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Happy 10th Birthday, Search Engine Watch – A History Of The Site
Ten years ago today, I created Search Engine Watch. Now I’m here at Search Engine Land, but since I ran SEW for 95 percent of its existence, I thought it would be nice to look back and cover how it evolved and changed over the years. So here’s a stroll down memory lane.
Some of those who know my work might be thinking that this 10 years thing sounds familiar. That’s because on April 17, 2006, I wrote My Decade Of Writing About Search Engines. It covered my personal 10 year anniversary, which started with the predecessor to Search Engine Watch, "A Webmaster’s Guide To Search Engines."
Search Engine Watch Is Born: June 9, 1997
Just over a year after my personal start in writing about search, I expanded my guide and relaunched it as Search Engine Watch on June 9, 1997:
As you can see in the screenshot above, the site was divided into several
- Webmaster’s Guide To Search Engines provided basic guidance and
intro information about SEO
and search marketing.
- Search Engine Facts & Fun had tips on searching and related
- Search Engine Status Reports largely focused on
popularity stats as well as the Search Engine EKG charts I used to
maintain to track
- Search Engine Resources had provided link lists of articles ranging
from legal issues to
- The Search Engine Report was a monthly newsletter of search engine
- Subscription Services provided access to a special twice-monthly
newsletter, some additional resources and longer versions of some articles and
a downloadable "book" version of the site, shades of the
premium content from SEOmoz
or Aaron Wall’s SEO Book,
to come in the future.
Search Engine Watch Is Sold: November 18, 1997
In the fall of 1997, I was approached by Meckermedia (later renamed
Internet.com, INT Media and Jupitermedia) about buying Search Engine Watch. I
decided to sell. Nope, I didn’t become a millionaire, but it made for a
good, solid down-payment on a house, after taxes. It also meant I had more
development support for the site and someone else to deal with the ads. I could
focus firmly on content.
Search Engine Watch Awards: January 22, 2001
Search Engine Watch gave out its
for search engines on January 22, 2001. Google won the top spot, and the company
was young enough that it used that award as part of its marketing to gain
further acceptance. The awards continued for
Chris Sherman Joins & SearchDay Starts: May 7, 2001
For about four years, I provided all the editorial writing for Search Engine
Watch. During this time, news about search continued to ramp up. I needed help.
In addition, I was concerned that I had no way to reach out to readers on a
daily basis, to provide them with news headlines from the many sources that were
growing beyond Search Engine Watch.
SearchDay and Chris Sherman were the solutions. Chris had run the Web Search
Guide for About.com since 1998, and I loved what he wrote. I was thrilled when
he agreed to join Search Engine Watch as associate editor and take up the
challenge of running its daily newsletter, SearchDay. That newsletter provided
both headlines from around the web as well as original content each day. Here’s
edition and his
(number 1475!). He is, of course, now executive editor here at Search Engine
First Major Redesign: April 2003
Search Engine Watch had relatively minor tweaks made to its look and feel
done by yours truly and FrontPage over the years. But in April 2003, it
a dramatic change primarily designed to introduce new advertising elements and
to ensure that the latest stories were shown more prominently on the home page.
Facelift: April 2004
Around April 2004 (as best I remember), the site’s colors changed as part of
a general move to integrate it better into the ClickZ network. The screenshot
above also shows how units to show content from the Search Engine Watch Forums
and the Search Engine Watch Blog were added later in the year.
Elisabeth Osmeloski Joins & Search Engine Watch Forums Launched: June 8,
Three years after the addition of SearchDay, it was time for SEW to have
another major content enhancement — the addition of the
Search Engine Watch Forums.
Search Engine Watch was woefully late in gaining its own discussion forums. In
part, this was because I was happy to leave forums to other sites, such as
Search Engine Forums and
WebmasterWorld. We had our niche,
and they had theirs!
There were two problems with this. First, more and more search news and tips
began to come out through forums. The big Google "Florida" Update of late 2003
especially underscored this, when masses of webmasters descended upon
WebmasterWorld to try and understand a huge change to the Google ranking
algorithm. Search Engine Watch lacked forums and thus missed the ability for
members of its own community to talk to each other.
Indeed, that missing community was the other big reason to start the forums.
There was a Search Engine Watch community, people who read and visited the site
on a regular basis. They simply had no way to talk to each other.
the forums, with Elisabeth Osmeloski at the helm as forums editor, filled a big
gap. In addition, rather than it being "too late" for a new forum, the SEW
Forums found a healthy audience.
