It’s a Monday morning and the sun is just rising over the McDowell Mountains. A man briskly walks up the Bell Pass trailhead, just as the first rays of sunlight hit a nearby saguaro. Most mornings, Jeff Herzog can be seen hiking these paths. It’s a habit that leaves him clearheaded and ready to tackle anything and everything when he heads to the office. While the average person would not recognize him, Herzog has an incredible entrepreneurial back story – and is called a visionary by some.
This year marks Herzog’s 20th year in the world he is so passionate about: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and digital marketing. In the late ’90s, the world was exploring a new technology called the internet. With an incredible amount of knowledge at users’ fingertips, the public was just learning how to operate and search the web.
At its infancy, SEO was just a way that businesses could attempt to appear in search results. Brands started noticing that the higher the site ranked in search, the more visibility their products had across the web. Herzog recognized the value in appearing on the first page during a search and those who used new search strategies to target their audiences could more effectively influence consumers.
In 1998, Herzog launched the now internationally known iCrossing in Scottsdale, the same year that Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. As Google attracted a growing number of internet users, Herzog’s digital agency became more in demand.
“People sometimes ask me if I predicted the internet boom,” Herzog says. “I always say no one can predict the future. You can only follow your passions, be smart how you build a business and surround yourself with talented people.
“I had a belief that search would change the advertising landscape, and my goal was to connect consumers with brands, utilizing what I knew about search optimization.”
Over the next 10 years, Herzog grew the search engine marketing company into an international power agency, with additional locations in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, London and Munich. In 2010, the organization was sold to Hearst Media for $325 million.
In regards to the sale, Herzog says, “With iCrossing I loved what I built, but in the end I felt we were losing the innovation, the forward-thinking, the focus on the people and products. I was seeing the power that search and social marketing was going to have in the future with brands. The time was right to move on to my next big venture.”
A few years later, this next big venture was born as ZOG Digital. Herzog felt that ZOG Digital had to be the future of the search agency experience.
“I knew that we had to build this organization around thought leadership and flawless execution,” he says. “We had to bring in industry experts that were the foundation of SEO, were leaders within organizations like Facebook, and had worked with big brands at top New York agencies.
“I’d have to bring the best of the best to the desert and cultivate a company that could not only cater to the most influential brands but show them how to lead the digital space.”
Herzog’s vision for ZOG Digital was clear: a New York-style agency with Midwest values, based under one roof in Scottsdale.
Over the next five years, his passion and drive helped build the ZOG Digital brand. With a flawless historical reputation in SEO, ZOG Digital has catered to Fortune 500 clientele such as Allstate, Wyndham Resorts, Pep Boys, P.F. Chang’s, KitchenAid and CarMax. Well-known for its team of strategic leaders and innovative digital solutions, the team has a reputation for being results focused and analytics driven, much like the founder himself.
An Industry Leader
In 2016, ZOG’s rapid expansion led the company to new offices just south of Paradise Valley Mall. At the forefront of the organization’s focus is the team that ZOG Digital employs.
Under Herzog’s leadership, ZOG Digital has a work environment second to none. Unlimited vacation, a gym, a game room, a dog-friendly office, the latest technology, a collaborative work environment, food truck Thursdays and breakfast Fridays are just a few of the perks the ZOG team enjoys.
“I go into the office every single day,” Herzog says. “I wanted it to be an environment that not only I enjoy but others are excited about as well. Businesses are about people, and this business specifically is built on the dedication of my team.”
While it’s clear that Herzog knows the value of hard work, he also knows the value of balance. When not walking the halls of the ZOG Digital office space, he’s at home with his cherished family. As the father of four daughters, he enjoys staying active with them, whether on the tennis court, in the pool or corralling any one of their four dogs.
“Between my beautiful wife and daughters, I am surrounded by strong, independent, intelligent women. I’d love to say they all don’t have me wrapped around their little fingers but that would be a lie,” Herzog jokingly says.
Beyond spending time with his family, Herzog is an avid hiker, practices hot yoga and appreciates the outdoor explorations that Phoenix has to offer. Born and raised in New Jersey, Herzog has a contagious love of the Arizona lifestyle.
“Could I have founded my past two organizations in Manhattan or Los Angeles? Of course I could have. But nothing compares to my appreciation of the Phoenix area.”
So what does the future hold for a tech titan and digital visionary such as Herzog? While some would call him a success story, he is quick to point out that is not what he wants to be known for and not where his aspirations lie. In fact, he, instead, offers insights into the future, the incredible digital innovations that are occurring, and the aspirations he has for his organization.
“In 1998, I couldn’t have predicted the explosion of advancements we’ve seen in just the past few years,” Herzog says. “Search has changed the way we interact with brands, consume information and purchase products. Everything from books to vehicles can be purchased at the touch of a button and arrive at our doors.
“The way brands can influence us, change our world views and create emotional connections through digital content is truly amazing. Just the concept of a mobile device that can sit in my back pocket but can be pulled out to influence my dining choices is a thing of beauty.”
So, moving forward, how will brands utilize these digital innovations, exactly?
“The problem brands now face is harnessing that power,” he says. “My team at ZOG is providing that exact service for our clients and is doing it well.”
While Jeff Herzog’s history is intriguing, his passion is infectious. And while he doesn’t easily admit it, he could be considered one of the Valley’s crown jewels of business leaders, and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the founding fathers of digital marketing.