Scott Buresh, Founder and CEO, Medium Blue

Mr. Buresh, as founder and CEO of Medium Blue, could you provide us with a brief history of the company? How did you come up with the idea of establishing it and when did this happen?

In 2000, I formed Medium Blue with a business partner. Initially, Medium Blue was a web design and copywriting firm. At the same time, I was also in an acoustic duo called Acoustic Con Queso, and I wanted to get our website to the top of search engines. After achieving great results on AltaVista (which was very hot at the time), we found that our clients were asking for the same service. We realized that there were a million web design firms in town but not many firms that were doing search engine optimization, and we saw great potential in going in that direction. So we dropped web design altogether and started focusing on SEO. I bought out my business partner about a year and a half ago, and SEO continues to be Medium Blue’s primary offering.

Tell us something more about your products and services?

We do organic search engine optimization, which, as most people know, is the practice of applying attributes to websites that make them rank highly in organic searches. We use completely white hat ethical techniques and we don’t try to trick the engines. Instead, we piggyback on the studies that Google and other engines perform on their users, deduced by the current algorithms. The studies determine which attributes people prefer, and we then apply those attributes to our clients’ websites, making their sites not only better for search engines but also for visitors.

We also offer Online PR, which is comprised of two primary offerings – one is distributing optimized press releases for our clients to all the major online news portals, and the other is creating and distributing expert articles across the Internet to various portal sites relevant to the client’s industry.

Finally we offer online conversion, which is the art and science of making more people that visit your website take the action that you desire. We have found that most people are more willing to pay for SEO than to pay for website conversion, primarily because SEO doesn’t imply that there’s something wrong with their website on which they may have spent big dollars. However, the truth is that raising your website’s conversion rate from 1% to 2% has the same net effect as doubling your traffic, and it’s almost always easier to accomplish.

Which are the products your customers most look for?

Search engine optimization is still in its infancy. While people in the search business find this hard to believe, the majority of average people have no idea that the industry exists. While we offer other products, it’s rare that people are looking for them as standalone services. Our core product offering continues to be SEO, and we don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future.

Are you planning any special promotions in the upcoming months?

We are planning a promotion that will give a free month of service to clients who will sign a standard contract. In addition, we will continue to give aggressive custom guarantees to clients so that they can rest easy with their investment with us.

What does Medium Blue do to keep its existing customers and to attract new ones?

First of all, we stay on top of the technological curve. We consistently monitor the industry for any changes or updates. We also look across our network of optimized sites to identify and capitalize on trends and to make certain that we’re applying best practices at all times.

We are also consistently offering value-added services at no additional cost to our clients as they become necessary and available. For example, we now go out and check the code on each client’s website every day, because we’ve learned that our work is often overwritten by an internal developer. We find that it is much easier to address and correct errors as they happen, rather than to wait and learn about the errors after a loss of rankings. This is only one example- we are always striving to make our services better and to take as much burden off of the client as possible in terms of workload.

We do a variety of things to attract new clients. We obviously optimize our own website and we write and distribute articles about the industry. In addition, we remain dedicated to our white hat approach, we maintain our excellent reputation, we promote our success stories, and we maintain a network of excellent references. This approach feeds on itself, as evidenced by our #1 ranking from PromotionWorld for 2006. Winning coveted awards such as this are always good for business.

How do you feel about being placed at the top position of PromotionWorld's Best SEO companies for 2006?

I’m tremendously honored, but I feel that it’s really a team accomplishment. As mentioned above, the honor has brought us some attention that was much welcomed, and we felt it was important enough to promote it in all of our marketing materials and in press releases. Our team has an overall feeling of pride and accomplishment from the recognition, and morale is at an all-time high.

What did your company accomplish in 2006 that you think put you at the top of the list?

For one thing, we were named as one of the top five places to work in Georgia by Georgia Trend magazine. In addition, we added some high profile clients to our roster in 2006, such as DS Waters, which produces and distributes Crystal Springs, Belmont Springs, and five other national brands of bottled water, and Wake Forest Baptist University Medical Center.

