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The Search Landscape After the First Six Months of 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
Many bloggers and search engine marketers out there like to make predictions to start of the year. I would be curious to see just how many of these predictions actually came true to start off 2008. The first six months of 2008 in search by previous standards have been quite quiet. With the obvious exception of the Yahoo / Microsoft soap opera. So we thought that we would look back and review some of the top search engine stories that have taken place over the past six months.

ASK Shifts their Focus - Ask began the year be replacing their CEO, and hiring marketing man Jim Scafka. This was right around the time that they announced their "Click to Speak" mobile service that allows people to simply speak their location and desired destination to receive directions on their mobile devices.

In February, ASK improved their cool Binoculars feature by incorporating some statistical information from compete.com. In late February, early March we began to hear some surprising news from the ASK camp that they were shopping their TEOMA technology possibly in favor of providing Google results through their ASK properties. Reports suggested that the reports were an early April Fool's joke, however, there were hints that ASK was no longer going to function as an independent search engine no more. In March, the hammer had fallen as ASK announced that they were tired of competing with Google to try and gain market share in the search industry. ASK CEO Jim Safka communicated that based on research that they had done on their target demographic that ASK.com would begin targeting women specifically housewives in the 25-40 age range. As far as I was concerned, ASK was tired of fighting the good fight. I haven't been able to look the same at this engine since. I loved their dynamic search page with all the components of blended search.

In March, IACI CEO, Barry Diller won a somewhat bitter legal dispute with Liberty Media Corp's John Malone. The ruling will now allow Diller to proceed with efforts to spin off four of IAC's largest units (including Ask.com).

May saw, Ask.com purchase Lexico, Owner Of Dictionary.com in an interesting announcement.
Other than that ASK is quickly becoming an also ran. Too bad, great SERP.

Google Keep on Truckin' - Google began the year having completed their deal to acquire ad firm DoubleClick. For the most part, Google was fairly quiet to start the year. In February however, they did announce the launch of AdSense for Video. Google continued to improve a number of their offerings including Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. In the caser with the later, Google even launched benching marketing as part of Google Analytics. Industry benchmarking is a commonly requested new service that enables customers to see how their site data compares to sites in any available industry vertical.

We did notice some interesting trends with Google's staffing to start 2008. A number of folks were leaving Google for other startups or other web properties such as Facebook. Is Google slowing down? A report from comScore suggests that Google is experiencing slowing growth with their paid advertising platform.

In April and May, Google performed one of its largest algorithm updates of the year. You may have noticed some fluctuations in rankings. We noticed that finally some poor quality blogs and a number of long standing "crappy" sites listed on the first page have been de-listed. We also noticed that the age of the site appears to carry more weight.

In May, Google Finally Launched Google Health. While there have been rumblings for quite a while going back to 2006, Google finally launched their Google Health service. The service is aimed at helping put users in charge of their own health information.

In June, Robots Exclusion Protocol Sets Standard for Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. The Robots Exclusion Protocol is a standard that lets content publishers and website owners specify which parts of their site they want public and which parts they want to keep private from the search engine robots.

In June, Google announced the launch of Google Ad Planner. According to Google, Google Ad Planner is "a research and media planning tool that connects advertisers and publishers." To use Google Ad Planner, all you have to do is enter demographics and sites associated with your target audience, from here the tool will return information about sites (consisting of both on and off the Google content network) that your audience is likely to visit... and Google just continues to roll. Look for the Google phone to be launched this fall.

Microsoft Looks to Purchase a Search Company - As Microsoft announced Q4 earnings for 2007, in which the company posted revenue of $16.4 billion, up 30% from $12.5 billion in the prior year's quarter, we knew that something was brewing with their search initiative. Weeks later we heard early reports that Microsoft was interested in acquiring Yahoo to boost their fledgling search engine MSN/Live Search. The Microsoft/Yahoo Saga continues to spin even as we enter July of 2008. Microsoft and Yahoo: These Are the Days of Our Lives.

In early May, Microsoft removed their initial offer from the table in an attempt to acquire Yahoo. However, rumors persist about Microsoft's next move and that is to just purchase Yahoo Search. A week later the rumors were back to Microsoft wanting to again purchase all of Yahoo... this time at a discounted rate. Yeah that wold make sense for Yahoo. The Board of Directors need to get more informed. Yahoo is still one of the most visited places on the Web. You just don't put a price on that.

In May, Microsoft almost in desperation, tries to buy searchers with Live Search Cashback http://search.live.com/cashback. Microsoft had really done nothing innovative with their search product in 2008. The results are as skewed as ever. I do not usually like to make predictions, but I will say this. The Microsoft search product will continue to lose market share in 2008. I wonder if they considered purchasing ASK and their cool TEOMA search technology?

Yahoo Struggles to Remain Independent - When Yahoo announced their 2007 Q4 earnings, they also announced a number of layoffs, fueling speculation that a major shakeup was coming. In February, Microsoft approached Yahoo with an unsolicited offer to purchase Yahoo for an estimate $45 billion. Yahoo's CEO, Jerry Yang promptly replies with a "thanks but no thanks" to the offer.

In the meantime, Yahoo continues to be innovative and looks to broaden their service offering with a new blog web property targeting women in the 25-55 age categories. The new site is called Yahoo Shine and rolls out with limited fanfare. ComScore also reported that Yahoo sites were the top online property in February with Google coming in second.

During the Yahoo/Microsoft "events", Yahoo continued to operate as they normally would, continuing to attend all of the major search marketing conferences that were taking place including SES New York 2008. Yahoo has also acquired Index Tools a leading provider of Web analytics software for online marketing. Yahoo will use the analytics to provide their customers with tools for monitoring and analyzing websites and marketing campaigns, providing valuable insights into key metrics, traffic patterns and performance.

... and not all was bad with Yahoo, as Yahoo announced their Q1 earnings for 2008 and the report stated that Yahoo earned $542.2 million, or 37 cents per share, during the first three months of the year, which is more than triple its profit of $142.4 million, or 10 cents per share, to begin 2007.

In May, Yahoo began testing some changes to their SERPs. Yahoo Glue Pages include images, videos, articles, and more all on one page! The layout is similar to what ASK has been doing for the past year or so.

More recently, Yahoo continues to look for ways to become innovative with their search product. Yahoo Looking to Improve Their Search Product.

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