Peter Kafka

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SEO Start-Up Conductor Raises $20 Million

Lots of start-ups are telling marketers they can help them navigate social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But there’s still plenty of demand for companies that promise better results on Google and Bing.

Here’s one: Conductor, a New York-based firm that has raised a $20 million funding round led by Investor Growth Capital. Existing investors like FirstMark Capital and Matrix Partners reupped as well.

CEO Seth Besmertnik describes his company as a search engine optimization company, not a search engine marketing company. The difference: He’ll tell clients how to tweak their sites for Google, et al, but doesn’t buy Google search ads for them.

Besmertnik says Conductor grew 300 percent in the last year, and is now approaching “low double-digit millions” in revenue. He says he’s added 45 employees in the last year, and now has a staff of 85.

Conductor, which has raised $35 million to date, also qualifies as a pivot, since it started out life as a link-building company, which promised to boost clients’ search ranking via a strategy Google no longer allows. Now it sells customers “software as a service,” where they pay a monthly fee in exchange for a dashboard and other analytic tools.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work