In 2006, we also began including complementary copywriting and implementation to take as much off the client’s plate as possible and at the same time to make our search engine optimization campaigns run as smoothly as they possibly can. In addition, we partnered with the Technology Association of Georgia to maintain and optimize its article library, which has been a great success. We also created a lot of individual client success stories which make us very proud.

What are Medium Blue's best achievements through the years? What are you most proud of?

To be honest, I am most proud of the fact that we could be recognized as the number one SEO firm in the world and simultaneously be recognized as one of the best places to work in Georgia. These two honors show that the culture we’ve created allows every employee to succeed while also ensuring that every client succeeds. This is primarily because everyone on our team is committed to the highest level of client satisfaction, and everyone appreciates the low-stress environment.

How many people does your team consist of? Tell us something about the atmosphere in your office?

We currently have ten people who are highly specialized. Each team member knows his or her place on the org chart and his or her role and responsibilities on any given day. But this does not lead to an oppressive or strict atmosphere. In fact it’s the opposite – it’s a relaxed place to work. We have flex hours, we allow people to bring their dogs to work with them, we keep a fridge stocked with snacks, and we have a game room and library for employees to use. Plus we recently instituted profit sharing, which also helps motivate everyone to do their best.

What trends do you see in the Internet marketing industry this year? How will 2007 be different from 2006?

I think that smaller advertisers who had been using pay per click will continue to get squeezed out by larger advertisers who treat pay per click as a branding exercise and aren’t as bound by traditional ROI analysis. In other words, the larger companies can outspend the smaller ones, and it doesn’t affect their bottom line because their budgets are so large. So I see a greater number of smaller companies turning to SEO as average per-click costs continue to rise and they are seeking a more affordable way to increase their exposure.

I also believe that clients will demand more accountability from SEO firms. Black hat firms using tricks to gain rankings will be further marginalized as the engines get more sophisticated in catching these loopholes.

There also will be a continued reluctance from agencies to pursue search marketing because average agencies don’t deal with the type of metrics that search marketing provides; they make money on a per-spend basis. It’s the accepted norm, but it raises ethical issues. For example, why would an agency be motivated to hone a pay-per-click campaign and remove non-performing phrases if it was getting paid based on the level of spend? There are obvious conflicting interests. So the percentage of spend model doesn’t make sense to me when it comes to search marketing in general. Plus, when you deal with the metrics available with SEO, traditional agencies are afraid clients will start demanding the same type of granular data that SEO offers from all their campaigns - billboards, paid ads, and other types of advertising they had not normally had to track very closely.

Are you personally satisfied with your involvement in Internet marketing?

In general, I’m satisfied but not complacent; there’s always more that I would like to do. As many articles as I have out there and as much as I can do to try to stay in the public eye and write about the industry, I always feel that I could be doing more than that, but real business issues always arise.

How did your life change after you founded Medium Blue?

In the beginning, Medium Blue had some lean years, when I was establishing the infrastructure – those years demanded quite a bit of diligence. We have never taken on any loans or debt - this company was started with $500 and has always funded growth organically. Of course, since then, we’ve grown a great deal and my life has continued to change as a result.

Medium Blue has changed me as a person from a hands-on, figure-everything-out-for-myself kind of guy and forced me to learn how to trust others and manage a team. That was quite a change for me, to learn to back off and trust the people that I’d hired. And this change was a good thing for me because one person can’t do everything – and other people can often do certain things better.

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I have a seven-month-old daughter who I enjoy spending time with. I also have a band; we’re in the process of recording another album in the studio. And I write fiction, usually short fiction. Frankly, I don’t have as much free time as I would like.

How will you recommend your company to potential clients?

To be honest, I don’t have to do the recommending; I let our clients do it for us. No matter how great I can tell potential clients that Medium Blue is, and no matter how effective a job I know we can do for them, nothing I can say is going to be as compelling as that potential client hearing from someone who has worked with us, has seen the benefits, and is so ecstatic with the results he’s getting that he is willing to tell the world. And luckily for us, we have many such clients.