – and given Facebook’s overwhelmingly greater user numbers compared to Google+ it gives Microsoft a potential head-start in this critical area. Bing has also not neglected new devices coming onto the market – its iPad app has won praise from users, while a version of the search engine for the Xbox has brought Microsoft into the living room at a time when internet access via TVs is set to grow. Finally, partnerships with companies such as Baidu in China aim to grow Bing’s international reach, particularly in fast-growing markets. While it is still trailing behind, for B2B marketers the message is clear – don’t write off Bing in your search plans.

All in all 2012 promises to be a year of change for B2B search and time for marketers to review their strategies if they want to continue to top the rankings.