Fredrick Marckini iProspect Exclusive SEO Interview with Dan Horton
A wonderful opportunity arose the other day when Dave asked me to interview Fredrick Marckini founder of iProspect and very well respected search marketing expert.
Fredrick will be speaking at Search Engine Strategies 2008.
I was told he’d be expecting my call at 9pm UK time and to simply introduce myself and take it from there.
Firstly, let me say Fredrick came over as a really genuine and informed guy who instantly put me at ease by telling me “it’s your interview, ask what you like” So, I did:
I informed Fredrick that we have a mixed blog audience ranging from small businesses to large corporates and fellow Seo’s and that Dave was my mentor within the Search Industry. Fortunately, Fredrick had heard of Dave’s popularity and commented that he knew Dave was well known within the search.
” Fredrick, can you give us an advanced preview of your opening keynote?”
Search engine marketing is about so much more than paid search. In the U.K. in particular, and Europe in general, SEO lags paid search dramatically and companies are not paying as much attention to social search opportunities as they should. I plan to reveal some brand new numbers (from our business) that show the split between paid search advertising and natural/organic search engine optimization in more established/mature markets and then the same information in Europe, the U.K. specifically, and Asia which are newer to search marketing. I have some new best practices for 2008 to discuss and some ideas on how to extend a paid search campaign into international markets to realize efficiencies. I will discuss the major trends that are shaping the new advertising and marketing landscape including the iPhone, Digital Video Recorders, and how to leverage sites like YouTube to grow your brand and pump-up your other search marketing efforts. It will be a little bit like drinking from a fire hose, but I hope to keep it fast-paced and engaging.
“Fredrick, I know Dave considers you one of the pioneers of search engine marketing, How has the industry changed since you founded iProspect in 1996?”
Everything has changed! The only constant in search engine marketing is change. When we began in 1996, Yahoo had something like an 85% market share. Google wasn’t even a twinkle in Sergey or Larry’s eye, and GoTo.com which later became Overture and the future monitization model of search hadn’t even been considered. Success in search was largely based on writing a description for Yahoo that included the right keywords and produced a high ranking in their directory (remember that word, directory?!?!). A top ranking in Yahoo’s directory was gold and would make the phone ring. People were reaching out to us because they had a poor listing in Yahoo and Yahoo was unresponsive — one or two hired us because they feared they would be fired if they couldn’t get their listing in Yahoo changed! It was a very different world.
Today, paid search is top of mind and SEO is still considered mysterious by some marketers. Web 2.0 and social community based web experiences are in vogue and attracting all of the money and attention. Search engine marketing has gone from a “tactic” addressed by lower-level marketing managers to a “strategy” backed by millions of dollars at some companies and has earned the attention of the CMO and in some cases, the CEO of the organization.
In the early days of search, a marketing coordinator would “round-up” some vendors for her boss, the marketing manager or manager of e-commerce and the pitches would be scheduled and a winner selected. Back then, it was difficult to convince a company to spend even $50,000 on search marketing initiatives. Today, a consideration set of vendors are selected based on their ratings in any number of analyst publications and the pitches can last eight hours and include 10 senior executives from the client side. Budgets for paid search regularly reach into the millions of dollars and SEO budgets are sometimes inching up towards the million dollar mark depending on the size of the site, the ambition of the marketer and the opportunity in the particular vertical.
“With the advent of mobile search, can you talk about it’s evolution? It’s significance and it’s impact on marketing and advertising?”
Mobile search will be a significant opportunity within the next five years. The iPhone is nothing short of a revolution. Apple imagined a world with a real browser experience from a mobile device and raised the bar for all other smart phone makers. In the coming months and years, every mobile phone will see an improvement in the mobile browser. The Android initiative is a hint at what’s next and what’s possible. And the mobile phone shatters barriers to entry for many emerging markets. Though in some developing parts of the world, owning a personal computer is luxury, a mobile phone is a necessity and everyone has them. As these older phones are replaced by the next generation, more and more people globally will be in possession of a cell phone that gives them access to the Internet and therefore search. Search marketers will begin to understand how powerful this little device is when their clients’ websites show an increasing percentage of visitors from mobile devices. This future is certain the only question that has yet to be answered is the speed with which this change will come.
