With the New Year fast approaching, I figured it would be appropriate for me to take the time out to cover the 2010 trends in search that will likely continue to increase in 2011. The ubiquity of smart phones has contributed to an upward trend in mobile searches, while Google and Bing’s move towards more personalized search results has driven the trend towards local and social search.

Local SearchA major shift occurred in the world of search when Google localized its search engine with the introduction of Place Search late in October of this year. The announcement was significant because Google Places listings for businesses began taking precedence over other search results. As you can see in the picture below, the search results for the query “pizza” list local pizza establishments above other websites related to pizza. This development shook up the world of SEO, sending SEOs scrambling to localize their optimization efforts in order to regain top rankings in Google’s SERP. In its blog announcement about the shift, Google said its “goal is to help you feel like a local everywhere you go!” With this being the goal of the search leader, expect for search to become more local in 2011.

Social Search

From Bing and Google’s social search features, to Google’s $50 million acquisition of the social search engine Aardvark, to Bing’s recent partnership with Facebook, all evidence points to the search landscape becoming more social in the year ahead. Recently, Google even added a social element to its existing local search product, Google Places, with the introduction of Google Hotpot, a recommendation engine that makes recommendations based on the reviews of the user and his/her social network friends. By including information in search results about what a user’s friends are saying about a search query, the search results are more personalized, relevant, and trusted. With users more likely to trust links from their friends than random links displayed in SERPs, businesses will have to establish a social media presence that is worthy of a conversation amongst users.

Mobile Search

With smart phone usage on the rise in the U.S., so are mobile searches. According to an optimistic report by RBC Capital Markets, mobile searches are estimated to grow to 20% of all queries by 2012. Mobile searches can also be personalized because users are given the option of using their current GPS location to perform a search. Using their current location allows users to find nearby locations while they’re on the go.

In 2011, businesses looking to SEO to increase their return on investment need to spend time optimizing for local, social, and mobile search.

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