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The Year We Searched For 2010

2010 was an exciting year in search marketing. With several new gaming-changing services and growing competition in local, mobile and social search, we saw the landscape of our industry shifting in new directions. Here are some of the biggest news stories from the past year.

The Services

Google’s Social Search- Google introduced [1] their Social Search service in January, which seeks to provide users with more socially-relevant search content. The tool will add links from your ‘friends’ on the internet, i.e. friends on social networking sites, to Google’s results.

Twitter Local Trends- Twitter’s Local Trends [2] went live in January. The feature allows users to set their location and see ‘what conversational Twitter trends are popular’ in their neighborhood.

Google Introduces Starred Search- Google introduced [3] a new feature in March called starred search [4] that allows users to select sites from Google’s results page. The service then automatically archives the links into the user’s Google account bookmarks.

Facebook’s Open Graph- In April, Facebook introduced its Social Plugins and Open Graph Protocol, which were designed to better integrate Facebook users and web publishers. By enabling users and publishers to share and publish content together, Facebook’s new tools are expected to emulate a web-wide social search engine with improved behavioral targeting and a focus on personalized user experience. [5]

Promoted Tweets- At their first annual developer’s conference in April, Twitter introduced [6] its ‘promoted tweets’ services. On their corporate blog, Biz Stone, founder of Twitter, describes promoted tweets, as “Tweets that businesses and organizations want to highlight to a wider group of users.” [7]

Mayday! – Google’s made one of its more significant changes to the algorithm, which attendees at the Webmaster World conference dubbed “Mayday.”  The change affected rankings, rather than Google’s crawling or indexing of sites, and primarily affected long-tail searches.  E-commerce sites and other large sites with single product pages felt the sting most directly.  Matt Cutts confirmed [8] that “This is an algorithmic change in Google, looking for higher quality sites to surface for long tail queries. It went through vigorous testing and isn’t going to be rolled back.”

Google Caffeine- In June, Google announced its new web indexing system- Caffeine, which promises 50% fresher results than before and an even larger collection of web content. [9]

Google’s Real-Time Search- In August, Google devoted [10] a new page of its search product to real-time search results [11], which index updates from Twitter and other social networks.

Facebook Places- In August, Facebook introduced [12] their new location-based service Facebook Places. The service mirrors several of the services already available, like Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp, and will enable users to ‘check in’ at restaurants, cafes and local businesses and alert their friends of their whereabouts.

Twitter Introduces Tweet Button- Twitter introduced a new feature in August called a tweet button [13], with which users can share links directly from websites. Previously, users had to go through several steps of copying a URL, shortening it and then posting it on Twitter before it got shared.

Google Instant- Google pushed their obsession with speed into hyper drive back in September, as they introduced [14] their new Google Instant service. One of the most important announcements for search marketers this year, Google Instant promises faster searches, smarter predictions and instant results. For more information on how Google Instant has affected search marketers, check out The Search Agency’s white paper on the topic. [15]

Google Boost- In an effort to tap into local search advertisements, Google introduced their Boost service back in October, which enables local businesses to create online search ads directly within their Google Places account. [16]

Google’s Page-In Analytics- In October, Google introduced its Page-In Analytics service, enabling marketers to view their Google Analytics data superimposed on their websites. [17]

Facebook Groups- In October, Facebook announced [18] its new Group feature, which enables users to compartmentalize their friends list, allowing them to better control who sees what and whom. The new service came, in part, in response to a year of heavy criticism about Facebook’s privacy controls (or lack thereof).

Google Renames ‘Sponsored Links’- In November, Google renamed their ‘Sponsored Links’ to ‘Ads’. The switch has led many to wonder how the seemingly inconsequential rewording could affect user behavior. For information on how the change has affected search marketers, and specifically click-through-rate, check out The Search Agency’s original research. [19]

The Deals

Apple Buys Quattro- Apple purchased Quattro Wireless, [20] a mobile advertising firm, in January, for a rumored purchase price of $300 million. The acquisition marked Apple’s first venture into the advertising industry.

Microsoft-Yahoo! Search Deal Gains Approval- In February, Microsoft and Yahoo’s announced [21] that they received “unrestricted” clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission to proceed with their proposed search alliance.

Google Acquires Aardvark- In February, Google acquired Aardvark, [22] a social graphing site [23] that draws on a user’s social network to answer user-generated questions, for 50 million dollars.

Google Buys AdMob- In an effort to improve its mobile advertising services, Google officially acquired [24] AdMob for $750 million in April.

Twitter Acquires Analytics Company- In June, 
Twitter acquired the analytics company Smallthought Systems’ Trendy’s [25] technology, which enables website owners to access information from their Google Analytics account.

The Successes

Fast Company Names Facebook Most Innovative Company of the Year- Fast Company released a list of the “100 Most Innovative Companies in 2010” [26] this week, naming Facebook this year’s most innovative company. [26]

Apple Passes Microsoft as #1 Tech Company- It was a revolutionary week on Wall Street in May [27], as Apple surpassed Microsoft to become the world’s most valuable technology company. The torch was passed when Apple’s value reached $222.12 billion, beating Microsoft at $219.18 billion. As The New York Times notes, Wall Street has just witnessed the end of an era [28] and the beginning of the next one: The most important technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand.

The Failures

Zuckerberg Doesn’t Believe in Privacy [29]Back in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was outed as a non-believer, after NYTimes’ Bit Blog reporter Nick Biltion tweeted an excerpt from an “off the record” conversation with a Facebook employee.  Here’s the tweet:“Off record chat w/ Facebook employee, Me: How does Zuck feel about privacy? Response: [laughter] He doesn’t believe in it.”

Facebook’s Privacy Confusion Continues [30]In May, Facebook experienced a series of system failures, which casted new light on many users’ longstanding concern about the security of their private information.  In the most disruptive gaffe, users were granted access to protected data in their friends’ accounts, such as chat conversations.

Google Wave to be Shut Down- [31]In August, Google announced that it will shut down their Google Wave service. The service was launched in May 2009, but struggled to develop a user following. Urs Holzle [32], Google’s senior vice president of operations, explained that, “Wave has not seen the user adoption we would have liked. So we don’t plan to continue developing Wave as a standalone product, but we will maintain the site at least through the end of the year and extend the technology for use in other Google projects.”

What was your biggest search headline of 2010?  And what new development will we be buzzing about in 2011?

About Camille Canon

Outside of summer jobs and not-for-profit internships, The Search Agency is my first official place of employment. I recently graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where I studied Art History and German. I am an avid cook, baker, and destroyer of diets. My specialties are cream cheese brownies, biscotti cookies and lemon bars. I am also an Art enthusiast. Living in Berlin enables me to follow a young, emerging Art scene complete with “eccentric” performance pieces and temporarily converted butcher shop galleries. I also enjoy running, traveling, and handy work. Camille Canon + [38]