Search engine marketing is respected, as is search in general

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This article is part of a series, a review of the 2000s and developments in research. Below are the major events of 2001 in consumer research. For the full series, see the introduction, The Google Decade: Search In Review, 2000 To 2009.

Search Marketing Gets Respect

For me, the biggest story of 2001 was the recognition that search marketing was a legitimate business that big business should consider. Although search was a powerful channel for years before, the profits generated by public search companies like GoTo (later Overture) helped some people realize that something big was going on. While Forrester still did not recommend research for driving website traffic, analyst firm Jupiter eventually suggested it should be considered. All of this made me feel that the search had taken a turn, and I wrote:

To some extent, search engine marketing has been like the Rodney Dangerfield of online advertising – it has received no respect. Or, at least, it got zero respect for the time and effort analyst firms spent to figure it out over banner ads. The good news is that everything is about to change.

It’s Search Marketing, not SEO.

This is also the year I asked for an umbrella term to cover search marketing activities. Research, until this year, was largely about SEO – search engine optimization, the act of getting better “free” or “organic” listings in search engines. But as paid search opportunities appeared, the ability to buy a listing on a cost-per-click/pay-per-click basis, people wondered if this all fell under the SEO category. My suggestion was that there should be an umbrella term, “search engine marketing”, which would cover the two main activities: SEO + PPC. As I wrote at the time:

As the nature of search engine promotion has broadened and matured, the label “search engine optimization” hasn’t seemed to cover what some companies and individuals think they are doing. But what should come to replace it, if any?

The venerable phrase “search engine optimization” originally arose to cover optimization that was done for crawler-based search engines. Now, directories are a big part of the search engine mix, as are paid listing services. In many cases, you’re not really “optimizing” for these other places, but you’re definitely doing work that can influence how people are listed.

Personally, my favorite successor term is “search engine marketing”…. I like this term because I feel it encompasses many things: crawler optimization, paid listing management, directory submission, etc. All of these activities are search engine marketing.

These days I always push that SEM = SEO + PPC. But for some it has been turned into SEM = PPC. Wikipedia’s bad entry on search engine marketing doesn’t help, on that front. I think it’s important to have an umbrella term because a good search marketer wants to consider both things. Also, while I love the acronym SEM, I tend to just say “search marketing” rather than “search engine marketing” now.

Google hits its first bump

In 2001, Google acquired the newsgroup search service Deja. The temporary changes he made quickly drew attacks. With everyone attacking Google these days, this was the first major PR challenge it’s ever faced, in my opinion. Nor has the company learned much from it. Google continued to operate on the assumption that because it believed internally that it would do no harm (a motto that hasn’t even been coined yet), everyone externally would believe it. The outsiders didn’t, of course – and Google’s failure to achieve this kept biting it again and again.

Google, Bush and the first Google bombs

Speaking of Google, in 2000 it was criticized for the way its supposedly high relevance ranked the results of a search for “Liv Tyler nude” which, well, didn’t actually have nude photos of her. ‘actress. In 2001, a similar thing happened involving George W. Bush. No, not Google’s miserable failed bomb. Instead, Google ranked official Bush campaign websites top for “motherf***r.” Again, this raised more questions about the actual quality of Google’s search algorithm.

AltaVista dies; Teoma emerges

Beyond Google, AltaVista underwent four redesigns this year as it belatedly tried to win in the portal game. He never recovered. AltaVista had been the choice of serious researchers, and many Google ideas came from AltaVista. But as AltaVista went down the wrong path, its users switched to Google, further entrenching Google for future dominance.

Meanwhile, Teoma – which used its own brand of link analytics like Google – launched that year and later that year picked up a song for Ask Jeeves. Ask Jeeves struck a $500 million stock purchase deal for Direct Hit technology the previous year. Now, after the dotcom crash, he got Teoma for a song: a $4 million cash and stock deal.

The search grows as the information resource

Another remarkable change this year is the importance of research in everyday life. A study found that we suffer from research rage if we don’t get answers in 15 minutes or less. Another published this year found that in just five years, search engines had supplanted information resources we had relied on for hundreds and thousands of years, such as friends, family and libraries.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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