2005 in Review: The Top Search Industry Stories of the Year

Search caught fire last year, with new tools and services and virtually constant activity. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable themes and trends of the past year.

Your Search Utility

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Developments With Consumer Search” (in two parts) covers many of the things I said would be coming during 2005 that have gathered pace, especially the idea of the major players being our search utilities or search providers that we turn to for any search need, not just Web search.

Search Advertisers Deserve Better:

Search Engine Ad Reps: Friend or Foe?” covers a crucial issue: those who helped build up the search market feel like the search engines themselves now want to push them aside — and the danger the search engines themselves may face in doing so.

Google Separates Bids For Search & Contextual Ads” illustrates how Google took three years to do what advertisers had asked it to do from the beginning. “New Google AdWords Site Targeting Allows Advertisers To Pick & Choose” is another long-desired feature that finally came; but more control is still needed by advertisers from both Google and Yahoo, according to industry leaders. “Yahoo Apologizes For Ad Management Problems; Issues Case-By-Case Refunds” covers the company that kicked off paid search — Yahoo-absorbed Overture — needing to make improvements. Meanwhile, “Click Fraud Suit Names Google, Yahoo and Other Search Companies” covers some old concerns that have not gone away; instead, they’ve entered the courtroom.

Search Optimizers and Webmasters Get Perks, Need More

Google Base Live, Accepting Content,” “Google Sitemaps Expands To Give Query & Indexing Stats!,” “Yahoo Site Explorer Live: New Way To See All Your Pages, Links,” “Yahoo Bulk Submit Now Live,” “New ‘Google Sitemaps’ Web Page Feed Program,” “Yahoo Search Issues Index Weather Report,” and “Google, Yahoo, MSN Unite On Support For Nofollow Attribute For Links” all cover the pretty phenomenal moves this year for the search engines to give site owners more control and new tools over how they are indexed. But there’s much more that needs to come, as “Revisiting Hijacking and Redirects: Moving To A Solution” and “Proposed Search Engine Standard For Titles and Descriptions” show.

SEO Isn’t a Criminal Activity

Worthless Shady Criminals: In Defense of SEO” (in two parts) covers why there are so many reasons everyone should embrace SEO (define) yet it’s become so twisted and disrespected in some quarters, especially by those who should embrace it. Related is “Can We Agree Automated Comment & Link Posting Is A Bad Thing?,” which covers a tactic even some of the most aggressive search marketers hate and how a more common voice against it, even if it doesn’t stop the tactic, might help the SEO reputation problem.

Search Gets Personalized

Google Personalized Search Leaves Google Labs” and “Yahoo Integrates Personal and Social Search with MyWeb 2.0” show how personalized search results aren’t just talk but here and now on the major players, real new third-generation leaps after on-the-page and link analysis. But search ads will also get personalized, as “AlmondNet Debuts ‘Post-Search’ Search Behavioral Ad Network” covers. As search engines learn more about us, “Better Search Privacy Needs Addressing Overall” covers why more protection reassurance is needed.

The Link Economy

Yahoo’s Jeremy Zawodny Caught In Link Selling Debate,” “Google’s Matt Cutts On Link Selling: Sites Might Not Pass Reputation; Buyers Might Get Targeted More,” “O’Reilly In Debate Over Link Selling,” “Stanford Daily Removes Paid Links” cover how the no-no tactic of buying links has probably become more acceptable as the link economy the search engines themselves built won’t be denied.

Establishing New Trust Signals in Search

Moving To Trusted Links & Change The Link Election Model,” “MSN Search Gets Neural Net/RankNet Technology & (Potentially) Awesome New Search Commands,” and “Yahoo My Web: An eBay For Knowledge” all cover how if the link economy means you can’t take links at face value, search engines are looking at new ways to develop trusted links or other trusted sources to know what’s best and good on the Web.

Moving Toward Better Search Metrics

End of the Size Wars?” (in two parts) covers a move that just maybe shows we’re finally moving on to new metrics to assess search engines by.

Terrible Misunderstandings of Google Book Search

The Difference Between Google Print & Google Library” covers the fundamental differences many people simply overlook between Google’s cooperative, voluntary programs with publishers and the controversial library scanning program. They are entirely different creatures, and anyone commenting on them should understand this. Sadly, too few do. “Google Book Search ‘Hack’ Just Normal Operation” covers more common confusion.

Book Search Enters New Era

Microsoft Announces MSN Book Search; Joins Open Content Alliance,” “A New Digital Library Alliance Makes its Debut,” “Germany: Publishers Plan Online Book Service,” “Details about Europe’s i2010 Digital Libraries Program Emerge,” and “European Libraries Back Alternative To Google Library Project” are all examples that cover how despite some controversial parts of Google Book Search, the service has spurred unprecedented and welcomed renewed activity on digitizing the world’s knowledge that remains mostly locked up inside of unsearchable books. But “France, Google and The Need for Digitization Project Cooperation” covers how, sadly, more cooperation rather than competition is in order.

Google Doing Too Much?

It’s doing print ads, “Google Publication Ads Site & More On Print Ads“; Wi-Fi, “Google Bidding To Provide Free Wi-Fi To San Francisco“; a stealth portal, “Google’s Philosophical Ten True Things Not So True Anymore?” and “Google Launches My Google-Style Personalized Home Page” and much, much more.

But all this activity makes people wonder if it’s finishing things properly or losing focus on the core search that made it what it is. “Google Regains Its Hijacked Listing; This Was A Big Deal, Folks!,” “Major Security Flaw With Google Sitemaps Stats,” “Google Losing Consistency As It Continues To Experiment With Results,” and “NYT On Yahoo’s US Gains and Google’s Endless Betas” are all examples of that. Others worry that to build deals or grow revenue it’ll sell out or step on the rights of others, as “Google Toolbar’s AutoLink and The Need For Opt-Out” (in two parts), “Revisiting The ‘No Banners On Google’ Declaration,” and “Google Base Switches To Force All Searchers Through Jump Pages” all illustrate.

Year of the Map

New Google Maps Now Live” covers what ushered in a new chapter of search: the idea that maps can be cool, fun, and a useful new way to find local information rather than the standard 10 links on a page. “Google Debuts Satellite Images” upped the stakes with imagery that though not crucial sure can be fun. “Windows Live Local Beta is Now Online; Some Global Imagery Also Added” has MSN meeting the challenge, and “Yahoo Local Expands With City Pages and More User Reviews” takes high quality local info into maps as well. “Saturday Night Live Skit Mentions MapQuest, Yahoo Maps and Google Maps” is a great way to close out the year — maps so cool they make a SNL skit.

Search Duoism Ends

Google and Yahoo have been the big two voices in search. “MSN To Launch Its Own Paid Listings Program” and “MSN Search Officially Switches to Its Own Technology” cover MSN solidifying itself as a new voice. Ask Jeeves already had its own voice on the editorial listings side, but “New Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings Program Lets More Advertisers Buy Direct” covers it staking out its own paid listings. The year started with two major places to buy search ads; it ended with four. It started with three major editorial search voices; it also ended with four.

Where’s the Blog Search?

Google Launches Industrial Strength Blog Search” and “Yahoo Integrates News, Blogs and Flickr Search Results” cover the two major search engines finally getting blog search going, yet the entries are surprisingly light. “Problems With Splogs and Time-Based Searching” covers some of the challenges good blog search faces. Will the majors step up more?

Search Gets History Books

Search as the New Great Game” covers the first book to finally cover the incredible industry of search and what certainly will be the start of many histories and tellings of this important new medium that’s lacked that until now.

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