Reviewing a Perilous Transition – The News of January 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Posted by Jim Hedger @ 7:24 pm

2008 started on a promising note however it quickly descended into a chaotic nightmare that can easily be characterized as the harshest, stupidest, good-for-no-one, waste of a year in the short history of search. 2008 sucked on virtually every level imaginable. The past twelve months have produced a few triumphant highlights but they are grossly over-shadowed by a slew of extraordinarily unfortunate events. Entering the last two weeks of the year, conditions in the search marketing industry are ripe for contrition, a dark and unkempt path we’ve never traveled down before.

The extraordinary events of the past year drained a lot of life and talent out of the industry. Ironically, these events happened just at a time when the search and digital marketing sectors are being widely considered and understood by the greater advertising industry. Having managed to grow the search marketing sector from what was essentially a miscellaneous line-item on corporate marketing budgets to a multi-billion dollar advertising industry, 2008 and 2009 were supposed to be the hyper-breakthrough years. Now the industry feels like it is stuck at the nozzle of an aerosol canister with enormous propellant force behind us but stopped by an untimely blockage near the top of the tube.

Before diving into a long review written to wrench your hearts and hurt your brains, I have one overarching prediction for the coming year. The tale of 2009 for the search marketing sector will be told in first quarter transfers of ad-spends from traditional to digital marketing sources. If all goes as predicted, most of the sector will survive to see another year. If, by the middle of the second quarter 09, we do not see a massive transfer of spend to digital marketing channels, we’ll see a lot of smaller firms closing up shop. If 2009 will be the Year of the Darwinist, what exactly was 2008?

Let’s start with the fellow who saw it coming. On Friday January 4, Greg Linden wrote, “The coming 2008 dot-com crash“. Check out Greg’s post and then settle back for an unsettling year-end review.

January 2008

GOOG

    $685.19/share, Jan 2
    $564.30/share, Jan 31

YHOO

    $23.75/share, Jan 2
    $19.18/share, Jan 31

MSFT

    $35.22/share, Jan 2
    $32.60/share, Jan 31

Jan 2
AOL Retires Netscape Browser
Marking the end of an era, AOL has decided to retire the Netscape Web browser after nearly 14 years of operation. As a result, AOL has decided to throw its weight behind Mozilla’s Firefox browser.

Google Ranking #6 Penalty / Filter
In early December some astute webmasters noticed that some of their longterm (in some cases many years) #1 or #2 ranking pages in Google now rank at #6.

Jan 3
Ask Settles Click Fraud Suit
Click fraud settlement between Ask and Lane’s Gifts and Collectibles.

SEO Firm CEO Jailed
Infamous Traffic Power CEO Matt Marlon arrested for foreclosure scam. (Matt Cutts from Google also wrote about Matt Marlon being jailed)

Jan 7
Gray Outs Google for Not Following its Own Paid Link Rules
… what I’d really like to know is why isn’t Google following their own recommendations and implementation suggestions for nofollows, redirects, and robots.txt.

Wikia Search Debuts Today
Over a year ago, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales stated he was going to start a people-powered search engine. After a couple delays and a great deal of hype, Wikia Search launched its initial Alpha test earlier this morning.

Jan 8
Yahoo Announces Mobile Software for Third Party Developers
Yahoo is now also turning to mobile for more ad dollars and making sure they have their share of the mobile space.

Microsoft Moves to Buy FAST
Earlier today, Microsoft released information stating they will complete a $1.2billion purchase of Norwegian search firm FAST Search and Transfer sometime in the second quarter of this year.

Google SERP Changes Result in Traffic Spikes
A huge number of webmasters are reporting a significant increase in traffic. Some even report the hike to be as big as double.

Matt McGee publishes the SEO Success Pyramid
Well, the best SEOs don’t talk to their clients about rankings; they talk about the process of making great web sites that earn traffic and convert visitors into customers.

Network Solutions Registering Domains After Availability Lookup
If you go to the Networks Solutions site and look up a domain name to see if it’s registered then Network Solutions, within seconds, will buy the domain name, causing you to have to go buy it from them.

Jan 9
Jim Lanzone replaced as Ask.com CEO
Search Engine Journal is reporting that IAC has announced today that Jim Lanzone was stepping down as CEO of Ask.com and being replaced by IAC insider Jim Safka.

Network Solutions Charging For Protection
Controversy is brewing about domain registrar company Network Solutions’ newly instituted practice of automatically registering domain names users search for and then jacking up the price during ICANN’s return grace period.

