Interview with Volker Smid, CEO, Searchmetrics
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role and how you got here? What inspired you to be a part of a MarTech company?
Marketing – more than any other department in enterprises – is drastically changing the way it operates, leveraging data and market-consumer insights. 6 Billion searches every day are consumer signals and demand patterns. We have only started in marketing to leverage the opportunity.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of online engagement with customers, how do you see content marketing analytic platforms evolving by 2020?
We will see a number of data and technology consolidations in the coming years. No enterprise can cope with 5400 companies in MarTech. Consolidation of data and platforms will ultimately create more value for the economic buyer than standalone startups.
MTS: How would the Ranking Factors for a B2B SaaS company differ from that of a publishing/media company?
Nowadays, Ranking Factors are first and foremost focused on the user. That means, if users like your content, it is very likely that this content will rank well in search results. For you as a company that means you must think about the two questions: What content does your targeted user need and want? and how does that content need to be shaped? We’ve conducted many studies and analyses in different sectors and industries on this and although many Ranking Factors are shaped differently depending on the industry, what all of our results across all fields have in common is, that the content of the best ranking URLs is in general providing the best content in the best way to the user. It’s tailored to the needs of the user which is specific for this industry.
As a publishing/media company on the one hand, your intent is obviously to inform and maybe to entertain the reader – depending on the respective niche you’re in (general news, industry magazine, etc. ). Even within these niches, the content differs with regards to content length, structure and format – depending on the topic. Journalistic reports tend to be long and text heavy, sports news are articles are rather short, celebrity gossip contains many images and tutorials are often videos.
As a B2B SaaS company on the other hand, you obviously offer a service or a product, respectively, which – at least if you’re doing your job right – is supposed to facilitate people’s work. That means, you help customers solve problems and/or save time. So, your content shouldn’t be focused on your product and how good everything is, but rather should on your users’ problems. That means, you as a B2B company should be concerned with educating your users and provide different kinds of content pieces along all the stage of the sales funnel (infographics, whitepapers, blog posts, webinars) in order to – finally – convert them. But everything starts with a problem, a need, an intention. That’s what businesses often forget.
MTS: Are these Ranking Factors linked to search and mobile visibility scores?
Ranking Factors are one out of many ways to take a deep and analytical look at how the current search landscape is shaped. And: they are based on data, which never lies. To put it differently: Ranking Factors provide a framework of values from best practice benchmarks that are based on an analysis of websites that perform well in search. These studies are supposed to show, what factors separate successful websites from less successful ones. That means for you as a marketer, being aware of the current market situation helps you to understand and learn – to improve your own performance based on the results of these analysis. And here’s the link to visibility scores: With the help of such elaborate KPIs, you are 1. able to track your own performance and either act when you’re outperformed by competitors and lose market share or 2. You’re able to track the success of your hard work and stay ahead of your competition. Doing it right and being aware of your very own Ranking Factors, will make the difference and finally result in higher visibility scores.
MTS: With the recent changes in data privacy policies, how do you see audience identification and tracking platforms delivering content personalization?
Content personalization has always balanced on the edge of being worthy of the investment for all but the world’s most sophisticated (and resources blessed organizations). As data privacy regulations evolve in the US and begin to mirror the EU’s it’s likely that the ROI will tip away from content personalization for many organizations.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
Mostly following the “Uberisation” of industries with a specific view on deep machine learning, healthcare, legal and R&D.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
HotJar, Optimizely, Google Analytics, Searchmetrics Search Experience, Searchmetrics Content Experience, WordPress, Sugar, Marketo, HootSuite, DivvyHQ
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
Our well know Ranking Factors studies have been a major driver of awareness and leads for Searchmetrics and a critically important guide for marketers looking to understand the constantly shifting search landscape. In 2015, Ranking Factors studies contributed 30% of our inbound lead flow, a clear indicator of its importance to Searchmetrics and to the marketers that depended on the research.
In 2017, as Google’s development and application of machine learning algorithms presented an opportunity to launch industry-targeted digital campaigns, Searchmetrics pivoted its approach. Beginning with our Finance and Travel Industry Ranking Factors reports; we began integrating industry influencers into the final analysis and conclusions of our reports. With their buy in and the activation of their social channels as they promoted the reports, our multi-channel efforts (a mix of traditional press, blog posts, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram), centered on the ranking factors reports and deep-dive webinars allowed us to reach digital marketing leadership that we’d struggled to reach in the past. Our goal for our Ranking Factors campaigns at the beginning of the year was to increase both the reach (number of downloads and shares) and the quality of our contact database as measured by contact-level quality scores.
Note that the ranking factors campaigns tend to be secondary contributors to revenue (meaning, it’s an excellent first touch and contributes highly qualified prospects to our database for future campaigns) such that downloads remain an effective tool for measuring success.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?
AI is a business enabler with several unknown elements of risk. Machines are learning based on data at an enormous speed. Business leaders will have to manage change at an even higher speed than in the past 10 years. It is a lot easier to train a machine than to lead an organization through change.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
The entire Google stack.
MTS: What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Define what we do through the lenses of a customer
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)
I enjoy reading the best German weekly Newspaper “Die Zeit” believe it or not on paper. In contrast, I consume all the ad-hoc information online. Books- 80% eReader, 20% Paper. Best Book so far “One Trillion Dollars” by Andreas Eschbach.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Try to find solutions in balance between customer, employee and shareholder needs.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
“Read” and understand people and their unique capabilities. Comprehension of very complex problems.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
MTS: Thank you Volker! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Volker Smid is the CEO of Searchmetrics and has over 25 years of management experience in the technology and media industry. Before joining Searchmetrics, as the Head of Digital & Technologies at the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, Volker Smid was responsible increasing the Group’s focus on its online business. He was also responsible for the development and coordination of interdivisional system technologies and for the Holtzbrinck business division Digital, Information & Services. As the CEO of Searchmetrics, Smid will contribute his extensive knowledge of the online sector to drive the ongoing international expansion of the Berlin-based group.
We are your pathfinder to content that uniquely matches user intent with the deep learning insights of the Searchmetrics Suite and Searchmetrics Content Experience platforms. Search has evolved into a data-driven field that requires powerful tools to guide companies through discovery, optimization, and measurement of engaging storytelling. There’s only one search and content development platform that owns its data: Searchmetrics, the world’s #1 SEO and content performance platform. We don’t rely on data from third parties. Our historical database spans more than five years and contains over 250 billion pieces of information, such as keyword rankings, search terms, social links, and backlinks.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.