Search Industry: Best of the Decade

Adweek announced awards for “the decade’s best in the marketing, media and agency world” this past week. The results were interesting in the online or “digital” area: Google is the digital company of the decade, Facebook the top platform, and YouTube is site of the decade. The majority of the awards were for traditional media forms.

As someone who works in the search space predominantly, I may have had other winners. This industry has been around for more than a decade, but much of its growth has occurred during the past 10 years. Search has matured and we’ve left the “Wild West days.”

Google entered the space and the game was on. AdWords refined what Bill Gross started with GoTo. A new industry was born, and the tools and skill sets started. Then, in 2003, AdSense was launched and the proliferation of sites became inevitable and added more work for the organic side of things.

I became a skilled participant in a method of marketing known as paid search. Tracking codes, analytics, and landing page testing were the tools that tightened marketing in this area and created a measurability that no other form of advertising had yet been able to achieve.

There are some amazing people in our space from all sorts of backgrounds and educations, as well as most places on the planet. We work in the same industry, yet for the most part for different products. We share information, as we are a friendly lot.

Inside PPC, there were all sorts of ups and downs over the decade. The filtering of good traffic took more than analytics. The education of the users — myself included — was part of it. But the “fight against affiliate marketing” in its many iterations was a fun time.

I’ll always remember scrambling for the minimum bid, which caused huge increases in CPC and priced many ordinary marketers out of PPC. Similarly, when Google bought Urchin and the analytic tools industry lost many small companies.

And, of course, there was the up and down nature of the content networks. Yes, AdSense was a cool way to make money as a publisher, but MFA accounts made it tough to use the early version with any major success. Then the ability to filter inside AdWords brought the niche into play again. The arbitragers were largely driven out, and even the ones left standing were providing pretty solid content.

We came together for conferences around the world and enjoyed the generosity of the engines at parties on boats, in complexes, and in amusement parks. We watched as the economy and corporate growth saw many of the perks disappear or be taken over by other companies.

We’ve weaved our way through all sorts of scams and hacks and will enter the next decade in a couple of weeks. Where we’ll be standing 10 years from now should be interesting. The Fortune 500 companies have entered the fray and new twists and turns no doubt await us, but if the adventure is as fun — and the friends I make along the way are half as good — it will be as rewarding decade as this one definitely has.

Have great holidays everyone. See you in the next decade.

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