It's been a while since there's been a big shake-up in the online marketing industry*. Google hasn't launched a massive failure of a product recently. No one declared SEO dead this week, nor did anyone save the industry. Things have been pretty ho-hum, all told.
So let's rewind a bit and see what happened in search marketing this week … in 2005!!!!!11($%^&*)
(Bonus Tip! To search news archives for a specific date range, enter your query, hit enter, show options, click "Sorted by date," then "Archives." I could only get this to work in Internet Explorer. Note to Google: This should not be that hard.)
There were some big acquisitions in March 2005:
InterActiveCorp bought Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion: Awww, how cute. Remember when it was called "Ask Jeeves"? At the time, CEO Barry Diller was quoted as saying "We believe that in the future [Ask Jeeves] has the potential to become one of the great brands on the Internet and beyond." Um, beyond? You mean, like, in outer space? "And by 'beyond,' we mean in wireless." Oh. I wonder what he meant by "the future." Are we there yet?
Check out this (largely irrelevant) comment on the article:
It is still a tedious task to sift through the output of a search to find what is relevant. Cybersquatters, con artists, sleazy advertisers succeed in "stacking the link deck" to ensure that their sites bubble to the top of most searches. The pathetic state of this is illustrated by searching on "search engines" in Google. What shows up at the top of the list? A useless site called mamma.com.
Ha. In 2010, Mamma.com has lost its top spot, and isn't even on the front page. I've heard that Dogpile's #1 ranking for this search is something of a Google Easter egg, but my search turned up AltaVista first. Here's to the underdog.
So who was Google buying then? Urchin Software Corp. That's right, this week five years ago, Google took steps to purchase the Web analytics company whose technology would eventually become Google Analytics, the free analytics app we all know and love. John Battelle blogged the announcement way back when, and both Rustybrick and Randfish (Barry Schwartz and Rand Fishkin, respectively) weighed in with comments. Barry said "I am shocked. No idea that this was even a possibility." Rand was quick to bring some healthy paranoia to the table:
If I were running Urchin and attempting to optimize a site for GG, I would switch products. I'm not sure that the convergence of web analytics and statistics and a search algorithm is something I'd feel comfortable with.
What if Google notices that your conversion rates are low, or people don't spend much time on your site... Will you drop in the rankings? I'm usually not a paranoid person, but I think this type of information is exactly what Google's seeking with this purchase.
And many companies now refuse to use Google Analytics for this reason.
Also in March 2005, Yahoo purchased Flickr.
What else was going on? A big lawsuit between Google and AFP (Agence France-Presse,one of the three largest news agencies along with Associated Press and Reuters). In March 2005, Bob Hoffman wrote that the outcome could "destroy the blogosphere," spelling "doom for search engines and blogs as we know them" and ending online news syndication. Gack!!
AFP's lawsuit states Google is taking headlines and summaries of news articles from AFP clients websites. Something AFP clients could not be more happy about. AFP says this is copyright infringement.
One final tidbit from five years ago: On Search Engine Journal, Loren Baker declared search engine rankings at Yahoo and MSN worthless. He said that top rankings on Yahoo and MSN sent "zippo" traffic, "even though we are better ranked in several important search phrases for client sites at MSN than at Google!" Still true? In March 2010, Google drove 53% of our total site traffic; Yahoo drove 1.24%; Bing drove 0.80%. Ouch. (Also, our top keyword referrer on Bing is "mike siwek lawyer mi". Heh.)
*Yeah, yeah, Google/China, but that's been going on for a while.
Have a good weekend, all.