By MJ Plaster
Peter Dulay, founder and director of Keyword Search Pros (KSP), has worked with search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for a decade. Dulay and his eclectic and highly skilled team extend their clients’ reach and profits through comprehensive internet marketing campaigns.
SEO can help position a company at the top of the search results. Google, Yahoo and Bing use complex algorithms to rank search results based on each search query. Those “organic” search results are based solely upon cryptic criteria concocted behind triple-locked doors in subterranean, secure units on the search engine campuses.
PPC is a form of advertising that is billed not by how many times an ad is displayed, but by how many clicks the ad receives. Ads that display without receiving a click are not charged to the account.
Missteps in either of these areas can be expensive in loss of exposure as well as loss of revenue. Novices who attempt their own Internet marketing with no prior knowledge can feel as if they’re swimming with the sharks. A successful Internet marketing strategy and campaign can return a hefty ROI.
Now that you have an overview of two important components of internet marketing, let’s hear from Dulay on the launch of his company and how he parlayed the germ of an idea born out of necessity into success.
CheckWorks: Peter, we’re happy to have this opportunity to speak with you today and for you to share your thoughts with our readers and give them an opportunity to learn how you built your business from scratch. How did you get your start working with keywords and SEO? What was your career path?
Peter Dulay: I got started back in 2006 while I was working in merchant services with credit cards. I was introduced to the owner of a PPC company through a friend. It was very casual interview—at a bar actually. I grilled the guy for three hours straight on the inner workings of his PPC business. In two years, I built his business from three to 10 people in two different offices, at which time the overhead became an issue and the business could no longer afford me. Oh the irony!
In my complete arrogance and lack of business aptitude, I decided I could do it all on my own—all the sales and all the client management. In the beginning, I had a couple of people helping with cold calls, but that was it. I worked seven days a week, mostly 14–16 hours days in the first year. Then I was able to hire some help.
Fast forward eight years and now we are a boutique PPC/SEO firm with almost 100 clients and around 15 employees. We’re small but that’s by design. We grow only about 20–25 percent every year, and that’s because it’s more important for us to keep a grasp on our existing clients. If we only focused on getting new clients, we’d be more susceptible to losing our existing base. And especially nowadays, it’s easier to maintain a happy client than to bring on a brand new one!
CW: Do they teach PPC, SEO, etc., in school? Or, did you pick it up yourself?
PD: They do introduce marketing channels like PPC/SEO in school. I was floored the first time I heard someone say they were doing an “AdWords simulation” with virtual money. Some marketing schools specialize a bit more in these fields and go into greater depth. But by our standards, and like in any profession, you’re not going to excel at this unless you’ve managed hundreds and hundreds of actual, paying clients.
This isn’t just because you’ve had more time to learn PPC and learned how to create strategies and execute them. It’s also because you’ve failed enough times, you know what not to do. We’ve definitely picked up pointers and still continue our education with formal training provided by Google and other publishers. But the caliber of management we deliver can only come from experience.
CW: Now that you direct a successful boutique firm, how would you summarize your company mission in a couple of sentences? How do you bring that mission to life with your customers, and how does your company surpass its competition?
PD: Our mission is to maximize total net profit volume for our advertisers. Every big picture strategy, down to the smallest minute task, has that chief aim in mind.
There are several ways we stand out from the pack, but I feel it can be boiled down to one thing: We’re really good at taking an advertiser’s goals and translating it into a strategy that achieves their objectives. Everything else is secondary.
CW: You’ve been incredibly successful in building a cohesive team to fulfill your mission. To what or whom do you owe your success?
PD: In terms of the company success, I would have to credit the people in this company. It’s true: We would not be here if it weren’t for some very specific people who have pushed through the most challenging of times. These are the same people who push the boundaries here and continue to share their DNA with newer team members.
If you’re talking about me personally, I owe my success in business to one of my mentors. I’ve had a few who have fostered my growth in various aspects of my life, but the one that mentored me when I started KSP gave me so much wisdom early on that it actually has become my business personality and my foundation for decision making. Even today when I think of doing anything, unconsciously I ask myself: “What would Neil do?”
CW: What is your flagship product or service?
PD: We only have two products: PPC and SEO—and we excel equally at both because we focus only on what we know best!
CW: Have you or your company ever had a moment when you were on the brink of losing it all?
PD: Day one when I left the company to start KSP, I gambled everything including stability and even being able to pay rent—not because I was courageous, but because I didn’t have another choice except to go get a job. I was more excited to start a business. So I started the company with virtually no money, and we’ve never been in debt. I once put a $5,000 loan (from my mentor) in the bank as a security padding to relieve a bit of the stress, but I never touched it, and I repaid it after about a year.
CW: Aside from starting the business on a shoestring and under extraordinary pressure, what is the greatest obstacle you’ve overcome, and what brought you through it?
PD: There were so many different obstacles, each with its own unique sets of issues. We continue to experience obstacles but what gets us through them is trying new things. If there are two things we can count on its 1) that we’re going to have obstacles, and 2) if we try new things, we’re going to fail on some of them. But we’re going to win on a few. And the winners are the things we’ll try to repeat.
CW: What was your defining moment as an entrepreneur or executive?
PD: I don’t have a defining moment. For years, and to this day, I’ve worked my ass off, and I pushed my boundaries and that’s what defines me.
CW: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned, and what would you like budding entrepreneurs or managers to take away from your experience?
PD: The greatest lesson: Don’t chase the get rich quick ideas! Forget about the mansion, the jet, and the five-bottle table service at the club. I used to focus on all that stuff. And it never got me anywhere except further from financial freedom. Just focus on what’s right in front of you and what you can do to maximize your time THAT DAY! Neil (my mentor) was right.
CW: Is there any book that you have read along the way that influenced your thinking or how you conduct the business—a book that would help others who haven’t achieved your level of success but are striving for success?
PD: I’ve been influenced by many great books but one that is probably the best foundational business book is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book is about 80 years old and has contributed to more worldwide success and wealth than any other book of any time, other than the Bible.
CW: Peter, thanks so much for taking the time to share your insights with our readers.
PD: My pleasure. Thank you for giving the spotlight to Keyword Search Pros.
One of the things Dulay didn’t mention during the interview but that we discussed tangentially after-the-fact is the enormous creativity that runs through the KSP team. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so we’ll leave the readers with something better than a picture. KSP has produced three off-the-charts clever mini-documentaries. View Googbusters below, and then click the links to watch The Googfather and The Googfather II.