The Creation of Enquisite Campaign

June 12th, 2009 by Richard Zwicky

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I was asked to repost the various blog entries about Enquisite Campaign’s evolution as one post…

I’m truly thrilled today we’re announcing the launch of Enquisite™ Campaign, the application we expect to accelerate the performance and ultimately the investment in organic search. Some have called Campaign a “game-changer,” and we certainly hope it lives up to this potential. This has been a long time coming, and hard to keep under wraps. It’s not just a pleasure to announce the product, but also to be able to share a bit of history about the genesis of Enquisite. Campaign represents the first of the truly new and innovative products I set out to build when I started the company.

Back in September 2004, I was sitting around a campfire late one evening, thinking about challenges that Metamend, my Search Marketing Company, was facing with relation to growth, and a challenging business model. The business was operating nicely enough - growing and providing great value to its customers. But, there were inherent issues in reporting, and more importantly, what I saw as issues with a restrictive business model around search engine optimization (SEO) that operated in an abnormal manner. I wasn’t just sitting around the fire idly wondering how we could earn more from clients, but rather, how could serve clients better so they could realize the full potential of our talent and efforts. We had demonstrated many, many times we could blow the roof off SEO campaigns, but the existing business model limited the amount of time or effort we invested. Clients liked the predictability of a fixed-rate model, but that model actually short-changed the results we knew we could deliver if we didn’t have these limitations. I continued to think about a business model that better aligned performance and didn’t limit our ability to provide value to clients.

Now, this wasn’t some isolated period of reflection. I had been thinking about the business model at length for an extended period, as had many others, I’m sure. Over the years, random businesses and individuals had approached me from time to time suggesting varying performance-based models, but the models were usually intricate and convoluted. Some proposals came from serious, established businesses, but the ability for everyone to measure traffic and value delivered fairly just wasn’t there. Other proposals came from start-ups who weren’t quite sure they had a real business, but wanted me to gamble that there was a market for “blue plastic yard penguins, just like pink flamingoes!” Real example. I passed.

So, sitting around my campfire, I tried to count stars in the sky, and fathom how anyone could ever count them all, measure the distance from one to the next, and report that information in a concise, intelligible way. Yet, astronomers and astro-physicists have been doing exactly that for a long time. On the web, companies like Google, WebTrends, Omniture, and CoreMetrics were tracking paid search activity and effectively reporting on the value of those campaigns. My friend, Andrew Goodman had build a successful PPC agency,, focused on paid search, and he successfully proved the value delivered to his customers using reporting. Why couldn’t the organic search side of the business do the same thing? Why couldn’t organic search accurately report the crucial business and campaign information that search marketers, advertisers and business operators needed? It was at that moment that something clicked, and I started writing out a few ideas. It wasn’t that reporting it was impossible; it was that the focus of the discussion was incorrect.

Many ideas actually popped into my head at the same time. Most important: in paid search, the topic was about value delivered, whereas in organic search, the discussion was about traffic delivered. These are very different and usually incompatible metrics. I realized that the discussion needed to change on the organic side for everyone’s sake, and this would only be possible if a framework was in place to measure and value all types of customer acquisition strategies in an equitable manner.

The normal question in discussions around traffic acquisition has been whether a referral from organic search is worth as much as a referral from paid search. Most of the time, the answer is probably not. In organic search, there are a lot more informational queries and clicks, so you get more noisy traffic. The more important question, however, is whether a sale from organic search worth as much as a sale from paid search. And the answer to this question is most definitely yes. Yet, until now, organic search campaigns by and large haven’t been measured or valued in this way.

My realization was that if it were possible to put together a framework and system for estimating organic campaign potential, measuring organic campaign effectiveness, AND establishing a means to value traffic delivered equitably across channels, then we could put in place a framework by which search marketing firms could scale more effectively, and deliver even more value to clients. Such a system would need to create efficiencies within the SEM organization, and provide information for use both internally and in customer reporting, which by and large was unavailable at the time.

To make Campaign work technically, I knew we needed at least two things off the bat: (1) we needed to capture some critical information which wasn’t presently available; and (2) due to the absolute scale and magnitude of data, we needed to capture it much more efficiently than present web-based logging systems did. The first conundrum was capturing that critical information, and it was during an animated discussion with my business partner at Metamend, Todd Hooge, that we hit on a means to gather it. This led to Enquisite Optimizer’s (formerly Enquisite Pro) search engine positioning reports.