“Fredrick, you’re the Chief Global Search Officer for Isobar. What is your day job like?”
I spend entirely too much time in an aisle seat of an airplane. Last year alone I visited Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Spain, Germany, France, the U.K. Italy, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Holland and a few other countries that the jet lag has caused me to forget. We have search practices all across the globe and my team and I visit many of them regularly. We are re branding many of them as iProspect and many more will be announced this year. It is our vision that every search agency in the Isobar network share a set of best practices and tools. The goal is that a client can engage any of our search agencies in any country for a search search marketing campaign and expect the same superior results as they might expect from our most established and tenured search agencies. Then, the client can extend that campaign into any major market in the world seamlessly, a know that they will receive the same quality of work, the same best practices, and consistent reporting, country-by-country, market-by-market. To achieve that goal we host search engine marketing best practices trainings called iProspect University. We host these in different countries around the globe all year, every few months. Our Global Search Team speaks regularly at conferences in different countries in support of the local agency, and we attend pitches and meet with clients. We are also very interested in growing by acquisition and I spend a good deal of time identifying, vetting and conducting due diligence on potential acquisitions.
“You’ve written bylined articles for Search Engine Watch, ClickZ and numerous other publications.
Yahoo! has just rejected a $44.6 billion takeover offer from Microsoft Corp. What do you think is going to happen now? Any thoughts?”
I am one of the few who think this is the right move for both Yahoo and Microsoft, though Yahoo seems to be fighting the offer at the moment. I think Microsoft value proposition for a combination with Yahoo is strong. The one asset that no one seems to be talking about is the combined power of Yahoo and Microsoft’s email systems — together, they are a dominant force in email. Yahoo and Microsoft’s market share for search have experienced some erosion and I believe the two companies can be stronger together. Google is an incredibly strong competitor but Yahoo has a damn good search engine and always has. Yahoo has strength in certain Asian markets, too, that could keep a Yahoo/Microsoft combination in the fight as Asia comes online and the interest in all things Internet and search increase in these markets. I’m bullish on the union, but not yet certain that it will ultimately be realized. It might get uglier before it gets better, and that would be unfortunate. In my humble opinion, this is the right move for both companies if they have any hope of stopping or even slowing Google’s momentum.
“How is the market share going to evolve? Google, MSN, Yahoo! etc….”
I think that a lot will depend on the Microsoft/Yahoo deal. If the past is any indication, Google’s market share has grown unchecked almost every quarter for as far back as anyone has kept records. If the players don’t make major changes, I expect Google will creep ahead, market-by-market, until the number two is a dot in the rear-view mirror. The wild card is vertical search. No one is going to beat Google head-to-head, but if vertical category killers emerge, they could peel off Google’s audience sector-by-sector. Who could have predicted YouTube? Who searches for airline ticket prices on Google? We search on Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak and others. We search Amazon for books, WebMD for medical information. As new categories emerge, someone will be first, and the leader in each of them, and it may or may not be Google.
“What advice would you give to an SEO trainee ?”
Find a good search-specific agency and learn the craft there. Master the fundamentals and read everything you can. Read the books, not just the online blogs. And most importantly, experiment. Today’s experiments are tomorrow’s businesses. Search PR was an experiment before Greg Jarboe and SEO-PR created it as a category. Social Media optimization was an experiment before it was a business. Search Reputation Management was an idea before it became a discipline. Combinations of novel tactics often produce powerful results. The key is being able to measure and repeat the experiments.
“There are so many search engine marketing companies online, how do you tell who is giving the best advice? “
There are clues that hint at an agencies fitness and these are the same no matter the industry. Analyst review, membership in industry organizations, regular publication and citation by others, speaking at trade shows. The Search Engine Strategies conference has been running since 1997 (I think). They have a track record of picking speakers who have demonstrated their staying power and expertise. Look for individuals and organizations who work hard in the area of thought leadership, and then see if that thought leadership is favorably reviewed by the mainstream sites and blogs in your industry. This holds true not just for search, but any consulting practice area.
Thanks Fredrick for your time inputted in this interview.