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Ewan Watt’s journey is not unlike that of many young entrepreneurs. In 2006 he walked away from a corporate pay cheque to set up his own business. With a few thousand dollars, a computer and a bedroom office he started search optimisation company ROI.com.au.
Watt says that in early 2000, search engine optimisation was widely talked about. By 2005 it had become mainstream and was part of every company’s marketing mix. However, he’s not a technical guru.
“I’m the last person you’d call to fix your computer,” he laughs. “My interest is from a marketing perspective. When I started it was tough. I asked a few clients to give me a go for three months. If they were happy, hopefully they would tell other people about ROI.com.au.
“The challenge was not just to generate traffic but to generate profit. I got some satisfied responses and built the company from that point.”
ROI.com.au now has more than 1000 customers and employs 40 staff in Melbourne. Watt says the business has doubled every year. In 2009, ROI featured in the BRW Fast Starters.
“Our turnover for this year will be $4 million,” he says. “Even though it’s harder to keep doubling, we anticipate very strong growth of around 50 to 75 per cent over the next one to two years.”
ROI.com.au has a short business cycle. Watt says he doesn’t plan much more than a year in advance. “The assumptions we can make in planning can change significantly within that period,” he says.
“Therefore, three- and five-year planning is almost obsolete; our staff must see trends before they manifest.
“Right now, we’re well placed as the search engine market is more competitive and companies need specialist expertise to stay ahead. We’ve worked towards having a strategic advantage to meet the demands of the market through our team and the technologies we have developed.”
One of the bigger trends emerging in search optimisation is localisation.
Watt says that when people search for products or services, they search for a company within close proximity to them. Google has already tapped into the fact that people research online and buy locally.
“Optimising your Google places listing is very powerful,” he says. “Telling customers online how your business services local markets is also very effective.”
Along with search engines, social media and mobile phone devices will also play a much bigger role in how people make decisions in the future.
“The online marketplace will become more crowded and Google Analytics will be the dashboard used to measure the effectiveness of all marketing,” he says.
“Companies that accelerate their investment in new media will thrive in the years ahead.
“The changing marketplace creates new opportunities for businesses on a monthly basis, so you cannot afford to stand still.”