Just because the U.S. has been at the forefront of search marketing and technologies, doesn’t mean our friends across the pond have been sitting on their hands. Not by a long shot. With over 7 years of search experience and a resume that includes such names as Espotting Media, Warren Cowan, CEO/founder of UK-based SEM agency Greenlight, brings a lot of experience and a bit of English class to industry. Today, ADOTAS Conversations points the spotlight on Cowan, Greenlight and all the red lights on the way.
First, tell me a little bit about Greenlight.
We’re a 6-year old search engine marketing agency that improves its clients’ ROI on paid search, and optimizes their website so it appears in organic search results, too. With offices in New York and London and over 25 dedicated search staff, Greenlight handles the search engine marketing for many FTSE, NASDAQ and NYSE firms.
What makes your company stand out above the rest?
Well, we have a great list of clients that I’m pleased to say continues to grow, including companies like Microsoft, Hotels.com, Pricerunner, Monarch Airlines, HMV, etc. I can say we have them as clients because we’re good at what we do; we deliver huge improvements in ROI, which would take a much larger investment through traditional marketing channels. I’m sure clients like ours wouldn’t stick around long if that wasn’t the case.
We’ve also overcome some huge technical and organizational obstacles that have broken the wills of some of our competitors. I think it’s the powerful and all too rare combination of technical, marketing and general business expertise that our people bring to the projects, in addition to their extensive search expertise, that allows us to always find a way to make these really complex projects achieve fantastic results. I think working at the deep end on every project really teaches you to swim, and that’s where we’ve spent our existence thus far.
We’ve also developed some industry firsts, such as our structured SEO methodology, and ADAPT, which is a pay per click tool that allows product- and inventory-based advertisers to control their paid search campaigns and to work better with Google’s latest quality based bidding method.
What are some of the challenges you see in SEO and what changes need to be made (with technology or otherwise) to overcome them?
As I think I hinted above, organizational challenges are some of the most complex. The SEO flag-waving generally starts with the marketers, who by and large have the customer remit within the company, and who need to generate public awareness of the company and its products or services.
The common perception is that it’s easy to get to be Number One in Google — or any of the other search engines. However, the reality is quite different — and that’s part of the educational challenge search marketing companies like Greenlight face, as well as delivering tangible results. Daring to be ambitious enough to be top on Google, it quickly becomes evident to them that to rank on Page 1 there’s a whole world of variables that need to be controlled and adjusted to achieve this lofty goal. The hard bit is that often a number of those variables are under other departments’ control, outside of Marketing’s jurisdiction, and these other departments often have no incentive to buy into the project — corporate websites are a prime example.
As one rather disgruntled (and in IMHO slightly unreasonable) IT executive told us, “We’re not about to change our $@&$ing architecture just for some goddamn SEO company”. Now that’s probably an extreme response, but it does happen, and this type of attitude can slow down projects and often bring them to a halt. So it’s important to understand that a search engine project is multidisciplinary: it involves coordinating hundreds of variables across a company’s web development, editorial, content and marketing strategy. The keys to fine-tuning that coordination are often held by others in the organization, so getting them all to play ball is often the linchpin of the project.