In 1998, Google forever changed the way organizations did business. By launching its revolutionary search algorithm, it made content available to anyone’s fingertips. Google quickly dominated the Internet, guiding users through a virtual ocean of information they sought with astonishing speed and precision.
While Google is the undisputed king of search, one man stands apart as the king of harnessing its complex algorithm. Jeff Herzog has been called an industry tech titan and has been honored by his peers as a “who’s who” in business by several notable publications. The same year that Google launched its revolutionary system, Herzog started one of the first digital agencies in the country, iCrossing. Sensing the meteoritic change in marketing strategy, he quickly built an organization that not only became one of the premier SEO companies in the country but also dominated the international digital agency space.
“Unlike many entrepreneurs, I didn’t go into business to build a multi-million-dollar organization. It was about seeing the promise of technology and the capacity to maximize it. I think any great business starts with a passion for that world and grows into an obsession to become the best at it,” Herzog says. He recalls becoming spellbound with the concept of harnessing such sophisticated algorithms and being able to create real-time tools to optimize bidding strategies and, ultimately, improve performance for major Fortune 500 brands. “And all of this could grow from a few smart strategies, sitting around a Scottsdale, Arizona, conference table.”
As Herzog will admit, those early days were not all glitz and glamour. “While leading the pack has some amazing advantages, it’s also rife with pitfalls. Days were spent in challenging pitch sessions educating major organizations on digital strategy and countless nights optimizing our current client’s SEO strategies. We were truly a startup, and, with any new business, we were built on blood, sweat and tears.”
Thanks to Herzog’s energy, knowledge and razor-like focus, iCrossing became a success in 12 short years. In 2010, Hearst Media purchased the company for a sum of $325 million. At the time of acquisition, iCrossing was named one of the top international search firms in the world.
Perhaps due to its quick expansion, Herzog now remains critical of companies that “grow too rapidly,” of turning to the easy solution of hiring someone new to solve a problem. “After the sale of iCrossing, I — like most successful business founders — felt lost. It was one of the roughest times in my life. I took that time to evaluate what we had done right at iCrossing and the opportunities that we missed.” Emphasizing the importance of self-reflection to business leaders, he says, “Don’t be afraid to look yourself in the mirror and seek your next big adventure.”
For Herzog, that next big adventure is ZOG Digital, which he founded in 2011 as a result of his new vision of an agency. Taking into account his time building iCrossing, he had a vision for a better, more efficient approach. Gone was the complicated corporate structures and executive hierarchy. This is an agency built for and by the people. Clients come first and so does the talented team he brought together to form the now-thriving agency. At ZOG, there exists a culture void of hierarchy and with a strong belief in transparency. Herzog keeps a strict quality-over-quantity rule for all clients, ensuring each Fortune 500 organization has an individual, dedicated team to support its search initiatives.
So what’s the future of digital marketing and how brands go to market? Not shy to add his 10 cents, Herzog is full of predictions. “Customers have complete access today to information unheard-of just a decade ago,” he says. “That includes where to find the best price, how products are rated by users, and what their friends think of the brand. They can buy instantly with the click of a smartphone.” He believes the richness of this information will continue to grow exponentially in the future, and that brands need to be prepared for the speed of this transformation and the power it will give the consumer.
But it’s also an opportunity for the brands, and this is where Herzog has positioned ZOG Digital to apply its expertise. “Soon consumers will be faced with ads every time they pick up a smartphone or open their laptop. You walk into a store and don’t have to do anything. The systems will know who you are, what product you’re looking at, whether you’ve ever bought a product like that before, and then give you an instant offer that will be different for you than it will be for me.”
- ZOG Digital, Inc. is an award-winning digital marketing agency focused on discovery marketing across search, social and all digital media.
- Headquartered in Phoenix, ZOG Digital boasts a unique collaborative employee culture.
- ZOG Digital serves a roster of Fortune 1000 companies and brands across varied industries, including Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, KitchenAid, Capital One, Pep Boys and CarMax.