FCC Stepping in on Net Neutrality?
Back in November we mentioned how Free Press and other groups wanted ISP/cable company Comcast brought before the FCC for the way the company imitated users on BitTorrent to terminate downloads. And now, the FCC will be looking into it—at least according to Chairman Kevin Martin, speaking at CES.

Jan 10
Network Solutions amends Net registration process
Network Solutions, a dominant registrar of Internet sites, has stepped back from some controversial elements of a new registration process.

New Google Toolbar PageRank Update
Google ‘Toolbar’ PageRank is updating this week, in what seems to be the first PageRank update of 2008. Barry points to this Webmaster World thread about sites being penalized and dropped down to a zero.

Google vs. MSN on Paid Links and Cloaking
Gray areas getting gray-er…

Report: Nearly 90% Don’t Pay Attention to PPC Ads
A report from Ad Age published recently, reveals some eye-popping facts and figures about search marketing.

SEMPO releases SEM Salary Survey Results
In-house search engine marketers (SEMs) are receiving healthy salaries in line with their experience levels but if you want a salary in the mid-to-high $100s to the $200K range you are usually going to have to invest five to seven years to get there

Gizmodo Blog Pranks CES
CES has no shortage of displays. And when MAKE offered us some TV-B-Gone clickers to bring to the show, we pretty much couldn’t help ourselves. We shut off a TV. And then another. And then a wall of TVs. And we just couldn’t stop.

Jan 11
Google Boots IncrediMail from AdSense Program
IncrediMail revealed today that they had received a notification from Google indicating that they had been dismissed from the Google AdSense program. Upon the announcement of this news, IncrediMail shares plummeted more than 45% to a new year low.

Wired Gets Buzz-Bombed by Barry
An unfortunate chain of events started moments after Search Engine Land editor Barry Schwartz published a piece that noted Wired Magazine’s “How-To” Wiki pages did not discourage link seeding with NOFOLLOW tags.Get a Free Link From Wired

Naturally a serious number of SEL readers immediately did the predictable. They spammed the hell out of the How-To wiki in an immediate lesson on How-To suck PR from thin air. Wired got righteously freaked out and contacted SEL publisher Danny Sullivan. Danny got good and freaked out too. He published an apology the next business day.

Before his apology however, a flame-war at Sphinn erupted and some folks from the SEO community took a lot of frustration out on each other.

Jan 14
An Apology To Wired & The Search Marketing Community
On Friday, Search Engine Land published a piece about the Wired How To wiki, and how easy it was to gain a link from it. Our piece – which I gave the go ahead to — generated some serious spam issues for Wired…

You have to be in the search community to understand what a wrenching feeling it was reading Danny’s apology. This is the dude who best articulated and popularized search engine marketing over the years. He has global street-cred. More than anybody else, Danny has represented and guided the industry and the results of an honest article with an unfortunate link-bait headline made him feel so obviously crappy. AOL killing Netscape was one thing but this short episode seriously sucked.

Being the Blogging Media: Ethical Questions on the Fly
An ugly flame war started over the weekend in reaction to the story. By Monday, Danny was moved to eat public crow and issue the lengthy apology. As someone who regularly writes about the search marketing space, I appreciate his sentiments but really wish he hadn’t.

Google Launches iGoogle for the iPhone & Mobile Phones
Google has gone live with a version of iGoogle, their personalized home page, for the iPhone and other mobile devices.

The Face Behind Facebook
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on CBS 60-Minutes

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Ask.com For Failure to Prevent Click Fraud
Ask.com is apparently being sued in a class action lawsuit for “failing to adequately detect and stop ‘click fraud’ or other invalid or improper clicks on online advertisements.”

Worst Stock for 2008: Yahoo!
The Motley Fool called it… Little could they know about what was to come…

Jan 15
FCC wants to know: Is degrading P2P traffic ‘reasonable’?
As foreshadowed at the Consumer Electronics Show last week, federal regulators this week took the first formal step into investigating complaints about how Internet service providers, such as Comcast, manage peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic on their networks.

Another Media Exec (Vince Broady) Leaves Yahoo
As Yahoo narrows its focus on a few key priorities, it’s not surprising to see those whose projects fall outside those areas leave the company. And Yahoo’s media group, whose once lofty mission to produce original, Hollywood-style content has been scaled back significantly over the past year or so, has seen its share of departures.

