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The Year in Review: A Look Back at Online Marketing in 2010

December 17, 2010
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Online Marketing Blog Roundup

Time flies by in such a blurry fashion these days, I can no longer remember without assistance what happened in the past year and not, say, three years ago—it all feels roughly equidistant somehow. But luckily, thanks to our blog archives, I have a handy reference of everything major that went down in 2010.
Looking back through roughly 50 weeks’ worth of Friday roundups, here’s what stood out in terms of big news and milestones in the online marketing space this year.
Facebook f*cks around with our privacy
Facebook changed its default privacy settings so users would be required to opt out of sharing everything with the whole world; Zuckerberg defended the decision by claiming that society was moving toward more openness and people want less privacy. Many didn’t buy it and saw it as a clear play to increase advertising revenue. Under pressure to simplify its Byzantine privacy policy, Facebook relented somewhat and reverted some privacy settings, but the company continues to face scrutiny for questionable practices in this area.
Apple launches iPad
My boyfriend recently asked a group of students what they thought was the most important invention ever—not in 2010, but since the dawn of man. One student said the iPad. (I think John was going for “farming.”) This provides some sense of how much hold Apple has on the young and gadget-hungry. Whether or not the iPad rivals the wheel, radio and other great human conquests, it was a big deal in the ongoing growth of mobile, and in our ongoing refusal to ever be bored.
Google takes weak stab at social
In February, Google launched Buzz in a Facebook-like fashion, automatically opting Gmail users in and causing a big privacy brouhaha in the process. They sheepishly apologized, but Buzz has failed to make significant inroads in competing with Facebook or Twitter. The “buzz” now is that other social tools are in the works.
KFC launches Double Down
OK, this doesn’t have much to do with web marketing—except that wacky sandwiches seem to be the fast food industry’s equivalent of linkbait. Speaking of stupid phenomena, remember Bros Icing Bros? “Good times!”
Google gets Bing-like
Google launched a UI overhaul that had everybody calling it a Bing wannabe, but some were old enough to remember that Ask.com was the first to use the three-column setup.
The Internet makes us smarter
At least that’s what one man (Clay Shirky, to be exact) thinks. I’m skeptical—or maybe I’m just distracted. What were we talking about again?
Google backtracks on Net Neutrality?
Many a net neutrality advocate was crying “Say it ain’t so!” when rumors broke that Google was in talks with Verizon to form a deal that would put the nail in net neutrality’s coffin. In fact, the proposal was more of a compromise, but many think Google has gotten too big not to be evil.
Philadelphia forces bloggers to question their business status
The city of Philly attempted to force blog owners to purchase a business license for the right of making money online. Many found it utterly ridiculous—I certainly did, since the city isn’t really offering any services to online businesses.
Google launches Instant Search
Google now reads minds, knows what you want before you know yourself. I must admit I’ve gotten so used to this feature, I sometimes forget to hit “Enter” after entering something in a form on sites that have nothing to do with Google. Hot tip: It doesn’t work.
AOL comes back on the map
Kinda-sorta.
Blekko launches with humble ambitions
New search engine Blekko isn’t trying to be a Google killer, according to its founder. But it does seem to be targeting SEOs and other tech-savvy searchers. Has anyone you know made the switch?
What stood out to you this year? Was it a good year for search?
Web Marketing Highlights This Week
After the WSJ published a piece called "Rivals Say Google Plays Favorites," there was a great post on Marketing Pilgrim: "New SEO Best Practice: Whining." 
These cries of foul are coming from sites that for years have been getting the bulk of their traffic from Google. Now that Google has made some significant changes in how they present information, especially in the local space, the big sites in the Google index are crying foul. And, rather than work to figure out how Google is doing this and what exactly Google is looking for, they are reverting to the same trick that kids do when they have something taken from them which is to whine.
OK class, let’s go over this again. Google is a company not a government agency. They can do whatever they want to do and there is literally no basis for anyone to cry foul if they feel they are not being treated the way they should be. Personally, I am glad that Google doesn’t simply serve up a list of information aggregators (most of whom are just glorified directories of some nature really). People go to Google for direct information and being passed off to another source that requires more search to get to the answer is a bad result for a Google user.
There's a long comment thread with lots of good debate going on. I personally think Frank Reed has a great point here, and that some of these whiners need to be reminded that Google traffic alone isn't a business model.
Lisa Barone also responded to the WSJ article with a piece called "Google Loves You, Santa, and Other Myths." She argues that companies need to lessen their reliance on Google by "building defensible traffic."
Our friends at BoostCTR relaunched their blog this week, and they're starting a new series called "Win of the Week" which will feature the PPC ad with the highest percentage increase in CTR from the team. This week's winner led to a 94% improvement for client Hunch.
Michael Gray reminds us of the power of internal links.
Got time management issues? Lindsey Donner has a 10-step guide for overcoming them.
The Get Elastic blog explains why A/B testing isn't always about conversion rates.
Building links ain't easy, especially when the pages that need the links most are boring product pages. SEOmoz has a helpful guide to getting those deep e-commerce links.
And finally, more year-in-review fun: the top 10 most retweeted tweets of the year.
Have a great weekend.
Photo credit: Antony Cowie

Comments

What stands out to me, looking back on 2010, is that everyone (literally!) professed their expertise of social media. One only had to follow a handful of online marketers on Twitter to see a million different variations of "How to Build a Social Media Strategy." While I love the passion from everyone getting on board with social media as a channel for marketers, I am concerned that we are all flooding the terrain with so many ideas, that the newbie entering the conversation will be so overwhelmed that they may go off in too many directions without any sense of a strategy at all. Or, they'll be turned off completely. I'm totally open to other opinions on this. Am I way off base?

Elisa Gabbert
Dec 17, 2010

Ah yes, the year of the social media guru! While I agree that there is a ton of information about there, a lot of it not that helpful, I think the same thing is probably true of SEO and PPC ...

[...] friends at WordStream also had a great year in review piece recapping all things digital from [...]

I laughed out loud reading this post! Great humor, especially because it's all true. Thanks!

jsimono
Dec 17, 2010

What is the world coming to... 3 of the top 10 Tweets involved Justin Bieber!?  Perhaps the Year in Review list should have included Bieber Fever?

Elisa Gabbert
Dec 17, 2010

I'm planning a whole 'nother post on the Year in Beiber. Stay tuned.

[...] @WordStream: The Year in Review: Taking a Look Back at Online Marketing in 2010 http://www.wordstream.com/node/1584 by @egabbert [John_A_Lee] Share and [...]

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