The Yule season, which offers a brief lull in the general rush (except for us, of course) is a good time to take a look back on the year that has almost passed. For search engine marketers, 2005 was a tumultuous year full of contradictions. Search marketing became more challenging, even as the search engines became better at finding and sorting data.

The business of search marketing became more competitive, even as newer SEO firms dropped by the wayside over the past twelve months. The user-popularity of the major search engines has not changed that much but the playing field they compete on has shifted enormously. The one constant throughout 2005 was the meteoric rise of Google. While the year was full of activity, invention and innovation, 2005 was the year of the Goog.

A brief glance at a year of publishing weekly newsletters shows how much has changed in the world of search marketing and the business of search. The links in this piece all lead to the StepForth newsletter the topic was drawn from. It has been a long and very interesting year. Knowing a little bit of what is coming in the first few months of 2006, I strongly suggest next year will be even more interesting for search watchers.

January

In January, MSNsearch released its own algorithmic search results, making it the third major stand-alone search engine. Previously, MSN had imported results from the Yahoo owned Inktomi database. Of all three major search engines, MSN is the most “old-school”, relying heavily on on-page factors to produce ranking results. SEOs learn one of the major tricks to the MSN search engine is finding ways to drive the new MSNbot spider through the page as frequently as possible.

The relationship between Google and Firefox continued to fuel speculation that a Google branded browser was going to be introduced to the market. In late January, Google hired Ben Goodger, the lead Firefox developer away from the Mozilla Foundation and then registered the domain, Gbrowser.com. While Google and Firefox worked closely together in 2005, a Google branded browser remains elusive.

At the end of January, Bill Gates made the single largest private charitable commitment of all time when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $1.5 billion donation to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations

In the last week of January, Google released its fourth quarter results from 2004 showing a 101% increase in revenues over the previous year. The results marked the first time a search engine had seen billion dollar revenues in one, three-month period.

Search Engine Market Share January 2005: (source: Nielsen Net Ratings via Search Engine Watch)
Google 47%, Yahoo 21.2%, MSN 12.8%, AOL 4.7%, Ask Jeeves 1.8%

February

The head of the Yahoo Media Group, Lloyd Braun, made waves in early February with the announcement Yahoo was ramping up its efforts to serve home-entertainment content via the Internet. Yahoo was not the first search engine to seriously speak of offering TV and movie files to subscribed users but it was the first to actually do it. As the year progressed, Yahoo introduced several TV related features.

Ask Jeeves entered the blogosphere with its purchase of Bloglines. Long known as the all too quiet fourth in the search engine hierarchy, users thought the purchase of Bloglines marked a stepping-stone for Jeeves to get into the PPC market however a paid advertising program from Ask has not fully materialized. Ask Jeeves also embarked on a major advertising and promotion campaign with the release of the six thirty-second TV commercials seen here.

Google had a year of public relations issues, starting with the way they treated one of their new employees, Mark Jen. A former Microsoft employee, Jen was hired in mid-January, only to be fired in mid-February for writing about work at Google in his personal blog. Topics that got him in hot water included the Google benefits plan and how Google tries to entice workers to stay on campus as long as possible by providing essential life-services such as dentistry, dry-cleaning and state-of-the-art street-hockey equipment. When Jen wrote, a Google obsessed blogoshpere read, creating a minor conundrum for Google. One thing blog readers love even more than Google is controversy and Google created a few months worth by firing Jen.

In February, Google purchased Answers.com, one of the largest expert-reference sources on the Internet. It has
January 16, 2006





Jim Hedger is the Executive Editor of the new daily webmasters information site, SiteProNews.com. He is also a consultant to Metamend Search Engine Marketing and Enquisite Search Metrics. He spends most of his time in Victoria BC, recovering from traveling to the Internet marketing events and conventions where he spends the rest of his time.





Search Engine Guide > Jim Hedger > The Year of the Goog