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Interview with Grant Simmons

Posted on Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

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Question: Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up in search marketing.

I was born in London England, taught sailing growing up, and qualified as the youngest Royal Yachting Association boardsailing instructor when boards needed two people to carry and there really was a brand called “Windsurfer.” Yes, it was that long ago.

My first job out of school was as a computer operator/programmer in the petroleum industry, working on a DEC PDP 11 with less than 1MB of memory (if my memory serves me correctly.)

A year or so later, a sailing friend of mine asked me to go to New Zealand to help his Uncle start a sales & marketing business, so I jumped on a plane and my marketing career began, interrupted by a few years work for Club Med; where I ended up managing a sports team of 100+ international misfits in beautiful Cancun Mexico.

Eventually I found my way to Santa Monica, working at a Marketing Communications company where I cut my ‘online teeth’ helping build the first online portal for GE Plastics and developing a web presence for the City of Santa Monica.

In early 2001, I started my own company with a focus on online marketing, building up a client base that included Warner Bros, SunAmerica, The Young Presidents’ Organization and, amongst many others, sites for Bon Jovi, Paramount Studios and the American Idol Tour.

Back then SEO stood for Stuff Every (keyword) to Optimize, and I must admit to a little title and meta keyword stuffing to help my clients achieve top page presence for some pretty competitive keywords.

Blinded by the glamour of Las Vegas and an exceptional opportunity heading up the global eCommerce team for a hospitality client, I moved to the Nevadan desert, then found my way back to California sunshine and The Search Agency in late 2008. The rest, as they say, is search history.


Question: What is your role at The Search Agency?  What new projects are you most excited about?

At The Search Agency I’m a GAD, which is actually better than it sounds*, standing for “Group Account Director” – I lead a team of very smart search people to ensure client projects and strategy exceed client expectations.

As an aside, I’m also known as “The Old Guy” and “the guy with the funny accent.”

As far as projects, we’re fortunate enough to be busy with lots of existing client work and new clients coming onboard, so there’s excitement all round, if I have to select a few:

A major job directory  has seen some tremendous online growth this year and we’re right in the middle of launching a “phase 2” to ramp up for next Summer’s hiring season with a completely restructured Google Adwords campaign and a new SEO build out.

A large, national retailer is seeing some massive gains in long tail traffic thanks to some solid foundational SEO implementations.

And a strategic partnership with one of the leading domain management companies on the web, has led to some great success on the two projects we’re consulting on.

As far as TSA projects, we’re got some great tools in the pipeline and some more ideas to both share and support SEO and PPC efforts in the industry. Stay tuned!


Question: There has been a lot of discussion lately about the introduction of more personalized search options into the search results page. What role do you see Facebook and Bing’s new partnership playing in this discussion, and how can we expect this trend to develop?

Wow! Do we have a few pages to fill?

Every partnership we’re seeing on the web is important to how the future landscape will unfold. The “big guys” are circling wagons and staking their ground for battles in both advertising bucks and search mindshare. With the movement away from the traditional browser searches to mobile, interactive TV and passive search-driven marketing, like offline display advertising, both Microsoft and Google are looking at every new or emerging technology as a differentiator. That’s not to exclude Facebook and Apple as contenders either. ALL of these companies, and I expect more, are looking at the ‘other’ screens as platforms to entertain, inform and convert. The Facebook / Bing partnership, though significant, pales in comparison to the passive and more traditionally offline opportunities to personalize results without a consumer even “entering” a query.

I see intent-based results as the next wave, where predicative modeling on individuals’ behavior serve exactly want you want, when you want it, in ways we probably can’t foresee (right now at least.) An example. Your wife’s car knows what time you like to eat, and as she’s driving home around 5:30pm, it ‘suggests’ to your wife “your favorite takeout is only 5 minutes away, and they’re having a special on that teriyaki steak dish your husband loves, why not pick it up on the way home and relax this evening?” Far fetched? Not at all, especially when you tie Facebook into the mix and suddenly your social graph is making the same recommendations with a far more personal touch. This isn’t science fiction, it’s personalization and optimization of your passive search, supported by localization and connections everywhere. As for privacy… I think that everyone will realize the value of personalization and will freely give their information to have a more personalized life, wouldn’t you?

Authors note: I’d give far more than just my personal information to Apple if they’d send me a new MacBook Air. Please.


Question: What else is happening in the industry that you find exciting?

See everything above. Then add more Apple interactivity to it. (i.e. iOS Apps on your TV. Applications via the Mac App Store. Online applications that just work!)

In search, I’m always excited when Google makes changes like Google Instant. Sure, there may be headaches with some SEO strategy, but they’re still innovating and that’s exciting in itself. And Apple.


Question: What are some of your interests outside of the office?

I head back to Vegas most weekends and obviously spending time with my two kids is way at the top of the list. (Hi Brittany and Brandon!) My son and I love to go hiking in Red Rock Canyon, and we have an annual family tradition of bowling at midnight on New Years Eve.

I still love sailing and get out on the water whenever I can.  I am a partner in a thriving Internet startup that I consult for, and try to launch one little “fun” online project a month, just because it’s fun. :)

In the little spare time that’s left, I take photos, pet my dog William and read voraciously; favorites – anything Seth Godin and the life-changing “First You Have to Row a Little Boat” by Richard Bode.

Facts you may not know about me:

  • I still hold my school pole vault record (1978)
  • I became an American citizen in 2009 (I love this country!)
  • I coached soccer at a Hawaiian high school (Go Waiakea Warriors!)
  • I used to dive off the yardarm of a brigantine sailing ship in the Great Barrier Reef to amuse Australian tourists.


*Gad is also a verb meaningtravel in the pursuit of entertainment” – so it’s not that far off our passionate pursuit of search solutions. :)

About Camille Canon

Outside of summer jobs and not-for-profit internships, The Search Agency is my first official place of employment. I recently graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where I studied Art History and German. I am an avid cook, baker, and destroyer of diets. My specialties are cream cheese brownies, biscotti cookies and lemon bars. I am also an Art enthusiast. Living in Berlin enables me to follow a young, emerging Art scene complete with “eccentric” performance pieces and temporarily converted butcher shop galleries. I also enjoy running, traveling, and handy work. Camille Canon +

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3 Responses to “Interview with Grant Simmons”

  1. JoAnna says:

    I had the chance to work with Grant when he was based out of Las Vegas, and I learned so much from him! He’s the person who taught me about SEO and Twitter, both of which I use now in my own freelancing. The Search Agency is extremely lucky to have Grant on its team ~ I would welcome the opportunity to work with him again any day.

    As for that pole vaulting record … why am I not surprised?

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