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Why a Seasoned Marketing Executive Became Searchmetrics’ CEO

Episode Overview: The flagship CEO role within a company is unquestionably vital, setting the tone and direction for a company’s future. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ new CEO Matt Colebourne on why he chose to lead Searchmetrics and learn more about how his time in the search industry informed his decision.


  • Matt Colebourne began working in the search industry in 1997, accepting a role at DoubleClick that jump started his career.
  • Colebourne chose Searchmetrics as his next venture because he found the solutions it offers “Complete.”
  • He was excited to join because he felt Searchmetrics was a unique platform, owning its own data and having the ability to meet CMOs or head of digital commerce’s needs directly.


Ben:                  Welcome to a special edition of the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and today I have the honor of sitting down with the newly minted global chief executive officer of Searchmetrics. Joining me for the first time is Matt Colebourne, who’s the global chief executive officer at Searchmetrics, which is both the Voices of Search podcast’s primary sponsor and an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. And today Matt and I are going to discuss why he decided to take the role of global CEO at Searchmetrics. Okay. Here’s the first installment of my conversation with Matt Colebourne, CEO of Searchmetrics. Matt, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Matt:                  Thank you very much. It’s good to be here.

Ben:                    I feel like it’s an honor and a privilege to have you on the show and you’ve taken a new job as the global head of Searchmetrics. I want to spend a little time doing an introduction now that we’ve pushed Jordan to the side and had him graduate to an advisor for the company. You’ve come in and taken global responsibility, not only of the Searchmetrics, Inc. business that’s based here in the US but our GmbH business based in Berlin that has worldwide coverage. Tell us a little bit about yourself, tell us a little bit about your background.

Matt:                  So as a middle aged man, I think I need to keep that fairly short, but the succinct version is I joined a small company called DoubleClick back in 1997 that essentially became the number one deliverer of display advertising and I had a six year incredible ride where we went from a tiny company to, I think he called the NASDAQ about a 12 billion valued business and that saw the first internet wave with display advertising and impression-based display advertising, something appearing across the internet pretty much for the first time. After DoubleClick, I went and did the turnaround and sale of the last big European pay-per-click by a company called the East Botin that we sold to Finework and that was the business that, to be honest, we exited at just the right time because a short while later Google, which was the business who had in fact by then bought DoubleClick and was then rampantly moving across Europe and into Europe across most of the major websites.

Matt:                  So that was a good time to get that business should we say. So on. So my background after doing display advertising and then doing pay-per-click was to do a whole range of other startup businesses as a contract CEO, as an investor and as a board advisor. And most of those were in the MarTech space. So I’ve done mobile advertising technology, I’ve done video advertising technology, I’ve done a couple of other app-based network technology plays where we tried to use the geolocation of a device that was more accurate using its GPS sensors, a whole bunch of different technology plays. I would stress not exclusively in marketing technology, but for the most part, and obviously with a background in MarTech, particularly in display and then paid, I was always acutely conscious particularly in the paid search space, how as the market developed as the connection between the advertiser and the publisher became more and more elongated and more and more programmatized.

Matt:                  What started happening was actually value for the advertisers started falling off. A lot of the publishers felt that they were not getting a fair share and it became distinctly opaque. And I think whilst I wouldn’t obviously say that there’s anything wrong with paid servage, I mean indeed it’s part of our marketing mix as well, I won’t be surprised to hear, but I think there’s definitely a situation where paid search has been getting more expensive and is becoming, shall we say, harder to predict. So you see rises in cost-per-click, even when competition for keywords doesn’t seem to be going up and other bids don’t seem to be going up and you can’t really delve into that.

Matt:                   So for me, the search metrics was the last part of the puzzle. The major part of the puzzle is, okay, I’ve done display, I’ve done search, I’ve done mobile, but really what I want to focus on is the 50 to 60% traffic that just comes naturally to a site and the value that getting that right can give to a business in terms of the return on investment, spend versus cost, when we do it right, the ROI is order of magnitude better than pay-per-click.

