Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) from one of the world’s most renowned experts in driving organic growth. Jordan Koene is the General Manager of the US Market at Searchmetrics. In this episode of the MarTech podcast, he walks us through the toolkit he has developed to help startups and enterprise level companies use content & technology to create marketable assets that grow in value over time.

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Podcast Transcript

Benjamin: Welcome back to the Martech Podcast. I'm your host, Benjamin Shapiro. In this podcast, we tell the stories of world-class marketers that use technology to drive business results and achieve career success.

This podcast is sponsored by Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is a search engine optimization platform that helps businesses who care about their online presence, understand how their content is viewed by Google, and what they can do to improve their rankings. If you're an enterprise level marketer, the Searchmetrics suite of software and services will help you optimize your existing content, help you understand what topics you need to cover, and how to ensure that your writers produce effective posts. Billions of Google searches happen every day, Searchmetrics gets your stories to the top. For more information, go to searchmetrics.com.

In this episode of the Martech Podcast, we are fortunate to have a chance to hear from one of our sponsors and one of the world's most renowned experts in creating organic growth. Jordan Koene is the general manager of the US market at Searchmetrics and I am very excited to have him as our first guest on the Martech Podcast. Jordan, thanks for joining us.

Jordan:  Thank you, Ben. Thank you for having me, and I'm excited to share and hopefully, everyone takes away something from this.

Benjamin: Let's start off by talking about what your company does and what your role is at the company?

Jordan:  Searchmetrics is an SEO platform predominantly used for organic search, and we are a data aggravator as well, so we have this unique positioning where we collect Google data and then we allow brands and companies to leverage that data to make decisions on how to improve their search presence.

Benjamin: The people that are listening to this podcast, we break up into two groups. There are our marketing experts and our marketing novices. For the marketing novices, when Jordan talks about SEO, that stands for search engine optimization and Jordan's company helps large companies, enterprise-level companies get their content to the top of Google search results. Tell me about your role at the company. What do you do?

Jordan: Yeah. I am the general manager of Searchmetrics Inc. I specify the Inc. because we are although a small company, a global company, we originated in Berlin, Germany and we expanded to the US markets about six years ago, and my responsibility is to help weed this team to expand and grow here in the US market.

Benjamin: You are essentially the head of the US organization to help people figure out how to get their content up to the top of Google's pages?

Jordan: That is correct. Yes.

Benjamin: Walk us through your career path. What led you to being essentially the head honcho at one of the largest search SaaS companies in the world?

Jordan: It actually originated in  an entrepreneurial project where I built an online Spanish bookstore. It was called mylibros.com, and My Libro was born out of the idea that there is a way for me to use my language skills in Spanish as well as identify a way to capture some market share in this growing Spanish speaking population in US. I had wrote a business plan, developed all these things, launched the website and about one year into the website, I realized that I wasn't selling any Spanish books to Spanish speakers. I was selling Spanish books to moms in suburbs who wanted their kids to learn Spanish. It was a pretty interesting, both business and SEO experience. On the SEO side, what I was able to do was actually outrank Amazon from nearly every single Spanish keyword that was out there. The titles of the books, libros in Español, Spanish books and the reality was that people were starting to take note, and they were recognizing like, "How is this random guy in St. Louis, Missouri with a Spanish bookstore outranking Amazon?"

Jordan: Back then, Amazon really only sold books. It was very different than what Amazon is today, and that's what got me into the industry and generated notoriety for what I was doing in SEO. Quite frankly, I really didn't know all the ins and outs of SEO at that time, but that's what broke me into that space. From there, I went to work for a collection of startups. I had the opportunity to work on a couple of big brands including Answers.com, and then eventually I got to eBay and I had this opportunity to go and work on the SEO team at eBay. Then eventually, lead the SEO organization at eBay for a few years. That was really where I cut my teeth both in the idea of what does it take to do enterprise level SEO, but also be a leader in search and how to lead search across an organization partnering with development in IT and content teams and analytics to really generate the momentum necessary at a large scale to grow your presence, traffic and ultimately, revenue for the business?

