The Product Hunt newsletter headline as I write this is “TikTok as a Search Engine.” The Hustle went with a similar theme this week – “Google’s got competish.” Adorbs.
The crux: Alphabet is touting how TikTok and Instagram are popular search engines for younger consumers, and per the logic of American-style capitalism, this benefits Alphabet by proving Google doesn’t have a monopoly on search.
I’m fascinated by this because I keep turning to talks I used to give at the agency 360i, now folded into Dentsu Creative, about 15 years ago.
At 360i’s first client summit where I presented back in 2006, my talk was entitled “12 Trends for the Future of Search.” Some were more prescient than others. Here’s a quick look at how these have panned out, with each trend title quoted directly from the 2006 slides, followed by my 2022 analysis.
1) The Long Tail: Consumers find the content they really want.
This remains as relevant as others. Every business with a concerted SEO focus tends to look for those keywords that are big enough that they attract some search volume but niche enough so the company can rank highly. All the best SEO tools are used to surface such diamonds in the rough.
2) Mashups: Consumers make content their own.
No media company has done more to popularize mashups than TikTok. I was just watching the @cheatsheets account on TikTok mashing up pop music with Excel productivity hacks. Now mashups are so pervasive that no one needs to call anything a mashup since it feels like everything is a mashup.
3) Microformats: Consumers tap into new publishing standards.
This was a weird reference, maybe focused on microsites. But there were also some local search listings displayed. I’m not sure what I was getting at here, but I do love the snapshot of Steve Martin’s site back then.
4) Mobile Search: Consumers search on the go.
This seems obvious now. It wasn’t as obvious then, the year before the iPhone’s debut. Even if I somehow put this below Microformats (what was going on here?), at least the first mobile reference is in the top 5, let alone in the deck at all.
5) Q&A: Consumers become each other’s search engines.
On this slide, I cited Answerology (acquired in 2008 by Hearst), Answerbag (it seems nominally functional; the website copyright says 2020), Google Answers (retired in 2006), Windows Live QnA (rebranded MSN QnA, retired 2009), Wondir (acquired by Revolution Health Group in 2005 and retired), Yahoo! Answers (shut down 2021), and Yedda.com (acquired by AOL in 2007, became AOL Answers, died a quiet and lonely death).
Quora, the most successful entrant, launched in 2009 and was made available to the public in 2010.
It would have made sense for me to include Reddit here, as it launched in 2005 and is the world’s most entertaining Q&A compendium, but I was not cool enough in 2006 to mention Reddit.
6) Social Search: Consumers have their own search engines.
This idea centered on the wisdom of crowds. Half the slide features Amazon showing products that “customers with similar searches purchased.” Others’ actions improve an individual’s results.
Today, Google points to Amazon as a rival search engine where most product searches originate directly – again, using a fellow tech giant as a foil for regulators.
Amazon was not considered a search engine then, and this was long before Amazon had an ad model, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see Amazon show up repeatedly in this relic of a talk.
7) Personalization: Consumers customize their own engines.
Along with Google’s “Personalized Search” noted in Beta here, this slide also showed a site from Heinz where you could buy custom ketchup bottle labels – not unlike attempts that would catch on from M&Ms, Oreo, and others.
Sections like this indicated how trends weren’t isolated to search. What worked for Google could work for Heinz, Amazon, Yahoo! Music, or various other properties cited.
Once the idea was out there, it was ripe for anyone to mash it up.
8) RSS: Consumers control how they access content.
Before Twitter, RSS was how a lot of Gen X’ers and Millennials got their news.
You could subscribe to a feed, and you could get updates via… oh, forget it. You either remember it or you don’t, but it was mildly fun while it lasted.
9) Tagging: Consumers classify the content.
The slide also showed an option on Amazon product pages where you could tag items.
This was before Twitter incorporated hashtags and Instagram further popularized them.
It’s also one of the more provocative takes in the deck, revealing how consumers were contributing all of this data to search engines. Remember the adage that if you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product? Exactly.
10) User-Generated Content: Consumers create the content.
This is well-worn territory, but it does hint at the intersection of search and social. CNN’s iReports had viewers contribute news that then gave the site a bigger footprint in search results.
No search is an island.
11) Social Media: Consumers become the content.
Building on the previous two was a vague “social media” catch-all.
Deduct points for including examples of social media and then adding a separate category for social media.
Add points for using this as an excuse to showcase seed company Burpee’s Flickr account, followed by a slide dedicated to pet social network Dogster.
That latter site had the saddest of endings. Dogster and Catster were sold to SAY Media, and they live on as media properties. But their co-founder Ted Rheingold passed away at age 47 in 2017, and he remains one of my favorite people I’ve met in this business.
He commented on my blog after I posted there about Dogster in 2006, “Thanks for the complimentary words David. It’s really great to read them. We’ve worked really hard to nurture the community and grow the business… If you’re ever in San Francisco we’d be happy to have you over to the dog house.”
You don’t forget graciousness like that, especially from a successful founder to a young blogger-turned-strategist.
12) Virtual worlds: Consumers search in new universes.
Yes, I’ve included the metaverse (or its predecessors) in PowerPoint decks for 16 years now.
This one included my avatar at the American Apparel store in Second Life, and I’ve used this slide during some metaverse talks this year. The graphics look better than much of what we see in the metaverse today.
My avatar’s name, which I only remembered when browsing screenshots from the time, was DavidBen Daniel. You had to use one of the last names that were available, so I went with a Hebrew-based construction where “ben” means “son of,” and Daniel is indeed my father’s name (yes, I just checked, and ‘Son of Sam’ was not an option). David, Son of Daniel — my metaverse identity.
My dad’s no longer alive in this universe, or the metaverse. Maybe he’s out there in the multiverse somewhere.
In this universe though, on some server or another, I’m still DavidBen Daniel, curious as ever about what we’re searching for and how we search for it.
Some things really don’t change.
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Marketing Communications Specialist
Via Sara in the community
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Via Pam in the community
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“As our Growth Lead at MyWellbeing, you’ll own consumer acquisition and conversion. This role requires a data-driven obsession with testing, optimizing, analyzing, and reporting. You must be comfortable in a fast-paced, agile environment and be able to wear both strategy and execution hats. You’ll report directly to the Founder and work closely with the broader MyWellbeing team.”
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- NYC Ad Jobs & Networking: A popular Facebook group
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- Questions to Ask for a Marketing Role: What questions should you ask when starting a new marketing role or job?
- Serial Marketers Job Board: Post regular and featured listings and subscribe for updates.
- VC Job Boards: Aleph, Eniac Ventures, Pear, Sequoia, Union Square Ventures
- Venwise: Submit your job interests here and get in front of their roster of hiring leads; select “Serial Marketers” under “How did you find us”
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