11 Ways Search Has Changed Since the Last Google Dance

To put it in perspective, the last time Google held its on-campus Google Dance in conjunction with the SMX West conference, George W. Bush was still President. In the Democratic Primaries following Super Tuesday 2008, it was far from clear that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton for the Presidential nomination. Obama had a slight lead in delegates at that point, and was trailing in popular vote. Despite the very close race, Clinton reluctantly saw the writing on the wall and eventually dropped out in June 2008.

In Search and Social Years, eight years is forever. Here are a few great memories from the early months of 2008… it seems like oh, so long ago now.

  1. I hadn’t yet joined Twitter (nor had most people). I’m a bit slow. I joined in January 2009.
  2. Bryan Eisenberg took a group of hungry search marketers on a “Brooklyn Pizza Tour”… when he still lived in Brooklyn! Sometimes I wish I could say goodbye to cold winters, like Bryan did in moving to Austin, TX. Pictured here: the “white pizza.”
  3. white pizzaFroogle had just been renamed to Google Product Search. Remember, back then, it was free for advertisers to list. What a golden age of free ecommerce traffic.
  4. I was blissfully putting the finishing touches on my 2nd edition of Winning Results With Google AdWords. Then, all hell broke loose. Google completely changed AdWords Quality Score in August 2008, and the specifics became more apparent in September 2008. (The upshot was recalculating Quality on the fly for every keyword, and including a complex formula for eligibility, not just ad position, based on Quality and bid.) I ended up changing an entire chapter (and all relevant mentions in the book) in September and October, not by rewriting it in the conventional way (the proofs were already done), but by resubmitting one chapter in its entirety, and marking up the PDF’s extensively (in a final edit process that was supposed to be for changing a few commas and fixing typos).
  5. MySpace still had more users than Facebook, at 100 million. Facebook passed MySpace in about April 2008. Suffice to say, no one was talking much about Facebook at the 2008 Google Dance, but they soon would be.
  6. There was no Google+ in 2008. (Launched June, 2011.) Many of us probably wish there still weren’t.
  7. Apple had just launched the iPhone, and had about 10% smartphone market share. Nokia had well over half the market, and BlackBerry was a strong #2. The iPhone App Store didn’t launch until July, 2008. So whether it be apps, searching on smartphones, or expecting users to meaningfully search and click on mobile ads — while everyone said it was coming someday, it was far from an urgent issue for SEM’s at the time.
  8. The iPad didn’t exist… and thus, the tablet category was nonexistent. When it did come out, in 2010, the reaction was something like a sequence of: uh oh, they really screwed up, and what about that name?; to: tablets will wipe out laptop and desktop usage, and be many people’s choice over the much smaller phones. The fervor for tablets (especially, Apple’s) grew so quickly that it overshadowed interest in the potentially dominant role of Google’s new Android platform… which, of course, it shouldn’t have. The emergence as phones as many people’s go-to device, oddly, wasn’t really on many people’s minds. And wearables weren’t on the mainstream analyst’s radar.
  9. Chrome wasn’t installed on a single device. This didn’t come out until Fall 2008.
  10. Microsoft’s search effort was in the toilet. They had not yet launched Bing. (Bing launched in June, 2009, and ultimately prevailed in its quest to hold down a solid second place in the lucrative U.S. search market, and in many international markets as well.)
  11. The timeline’s a touch murky to me, but it appears that Moz (then SEOMoz) was still an advisory service and community with a very limited toolset, and that its main first product release wasn’t until October 2008. The tenor of the tool (aimed squarely at SEO’s who felt their core function was “link building” to please Google’s PageRank algorithm) reflected the obsessions of the time. Fortunately, great companies can iterate and create tools that reflect new needs, and that’s especially likely if they’ve grown an active constituency looking to that vendor for guidance. Despite it representing breakneck growth, Rand’s post that they had grown from 7 to 16 people in the space of a year seems almost quaint now. How things change when you make the leap from services to SaaS. Moz now employs 190 people and was valued at $120 million in its most recent funding round.

If you’re one of the lucky 500 attendees of this year’s Google Dance, enjoy the party! And if anyone offers you an extra t-shirt by all means grab it!