Ben:                     It seems like you’ve had a wide variety of experiences working with companies across multiple different channels and you mentioned that sort of tongue-in-cheek casually. You worked at a little company called DoubleClick, which you know may or may not have got purchased by a little company called Google and then you went and worked for a PPC company and that was acquired as well. You’ve gone through the acquisition phase early in your career working in multiple different industries that are primarily at least dominated by Google now, whether they were at the time or not. Talk to me a little bit about what you think about what Google was when you were working at DoubleClick and going through the acquisition and then having faced them as competition and how has that changed to how you view what Google is like today?

Matt:                   I think, to be candid, I never really competed with Google.

Ben:                     Lucky you.

Matt:                   And I know that sounds slightly strange, but I think I got out of the pay-per-click space just in time so that I wasn’t, because I was running a European operation at the time.

Ben:                     It’s a good idea to put your head under the water before the wave comes.

Matt:                   Exactly. I think we had a pretty good idea that there was a pretty big wave coming. But I was very familiar with Google from the early days because as you mentioned, there were quite a few senior DoubleClick executives went on to Google even before Google acquired all of the assets of the company.

Matt:                    So in the early days, in my early days, I’m talking the first five years of DoubleClick, Google was pretty small. I mean it was early days. We went to a couple of their parties I remember and there was Larry and Sergey and they were regular guys and the company was not the behemoth that it is now and we worked pretty closely with them. I mean at one point they actually talked to us about would we be interested actually in helping them build the ad serving technology to sit on the search engine. Because at the time we were serving most of the major search engines, but what we were doing was we were using the keywords to some degree, but we were using them as categorization and then the ads that were showing up were still display ads.

Matt:                     It’s kind of funny remembering it now I’m probably showing my age, but a lot of people probably don’t remember that search engines used to, you type in your search query, you get your index and then what you get is display advertising alongside it. And the process for doing that was to use the keywords, it’s simple categorization and if somebody had categorized the ad as matching that particular keyword, lo and behold it would get displayed. But it was fairly crude technology in comparison with paid search.

Ben:                       So as you think about some of the roles that you’ve had where you’ve brushed up against Google, worked with them, and then you went on to work in various different marketing functions in MarTech, in mobile technology as well. When you think about the prospects for Searchmetrics and SEO, what specifically about the Searchmetrics organization and how the brand and the company is positioned with SEO made you feel like it was the right move and opportunity for you from a career perspective?

Matt:                      I think there’s a very easy answer to that and that was the completeness of solution. If it was one thing that I learned through a decent length career in the MarTech space is to be successful, you have to be able to provide a complete solution. You can offer point solutions, but ultimately, unless you can meet a company’s complete goals in a given area of the business, you will struggle to ever be a significant partner. It’s not to say you can’t build a business. There are plenty of commoditized businesses, but if you really want to go somewhere, if you really want to build partnerships with customers rather than just the sales-supplier relationships, you have to be able to put the whole thing together.

Matt:                      And the fact that Searchmetrics, you know, had been in the industry right from the start when it was just SEO and have gone from SEO to understanding how that worked with content, with site management and then ultimately more recently with data and the fact that we had all of our own data. For me that was the really exciting bit because I saw the proliferation, but I also saw that in general, we were in a unique position to be able to satisfy certainly the more serious CMO or head of digital commerce with a complete solution.

Ben:                        I’ve seen a couple of different iterations of leadership at Searchmetrics. I’ve been a consultant with the company for a little over four years now having worked on the US business as it was in its foundational form all the way through the onboarding of its changes in leadership at the global level. And one of the things that has always stayed very clear in Searchmetrics’s focus is that it is an enterprise grade software. And to me that’s one of the key distinguishing facts. Where in SEO, there’s lots of toolkit pieces. You can do keyword research over here and you can get data from another vendor over there, and a lot of early stage and some of the growth stage companies are able to cobble together toolkits. But to really at a macro scale make sense of SEO and content marketing. You need all of those things to be together. As you start thinking about Searchmetrics’ business and some of the future prospects for them, you know, how do you feel about the growth prospects and what are some of your goals for the organization?

