SEL vs. SEW: And The Winner Is?

Filed in Miscellaneous by Matt McGee on December 1, 2007 0 Comments

As Danny Sullivan points out, Search Engine Land is a year old today. First and foremost, congrats to Danny, Chris, Barry, Michelle, and everyone else involved in an ultra-successful first year! I consider it an honor to be one of SEL’s columnists, and have become a big fan of the SMX conference series and the Sphinn social community, too. Putting together three creations like those is a lot to accomplish in just 12 months!

Now, on to the good stuff… (stay with me on this)

If you turn back the clock 16 months to August, 2006, there was a lot of uncertainty about where the search marketing industry was headed after Danny left Search Engine Watch. There’s no better place to refresh your memory than Barry’s recap on Search Engine Roundtable. In the first couple months after Danny left, other members of the SEW team (the blog, forums, etc.) departed, too. SEW, frankly, floundered for some time. I remember distinctly thinking that SEW was going to die a slow death.

Then, when Search Engine Land launched one year ago, many of us wondered what would happen as SEL competed against Danny’s first home. We were prepared for …


Was there enough room for both sites? Did the industry need both sites? How would one be different from the other, and who would win? By that time, SEW had started regrouping and found new bloggers and new authors to fill the void. But there were still doubts.

I was fascinated by the prospect of watching this play out. So I decided to keep track of SEL, SEW, and the SEW blog. I figured that RSS subscribers would be a good measuring stick: Would subscribers leave SEW to follow SEL exclusively? At the time, I couldn’t find the three sites’ Feedburner stats; I don’t think SEL was even using Feedburner at the very beginning. So, I used the only publicly available stat I could find: RSS subscribers using Bloglines. With the growth of Google Reader, this wasn’t the best stat to use, but it was the only one readily available for all three sites.

On December 3, 2006, I began tracking RSS subscribers for all three sites in Bloglines. (Yes, I have no life.) At first, I checked and updated my spreadsheet once a week. Then I switched to every couple weeks. I was unusually busy in September, and missed that month altogether. So, from October to the present, I just checked once a month. I kept an Excel spreadsheet with all the numbers.

The Results?

After stripping the data down to once-a-month numbers, here’s a chart showing Bloglines RSS subscribers to all three sites: Search Engine Watch (blue), Search Engine Watch blog (red), and Search Engine Land (yellow).

SEW vs SEL comparison
click the image to see a larger version

The consistency of growth for both SEW and the SEW blog is amazing — two almost perfectly straight lines going up and to the right. SEL’s growth is more dramatic and just as steady. Here are the then-and-now numbers:

Search Engine Watch
December 3, 2006: 4336
December 1, 2007: 4665

Search Engine Watch blog
December 3, 2006: 2871
December 1, 2007: 3250

Search Engine Land
December 3, 2006: 451
December 1, 2007: 1748

And the winner is?

Everyone. Sure, it would make for better drama if one of the sites was a clear winner and the others were clear losers, but the reality is that, while SEL has shown dramatic growth, SEW and the SEW blog have continued their steady growth throughout the year. To me, this proves the voracious appetite that exists for high-level search marketing news, analysis, and advice. Clearly, there are plenty of readers to keep both sites alive and growing. And that’s good news for all of us.

So, while wishing Happy Birthday and Congrats to Danny and my fellow SEL crew, the same Congrats is also due to everyone at Search Engine Watch for their continued success in 2007.

Final Thought…

Now that all three sites are showing Feedburner stats, this kind of comparison will be easier in the future. I’m tossing my spreadsheet and getting my life back. 🙂 The current numbers are below, and these will update daily by default as long as all three continue using Feedburner and don’t change their IDs/accounts.

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Watch blog

Search Engine Land

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