A summer interview with… The Critchlow brothers: Will and Tom Critchlow

A summer interview with… The Critchlow brothers: Will and Tom Critchlow

21st June 2010

This interview was originally published first in our newsletter which is sent out monthly with unique content not published on the web yet. Take a look at the newsletter here and subscribe to the newsletter here.

There are many great search-experts out there. We decided we wanted to give some extra attention to some of them. Therefore we will be interviewing some of these experts. During the entire summer you will be served with short interviews with influential people in the industry. Be aware that some interviews will be published in the newsletter!

Today: Will and Tom Critchlow. Brothers and working together at Distilled in the UK. Five questions for them.

1. What’s it like working with family?

Tom: Pretty great! We’ve always got along as brothers and from a personal perspective it’s always nice to be able to spend time around family. From a professional capacity, since Will works more on sales & marketing and I work hands-on on projects we don’t actually overlap too much which means we don’t get sick of each other.

Will: In our case, pretty damn cool. There’s plenty of people in my family I wouldn’t want to work with, but Tom and I work well together. Duncan and I were friends for over 10 years before we started Distilled, so I work with both friends and family. I think in both cases I’m glad we don’t really report directly to each other, but apart from that, it’s great that we see each other every day and that we always have something to talk about!

2. Distilled opened up offices in the US. Why? And what will be your personal role in the US – company?

Will: We’re very excited about growing our US presence. We were already working with US clients, but SEOmoz leaving the consulting business and handing the keys to us meant that it made sense for us to have people on the ground there. I have board-level oversight of the US business alongside Duncan and the rest of the management team, but the team reports into Duncan. Today, my involvement is actually delivering billable work for the US team, but normally, my role is making sure we are visible on both continents and the pipeline stays nice and full.

Tom: The main reason we opened a US office is because of our close ties to SEOmoz. The SEOmoz team are fantastic people and a lot of fun to be around. When Rand offered us the opportunity to take over their consulting work we leapt at it! I’m Head of Search at Distilled but actually Rob has done an amazing job setting up the US SEO team and I don’t have much day-to-day involvement with the team over there. Rob and I trade learnings and key project insights but mostly they’re a self contained unit. Actually one of the things I want to improve in coming months is the collaboration between the UK and US offices to ensure we’re all improving together.

3. What is the most hottest subject in search at the moment, what should every SEO be looking into?

Tom: I think two things are going to be big over the next 6-12 months, firstly the advent of HTML 5 and microformats will mean big strides forward in marking up your pages and structuring your data in easily accessible ways. Google loves to reward clean data and has always given boosts to sites that make it easy for Google to understand what’s going on. HTML 5 and microformats take this to the next level.

The second “big thing” is going to be engagement metrics – I strongly believe that Google will start to use factors like CTR, bounce-to-serp etc to analyse overall “satisfaction rate” of a particular website for a particular query. They may already be using this though plenty of SEOs disagree with me 🙂

Will: Tom covered technical and Google factors, so I’m going to pick a strategic one. I think we are going to see an increasing convergence of online PR and SEO. We’ve all known for ages that there are complementary benefits, but I think we are going to see a rapid growth in serious PR tactics being used with and alongside search. We’re investing in this area and growing our team so I’m putting my money where my mouth is: http://www.distilled.co.uk/company/jobs/online-pr-consultant.html

4. What do you think is the “state of search” at the moment, is the industry doing good?

Will: Yes. I think the industry is growing up which is crucial to its long-term health even if it reduces the “wild west factor” a little bit in the short term. From a business growth perspective, notwithstanding a couple of high profile business failures in the UK (mainly from changes in the PPC market), all the quality agencies I know are reporting that they are snowed under with work. I think it’s a good time to be an SEO.

Tom: I think search is pretty healthy right now, however I think people are getting a little sick of the same things being said over and over again. You’re starting to hear people complaining about conferences not being advanced enough so the overall expertise level is growing rapidly – you wouldn’t have heard that even 12 months ago. We’re trying to fill that gap with our expert Pro SEO conferences in Seattle and London which people respond really well to. Something else I think we’ll see more and more of is SEO people talking about more aspects of online marketing – conversion rate optimisation & email marketing especially – there are big wins in these industries waiting to happen and as the SEO market gets more mature these are going to become talked about more.

5. What is your favorite website, apart from your own?

Tom: Favorite search website? I guess I’d have to say SEOmoz or state of search :-p

Will: They say that you can tell what you really care about by where you spend your time, so judging by what RescueTime tells me, unfortunately I’d have to say mail.google.com :(.

This interview was originally published first in our newsletter which is sent out monthly with unique content not published on the web yet. Take a look at the newsletter here and subscribe to the newsletter here.


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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