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Friday, December 01, 2006

Danny's Goodbye Post from Search Engine Watch: Shoe #1

Danny reflects briefly on his last post at Search Engine Watch, as he moves over to Search Engine Land, a new venture.

One thing I hadn't heard much of before was Eric Ward's instrumental role in getting the word out about the early Search Engine Watch (Eric is famed for his "invention" of the linking campaign, having done this to great effect for Amazon in 1994).

On this special occasion of Danny's shift, maybe it's a good time to share the story of the Traffick.com linking campaign circa 1999-2000. I had no idea that Danny had so much help from Eric. :) Some people know this because they asked followup questions in the bar after asking the usual "how did you get into this business" questions.

At a certain point, again before most folks had even heard of linking campaigns, we decided that we admired Search Engine Watch's linkage. We noticed a ton of libraries and so on had linked to Danny's site as a great "resource" about search engines. It was really one of the few around, so of course a must-link for most libraries. And we reasoned: libraries are a pretty reputable source. They must have really high PageRank. A lot of them are .edu. It's the sort of reasoning you might use now as an SEM, but today, the difference is, you won't be able to act on it, because no one's going to respond to that kind of "link to me" request.

So anyway, I contacted a few hundred of these librarians (yes, I mean the same ones we saw linking to SearchEngineWatch.com) and said "hey, this Traffick.com here is also a good resource." Not exactly a brilliant, original strategy, but for me, still the best linking campaign I've ever conducted (OK, also one of only a handful I've ever personally done). A large number of university resources pages were gracious enough to link to us.

Little did I know, Eric was at least partly responsible for a lot of the great linkage we were trying to piggyback on. Though there would have been no way to personally contact the tens of thousands of reputable sites already linking to SearchEngineWatch.com. That's how popular the site was, even in the early days. It continued to grow from there.

Becoming a fraction as popular as SEW was enough to get me into the business full time. Turning to consulting meant that content was more of a hobby than anything. It still is - and I still write too much. :)

As for comprehensive search coverage, Search Engine Land will be one of the few blogs worth adding to your feed reader, in an age of info overload. It looks pretty much like business as usual with Danny & Co., which is a relief.

Another point Danny makes in his farewell post - citing a post he made for us Search Engine Watch Forum moderators last week - is characteristic of his open, transparent approach. He cautions against anyone making up rivalries where they don't exist: By no means do I want anyone thinking that staying on here, or perhaps doing other things with SEW, is somehow something I won't like or perhaps "disloyal" in any way. I don't know if anyone was even thinking like that -- but if so, don't!

Indeed. Life is too short, and that would be silly. The fact is, the site, Search Engine Watch, and the conference series, Search Engine Strategies, have gone through ownership changes for the third time now (to recap: from Danny to Internet.com/INTMedia/JupiterMedia; from Jupiter Media to Incisive Media; Incisive Media now being taken private under new ownership) and are now no longer spearheaded by Danny. Although Danny has been the central public figure in these properties, he has not owned them since 1997. The owners, with or without Danny (clearly, now without) will have to decide on the best way to serve the customers they've always served, and the best way to turn a profit. That likely means focusing on what happens next with the conference series, as that has been the key revenue driver as compared with the online properties. (And in my personal opinion, Search Engine Watch won't have much of a future after Danny's departure.) Continued management of SES conferences globally doesn't sound like it'll be mutually exclusive or impossibly competitive with any new conference series launched by Danny. Time will tell.

That's Shoe #2, waiting to drop. Danny's moved to a new set of editorial roles - but what about the conferences?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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