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Interview > Bruce Clay, founder, Bruce Clay Inc

Following the launch of Bruce Clay India in September 2009, Bruce Clay, the guru of Search Engine Optimisation and founder of Bruce Clay Inc, visited India for the first time to conduct a three-day SEO Toolset Training programme during August 3-5, 2010. AlooTechie caught up with Bruce Clay to understand his views about the SEO market in India and his company’s future plans akin to the Indian online market.

What brings you to India now?

Following the launch of Bruce Clay India in September 2009, Bruce Clay, the guru of Search Engine Optimisation and founder of Bruce Clay Inc, visited India for the first time to conduct a three-day SEO Toolset Training programme during August 3-5, 2010. AlooTechie caught up with Bruce Clay to understand his views about the SEO market in India and his company’s future plans akin to the Indian online market.

What brings you to India now?

The thing that brought me to India right now is the opening of our Indian office. Our Indian office is predominantly designed to service the Indian market rather than the entire world. This is the inaugural week and I am here to take the first training session in the country. I started in the year 1996, three years before Google. In 1996, SEO didn’t exist and after about four years, the concept started to expand internationally. Gradually, I also expanded my business and now I have an office in US, Tokyo, Sydney, Milan, have just opened in India and will shortly be opening in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Our Indian office, according to me, stands as the second in potential of growth after the US office. India has the largest concentration of educated computer users and probably more web pages will come out of India in the future than anywhere else. India is a big market and will be bigger; even China will not be anywhere near India in the future. That is why I have not pushed for China at all. About 90 per cent of all computers in China are within 75 miles of the ocean and hence there is no scope of developing computer knowledge further. But that is actually opposite to India where every computer capable person is using a computer and hence there will be more websites and more need for search engine optimisation tools in the country.

How have you seen SEO activity in India growing?

In my opinion, the SEO industry has really grown to be big within the United States, within Australia and within all places where I have my offices. Every time I open an office, it becomes profitable in the first month. So given the track record, walking into a target rich India was really obvious. Taking the fact that the United States has gone through a recession which has led to a downfall in spending on online advertising, advertising has grown in pay per click model because it is easier to turn off and on. SEO needs a thoughtful and long-term investment and we are seeing more companies now coming back to believe that they need to invest more on SEO or their competition would be ranked higher than them on search. For the last six months, there has been a strong uptake of SEO among companies in the United States. We have observed a similar uptake in Milan and we are expecting the same in India. So, I am optimistic.

What do you feel are the cutting edge tools and trends that the Indian corporates are missing at this stage while optimising their websites?

As I was taking the class last week, I analysed that most of the websites that people had in India missed rudimentary SEO. They don’t understand the basics of SEO and as a result they need guidance. To me, most Indian corporates are very advanced in computer skills and they are very knowledgeable in their ability to use and organise technology. However, when it comes to SEO, most of the larger companies are a bit naïve and they don’t understand it.

What are the ways to optimise new forms of content such as videos?

Videos are very important as they are engaging objects and attract a lot of visitors to a website. The very nice thing about videos is that Google has a tendency, especially with YouTube to jump up into the middle of the first page, which attracts overnight visibility. Google has moved a technology on YouTube that they had developed in labs, through which enclosed captioning and transcript buttons appear on videos. Now users can click the transcript button and read the entire transcript of the video that is generated by software and in fact they are very accurate. What that basically says is that video is not just pretty, but is a vital content in a different form. So, encrypting a YouTube video in a website helps search rankings go up. Google for a very long time had only 128 variables in their algorithm. Google released universal search with images, apps, blogs etc and within a week, they have set 200 variables in their algorithm. Then they announced that they have changed the spider which will now read your videos when they spider your websites. So, if you have videos on your website, I think, it contributes to your ranking. What I foresee is that websites will either have videos or they will be run out by competitors.

Do you suggest websites to carry their videos through YouTube or should they host the videos on their own server and run them through their own player? Especially when, players developed in-house often lack the technology to transcribe a video.