Jan 16
Ron Paul is the Snakes on a Plane of 2008
Up until now, if you had been reading reddit and other social media sites fairly regularly you would have thought that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was the second coming. He had a ton of online exposure, support, and young followers.

Robert Scoble Joining FastCompany.tv
Top blogger, social media guru, and video podcaster, Scoble will join Mansuetto Ventures–the company behind Fast Company and Inc. magazines–and create a new video channel called FastCompany.tv.

SEMMY 2008 Nominations Declared
The SEMMYS are an annual awards event created to honor, “the content produced across the search and online marketing industry.

Jan 17
Target Insults Bloggers, Shoots Self In Foot. Again.
Target’s back facing the ire of bloggers after they released an arguably offensive ad campaign and then refused to speak to Shaping Youth blogger Amy Jussel when she inquired about it. Target told Amy they couldn’t speak with her because the fine establishment they’re running “does not participate with non-traditional media outlets”.

Microsoft’s Live Search Still Can’t Work Out 301 Permanent Redirects
A 301 redirect typically tells a search engine that page A (old URL) moved permanently to page B (a new URL). A search engine will see that 301 status code and log that the new URL is in a new location.

Jan 18
Jupiter: Local Online Advertising Will Be Worth $8.9 Billion In 2012
… local online advertising, defined as display, search, and classifieds, will be worth $8.9 billion in 2012. Local search is $2.5 billion of that total, according to Jupiter.

Are Digg Editors Burying Your Story?
OK, if Valleywag’s revelation–that Digg employs editors to bury certain stories–is news to you, welcome to the nightmare.

Google Wants to Change the World with 5 Initiatives
Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org announces its 5 core initiatives that will be the focus of its social responsibility activities.

Jan 20
Yahoo! integrates del.icio.us bookmarks into regular search results
After the regular search listing Yahoo! will add a line saying something like “X people bookmarked this page under [these categories]“.

Jan 21
Big Changes Coming to Yahoo?
Nearly nine months ago, co-founder Jerry Yang replaced Terry Semel as CEO of Internet search icon Yahoo. The change in management was necessitated by Yahoo’s continued second place showing to rival Google in search market share and Yahoo’s subsequent lagging stock performance. Yang came in promising to reshape Yahoo into the Internet power-hitter it used to be.

Hundreds of Layoffs Expected at Yahoo
Yahoo is planning to lay off hundreds of employees in an effort to increase its profitability, prop up its deflated stock price and narrow the focus of its sprawling Internet portal to a smaller number of crucial areas, people close to the company said Monday.

Say Goodbye To WebSideStory: Omniture Shareholders Approve Visual Sciences Purchase
Last week Omniture shareholders approved the acquisition of Visual Sciences and in essence started the burial process for WebSideStory. Remember WebsideStory bought Visual Sciences and then VS took over from within.

The Anatomy of a RipOff Report Lawsuit
Last week, there were several excellent posts elucidating the many ways RipOff Report violates Google’s Terms of Service, and yet manages to stay on top of the Google search results pages.

Recession-Ho! (The Search Ecosystem Enters its First Economic Downturn)
Most serious observers of the U.S. economy agree that we’re already in a recession; the question for us in search marketing is how badly we’ll all be hit. (This is the first article of 2008 based on the effects of recession)

Jan 22
Google and IncrediMail Collaborate Once Again
A little over a week ago, we reported that Google and IncrediMail broke up as the search engine giant decided to stop serving Google AdSense ads on the IncrediMail site. Well, it looks like all is well now, and IncrediMail is now back on track with Google.

What To Do About Yahoo
Yahoo either has to start fighting or get the hell out of the way. Do or do not, there is no try.

Jan 23
Search Stocks & The Stock Crash: GOOG, YHOO, & MSFT
Today John Battelle noted what a plunge Google took on the stock market yesterday and in general through the current year. I thought it would be fun to look at Microsoft and Yahoo as well.

Meg Whitman to leave eBay
The last CEO standing from the days before the 2000 dot-com crash is leaving her post at the end of March. Long-time eBay CEO Meg Whitman is stepping away from the executive office she has occupied for nearly ten years.

Google’s Mysterious Position Six Penalty
The signs of being hit by a “position six penalty” is when you see your number one or two rankings shift downwards to position number six in Google.

Google Reverses Number 6 Penalty?
folks over at WebmasterWorld, starting around message number 3550215 on January 16th, have noticed that for many of their keywords hit by the number 6 penalty (or whatever you want to call it), noticed they were back at number one!

