SEO expert helps clients build their business online
Ken Jurina (Marketing ’95) understands that building credibility can make or break a business. These days, building that credibility online is just as important as face-to-face contact with clients.
With nearly 23 years of experience, the president and founder remembers when he set out to start his own company, Top Draw Inc., an Edmonton-based digital marketing agency. It was 1993 and he had just recently graduated.
Back then, Top Draw was a one-man, graphic design shop. Many of his clients were friends, family or word-of-mouth referrals. Establishing credibility in those days, he says, was tough.
With hundreds of designers in Edmonton alone, Ken quickly realized that growing his business would face some stiff competition. He had the foresight, however, to recognize that the Internet would play an increasingly important role in his industry. In 1997, he steered the company in precisely that direction.
The digital waters were murkier then. Google was in its infancy and it was long before the iPhone and the launch of social media giants like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Ken saw an opportunity to set his business apart, becoming an early adopter of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), an online marketing practice that was quickly gaining momentum.
His was among the first companies in Edmonton to jump aboard. He became a founding member of the Canadian chapter of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization and spoke at several conferences all over North America.
Over the years, Top Draw has become Google certified and helped many small and medium-sized businesses all over Canada grow by luring customers to their websites.
Growing Top Draw
Optimally, Ken says, you want your business to rank among the top 3 or 4 web results on a search engine. As Top Draw’s name suggests, the company uses SEO techniques that pull tags or keywords embedded within a website so it does just that—much like using the right bait for deep-sea fishing.
Top Draw earned a place among the best digital agencies in Alberta by providing a suite of services that include content strategy, design and development—and business is good. The company recently bought its 2-storey building just off Jasper Avenue. Renovations have transformed the offices into an open concept space with a casual, techy-vibe. There is also a rooftop patio for staff barbeques and functions.
Providing a dynamic, collaborative environment coupled with hiring people with a passion for the Internet are priority at Top Draw, says Ken. “The staff get excited—and obsessed for that matter—about winning for our clients and making them successful.”
The company currently employs 27 web designers, developers, marketers, strategists and account managers, several of whom are fellow NAIT graduates, including Adriel Michaud (Computer Engineering Technology ’02). Since joining Top Draw 4 years ago, Adriel has been instrumental to further developing solid data and analytics, which according to Ken are critical to retaining clients.
“If you have the ability to analyze, you can usually find the truth in the story,” Ken explains. “So you get better results—sales and leads that translate into the return on your investment.”
In addition to quantifying that return—often right down to the dollar—Top Draw is able to identify where the current market demands are for their clients.
Next, Ken wants to expand internationally. In fact, Top Draw expects to nearly double its employee base within the next three years. Really, it’s about hiring the right people, and one of the reasons why he mentors the talented, up-and-comers in his profession.
Coming Full Circle
After being at NAIT for the past 10 years, marketing instructor and fellow alum Teresa Sturgess (Marketing ‘83) has witnessed what she describes as a boomerang effect, with many graduates eager to give back to the Marketing program and mentor future students—Ken’s no exception.
“Ken is the ultimate success story,” says Teresa. “He hires our grads. He knows they are the sure thing, because he has been through it himself. Now he’s sharing his expertise to advance the program on the digital side.”
Thinking back to that 21 year-old with a knack for graphic design, Ken says resolutely that in many ways he thanks NAIT for his entrepreneurial start. He returns to campus regularly as a featured speaker and provides advice on the program’s advisory committee, both of which shape curriculum.
Over the past 7 years, he has also judged students’ projects for NAIT’s annual Promotional Campaign Planning Awards. Top Draw sponsors an award for the team with the best digital solution in a promotional campaign. In fact, when Ken was a student, he won the prize for best use of graphic design for his team’s project. Winning that award gave him the boost of confidence to pursue it as a career.
A proud Edmontonian, Ken actively supports several non-profit organizations. He’s a long-time volunteer and member of the organizing committee for the Cross Cancer Golf Classic. Additionally, he is a mentor to youth and aspiring entrepreneurs with the Edmonton chapters for the Entrepreneur Organization and Junior Achievement.
So what’s Ken’s advice to someone thinking about starting a business? He says, “There are a number of life lessons you can take from other people who’ve been through it all to help you navigate the interesting—and challenging—landscape of being an entrepreneur.”
Ken Jurina and his business partner Adriel Michaud were recently on NAIT’s campus to share some tips with fellow alumni and local entrepreneurs about SEO and online marketing. Here are a few of them:
- Research the language your audience is speaking. Your customer will use specific vocabulary to describe your products and services. Do your research on the keywords and phrases that are used.
- Use those key words and phrases to theme your pages. Include them in the title, the headline, photos and the body of the page. Make it clear what your website’s about.
- Optimize locally by building a business profile on free search listings, such as Google, Facebook and Yelp. Then encourage your clients to give you a rating, the online equivalent of word-of-mouth.