Well, anyone can have a transcript of the video of their own, which will help in increasing the search rankings. However, according to me, what Google is trying to do with YouTube is that they want to make it as a legitimate player of videos in other websites, thus making it an extension of that particular website. There is a lot of homework to be done but my sense is that in the coming years, YouTube will emerge as the server for online videos across the web.

How can brands best manage their image in this era of social networks?

We have invented a product called ‘Rep Optimizer’, which monitors social media websites like Facebook and Twitter conversations in the name of that brand minutes by minutes and if that brand gets any negative press, or as a matter of fact any press on those platforms, it will send you an email about this. It is a warning system so that brands can keep it away from getting worse. Another part of our service is that by knowing where the conversation is going, we can probably intervene in two ways. Let’s suppose that if someone says ‘a domain name sucks’, what the domain name should do is, post something like ‘the domain name believes that it really sucks that this is happening’, thus making the negative terms into a positive statement. Thus a domain name can handle the situation.

In case of live search results, chances are that most of the live search results will happen when some breaking news comes up. However, if somebody writes a negative statement on social pages and he or she does have a lot of followers that might just go viral. In this case, brands need to catch hold of that particular person and address the concerned issue so well that the person forgets the problem and that becomes a testimonial from the consumer when he explains the incident next time. This is how companies need to tackle the vocal minority on the web as that can get viral and become very loud.

Are there any case studies or examples that you want to share which might help Indian corporates boost their SEO exercises?

For boosting their SEO exercises, Indian corporates need to hire me (laughs). Well, all throughout the years, we have been preaching that SEO can achieve something without cheating that spammers can do through cheating. The difference in the long run is that Google is fighting against the spammers but not the SEO guys. So, eventually spammers will be out of business but I won’t. As Google’s software is getting better every day, it is inevitable that they will win the game against the spammers. That is what we tell our clients to take up the right practices that will help their search rankings.

In US, there is a car website called Edmunds.com, which is one of the foremost authorities on cars. They do test drives, track new car launches, have videos and also write articles. When we started with them few years back, they had about 1.7 million unique visitors a month and 25 million page views and recently their high watermark has been 16.4 million uniques and 200 million page views. Turner Broadcasting is a client and we made CNN the number one news site in US from being number three within a month increasing their traffic by 15 million page views a month.

Besides these large clients, we also do small and medium clients as we really want to help everybody who is actually looking at our services for use.

This is your first visit in India. What are your learnings from this trip?

Yes, this is my first time in India and interestingly, I have got a five year VISA, which, I understand, is impossible to get. The VISA authorities did a Google search on me and found out what I did and were happy to welcome me here.

Speaking about experiences from the Indian internet market, I am pleased by what I have seen here. It is pretty much like the time when I started practising SEO, as many companies here are doing nothing for that. What I have figured out here is that it is not going to be so hard as I have learnt that everything we talk about that will happen in the next 15 years has direct correlation with India.

What I am taking back is that I had no idea of what was going on in India because in US or other parts of the world we have 200 to 400 people companies doing SEO and in India there is hardly such a big company doing the same. We had 17 SEO companies in our training session that had come to hear me and all of them offer labour at cheap rate but none of them offer advanced SEO technology in the country. That is the bridge which is missing in India.

Speaking about your company, how many people do you have now in your team and where do you have your offices in India now? Can you name some of your large clients in India?

Well, presently we are about a six people team in India and this office (Gurgaon, Haryana) is the only one in the country. However, Siddharth Lal, MD of Bruce Clay India, has plans to open our offices in four places by the end of next year. Even this office will quadruple in few months. We are going to be pulled by demand and won’t offer services we can’t provide and we will offer technology backed solutions that will help us dominate the market.

Our largest Indian client is Olive Telecom and we are working on their recent offering the Olive Pad and also some innovative mobile phones. We also have smaller clients such as the NIA (National Institute of Advertising) and in the last one week, we have got many queries and have five people who are now waiting for quotes from us and we are going to get big in India.

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