Interview with Navneet Kaushal, CEO of PageTraffic.com
In 1999 while finishing his MBA, Navneet Kaushal started a company on the side and managed to make his first million in the next two years. In 2002, Navneet founded PageTraffic, an internet marketing company that has since grown to an 80-person firm managing over 250 projects.
In 2011the firm won the prestigious Red Herring 100 Asia Award, confirming its position as a top ranked Internet marketing company. In addition to running the company, Navneet blogs, writes and edits journals and speaks. As is a trusted authority in the search engine marketing industry, he also works as an advisor and consultant with a number of large companies.
You brought the internet marketing company PageTraffic into the million-dollar revenue range within two years while working on your MBA at the same time. What in your previous experience and background positioned you for that level of success?
The Internet really started exploding when I was doing my MBA. After Google was launched and the initial buzz was created, the search landscape started changing very fast. Until then the only known search engines out there were AltaVista and Fast. Believe it or not, it took me 6 months to buy my first PC and all that because I was searching for the best configuration on the internet in my college lab on AltaVista and Google while skipping my classes. This is when I discovered the power of the internet and search engines. I started exploring the search engines more, the rudiments of internet marketing and learning technical languages to understand the algorithms better. I was so much moved by the overwhelming information I had at my hand that I decided to test it online. So while doing my MBA, my first SEO company was born. I researched and read a lot about search engine algorithms at that time and started implementing it on my website. In a few months the site started ranking in the top ten for many keywords and had a Google PageRank of 4. Soon I started receiving SEO queries from companies around the world. By the time I graduated, I was already developing and managing websites for many clients. And the money was good. So, launching the company and expanding on what I was already doing was a no-brainer.
Describe what your company accomplishes for your clients?
During the last decade, we have helped people launch new businesses as well as raise the bottom line on the existing ones too. We cover the whole range when it comes to site design – small sites, blogs, e-commerce solutions, portals and social networking sites. Then we take them to the market with our comprehensive marketing services that include SEO, PPC and social media marketing. It is quite satisfying to see that some of the businesses we helped launch a decade back are still our clients, so it’s a matter of continuous value addition.
What is it about your approach, knowledge or staff that makes your company stand out in this competitive marketplace?
In a knowledge and service-based industry such as ours, it is difficult to see them as separate entities. Given our unique processes, it has always been difficult to find people who have prior experience or are a perfect match on day one. We have devised our own training modules so that people with the right approach can become experts.
Apart from that, we have also created a separate client-servicing department and made result assessment easier for the client. We do regular training sessions and testing based on Google’s updated algorithm changes and continue to evolve our offerings accordingly. So, rather than any one factor it will be a combination of our experience, level of support and results that we deliver.
In your role as CEO of PageTraffic and as an industry leader, you run your company, blog and write articles, speak and serve as a consultant to a number of influential firms. How do you manage to balance all of these responsibilities?
I guess when you love what you do; you don’t need to take a break! When I started PageTraffic, the key challenge was not getting more clients, but to maintain the quality of the work. That was the time when I started working on setting up a process and guidelines against a measurable reporting structure along with strict quality controls. Most of the structure remains the same as what we started before, but the quality control and measurable reporting has kept on evolving, allowing us to deliver value to our clients. This way we are not stuck in day-to day operations. This also allows me to work on macros rather than micros and helps me in blogging and SEO consulting along the way.
If you could focus on only one, which one is the most important to you?
It’s a difficult choice. I love working closely with clients and ensuring that PageTraffic excels at new challenges. But if it really comes to focusing on one, I will choose to write, speak and share my experiences. The team and process at PageTraffic is mature enough for day-to-day SEO work. The teams are also experienced enough to take calls on most of the SEO matters when it comes to specific campaigns.
Do you think your base in India has any influence on your success? Why or why not?
Yes, it does. When we started working, almost all of our clients were from the USA or Europe. Cost has been a great factor in this industry. With time, we have expanded in other markets across the globe and are seen at par with any other global marketing agency when it comes to quality. So, location is not one of the most significant factors now, but it definitely helped us in the beginning.
How important is a global understanding with internet marketing? Do you feel it gives you a competitive advantage?
Yes, it is extremely important and we are fortunate to have worked on global projects right from the start. Today, both the ends of the market have become critical – a business has to have a campaign that takes care of both the global and local ends of the spectrum. Having handled campaigns of all sizes and descriptions over the last decade, we understand how the algorithms work better. Though no one can quite know which way they will go, you get a better idea of the trend if you’ve been in the trenches for long and have handled the scale of it all.
Where do you see internet marketing headed in the next three to five years? What are you doing as a company to prepare for that evolution?
I see internet marketing becoming more of Inbound Marketing, where clients will expect more value for their dollar. The composition of SERPs is changing; search engines are striving to make their results more inclusive. Brands are expanding their campaigns to be present across the categories. Also, companies are becoming more aware of their online reputation. It is no longer a singular campaign with a singular objective. In the coming years, this fragmentation of sources and unification of results will progress simultaneously.
These are times when brands have realized that marketing is no longer a one way street. Even traditional marketing has changed tracks and is trying to become more engaging. Given that the internet is where it all started, I understand the changes will be swifter in the future.
PageTraffic has always been open to change and we know how to roll with the waves too. The change has come at many levels – we have become more open as an organization. We are more open to multi-dimensional talent and people moving across the hierarchy and not just vertically up. For an organization to change, the exterior and interior have to change in tandem. The internal changes have allowed us to expand our offerings and to help our clients keep up the pace too.
What would you recommend as a first step for companies that want to expand their internet marketing efforts?
Quite literally, the first step depends on the direction that the organization wants to take. Companies need to assess their own requirements and envision their short and long term goals. They need to be able to project their marketing budgets for the coming year and only then start looking for an internet marketing partner. Most of the internet marketing companies today have become domain experts, so you need to see where the inputs are coming from and how they sync with the bigger picture.