Benjamin: Now, you're essentially helping other companies do the same thing the EU have done for eBay?

Jordan: Correct. Yeah.

Benjamin: Talk to me about Searchmetrics and what are the products that the company sells and how do you help people grow their organic channels?

Jordan: Our product really breaks up into two different sections. We have what is our research area, which is a collection of data. It is predominantly driven by keyword rankings across a bunch of different countries and allows you to analyze your competitors, analyze your own performance over time, and this is at the backbone of how we understand and really inform businesses and brands about what's happening in Google. It's the research section. Then also, we have what is called the project section. The project section is really much more of a technical analysis in reporting function. You can analyze your site. You can analyze a competitor site. You can do deep dives and really fish in, in terms of what could be the technical problem, and then you can also build reports to track certain projects or efforts that you're investing in. Those are the two core SEO sections for products that we offer in the market.

Jordan: Then, the last one is content experience, which is probably the most exciting. It is also the newest, and the content experience platform is a workflow that allows you to leverage a lot of this exact same data, but understand how it can be used on a piece of content. How can I take search insights and search data points to better understand how I can outperform? Then, we put users into an editor that allows them to monitor their progress as they're creating the content.

Benjamin: Just to distill that down, essentially there is an SEO component of your software that allows people interested in driving more organic growth to understand what's happening in the market. You can then do your research and take that over, and create projects to implement changes to your website, and that's all sort of part of the SEO suite? Then, there's a separate part of software where you can create content and see how that will rank as you're creating the content, and that's your content experience.

Jordan: Exactly.

Benjamin: Okay. Talk to me about how that set of products differentiates you from your competition?

Jordan: The SEO industry as a whole is fragmented in a variety of different ways including even in much of the strategy or implementation that the different practitioners may use, I say that one of the tarnishes on the SEO industry that exists is that many individuals see it as a bit of a black hole and they see it as an investment that doesn't really necessarily yield a correlated result, and in my opinion and in our opinion also at Searchmetrics, it is a byproduct of not having the right data in front of you to make good decisions. A lot of people in the SEO industry will work off of experience. They'll say, "Oh, this worked over here. It must work if I try it again." That's not always the case. Google is a living and breathing changing environment and ecosystem, and if you're not adapting and changing at the same pace, you can guarantee that Google will find a way to ensure that its customers, its users are finding what they need.

Jordan: To go back and answer your question more directly, the reality is that the greatest value, the greatest benefit that organizations get out of using our platform versus say, using a collection of data or a collection of tools is that we have, not only the largest but the most accurate and consistent set of data that exist in the marketplace. For that reason, we can provide organizations with a higher degree of credibility when they go in and make decisions to improve their organic presence.

Benjamin: Can you give us a little background on some of the priority variables? If somebody is starting off, and they're focusing on content creation, what are the main things that they need to consider?

Jordan: Yeah. It's a great question, Ben. The reality is it starts with first and foremost, having a quality piece of content, a quality source of information or experience that consumers want to find online. You got to start there, right? Once you have something that is differentiated in the marketplace, the next most important element is accessibility. It has to be something that consumers can access. We often hear Google talk about certain accessibility topics like say, site speed. How fast is your site? The speed of your site is really just a byproduct of accessibility. The faster it is, guess what? The easier it is for consumers and users to get it. That's why Google makes such a big stink about speed because it is one of the most important accessibility factors. Then, the last piece has a variety of different names, but I'll call it for this conversation, recognition.

Jordan: That is by nature, what the SEO industry would call backlinks. Ultimately, what you're trying to do there is you're growing your presence online by being recognized by other websites and when your recognition on other websites is captured by Google, you inherently going to perform better and higher. Just to give you guys a quick example, that's actually how My Libro has become so successful. My father, he is a teacher and he advised me to go out and apply at all the school districts in the country to become an authorized vendor of the school district and sell the school districts Spanish books. When I did that, what I realized was that some districts would send me a giant list of all the contacts at the school because I became an approved vendor, I had access to do outreach or communicate or share my products or discounts with the administrators and the teachers that were in that district.

