Ginzametrics Helps Huge Sites Get More Search & Social Attention

Ray Grieselhuber, the founder of search optimization startup Ginzametrics, deserves a prize for patience. My first meeting with him was more than two years ago, on September 27, 2010 (I remember that it was a windy but bright afternoon outside Caffe La Stazione in the Dogpatch). I said I’d likely write a story based on our interview, but then a lot of other things got in the way.

So I asked Ray to stop by for another talk on November 3, 2011—but then immediately got sidetracked with a hundred other pressing tasks. Embarrassed, but still convinced that Ginzametrics is a cool company, I talked to him for a third time last month, then left on vacation before I could write my story.

Well, I don’t know if Ray will feel it was worth the wait, but I’m back on duty this week, and today I’m finally going to tell you all about Ginzametrics. The company has been thriving, so there’s actually a lot more to say than there was back in the fall of 2010, when Grieselhuber had just finished a term inside Y Combinator.

“The first year was about launching and making sure the whole thing didn’t fall over,” Grieselhuber says of Ginzametrics’ service, which is designed to help big companies manage the content of their websites to achieve better rankings on Google, Bing, and other search engines. “In the last year, we’ve been scaling out to a lot more customers, and hiring people to help us continue to expand.”

At just eight full-time workers, and with a modest $1.7 million in venture capital under its belt, Mountain View, CA-based Ginzametrics is still a lot smaller than its main competitor in the search engine optimization (SEO) market: San Mateo, CA-based BrightEdge, which employs more than 200 people. (I profiled BrightEdge back in June 2010). Grieselhuber says Ginzametrics’ main advantage over its bigger rival is that its system is optimized for managing very large websites: Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten is a customer, for example.

“It is very much a David and Goliath thing,” he says. BrightEdge has raised $20 million, “and they’re growing like crazy. Hats off to them—they’ve really helped to educate potential customers on how this technology can benefit them, so they’ve saved us a lot of work. We are trying to do things a little bit differently. We are definitely the upstart—our goal is to be the next-generation technology.”

The “Ginza” in the company’s name is a reference to Grieselhuber’s connections to Tokyo, where he worked for three years as the head of a boutique interactive agency specializing in Web analytics. (He also speaks the language fluently.) “I’ve always been doing more sophisticated stuff than what I see on the market, but now I’m seeing the mainstream vendors start to catch on to these ideas,” Grieselhuber told me at our first meeting. “I saw the opportunity to package these [SEO] ideas into something that works for a wider, enterprise-class audience”—but in the form of a Web-based service that doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and weeks of IT time to spin up.

The big problem Ginzametrics wants to help with is increasing a company’s visibility on the Internet. If you sell picture-hanging widgets and your site doesn’t rank in the top Google results under “picture hanging,” it’s the modern-day equivalent of not having a listing in the phone book or the Yellow Pages. “If you are ranked highly in Google, it’s one of the strongest signals of trust and quality,” Grieselhuber says. “But it’s much more than just Google. Yelp and the App Store are increasingly important. If you are a marketer and you see an ordered list, you should be thinking, ‘How can I be at the top of that list?”

Almost any SEO tool can show how a company ranks in the search results for a given keyword. Grieselhuber says his goal was to build a Web-based system that would pull together performance data from many additional sources, show users how search engine rankings relate to Web traffic and revenue, and guide companies as they try to adjust the content of their sites to drive rankings up.

That’s a classic “big data” problem, since it involves tracking the performance of thousands of pages on large websites against thousands of keywords on several search engines and social media services. And that’s exactly where Grieselhuber’s interests as a programmer lie. He says Ginzametrics’ big advantage, when he was starting the company as a single founder inside Y Combinator in mid-2010, was that … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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