2008: The Year Search Won by a Knockout

I started seriously working in Search back in the year 2000. Eight
years ago display ruled the Internet world and "search" as a line item on the
marketing budget did not exist.

Those display people made lots of money and then it ended,
for a time. The display bubble didn’t pop – it floated with the wind for a few
years only to be caught back on the blow wand and further inflated with hot air
from BT. This allowed display to soar higher until finally with colossal fury the
medium came crashing down on top of it. It was mutiny. In 2008 the Internet
killed its first superstar, display advertising. As search knew all along, the medium was indeed the

Eight years ago marketers did everything in their power to
disrupt your experience with pop-ups, pop unders, interstitials and spyware.

Back then email was going to rule the world. With ISPs
clueless, then helpless, spammers ripped the guts out of email marketing. Email
has of course survived and remains a great marketing tool — it even had the intestinal
fortitude in 2003 with one last gasp to build the world’s largest social
network in MySpace, but it is a shell of its former self.

Eight years ago analytics was primitive and testing was only
possible with redirects, subdomains or in series.

Back then personalization was going to be the next big thing
– though privacy was a big concern. Broadband was going to merge TV and the
Internet. Mobile was about to break out and viral marketing was white hot. Some
things never change.

Eight years ago search advertising was basically
non-existent with only GoTo.com and its 25 employees for PPC.

Back then SEO was a burgeoning but underground practice with
Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Watch the one must read site. People like SE
Guru (Daron Babin) and Detlev Johnson lead the way on the message boards.

Eight years ago… but times have changed.

Over the past eight years search and in particular paid
search (or SEM) has slowly and steadily grown up. Of course slow and steady
wins the race – and so does relevance. This year search can finally declare victory. It
has won the battle for Internet advertising supremacy and it’s hard to imagine
any serious competition for sometime.

How much did Search kick ass?

In 2003 Jupiter predicted the paid search market would grow
to $4.3 billion in revenues by 2008. The actual figure this year will be around
$11 billion – almost 3X of what was predicted only 5 years ago. Search, which
only a year ago was equal in spending to display, is now poised to double it
(according to Emarketer). Search, that scrappy and seemingly unsexy entity has
not just become mainstream, it is now the driving OS behind the future of all

Eight years ago I became passionate about search because I
though it could change the world. It gives me great pleasure to see that it
has. The impact, first felt in verticals like travel now extends
to nearly every form of media and every business vertical. Search, in some form
or another (consumer, vertical or enterprise) is arguably the single most
important business discipline. Organizations that don’t learn to harness the
power of search internally and externally place their future in a tenuous competitive

Still, we have a long way to go. Search is not taught in our
schools nor understood by most corporate middle mangers, let alone the C-level
execs. Many SEM agencies produce garbage work and many in the SEO world are
seen as nefarious geeks. Search still has an identity crisis…kind of like a kid
going through puberty.

But this year, 2008, the pimply kid showed the world he has left
hook like Joe Frazier. As soon as his skin clears up and he fills out I reckon
he’ll be downright attractive and the girls will be lining up for him. And I
believe they’ll be quite pleased with the results.

In a year with so much failure and loss I raise my glass and toast a winner. Search. Salud!



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