Carat Interactive's VP of search marketing has jumped ship to join direct navigation firm BuyDomains as VP of marketing, ClickZ has learned. A Carat spokesperson confirmed his departure, and said the agency would name a replacement in the next two weeks.
Ron Belanger has been with Carat since late 2003, prior to which he was VP of account development at Inceptor. His new employer, Boston area-based BuyDomains, is a direct navigation and domain squatting firm that lays claim to approximately 500,000 domains and 20 million unique visitors a month.
Established agencies are having increasing difficulty finding and retaining top search talent in a job market that rewards entrepreneurship over salaried employment. Many of Belanger's executive peers in search marketing have earned great dividends on their equity stakes in new ventures. Kevin Ryan, formerly of Wahlstrom Interactive and Did-It, recently sold a three-month-old start-up search business to Zunch Communications, which he joined as chief strategy officer. Late last year, iProspect founder and CEO Fredrick Marckini sold his firm to Aegis for $50 million.
Belanger's move points to another trend: The direct navigation business model, in which PPC ads are served to users who type a keyword directly into their browsers' address field, is particularly hot now. The practice has been around for years, but has gotten renewed attention this summer as acquisitions and profits increase in the space.
Critics say the prevalence of these sites, which offer nothing but ads, clutters the Internet with low value Web pages. But the domain owners argue relevance will improve with time. Marchex, which last year bought direct navigation player Name Development Ltd., this month rolled out a beta interface for 54 zip code-based URLs, which it said it would turn into mini-portals with local shopping information.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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