Gary Price Joins & Search Engine Watch Blog Launched: September 16, 2004
In August 2004, Gary Price joined the site as news editor, initially charged
with helping compile headlines for SearchDay. But that was a holding pattern for
him until the new Search Engine
Watch Blog was ready. This helped fill another gap for Search Engine Watch,
providing a way for editors to post stories of importance throughout the day.
Years earlier, SearchDay allowed the site to keep people current on a daily
basis. But search news continued to pour in, to the point that people were
looking for updates several times during a day. The Search Engine Watch Blog
aimed to solve this problem, when it
went live on
September 16, 2004.
Search Engine Watch Sold Again: August 2005
On August 2, 2005, it was
announced that Search Engine Watch was to be sold by Jupitermedia — which
had purchased it from me those many years ago — to Incisive Media. I first
heard rumors of the sale in June of 2005 during a dinner with some attendees at
the SES London show. Both Chris Sherman and I remarked we thought it seemed
unlikely since no one had yet spoken to us about any sale. The site still
largely depended on us, and we both had contracts allowing us to walk away at
In July, I got clued in by Jupitermedia CEO Alan Meckler that a basic
agreement had been reached, so it wasn’t a shock when the final news came out. I
was happy with the change at that particular time,
that "overall, it’s a good thing."
Gary Price Leaves: Feb. 9, 2006
On February 6, 2006, Gary Price
site. Ask.com had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Though incredibly sad to
see him go, we were relieved to have about the only person who could keep up
with Gary’s blogging pace — Barry Schwartz —
come on as
Title Changes & Correspondents: March-May, 2006
With the site now having three different editors, it was time for some title
changes. In March 2006, I went from editor to editor-in-chief, while Chris
Sherman went from associate editor to executive editor. In April 2006, Elisabeth
from forums editor to managing editor, a newly expanded role to help me begin
some much delayed site updates and enhancements.
On the blog, we also added a number of correspondents, to help the site keep
up with search news:
Brian Smith Joins SEW Blog As Shopping & Vertical Search Correspondent,
Bill Slawski Joins SEW Blog As Patents & Search Research Correspondent,
New SEW Blog Correspondents: Greg Sterling On Local; Detlev Johnson On News,
Phil Bradley Our New Searching Correspondent; Jennifer Slegg Picks Up Paid
Search Coverage, May 2006
Server Move Prompts My Private Resignation: July 19, 2006
When Incisive purchased Search Engine Watch, the company had an agreement for
Jupitermedia to continue hosting the site for a year. In the last month of that
agreement, there was a rush to finally do the migration, which
July 18, 2006.
It did not go well, in my view. Important things broke, such as the ability
to instantly sign-up to become a paying member of the site. I asked that the
migration be slowed, even if this meant having to pay more to extend the current
agreement. This was denied. For me, it was the last straw in a what had grown
into a frustrating year of being with the new owners. I quit.
In particular, I quit before a long-promised agreement for me to continue
working with the site had materialized. I had made it clear that when the site
was sold, there was little incentive for me to continue working to build it in
the long-term for the new owners. I was told a new agreement was being
developed, but continually, nothing was provided. When the server problems hit,
I decided I was better off on my own.
Incisive asked me to reconsider, and I agreed to talk further, while they
produced an actual agreement.
Contract Negotiation Failure Prompts My Public Resignation: Aug. 29, 2006
After several weeks, the agreement I finally received just didn’t cut it for
me to stay on and help Incisive take Search Engine Watch into a second decade of
life. I publicly
announced on Aug. 29, 2006 that I was resigning as editor-in-chief. I was
honestly surprised by the reaction, an outpouring of support by so many of my
readers. These posts on my personal blog cover some more from this period:
- Leaving Search Engine Watch,
Aug. 29, 2006
- The Day After & Many
Thanks!, Aug. 30, 2006
- Pondering Next Steps —
Making No Fast Decisions, Sep. 5, 2006
Last Day For Me & Correspondents: Nov. 30, 2006
On November 30, 2006, I served my
last day as
editor-in-chief of Search Engine Watch. The next day, I started working for my
new site here, Search Engine Land. Barry Schwartz and all the SEW correspondents
also decided to join me at Search Engine Land. Chris Sherman followed when his
contract was up a month later, saying his
on December 29, 2006.
New Editor-In-Chief Rebecca Lieb Named: Dec. 7, 2006
The departures left Search Engine Watch without anyone running it and
Elisabeth Osmeloski as the only remaining "original" staff. For those wondering,
I’d have had Elisabeth come over to Search Engine Land in a second if we hadn’t
agreed she was in a better position with Search Engine Watch, at that time.