Jordan: Obviously, because I wasn't very aware, I didn't do email blast or any of these things. I was learning to be an SEO person at the time. What did I do? I contacted the webmaster at many of these school districts. I told them to add a webpage about My Libros on that site. These sites were all .edus, so they're all educational websites, and .edu websites had a higher authority than just a common .com. Overnight as I was doing this unbeknownst to me, what I was leveraging was very high authority, very important recognized websites on the internet and getting links back to My Libros' website. That's how I gained a lot of recognition and grew that business.

Benjamin: Remind me again the three important aspects.

Jordan: First and foremost, it starts off by providing a quality piece of content or some quality experience.

Benjamin: Okay. Number two?

Jordan:  Accessibility. Google has to be able to access this content, know that the content exists, is aware of the content. There's a huge check with the things that you have to do around that even just for folks that are starting off setting up Google search console, which is a free tool provided by Google so that you can share your content with Google. That's one of the first steps.

Benjamin: Okay. Then, the third step was?

Jordan: Awareness. Generating recognition by being published or shared across other sites.

Benjamin: It's about having unique interesting content. You have to start with a good product. It has to be accessible, so people can actually view the content when it's there, and other people have to give a signal to say that the content is interesting. That's sort of the SEO 101. How does Searchmetrics help people at enterprise level large-scale accomplish those things?

Jordan: Let's start with accessibility and awareness. We have a great set of technical tools and data that allow you to understand how competitors are doing or how you yourself are performing over time, and then measure the rank and rank position of keywords that matter most to your business. As I mentioned before, we've built this content experience platform that allows you to take in all those factors and then understand how you are essentially differentiating and producing a piece of content that would outperform the market. That is the core benefit of that tool, but ultimately one of the greatest unique positions about it is that there's no one else in the industry that can collect that volume of data and then for a single piece of content, interpret and help you understand how to rank and perform better.

Benjamin: Talk to me about who are the customers that benefit from these types of service?

Jordan: At first, it really includes players who are heavily dependent on online traffic. That's really where it starts, and from there, it branches out into a variety of different areas. We'll also have businesses that need help in understanding and measuring their awareness. We'll have government or regulatory organizations that want to use this data to monitor and track certain industries or organizations. The core of our customer based are companies who really want to leverage and grow their search traffic.

Benjamin: Help me think about why companies focus on driving organic presence? Why is that any better than the offline presence or why is it different than paid acquisition for traffic?

Jordan: Just this week, or it might have even been late last week, Toys "R" Us who had filed for bankruptcy has decided to shut down their stores. This is really a driving force in many ways from the realization that consumers have changed the way that they shop and they buy products. We don't just consume from physical retail the same way we did 20 years ago. The companies are learning to adapt and become competitive in this new way that consumers buy and consume products. I'm sure that we even change again in the next 20 to 40 years. Today, consumers have so much access to both knowledge and information about products to a degree that they've never had before and on top of that, they've had the ability to purchase and almost instantaneously acquire those products. You can do that all online. The brands and the businesses who are not present online, who are not accessing consumers online are simply at a competitive disadvantage.

Benjamin: I understand that there's this generational shift in terms of purchase behavior, and you said Toys "R" Us is a great example. People don't go to physical retail stores to do their research to buy their products. They're doing online research. Help me understand the balance between purchasing traffic, and organic traffic and what are the differences and why is one better than the other?

Jordan: If you really think of more traditional marketing tactics and marketing knowledge and experience, it really actually suits well when it comes to the buying traffic components. When you're either buying ads, or buying display or whatever it might be, it's really a byproduct of measuring certain KPIs to be efficient whether it's ROI or brand awareness. It is very much a mathematical application of marketing, and I think that is really what makes the individuals who do that very successful, and it has an excellent place in the marketplace. It's never going to go away. People are always going to be buying advertising to grow their brand and grow their revenue. The unique difference though between advertising and search engine optimization is that fundamentally, it is a different set of practices and skills that make you successful. It is a hybrid of both being an artist and a technical tactician. In the same sentence, you can talk to an SEO, and he could be telling you that the creative needs to change, and the technical infrastructure of your site is deficient. That's the biggest difference in my opinion between what you would consider advertisers and organic marketers.

