Get Free Quote

Search 2006: The Year in Review

by Lisa Barone, December 2006

When Bruce issued our Year in Preview way back in January he predicted several things for the industry: a strengthened focus on local search, legal action brought to the forefront, a new demographic-focus for PPC and a myriad of other issues that would ultimately affect search in 2006. Looking back at the year and all that has happened; I realize why Bruce's name is on the door.

The truth is a lot of what Bruce predicted 11 months ago has now come true. This year we saw local search garner serious attention as the number of people using the major search engines local offerings grew steadily. Local businesses discovered the power of targeted local search, seeing that if a customer came across their listing in one of the local engines, there was a very good possibility they would be ready to act immediately. They also learned that if their audience didn't find their listing, they would find one of a competitor instead.

Local search became a viable way to get into the engine's index by using the less crowded side door, bringing valuable exposure to small and medium-sized businesses. The engines rewarded their efforts, revamping their local engines, offering coupons and hosting single-page sites for small companies free of charge, and brought local results onto their main results page. Just as Bruce predicted, it brought an entirely new audience to the expanding Web.

This year a highly publicized Google/ YouTube merger cemented online video's position as the golden child of 2006. When users realized they could download even the most outrageous videos free of charge and share them with their friends, savvy marketers saw dollar signs in the form of new advertising space. Following suit, when other sites saw the power of the YouTube community, copycat sites emerged quicker than you could upload a :30 video of your 2-year-old gumming his way through his ABC's. We learned that with the barrage of video sites now competing, the best way to make your mark in a now crowded market was to target it to a specific niche.

Another realm we saw explode was the mobile Web. Piggybacking off the rise of broadband both internationally and in the States, users became increasingly comfortable logging onto the Web via their favorite mobile devices. In response, the search engines have launched better mobile search engines and have begun fitting their PPC programs for the smaller screen. Site owners have begun seeking out advice on how to format their sites in order to be found in the new Web territory and everyone is anxiously waiting to see what sort of partnerships between the engines and mobile companies will emerge to make the mobile Web as user-friendly and cost-effective as possible.

And then there were the lawsuits that always threatened disastrous results should the defendant lose but never quite delivered. You'll remember we heard that if Google lost their class-action click fraud lawsuit it would destroy their PPC program - they did (technically, anyway) and it hasn't. Then, we heard that copyright lawsuits regarding online video and newspaper sites would send us all back into the pre-Internet days or crush video-upload sites completely - again, they didn't. Though fun to eat popcorn to, the lawsuits of 2006 always proved to be less filling than initially touted.

And of course 2006 had its share of shakeups. Bill Gates announced he would leave his full-time role at Microsoft to concentrate on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft's voice Robert Scoble left to join PodTech, Andy Beal resigned from Fortune Interactive, Mike Grehan resigned from MarketSmart, Marshall Kirkpatrick left TechCrunch, Jake Baillie resigned from TrueLocal, and many, many more high profile departures.

Undoubtedly, the biggest shakeup of them all occurred when Danny Sullivan announced he would step down from Search Engine Watch and the SES series after 10 years of service and take virtually SEW's entire cast with him.

Danny's departure will signal a new era for Search Engine Watch and introduced all of us to a new place to go for search industry news: Search Engine Land. With SEL now up and running, all eyes are looking to Seattle in June when Danny and company will launch the next great conference series to hit the search industry, Search Engine Expo. It's given us all another reason to look forward to this summer.

The biggest theme of 2006 was the importance of doing search engine optimization and search marketing right from the very beginning. Marketers aren't looking for the spammy shortcuts anymore. They're only interested in learning trusted optimization tactics. And in order to learn those methodologies they're attending conferences in record numbers and realizing the potential behind full-fledged SEO training.

This year we saw several new training classes emerge from a sea often tainted with bad information. The guys at Fresh Egg launched their SEO Intern Training Programme, Google's Adam Lasnik held an SEO Training class for government officials, the DMA began offering their own SEM certification program, just to name a few. Seeing the need for increased search engine optimization training worldwide, Bruce Clay, Inc. expanded its own SEOToolSet® training program to South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

We found the desire to learn refreshing. With search engine marketing being touted as the fastest growing direct marketing channel, we understood how important it was to teach people the right way. As a marketer, at the end of the day it is you who is responsible for the success and failure of your site. You are the one who will be held accountable. Make sure you're making the right decisions for your company.

Other trends we noticed 2006 were RSS invisibly working its way into mainstream outlets, an International rise in broadband adoption and search marketing awareness, an increased interested in Web 2.0 and community sites, and the merging of Web and desktop applications. We look forward to all of these areas expanding as we head into the new year.

Internally, Bruce Clay Inc. has had another stellar year, bringing new and accomplished SEO analysts, sales staff and PPC experts on board, meeting set internal goals and expanding our presence into three new international territories, the UK, South Africa and Australia. We thank you all for sharing it with us and look forward to spending the next twelve months with you. Until then.