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Marcus Tober: Well known in SEO circles as an innovative thinker and the founder of Searchmetrics.

02 December 2018

In 2005, Marcus founded his first SEO company, which became Searchmetrics in 2007. With his comprehensive approach he quickly became one of the leading minds in the nascent field of search engine optimization.

A self-described Big Data and stats geek, frequently asked to comment on trends in the industry. Every time Google makes a significant change to its algorithm—think Panda—or upsets the apple cart with ideas like secure search, he is in demand. And he doesn’t mind ruffling some feathers with his opinions.

Today we are speaking with one of my personal SEO Super Hero’s, Marcus Tober.

For the unlikely case someone does not know who you are, could you give us a brief introduction?

My name is Marcus Tober. While I studied Computer Science, I developed SEO tools and started many web projects on my own. When I realized that this is serious,  I started Searchmetrics in 2005. Since then Searchmetrics developed to one of the most important software platforms in our industry. The core idea to automate many boring tasks in SEO and create valuable insights in Search is still the same, even with almost 300 people now.

What drives you? What gets you out of bed each morning?

I’m an active person with actually too many ideas. I try to focus this energy on building our software, where the foundation are many prototypes before they make it into the product. And when you look at Search, it’s becoming more diverse and complex. That makes it more exciting to work on solutions for better insights.

If you could get back one “SEO technique” from the past, what would it be?

There is nothing I wish I got back from the past. I started my career with building many many spam/doorway pages because I didn’t know it better. When all got wiped out by Google in 2004, I started to realize it’s the content/product/experience that is the key. And since then this has become truer than before.

What is your biggest achievement past year and past 15 years?

Beginning of 2017 we have managed to release our Content Experience Suite as an additional product to our SEO Suite. This is a big achievement, because we worked on it for over 4 years. We built 3 prototypes, tested a lot of ideas and workflows before it was ready. There is no platform yet to write content in a very data-driven way. We did it and I’m super proud of it. In the past 15 years I would say the biggest achievement is the passion I maintained about SEO. Search is everywhere and with all these new ways to search, it’s even getting cooler.

So, looking back 12 years in time, the first Suite of SEO Solution was launched. Did you anticipate on the evolution of our work field and the challenges we are facing now towards the future of search? Is it close to your predictions?

Lol, if you can make good predictions for 12 years in the internet age, you would spend your time differently now. ? But the thing is, that the times are getting more exciting than they were 10 years ago. Search is of course just one channel out of many, but a reliable one and it’s not a trend that goes away.

Let’s all hope so. All tough Jono Alderson from Distilled says we are all screwed, we are too late and there is nothing we can do to keep our jobs instead of all becoming Affiliate marketers. Do you share this concern and which “near future” timestamp would you give for all these current developments before putting us out of a job?

In the long-run I share his view. But that’s not the near future. But if you work in SEO, just knowing a bit or just doing the things you always did isn’t enough. SEOs have to act interdisciplinary and work in organizations with product owners, developer, marketers and other people who can influence the website/product. Then your job won’t go away soon.

So besides traditional SEO: chatbots, home assistants, smart machines and companies like Uber, AirBNB, USwitch etc. are taking over certain marketing processes. Because of this, the customer will not be in his own marketing process anymore. What is your idea about how ecommerce will be in 2035? How will our kids shop?

We can’t imagine how it will be in 2035. But I believe if we would jump into the year 2035 today we would get a heart attack. People will be always monitored (Face ID plus Facial recognition through all these Social Networks etc) and shopping becomes less proactive, more reactive. Sounds scary, but the foundation is already there and most people will just accept it when this is convenient enough. And with the growing trend of sharing, less owning, I can imagine that we will even reach a peak of the “shopping society”. Which makes techniques like targeting, personal content, same day delivery, smart assistents etc more important. They will become the biggest influencer of what we do and when. Aren’t we all just Lemmings…?

You had a great discussion with Fili Wiese at Search Metrics Summit 2017 about, amongst other things, the filter bubble versus biased searchers. It kept circling around Artificial Intelligence and the limitations in terms of “the complete picture”. The search results would affect people in their choices. If you could make one statement about this to Fili, what would it be?

I think the normal searcher is happy with what he gets. He does not seek for the “complete picture”, nor will Google only offer him a super limited view on a few biased results. My argument to Fili would be that the user more or less decides what he wants with the query he performs. Artificial Intelligence will narrow down results for him, but as long as he is happy and doesn’t seek for other stuff it’s a “good enough” situation. Definitely users have now more access to information than 20 years ago.

Talking about discussion, I guess every SEO wants to discuss with you, but with which SEO did you have the best discussion ever and what was it about.

There are so many smart people in our industry that inspire me. It would be an endless list of names and conversations I had, but that excites me that others are so passionate too, that I can learn continuously.

If you can give away one advise or secret to our readers, what would it be?

Don’t believe everything you read or what people tell you about SEO. There is too much crap out there. If you are able to think about your users first and think about why they should prefer you over others and then you think about if your website/app is technically fine, you will be successful.

Why should everyone see your Presentation at Friends of Search?

My goal is to inspire people. So if you need a little inspiration about SEO, you should come into my session.

Some final words?

Never be happy enough with where you are. Challenge the situation and think how to get better.