A Gloomy Searchonomic Forecast
Kevin Ryan suggests that long-term thinking may be Yahoo’s best approach.

Jan 24
Day 2: Search Stocks & Is Search Recession Proof?
Let’s do the stock thing again. As with yesterday, the chart above shows Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), and Microsoft (MSFT) against the NASDAQ, over the past month. The key difference is that while the latter three stabilized, Google kept dropping. That leads some to wonder if search is going to be in trouble.

Redirects: Permanent 301 vs. Temporary 302
Using the correct redirect, in most cases a permanent 301, is key to helping maintain your existing rankings, whether your site is undergoing a complete face lift, or if you simply want to move a few pages around.

Southwest Airlines to Test Internet Access
Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to begin trials of satellite-to-airplane broadband Internet service sometime this summer

Google News Searches Stop Working Temporarily
Yesterday, at about 10AM Eastern Time, reports came in that Google News search was not working.

Think You’re Successfully Flying Under Google’s Radar? Think Again.
Have you been trying to “fly under the radar,” engaging in activities outside of Google’s guidelines but subtly so as not to get caught?

The Importance of Page One Placement

From a search engine optimization perspective, (or PPC), all that matters is customer acquisition.

Jan 25
Google Moving to De-monitize Domain Tasting?
Google is rumored to be ending the monetization of controversial but lucrative practice known as domain tasting by ceasing to provide AdWords inventory to domains that are less than five days old.

Google Shares Down more than 20%
On Dec 26, 2007 Google shares closed at $710.84. Today one short month later, Jan 25, 2008, Google closed at $566.40.

EU Regulators Likely to Approve Google’s DoubleClick Deal
Despite rivals’ concerns that Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick may increase the cost and difficulty in advertising online advertising, EU regulators reviewing the case are likely to approve the $3.1 billion takeover deal.

How Microsoft Makes Money
As we all know Microsoft has recently released their second quarter earnings and they did very well: $4.7 billion, or 50 cents a share, on revenue of $16.36 billion. But how does Microsoft make money? The table below starts to segment their revenue by their various online/offline channels.

What Does A Recession Mean For Your Search Program?
By most accounts, the U.S. economy is about to enter the 12th recession since WWII.

Microsoft Earnings Soar, Gates Calls For More Help To Poor
Microsoft issued fiscal Q2 earnings yesterday and simply crushed estimates. The company had quarterly revenues of more than $16 billion, which exceeded the highest previous quarterly earnings mark by a whopping $2 billion

Geo-Targeting Organic Google Placements
Google maintains country-specific search results for almost all major nation states.

Jan 28
Sculpting with Nofollow Works Pretty Darn Well
Back in mid-December, SEOmoz made a number of changes to our use of the rel=”nofollow” tag on the internal link structure of this site.

Search not understood and used in PR campaigns
Search, however, is not part of the PR lexicon yet. In answer to a question from the floor Joe Kessler of SS & K said that search is an area every PR person should understand and use, but it is a gaping hole in the PR toolset.

Yahoo (YHOO) Going Forward With “Drastic” Layoffs–Source
A source close to Yahoo reports that Jerry Yang has decided to go forward with aggressive layoffs.

Jan 29
eBay to Create a Quality Score
eBay announced they are planning on launching something like a quality score

Waiting to exhale at Yahoo
Once the markets close, Yahoo will report on its Q4 and full year earnings.

Jan 30
1,000 Yahoo Layoffs and 4 Key Yahoo Trends for CEOs
Yahoo Panama posted a 20 percent improvement in RPS (Revenue Per Search) in Q4, following three consecutive revenue growth quarters.

Yahoo’s Stock is Going Down
Yesterday, we heard again that Yahoo is laying off 1000 workers. Sadly, Yahoo’s stock is also faltering.

Jan 31 (The last day of “normal” in search. Seriously… it goes downhill fast from here)
Google in Wall St. Matrix: Faces Red or Blue Pill Dilemma
The message from Wall St. to Google rang as clear as the opening bell today. Unfortunately for Google, it was finally “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”

Google wins 700mhz FCC auction
Of course there is no way yet to say if Google is the current high bidder, but we do know for sure that Google has won.

The Google Bosses’ 20-Years Pact
Actually, we agreed the month before we went public that we would work together for 20 years.

5 Reasons Why Rankings Are A Poor Measure Of Success
Are you still measuring your SEO success by the rankings you obtain? If so, you need to stop—right now!


OK. As I said, the year started out on a promising note. As of February 1 however, things started to go decidedly downhill…

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