Stepping up the search
Today on Lunch with an Entrepreneur I'm talking to Rahmon Coupe, the 47-year-old co-founder of YourAmigo. We're going to talk today about his strategy, where search engine optimisation is going, how he runs a global company from Adelaide and his plans for the future.
Rahmon, I understand the research began at the University of Flinders in Adelaide?
Yes, that's correct. Way back in the late 1990s there was an associate professor there looking at internet search. At the time I had my own small consulting company and I was consulting to the university, helping them to commercialise technology. I thought this early work had commercial potential and after some time with the university it was decided to set up a start-up company to try and commercialise some of those concepts.
You automate the search engine optimisation process for very large websites, which are greater than 100,000 pages, is that right?
Yes, that's essentially true. I guess at the small end, our smallest customers may have a few thousand web pages. At the top end it's in excess of 10 million on a website. Search engine optimisation is about trying to help websites get more traffic from the internet search engines through the organic or natural search results, for example through Google and Bing and so on. And it's particularly relevant I guess to eCommerce websites that are selling products where they're incredibly reliant on their ability to increase sales and make profits through their websites.
You say you have a solution that provides hidden or invisible custom website content that it is visible to search engines. How does that work?
There are so many technologies that are being used in websites and a lot of them are database driven and have content management systems that make authoring websites very easy.
But sometimes these complex tools make crawling websites by the search engines themselves very difficult. So sometimes on a large website when Google's crawler and Bing's crawler comes around, they may not be able to get to all the deep levels of the content - in some cases they may only see 10% or less of the content that's on the website.
So we have a managed technology service where we can firstly solve that problem of any content that's not being crawled properly. So that really increases the visibility, but then the next thing of course is that it's critical to have that content highly optimised, so that not only is it seen and crawled but it actually ranks very highly in the search results when somebody performs a relevant search query.
So you optimise all content to rank highly in the search engine results. How do you do that?
Well part of that's a secret sauce. We actually run it as a managed service, so the technology we have will look at all of the web pages that exist on a website. It will in a sense recast those web pages so that they have things like metadata that's improved, but also a whole range of other things that are done including the way linking is done between web pages. All of this is done essentially on the fly by the technology. So the pages are dynamically created but optimised to rank very highly in a very scalable manner for, in particular large websites as we were saying earlier.
Now what sort of companies have the large websites that you work with?
Particularly companies that sell products and have product databases sitting behind them. So examples are companies like the Home Shopping Network in the United States. They sell all sorts of different products for the home and the garden and so on. We also have large travel sites. So for example in the UK the Booking.com Group is one of our customers throughout Europe and they offer a very large range of different hotels that people might want to book in a similar way to in United States, through sites such as Expedia and hotels.com and so on. So it's really any website that has a large amount of content and where that content can be monetised by bringing people to that website to transact in some way.
What are you seeing that's new in search?
In some ways things have and haven't changed a lot since Google came into the picture in the late 1990s. I guess in a commercial sense we have of course seen the recent tie-up between Microsoft Bing and Yahoo and obviously Google is so dominant in most countries that Microsoft and Yahoo have seen some benefit in getting together. It is different in different places in the world.
In places like Japan, Yahoo is a very dominant search engine surprisingly. In Korea there's a local search engine there and of course in China there's a local search engine Baidu.
We see the search engines forever trying to improve their relevance algorithms to give more relevant results to users. Also trying to stop what's known as spam in the industry, where sometimes people are trying to fool the search engines and try to unfairly get a higher position sometimes with irrelevant content. And I guess other things that the Bing release recently has shown is a slightly different user interface. As you mouse down over the search results you can get some additional information about the content on the page without having to actually click on that result and go to the page.