Benjamin: Paid acquisition, as you mentioned, is very ROI driven. Right? It's a calculation of if I spend a dollar, do I get more than a dollar back? With organic growth, you're creating an asset that becomes increasingly valuable overtime that you only have to pay for once, and that you can continue to syndicate and reuse. When you're doing paid advertising, you're setting up a toll booth. When you're creating organic content, you have an asset that you can continue to build on overtime and the more you invest in the organic growth, the more value you get out of it over time. That said, I want to ask you a question. When people are starting to build organic growth, are there any data points or expectations that you could help them set for how much they need to invest in creating the content channel? What is the timeline it takes for that to start bearing fruit?

Jordan: As you're starting up your business, I think the first thing for you to understand is your market. What is the audience in the market that you're trying to go after? Who are the consumers? Who are the readers or users that you want to capture? The more you understand that the better off you're going to be, but if you're just getting started off as you asked before, the first and foremost activity is to understand your audience, to understand who you're trying to reach. Then, it's really doing a high-level competitive analysis of what's happening within that content space, and the better insights you have around the competition, the more likely you are to perform better with that piece of content. It can take time.

Jordan: If you're starting from scratch where you have a website that's never been exposed before, you're going to expect that it will take time. It doesn't happen overnight, and especially that awareness piece. That is the hardest piece that it takes an effort to capitalize on. On the flip side, if you have an established brand and you have a presence already online, it becomes more of a how to understand different ideas and tactics to scale and grow?

Benjamin:  I think that's the biggest thing that I urge people to understand the difference when you're advertising is that you can create a piece of content. In a vacuum, it might not be very valuable. If you create a series of content, and you're constantly investing in building content, what you'll find is you'll generate more organic growth over time. The content becomes more valuable as opposed to you advertise, you put a dollar in, you get a dollar out in real time, but then you need to keep investing to get that same return.

Jordan: Yep.

Benjamin: Jordan, talk to me about when you're starting to produce content, how do you recommend that companies start thinking about what content to produce?

Jordan: When it comes to starting off in producing content, the first element of being successful at this is analyzing the topics you want to cover. Often times, companies and brands, they already think that they have the topics prioritized, but what they don't realize is that the competitive environment that exists in SEO is very different than what they believe the competitive environment is in the four walls of their office. Topics selection, I believe is one of the most important and overlooked aspects. Nine out of 10 times, what you see is companies just create a list. They say, "These are the things we want to write about," and they use very little insight or knowledge to determine why they're writing about those topics.

Benjamin: Outside of using the Searchmetrics software, which has rich data and can basically tell you what you should be writing about, what are some other ways for people to start thinking about creating content that people are actually looking for?

Jordan: A great way to start discovering what are the best and accurate topics is really doing some discovery on Google. One of my favorite tools to use is just the Google suggest, so if you go in the Google today and you do a search for any keyword, what Google is going to show you is all of the other relevant topics and key terms that are related to that particular keyword. That is a great tool, an indication to understand how consumers search for something. When you're typing in something, do people look for the price? Do they look for the description of it? What is the sub-topic that's relevant to my main topic? That right there gives you a clue into how Google looks at and understands a particular topic. The second thing I would do is I would spend a lot of time discovering what works. A lot of people overlook that there's a variety of different media types and sources and structures that work better than others. Are competitors using tables or lists? Are they using imagery or videos? Having a core understanding of those aspects are going to directly impact how and what you create, and that to me is a great foundation to producing better content and being more successful with your content in search.

Benjamin: Jordan, how do you understand what the competition is for a given keyword?

Jordan: There's a couple of different ways to approach this especially if you don't have a tool. One of the greatest things is to just start looking at a lot of the three things that Google has to offer. Google has a collection of keyword tools, keyword research tools all typically part of the experience that is their advertising experience, but these tools become just as valuable for organic marketers as any others. Understanding say, the big price for a particular keyword can really help you make a decision on how competitive and how important is this particular term. Understanding seasonality and the seasonality behind a particular keyword that can also be a very useful piece of information, especially if you're in a seasonal business. The reality is that Google's keyword planner and keyword tool is a great place to start for folks who don't have any experience in doing this.

