Predicting how it will be for businesses in the next few yearsHere are my predictions for the next few years. These are all generalisations. And guesses. So take with a pinch of salt and enjoy:-
- More people will go self-employed/start up their own businesses as they realise that large corporations no longer offer the safety of employment they once did.
- In many markets, small will be actually be preferred to big. Being "big" used to imply you were trustworthy and stable. Now this perception is no longer necessarily true. Specialist services and products will be the growth markets, and such specialisation is the territory of the one-man-band and the small business. Profits can be made more on quality of service than number of units sold. Items will still be sold at low price points, but savings will be made by being small and lean
- Value for money will be everything. Paying for sales commissions, secretaries, project managers, etc is the burden of the larger company. Smaller companies will offer better value for money by being small
- Not only will shoppers want value for money, business owners will be very thrifty and want to invest as little as possible to their new business while getting good value for their investment. This means less spending on advertising, and more focus on search engine optimization.
- Hard times for online advertising - you can already see this with Google pulling every lever and turning every dial they can find to squeeze as much money from their advertising machine as possible - such desperation is keeping their profits on the increase but I predict profit drops for Google and other advertising networks in 2009 as ad blindness is on the increase (people are just tuning out of ads more and more), and companies can no longer afford to pay for Pay Per Click at current rates. They're also shaving earnings from Google Adsense publishers more and more, to the point it may not even be worth hosting Google Ads on your website any longer. This is a MASSIVE opportunity for specialist small businesses. Why? A huge glut of websites exist and survive today from hosting adverts on their web pages, such as Google Adsense. We will see many of these sites disappear in the next few years as the ad revenues decline - they're no longer worth hosting. The enthusiastic specialist will be impervious to such advertising decline, since they're making SALES. Grow your roots deep into your niche through offering expertise as a service, and/or unique products.
- Further Google prediction: Google will add more and more universal seach (such as youtube videos, news items and image search results) to the first page of the search results in a desperate attempt to force companies to use Google Adwords to appear on the first page (since most of the spots are taken up by non-commercial universal search items). This will fail and you will see Google's search share drop in 2009, with Yahoo! taking up most of the drop (brave prediciton, I promise not to edit this post if I'm wrong!).
- With less spending on advertising, search engine optimization will become more DIY than it's ever been, with many website owners attempting their own link building campaigns and on-page optimization. The web will be even more cluttered with reciprocal and blog comment links, devaluing link popularity as a general indicator of trust even further.
- To add to the previous point, pay-for-review directories will have more and more influence over rankings (such as Yahoo! and BOTW) since general links are becoming less and less valuable
To sum it up: tougher times will make business more of a meritocracy than it's ever been before. This is a very good thing. Companies will spend less on online advertising as this is becoming less effective while PPC costs have increased. This is good news for the expert, the specialist, the enthusiast who can win repeat visitors to their site and word of mouth recommendations by creating a website that is a memorable destination - one worth buying from and bookmarking.
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