Matt:                      Well, I mean the number one goal is correct, and the reason that I think that is imminently achievable is because if you look at the ecommerce space, so I’m not specifically not meaning the SEO specific space, let’s just look at ecommerce. Let’s look at the fact that 50 to 60% of the traffic that arrives at most e-commerce sites is coming from organic search. That is a massive market and it’s a market that up until now to a degree I think has been highly sophisticated, but because it is inherently complex and sophisticated, potentially has not had the attention that it really deserves from CMOs and senior people. And I think also the fact that we can do something that rights one of the big evils, the DoubleClick created way back in 1997 is a huge opportunity.

Ben:                        What do you mean by one of the big evils that DoubleClick created?

Matt:                      Well, I shouldn’t say DoubleClick as if I wasn’t actively involved myself. So one of the big evils that we created was as soon as we were able to deliver advertising using technology, of course we could measure the reaction to it, essentially the click. So did somebody click and react to a given piece of advertising, which sounds imminently loadable, but he’s loadable. If you’re a direct response marketer, if what you want is to get somebody to take an action, which is probably going to directly result in a sale. What if you’re trying to build brand? What if you’re selling a pack of corn flakes? Where, even today people tend not to buy single packs of corn flakes. They may well go to an online supermarket and have a basket of groceries delivered, but they’ll still be looking at a virtual shelf, choosing a range of products and their conception of a particular brand will encourage them maybe to choose the Kellogg’s corn flakes, rather than Safeway-owned brand corn flakes, for example.

Matt:                        And the reason that we did that evil was simply because that was all we could measure. But if you think about it, really what we needed to be measuring were more traditional brand marketing values of awareness and consideration. With data, we can now measure or at least give an extremely accurate approximation of brand awareness, consideration and market share because unlike the paid search part of the marketing mix where you can’t assess that traffic to give you those kinds of metrics because you’re buying the traffic. So it’s inherently biased. What we can do is measure what’s really going on in a given vertical and start to tell companies exactly where they sit in the hierarchy, be that a given vertical, be that a given geography or combination of two.

Ben:                        And I think that that’s exactly where digital marketers get lost when they’re constantly focusing on direct response marketing tactics and KPIs. There is something that is lost in translation for the impact of an impression of building a brand of things that are not necessarily just, “Hey this advertisement drove a click which led to a direct conversion.” Those types of advertisements, whether it be through SEO, through content marketing, through brand, really do have the big impact and you know as SEOs, I think that the community here listening to this podcast really is starting to recognize that SEO is a channel that spans beyond just simply direct response into brand influence, awareness, education, customer attention as well. So Matt, with that said, I want to continue this conversation with you. We’re going to dive into your view of the SEO landscape specifically tomorrow in our next episode. But let me just say, I appreciate you coming on the show and walking us through your career and telling us a little bit about your thoughts for the goals and direction of Searchmetrics.

Matt:                        Thank you very much today. It was great to be here.

Ben:                          All right, and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Matt Colebourne, the newly minted global CEO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Matt, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is, blackblade, B-L-A-C-K-B-L-A-D-E, or you could visit his company’s website, which is while it’s S-E-A-R-C-H-M-E-T-R-I-C-S .com.

Ben:                         Just one more link in our show notes that I want to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You could send us your SEO questions or your topic suggestions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course you could always reach out on social media. Our handle is voices of search on Twitter and my personal handle is Ben, J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed in addition to the second part of my conversation with Matt Colebourne, the new global CEO of Searchmetrics, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week, so hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Matthew Colebourne

Matthew Colebourne

Matt Colebourne is the CEO of Searchmetrics. Matt has an extensive track record of building technology businesses and has over 20 years’ experience in various senior leadership roles in the digital marketing arena. He is an avid cyclist, motorbike rider and volleyball player.

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