Searchmetrics is an business intelligence company which provides search and social analytics software to support search marketers across the globe. The company provide clients with softwares which delivers data to help them analyse, track, measure and improve their marketing campaigns and to automate a variety of processes so they can work more efficiently.
I caught up with the founder and CTO of Searchmetrics, Marcus Tober.
Can you give you some background information about yourself, were you the entrepreneurial type growing up?
I wasn’t necessarily the type of person who thought about starting a business at school. When I was young my real passion was history.
Tell me how the idea for Search Metrics came about?
It happened gradually. As part of the thesis for my computer science degree I had created a set of free SEO tools which I published online on my Linkvendor web site in 2005. At the time, Berlin, where I was living, was a hotbed for web design and search agencies and Linkvendor got a lot of hits and was at one time getting up to 30,000 users a day.
Later when I set up my own search agency, SEOSolutions, I developed some tools to help me work with my own clients. And In 2007 I was approached with an offer from Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. They had heard about what I was doing and suggested that we create a new company to develop and sell software tools for search, as well as to continue providing SEO services. Holtzbrinck Publishing provided the financial backing to start Searchmetrie which eventually became what is now Searchmetrics. Now we also have other investors including Neuhaus Partners and Iris Capital.
What were you doing before you started the company?
My initial career choice was medicine and I actually joined the army after school, where I started my medical training. I was an army paramedic trainee for four years which included a spell in the Kosovo war. This experience had a lasting effect on me as you can imagine and I eventually left the army and decided to switch careers. I went on to study web design and computer science while working for a number of web design and search agencies in Berlin.
What is Searchmetrics?
Searchmetrics is essentially a business intelligence company. We provide search and social analytics software to support search marketers across the globe. Our software delivers data to help them analyse, track, measure and improve their marketing campaigns and to automate a variety of processes so they can work more efficiently.
What are you trying to solve with Searchmetrics?
The data and insights we provide are key business intelligence which helps marketers address knowledge gaps related to search and these insights allow them to develop and improve their search marketing campaigns
Talk me through the first few months of running the business? What would you say was the hardest part of starting the business?
Actually, for us it wasn’t that hard, we were doing good work and our reputation spread quickly. We got business through referrals. We had the typical problems associated with growing very quickly - having to move to bigger offices as we expanded, and finding ourselves having recruiting staff to handle specific areas such as HR and finance – which we’d not really needed before.
Perhaps the one thing I found difficult to get used to at first was the detailed reporting I had to do for the investors. Holtzbrinck Publishing rightly needed to have updates about how the company was being run and what we were doing. However I wasn’t used to preparing those meticulous, time consuming reports and I did become a little frustrated with it. But it’s obviously all part of the job!
Would you say the initial idea for the company, or that your business model has changed since starting the company?
We are true to the original idea, in that we are still providing online business intelligence to support search marketers. But search has now evolved to include a social dimension, so the range of data we provide now also encompasses social insights.
What would you say has been some of the most crucial things that you've done to build the company to this level now?
I think one of the most important decisions we made was to become focused on the software business. In the early days of the company, I would find myself doing anything that clients needed; developing web sites, running the SEO and developing content if required. But we had to make the conscious decision to focus on the software side. And that is what our businesses is now known for.
Another crucial decision happened last year, when, against other advice, we made the decision to launch our Searchmetrics Essentials software. Previously we had focused on one product - our Searchmetrics Suite product, a powerful enterprise solution which is designed for larger agencies and in-house search departments. But Essentials is designed for smaller organisations and even includes a lot of complimentary data that anyone can access without registering. It allows a much wider audience to experience our data and has made a big difference in our awareness, with lots of positive feedback and reviews on social networks. Essentials is great for our visibility and reputation.
Is the business profitable?
The business is growing healthily. We are VC funded and today we are in growing mode – which means we need to spend the money to get market share. Once we have achieved market share, we know there are profits to be made. So our plan is not necessarily to be profitable at the moment.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
To be honest there have been too many memorable moments. My life is a blaze of emails, I’m always in working mode and I’m always thinking about new ideas and new product features. This is my life....and it is too difficult to pick specific moments.
What pieces of advices could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
My main advice is that, first and foremost, you must focus on the product or service you are offering. This is more important today than ever because information spreads so far, so quickly. If you don’t have a good product or you have some problems, then this bad news can quickly be known internationally. And likewise if your product is outstanding – then this positive reputation can quickly spread, far and wide. Keep focusing on the product; if it’s really good, you can generate a viral marketing effect.
What can we be expecting from you and Searchmetrics in 2012?
In the second half of the year we plan to release a new version of the Searchmetrics Suite. This is not just the old Ssuite with a few new features, this will be a completely new product with a new architecture. It’s going to be extremely cool.
Also because there is now a high and well known correlation between search and social, we will be launching some exciting new social data products later in the year. However, it’s important to remember that we’re primarily interested providing in data about how social effects search, so our products will not be competing with mainstream social media monitoring products.