The leadership gap was quickly filled by
executive editor Rebecca Lieb as editor-in-chief of the entire ClickZ network
and moving the editor of Search Engine Watch to report to her (previously,
Search Engine Watch was part of the ClickZ network, but the site ran
independently from her direction). Elisabeth was promoted to editor of SEW, and
came on to take over as news editor. By February, new correspondents
New Logo: Feb. 19, 2007
To celebrate SEW’s 10th year, the site
gained a new
logo. For those keeping track, here they are over the years:
Search Engine Watch Gains Columns: April 5, 2007
By April, what I call the Clickzification of Search Engine Watch finally
began — columns
started. ClickZ is largely a column-driven site, and Search Engine Watch now
had its own, dramatically changing the site’s home page look:
Search Engine Land has columns, of course —
a bunch of them. I’ve seen
some people suggest that Search Engine Watch copied us. It’s the reverse.
Eric Ward, who writes our
Link Week column,
had been approached about doing a link column for SEW. He asked what I thought.
My advice to everyone who worries they are somehow picking "sides" between SEL
and SEW is to do what they think is best, as I want what’s the best for them.
That’s what I told Eric — if he thought it
was useful to do a column over there, no harm, no foul with me! But Eric said
something to the effect of "I’d rather write a column for you!" So Eric — who
helped launch Search Engine Watch with his fantastic link building and publicity
service years before — helped get the column train going here. Thanks, once
Death Of The Search Engine Report: April 18, 2007
Engine Report newsletter actually predates Search Engine Watch, and I felt a
real sadness when I filed my last edition of it,
ten full years of diligently recapping the search news on a monthly basis.
I had also maintained the Search Engine Update newsletter that went out twice
per month for paid Search Engine Watch members for nearly as long.
On April 18, 2007, the Search Engine Report was killed. A monthly newsletter
would still be offered, but it would no longer be called the Search Engine
Report. Instead, only the Search Engine Update name would continue, as readers
In an effort to continue delivering quality content and news to all our
readers, we’ve decided to merge the SE Report with our SE Update newsletter.
You will continue to receive a monthly newsletter free of charge, but it will
be a more comprehensive newsletter with additional content and commentary once
per month (which will continue to be mid-month), under the banner of the
"Search Engine Update." The Search Engine Update will continue to recap of all
of the latest headlines and featured stories available on Search Engine Watch.
It really did make me sad to see the Search Engine Report name go away.
FYI, I still do a monthly recap of search news here called
Search Month (the May
recap will be out shortly — I’m a bit behind having been doing to our SMX
Advanced show recently).
In addition to Search Month, we have a daily
SearchCap newsletter and
columns via newsletter, as well. See the entire list,
New Ads: May 1, 2007
The long-standing "Marketplace" ads introduced back in 2003 disappeared, in
place of top-of-the-page large banners and a "Sponsored by" box in the
left-navigation area. The Search Engine Watch Forums also
new banner ads inserted into threads:
Elisabeth Osmeloski Leaves: May 22, 2007
The last of the SEW "originals," Elisabeth
Search Engine Watch on May 22, to become director of online media for
the Zonder.com Vacation Rentals site. Rob
Kerry, known as
evilgreenmonkey at the Search Engine Watch Forums, took over as SEW Forums
Kevin Ryan Provides Strategic Direction: June 7, 2007
Earlier this week, Kevin Ryan was
announced as vice
president of global content for Search Engine Watch, as well as the associated
Search Engine Strategies conferences. His role is to provide strategic direction
for the site — a new editor to provide SEW’s day-to-day coverage needs is still
being selected, Rebecca Lieb told me.
When the original staff of Search Engine Watch effectively walked out, some
assumed the site would collapse. I did not. The site has so much traffic flowing
into it that stopping it in its tracks would be akin to trying to stop a giant
ship from moving forward after its engines stop by pushing against its bow. It’s
going to keep moving on inertia alone!
But SEW quickly revved up its engines, so that it wasn’t moving along just on
inertia. The new correspondents and columns are giving it a new voice and
direction as it enters its second decade.
I’ve no doubt while both SEW and SEL evolve, there will be inevitable
comparisons and rivalry. Rebecca Lieb
recently of SEW being the best site about search. I respectfully beg to differ,
as Search Engine Land speeds along to be what I think is the best site about
search. Readers will be the ultimate judges, and there’s no doubt they’ll all
benefit from both sites — as well as the
nearly 400 other
sites covering search — compete with each other.
Happy 10th Birthday, SEW!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.