About The Author:Kurt Noer, Founder, President and CEO of Customer Magnetism, Incorporated.
With over 25 years of marketing experience, Kurt Noer’s first job was in 1982 designing brochures for Century Marketing, Inc. Kurt recalls, “In those days, we had a huge typesetting machine which would spit out one line of text at a time onto a small strip of paper. We would then use hot wax and a light table to line up each sentence before taking the layout into the darkroom.” Technology has come along way since then and through the years Kurt continued to advance his career by working in the fields of graphics and advertising. Eventually he was asked to serve as a Marketing Director for a number of companies including an international magazine and a fiber optic manufacturing company. Besides assisting in pricing and placement decisions, Kurt became well versed with strategizing, designing, placing and monitoring the various conventional forms of advertising such as print ads, direct mail, tradeshows, press releases and promotional material.
In the early years of the internet when Yahoo was still king, Kurt recalls when banner ads were still popular and Google had yet to be born. Out of disgust toward the low conversion rates and high cost of conventional marketing efforts, Kurt was excited to see that search engine generated leads were converting at a far better rate than other forms of conventional marketing. Kurt points out the following,
“When it comes to tradeshows, nearly every marketing director or business owner I talk to can relate to the cost involved with sending multiple employees out of state for a few days only to bring home 57 business cards and discover that very few, if any, of these “hot” leads actually converted to anything. Tradeshows, direct mail and print advertising all claim to target a pre-qualified, highly relevant audience. However, in reality you are spending a large sum of money to reach a large sum of people in hopes that at least a few of them might be interested in your specific product at that specific moment of their life (and not the month before or a month later). This is why I refer most of the traditional forms of advertising as “shotgun” marketing. The beauty of having your website being found at the top of the search results is that it can be 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning and your website is always available to someone who is searching on their schedule. There is no higher qualified lead than someone who just searched for your exact product or service, clicked on your website, read through your website and took the time to call you or fill out your form page.”
One of Kurt’s very first experiences with natural optimization efforts resulted in growing one website from less than 500 visitors per month to over 30,000 per month. Leads from this website grew from less than ten leads per month to over 400 leads per month and as the traffic grew, so did the sales. Over the following two years, the company experienced record-breaking sales exceeding a 300% increase in gross annual revenue. Best of all, the company was able to reduce their overall spending budget by slowly reducing other forms of marketing that were not producing.
Kurt quickly recognized that the Return of Investment on this form of advertising was astronomically higher than anything he had ever seen before. He was confident that these results could be repeated for other companies and so he began building his business plan for Customer Magnetism. In May of 2000, Kurt partnered with a 70 year old accounting firm called Goodman & Company. With over 400 employees, Goodman was and still remains the largest accounting firm in the state of Virginia. Customer Magnetism quickly grew and became profitable in less than two years. In January of 2003, Kurt bought out Goodman’s share of the company and moved the company from Norfolk to Virginia Beach where they have remained ever since.
What are your main services?
Our forte at Customer Magnetism is definitely the rankings we generate within the natural, organic listings. In conjunction with internal optimization efforts, we provide external marketing efforts to increase inbound link popularity, such as relevant directory submissions, press release syndication, articles, blog reviews and other forms of manual link building efforts. We also provide qualified pay-per-click management within Google and Yahoo at a 10% fee (versus the industry standard of 15% to 20%). We are a Google Certified AdWords Company and we have been a Yahoo Ambassador since the year 2000.
What makes your firm different from other companies competing in your industry?
A majority of the tens of thousands of websites claiming to offer search engine optimization typically end up being one man shops or small web design firms who have a guy in the corner who knows how to add meta tags. We have had countless clients come to us after being burned by so many of these companies who offered far lower prices, but failed to deliver on any substantial results. Moving websites to the top of the search engines is primarily all we do. We have built an excellent reputation through the years and Customer Magnetism has been ranked as one of the top ten search engine optimization firms in the country by a number of marketing organizations such as Visibility Magazine, Website Magazine, Promotion World and topseos. Roughly 90% of our clients choose to renew and/or upgrade upon completing their first year term. We are proud of the fact that our very first clients (from over seven years ago) are still with us to this day.
What are the most important questions a potential customer should ask a vendor like you?
Find out how THEY rank for their own target search terms. Ask to see a list of search terms that they personally rank for, as well as some of the rankings they have generated for their clients. Insist on this kind of proof that will reveal if the search engine positioning firm actually knows what they are talking about. Ask for references and beware of misleading money back guarantees that promise top rankings on Google and Yahoo, but actually include 10 to 15 “major” search engines within the small print. This common misleading tactic allows these firms to easily meet their guarantee within the smaller, outdated search engines and leave you nowhere to be found on the search engines that truly matter. I recommend shopping for true lasting results, not simply the lowest price. True results (especially in Google) require a substantial amount of inbound link building. Optimization companies who offer flea market pricing are always a sure sign of someone who does not know what they are doing. Look for a company that is interested in a long-term relationship. Our main focus at Customer Magnetism is to generate a positive return of your investment.
What are some of the myths in your field?
1) That it is acceptable to spend tens of thousand of dollars per month on pay-per-click efforts, yet feel that organic optimization efforts would be a waste of time. Over 70% of all search engine users prefer clicking on the left hand side of the search results. We recommend focusing on both.
2) That hiring a full time employee to do in-house optimization would be a better investment than hiring a dedicated, experienced firm likes ours. This is similar to the idea of trusting a web design firm who has “a guy on the side” who knows how to add meta tags. Nothing compares to the synergy and collective experience that comes from an office full of experts who do this full time.
3) That there is still a need for continual, repetitive submission services. The search engines that matter probably already have you in their index. If not, a few inbound links from a handful of quality websites will have far more impact than using some kind of repetitive, automated submission service. The key is to move from the bottom of the search results to the top.
How do you develop your skills in this continuously changing environment?
Continual changes within this industry is a given. What works one year does not work the next. What is acceptable to the search engines one year is unacceptable the next. Keeping up to date and adhering to Google and Yahoo guidelines is a priority. We are continually testing and re-testing various ideas on experimental websites that we own, while staying within the guidelines requested by the search engines. We attend various Search Engine related conferences and we keep up with the latest news through a handful of trusted newsletters, forums and blog sites such as searchengineland.com.
What do you see as the future of the industry?
High speed internet access will continue to drop in price and be more readily available to everyone. As well, improved browsing capabilities on PDA’s and cell phones (such as the iPhone) will continue to make search engine advertising all the more a priority. Improved universal searches and designated local searches will hopefully be improved as well. In the last ten years, I have seen continual changes every year in this industry. This is exactly why I believe you should work with a full time firm who makes it their living to keep up with the ever-changing rules, methods and algorithms.
Where do you see your firm in the next 5 years? What about you personally?
While we have experienced steady growth every year, we are still a small company in comparison to our well-known competitors. God willing, I could see us eventually reaching revenues of over $10 million per year. However I would rather stay focused on quality than becoming an overnight mega firm.