At first, I didn’t know if the rank reporting process would work the way I needed it to. So we started testing, and I kept dreaming up ideas around a better business model. I didn’t share these ideas with Todd, as we were far away from capturing the data necessary to power a new reporting system. I also suspected that if I had shared these thoughts, he probably would have looked at me like I was nuts (again), and made some comment like “it would also be nice if cars could fly.” Plus, I was still thinking about all the things we would need to build for the “finished” system, including the nuts-and-bolts implementation. Anyhow, Todd helped me tremendously to break down that first, crucial, barrier around capturing the necessary data. It may seem trivial today, but it was a big deal then. Even today it’s still a big deal to people when they get an explanation of the entire data capture system.

Once we worked out the germ of the idea on how to capture the data, we were off. I hired a developer to turn the theory into practice. Simultaneously, I started writing up some of the ideas for patent submissions. By June of 2005, we were ready to try out a basic data capture and reporting system, and I had written a phonebook’s worth of documents to file for patent protection.

When I showed the initial reports to some of my search colleagues, they all said, “When can we have it?” It was at this point that I seriously started considering building out the entire suite for a larger purpose. While at first it was an interesting and meaningful project to help me build out my search marketing firm, based on the initial reaction to the first reports (which now sit within Enquisite Optimizer), I realized we could build a system for everyone, not just ourselves.

So, In June 2005, I set about separating Enquisite as an entity from Metamend. This was a crucial and critical step for me, and the company. I needed to establish a firewall between the companies for many reasons, not the least of which was to ensure that competing agencies would never have to fear that their data was accessible to potential competitors. My co-founder at Metamend, Todd Hooge, along with Glenn Convey, a very talented individual in his own right, took over operating that business. It took a few months, but I removed myself from all operational involvement, which was personally challenging. But by December 2005, it was done, and I was out.

By this time, I also had a complete outline for what would become the core elements of Enquisite Campaign, and the next generation of products still to come after it. Over the next few months, I proceeded to break down the functions into manageable pieces we could build as foundational elements for the platform. I received a lot of valuable guidance for each foundational block along the way, and added some key people to the company whom I still depend upon today. Key internal technical counsels for me were our Lead Developer, Rick Morris, and our VP for Technical Operations, Greg Caws. They foresaw many technical hurdles we would face long before we ran into them. Their advice made a dramatic difference every step of the way.

Building the foundation of Campaign was not trivial. Fundamentally, we needed five pillars to support the architecture for the system. We built the various pillars and released them as individual products. So while we’ve received great reviews and feedback for Pro (Now Enquisite™ Optimizer), PPC Assurance (now Enquisite™ Auditor) and our Links Report (within Optimizer), we’ve really looked at these as stepping stones. The last two pillars - the internally-facing “Collector” and a massively scalable, super-fast database - rounded out the foundation.

To build the opportunity analysis and the reporting functions for Campaign, we needed to deal with paid search traffic in a way no one before had. We needed to understand, and value, paid campaigns in relation to organic ones. This perspective, and the requirement to segment out paid search traffic in a new way, led to our PPC Assurance product. This application reveals click accuracy for PPC with amazing precision, enabling advertisers to credibly claim credits from Google, Yahoo! and others and potentially save thousands, even millions of dollars. Equally important, this first step allowed us to understand paid search in a different way from existing solutions.

As a bonus, the work on Enquisite Auditor led to our second product, Enquisite Pro. Earlier this year it was officially recognized by Yahoo!, when they began recommending it via their Traffic Quality Center. We built the early version of Pro - now renamed Optimizer for a purpose - to provide search engine positioning reports, and to segment traffic and campaigns in ways that had not done before. We also pushed the development team to devise a new way to collect data which resulted in the simply named “Enquisite™ Collector.” In case you haven’t noticed, we have very simple and functional product names. In this case, the Collector is an fantastically scalable next-generation data logging system that uses over 26,000 web servers distributed worldwide to collect log file data for our reports.

As we moved through the development process of creating the foundations to support Campaign, I also sought to build a company to fully realize the opportunity. I’d realized in the summer of 2007 that to build a successful organization, the place to be was not Victoria BC, and I needed to make a number of moves to drive success. In April of 2008, as Collector was nearing completion, I invited Mark Hoffman to join the company as CEO. Mark formerly was CEO of both Sybase and CommerceOne, two massive technology success stories. Mark brought a lot of great qualities to the organization, not just a phenomenal track record. A great organization is built by constantly adding strong people to it, with each making it better in their own way. With Mark, I found a great partner with whom to build the business, who not only knows how to build a winning organization, but like a great military general, is fiercely determined, and more importantly, knows how to take the hills that matter to win the war. Together, we’ve brought together a highly skilled team to drive the organization to the next level.

