Amazon Turning Ten

    June 28, 2005

If is ten years old, that brings up a bit of search engine marketing trivia. It must meant that linking campaigns, once thought to be the quintessential form of Internet PR, are now more than ten years old! Eric Ward famously helped Amazon get linked all over the web, which was a big part of its early success.

Linking campaigns got a further boost when Google rose to the forefront. “PR” in this sense meant PageRank, and it allegedly got a boost if you went out and got the right kinds of links to your site.

All of that is still important in online marketing, but as with any tactic, it’s been overdone and faked to the point where it begins to lose effectiveness. You need a real pro (like, ahem, Eric Ward) if you expect to get it right.

Speaking of Amazon, did I mention you can pre-order my new book there?

Speaking of Internet trivia, I wonder if anyone’s tried to pinpoint the first instance of “search engine optimization” or “search engine marketing” efforts. Given the evolution of the search business, of course, it was all seen as a technological playground because paid search didn’t really show up in earnest until 2000 or so. Search engine “marketing” came late, when clever optimizers finally adjusted to the emerging reality that “optimization” is just a subset of broader fields of interest to the companies who pay for services: marketing and web development based on usability standards. Eric Ward’s savvy was evident from Day One; he always recognized that linking campaigns were a subset of public relations, and he always taught us to focus on the intrinsic benefits of getting good links, rather than seeing them as a mere means to the end of getting Google to rejiggle its index in your favor.

So to try to bring this rambling post full circle: Amazon’s evolution, too, has been truly amazing. From a narrow model of selling books from an online catalog, the company has become a full-fledged modern corporation, pioneering new approaches to logistics and e-commerce and setting a standard of usability that most other e-tailers can only dream of matching. They expanded into music and other product lines, and then became a middleman working with retailers in nearly every field. They’ve pioneered new search technologies — search inside the book, cross-indexing, prodigious internal site search technologies, personalization/recommendations, and much more. So what’s next for Amazon? Possibly a knock-down, drag-out fight with companies like Google who try to move in on a core service, the delivery of digital content?

You’ve come along way, Amazon. And so have the rest of us!

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Andrew Goodman is Principal of Page Zero Media, a marketing consultancy which focuses on maximizing clients’ paid search marketing campaigns.

In 1999 Andrew co-founded, an acclaimed “guide to portals” which foresaw the rise of trends such as paid search and semantic analysis.