The Man Leading Searchmetrics Into 2020

Meet Matt Colebourne, Searchmetrics' newly appointed global chief executive officer leading the charge. If the name sounds familiar, perhaps that's because he once served as the European vice president of international for DoubleClick, and was part of the team responsible for growing the business prior to its sale to Google.

Colebourne started his career at a large software and services company that was eventually sold to Hewlett-Packard. At the time it was called Electronic Data Systems (EDS). The company was founded in 1962 by Ross Perot, who in 1992 ran for president under the Independent party and then in 1996 ran under the Reform party which he created, respectively.

The Search Insider spoke with Colebourne, who shared his insights on data and marketing. What follows are excerpts from the conversation. 



Why did you accept the position of CEO at Searchmetrics?

I have a background in digital technology going back to 1997 at DoubleClick, so I saw the rise of digital display. Then I saw the turnaround of the last big European pay-per-click players and toyed with mobile and digital advertising.

I always felt natural search and organic content didn’t get enough attention. It often seems complex and technical. It doesn’t have the same type of budgets as paid because you’re not buying the traffic. Between 40% and 50% of the traffic from a search engine to a website comes from organic search, rather than paid.  

How will data change advertising and marketing in the next two years?

CMOs and senior marketing teams should move back to some of the traditional metrics using new forms of data.

Awareness and consideration are massively important, even today, as digital marketing gets more expensive to run. We can tell a sporting goods manufacturer, for example, they are in the No. 3 spot. You have a 5% share of voice, compared with your leading competitor, which has 22%.

We’re almost undoing some of the evils that were done previously in the market.

How will the ability to use the data will change in the next two years?

Measurement could be affected when you remove certain metrics. It will have an effect on content.

A handful of weeks ago in the European Court of Justice, any purchase information -- even anonymously associated with a cookie -- that the cookie has to be treated as personal data and couldn’t be used for marketing purchases unless the person had given explicit use.

I will get companies to think about how they use data. We’re looking at not who you are, but what you’re trying to purchase.

What is the best piece of professional advice you ever received and from whom?  

Hard work. I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked with a lot of inspirational leaders.

The one I really remember is from one of the first female CEOs, Sue Lethbridge, from a major U.K. company, Holistic Systems, which was purchased by Seagate Software. She was warm and fuzzy, ferocious as an opponent, and inspirational as a leader. She told me to do what only you can do and build a team around you.

Business is a team game. Your job is to do the bits you can do and empower your team to get the most out of everyone. As a leader your job is not to control, but rather set the agenda for the direction to allow people to bring everything they have to support the framework.

Did you always have a passion for data? 

I am a rationalist, a numbers-based guy. Very early on I realized data doesn't lie as long as you were careful. I realized you could reach an assumption quickly by testing the data to see if you were correct. I found it incredibly powerful.

In the 1990s we were using neural networks to decide where to put superstores. That was our data-modeling problem statisticians worked on. Then we found machine learning. We were forecasting and assessing square meters to make those decisions.

I’m a heathy cynic. You must use data right and have valid data, and it’s very easy to misuse it.  

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