When we introduced Enquisite Pro, we sought out the feedback from many friends and thought leaders in the SEO & PPC space. This was to gather feedback, and provide insights on market needs. The people I tapped included, but was not limited to Stephan Spencer at NetConcepts, Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz, Todd Friesen now at PositionTech, Andrew Goodman, Eric Enge at Stone Temple, Bruce Clay, Mikkel deMib Svendsen, Mike Grehan from Acronym, Tim Ash from Site Tuners, Matt Bailey from SiteLogic, as well as input from people at Zaaz, GroupM Search, Outrider, iProspect, RepriseMedia, Avenue A | Razorfish, Big Mouth Media, and many others. With the Link reporting system underway, we used the feedback process to ensure that we hadn’t missed anything major we would need for Campaign. The links report technology allows us to monitor links campaigns, social media, newsletters and other activities within Campaign, and makes it possible for SEOs to be compensated for conversions from all their efforts.

Finally, with the Collector, Auditor, and Optimizer complete, and the hyperfast database in process, the foundations for Enquisite Campaign were in place, and we immediately started development.

So now, as of May 19, Enquisite Campaign, a monetization platform for organic search, is available. The application is a huge leap forward for the entire industry, and while some will seek to attack or ridicule the unknown, the unfamiliar, the big, or the challenging, we’re incredibly proud of it, the potential it represents, and the power it brings to SEOs, agencies, and to their clients.

Campaign is a platform to help SEOs, interactive agencies, and advertisers accurately calculate the performance and economic potential of any campaign opportunity, build more effective quotes, and run search campaigns more efficiently effectively. It provides visibility and understanding on where opportunities lie, identifies where uncharted and unearthed opportunities can be mined, discovers what’s been was missed or ignored, and calculates whether or not the opportunity is worth pursuing. It also provides detailed value reporting for organic search, just like the detail that already is available for paid search. In short, it changes the discussion relating to the value of an organic referral. Search agencies and their clients no longer need to debate the value of services. The discussion now center on performance, ROI, and incremental value generated.

There are a lot of features in Campaign that go beyond the original vision. These came from internal feedback from all members of our organization. Further, some additional features coming out within the month reflect early user request. Interestingly, skeptics of the model (who were also friends) whom we persuaded to try the system, despite their arguments that it couldn’t work, discovered that once they actually used Campaign, not only did it perform, but the business models ingrained into the system provided them incredible power and flexibility to evaluate opportunities, bid more effectively, and manage campaigns more efficiently. Every one of them is now an advocate! Some look at campaign as a new way to bid for, and win business; others look to it as a means to audit existing efforts, improve internal processes and efficiencies and to prove the value of the services they are delivering to their clients. Imagine, when a contract comes up for renewal, it’s possible to eliminate the discussion around “what was the value delivered?” With Enquisite Campaign, you know the value delivered, and by using it you will find new and better ways to deliver even more.

I am very proud that everyone at Enquisite has contributed to making Campaign possible and a reality. Some directly by coding the application, and others by providing feedback and suggestions. But, meaningfully, everyone has contributed to what we really think can be a “game changer.”

Together, we are proud to bring Enquisite Campaign to you. We look forward to your continuous feedback to make it perform even better for you and your clients.

On the same day as I reposted this series, we made a major update to the Enquisite Campaign platform, and unified all our applications via one login. We’re moving fast to continue to enhance our products, and are thrilled to be working with all of you to make it possible to constantly drive our products to meet our users evolving needs.


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One Response to “The Creation of Enquisite Campaign”

  1. dave neufeld says:

    Hi Richard,

    I just wanted to write to say thanks for writing down the story of the evolution of your ideas and how they have been made real in your products. I have always been interested in the evolution/implementation of information based technologies since I first surfed “sites”(BBS) with my dial up modem back in the 80’s, through the public introduction of the current web in the 90’s through the current re-imagineering of it as social media. The feedback loop that your technology provides to those interacting in the networks generation (and those who use the information in action) is very interesting.

    I have started reading your patent application (it must be read with the images ), and this blog entry has helped me to understand the context (history, perceived need fulfilled, expectations) for that patent.

    Anyway, I am not sure if you read your comments, but if you do, thanks again for writing your story and making it available.

    Have a great day.

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