Jordan: Then, there is a variety of in slew, keyword terms that exist out in the marketplace that allow you to do research and analysis and aggregate this information. The reality is that the more you understand a keyword will be better off you can be at making decisions on how to prioritize them. That's really what it comes down to because it's not about just producing one piece of content, and letting it sit there. It's about understanding how to build a community of content that relates to one another, that is useful, that is productive and that requires thoughtfulness behind prioritization and then also relationships between various pieces of content, which is what we started our organization off with when we talked about the suggested search.

Benjamin: Jordan, talk to me about your career goals, about what's next for you? What are you trying to accomplish at Searchmetrics?

Jordan: We have a great opportunity to provide consumers with the right data, get it to their fingertips and our fundamental goal here is to ensure that all brands, not just enterprise brands, but all online brands have the ability to use this data to compete as aggressively as possible in their respective markets. Our overall goal is to expand and grow here in the US market and become the market leader in search and content. One of the big things that we're trying to do is understand how we can expand into the content audience, become relevant to a community that is very large. There are so many different content owners and content writers, editors and they come from various backgrounds, and our hope is that they see the value in producing content from a data-driven perspective.

Jordan: Today, most writers and most content organizations start with a blank page. They start with a white page, and the experience that they have in their mind, and that's great. I think that it is a good place to start, but the writing experience can become so much more productive when you have the data and the insight that will drive your writing to reach users and consumers. We've seen it work, and we believe that we can make a bigger impact within that community.

Benjamin: The one question I have for you is as you've gone from creating mylibros.com to being the general manager of an international B2B SaaS for SEO, what lessons have you learned that you'd like to pass on to some of the junior marketers or people that are just starting on in their marketing and technology careers?

Jordan: When it comes to search, the first thing that I would always advise people who are getting started in the space is to never stop learning, never stop trying new tactics, new efforts. That inspiration for innovation is something that is very much rewarded by Google, and I think it's also one of the main reasons why. Even though it's only a 25 or so year old company, it's still such a present and aware and useful tool for all consumers. Then, the second thing I would always advise people on is you can never sit and wait. A lot of people who are working with Google and trying to make search a success for their business, they often have this idea that if I just wait long enough, Google will eventually find me. That couldn't be any further from the truth. The reality is Google is constantly moving and innovating and progressing. If you're not moving and innovating and progressing at that same pace, you can be assured that Google will pass you up. Always be in a position where you are pushing yourself to do the next thing.

Benjamin: I think that's great advice. Last question for you, anything that you'd like to promote? How can people that are listening to this show get in touch with you and learn more about Searchmetrics?

Jordan: Folks can get in touch with me on LinkedIn, Jordan Koene or jtkoene on Twitter. I'm happy to answer any questions or do any followup. I'd urge you to also check out our website, searchmetrics.com, and I would say for all of those folks who are just getting started off, go and do the hard work of reading the detailed and very lengthy Google webmaster guidelines. If you really want to learn about this industry, and you really want to get familiar with this industry, take some time and learn about what Google has determined to be a successful website on the internet, and I'll leave you with that as a resource to get yourself started.

Benjamin: All right. Jordan Koene from Searchmetrics. Thank you so much for being our guest. Thanks for your time. Have a great day.

Jordan: Absolutely. Thanks, Ben.

Benjamin: That wraps up this episode of the Martech Podcast. Thanks to Jordan Koene and the Searchmetrics team for sponsoring this show. If you're interested in learning more about Searchmetrics or if you'd like a walkthrough of their product, head over to searchmetrics.com/demo. If you like this podcast and you want a weekly stream of marketing and technology goodness, hit the subscribe button in your podcast feed, and of course we'd love for you to leave a review in the iTunes store. If you have questions or you'd like to be on the Martech Podcast, go to benjshap.com, and you can click on the contact link. You can also check out some of our other podcasts in the benjshap podcast network.

Okay. That's it for today, but until next time, my advice is to just keep focusing on keeping your customers happy. Have a great day, everybody.