John Audette, (currently with 501Strategies) was doing SEO before it had a name, before people knew what it was, before spider run search engines existed! You get the point; it was a long time ago, 1995 to be exact. John began his internet marketing career by writing a book that he attempted to have published, but he could not find any takers. So he published the book himself and sold it online. With the revenue from the book sales, John started MMG (Multi-Media Marketing Group).
MMG got its start by providing PowerPoint presentations and creating websites for clients. But John always had his eye on the future and knew that a website with nobody able to find it was like having a beautiful billboard in a basement. So MMG started selling the service of registering websites for their clients. In those days, John said that was all it took but it was tedious and people didn’t want to do it themselves. At Yahoo!, MMG had a special code that enabled them to get clients into the search results right away which was something they were able to hold onto for many years and gave them a competitive advantage.
During that time, John wrote an internal document called the Web Set Top 100 and then a sub-set Top 30 list. John decided to release this information to the public and everyone thought he was nuts because that was their main service offering. Once the lists were public the registering of sites dwindled but was quickly replaced by clients with bigger budgets and projects.
In 1996 John hired Marshall Simmons (New York Times SEO Director) and Derrick Wheeler (Senior Search Engine Optimization Architect for Microsoft) from Comp USA. At that time MMG was located in Lake Oswego, Oregon. John had plans to move the company to Bend, Oregon and did so for two reasons. John personally wanted to live in Bend and professionally felt that it was an excellent place to retain employees because he would be hiring lifestyle people who wouldn’t want to move out of the area. John saw employee retention as one of the major future obstacles of the industry.
In 1997, John contacted Danny Sullivan who at the time was working on Search Engine Watch and was the only guy making a full-time job out of SEO. Danny Sullivan was a subscriber of John’s I-Sales email discussion list which at the time had about 15 to 20 thousand subscribers. John told Danny that he would pay his way to Bend, Oregon if he would teach them what he knew and Danny accepted. So in a little loft in downtown Bend, Oregon, Danny Sullivan walked MMG through search engine optimization. At the time the craft didn’t hold that name or any name for that matter. As Danny was training them, John expressed a need to make this an official service and make it a product that MMG would sell. But it needed a name and John believes at that moment he coined the term search engine optimization in Bend, Oregon in 1997. He knows that this is disputed but none-the-less is sticking to his story.
Marshall Simmons became MMG’s search guy but SEO was never their primary revenue stream. At many times this irritated John because he saw the potential of SEO but he was before his time. It wasn’t long before John had the opportunity to sell MMG and he decided to take it.
When asked what the future looks like, John said that he plans on going into business with his son Adam, owner and moderator of LED Digest an email discussion list with over 40,000 subscribers. John says there is way more demand than supply and the supply has a great deal of black hat or fly-by-night consultants with no experience. He and Adam plan to build a quality company that can accommodate what Adam is capable of doing. John believes that the future is in automation (effective tools). He thinks the process needs to be improved for scalability of SEO businesses.
Their object is to run Audette Media like a law firm, one where intelligent, hard-working individuals can work their way up in the company by becoming junior and senior partners. “There needs to be a more sophisticated approach because the market has become more mature” said John. John is especially excited about bringing advanced, cutting edge SEO back to Central Oregon - the birth place of search.