The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q4 2012

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1 FOR: Interactive Marketing Professionals The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q by shar VanBoskirk, October 31, 2012 key TakeaWays seo isn t Just about agencies anymore Search marketers have traditionally thought of search engine optimization (SEO) as something agencies did for them. But marketers are now considering technology partnerships, too, as their SEO budgets and program complexity grow. as a category, seo platforms need To develop SEO platforms overall don t provide the breadth of discovery marketing solutions that marketers will demand. Current capabilities focus primarily on visibility auditing, recommendations to improve ranking, measurement of changes in rank, and process management. organic search strategies Will evolve into enabling cross-platform Visibility As more users discover information across non-pc devices like tablets, smartphones, or gaming consoles marketers will need to promote themselves in nontraditional platforms. Vendors that support content optimization, not just search engine optimization, will be most likely to succeed. Forrester Research, Inc., 60 Acorn Park Drive, cambridge, MA UsA Tel: Fax:

2 October 31, 2012 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Rio SEO Leads, With BrightEdge Following As A Strong Performer by Shar VanBoskirk with Nate Elliott, Sarah Takvorian, and Jenny Wise Why Read This Report Forrester s 21-criteria evaluation of SEO platforms evaluates the four largest providers of tools for organic search auditing, ranking support, measurement, and project management: BrightEdge, Conductor, Rio SEO, and SEOmoz. This report analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and plots where they stand in relation to each other and to marketers needs. Table Of Contents 2 Technology Platforms Offer Viable SEO Solutions 4 We Added SEO Platforms To Our Search Marketing Wave Process Our Evaluation Considered Three Dimensions The SEO Platform Market Is In Its Adolescent Phase Notes & Resources From June 1 through September 30, Forrester evaluated SEO platform vendors. The primary interviews in this process were with the vendors evaluated: BrightEdge. Conductor, Rio SEO, and SEOmoz. Please see the Supplemental Material section of this report for a detailed explanation of our process and Forrester s Wave methodology. 6 7 Vendor Profiles Leaders Strong Performers Contenders Supplemental Material Related Research Documents The Forrester Wave : Search Marketing Agencies, Q October 31, 2012 The Forrester Wave : US Search Marketing Agencies January 31, , Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited. Information is based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change. Forrester, Technographics, Forrester Wave, RoleView, TechRadar, and Total Economic Impact are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective companies. To purchase reprints of this document, please For additional information, go to

3 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Technology platforms Offer Viable SEO Solutions Search marketers have traditionally thought of search engine optimization (SEO) as something agencies did for them. But today, marketers are beginning to explore standalone SEO technologies as alternatives or enhancements to agency support because: Organic search spend is growing faster than paid. Two factors are leading marketers to invest in search engine optimization. 1 The first is experience. They ve spent years collating what worked for them and competitors. They feel informed enough to branch out to organic programs, which tend to be less straightforward than paid ones. The second is paid search prices. Competition for keyword ads is forcing marketers to consider less expensive ways to make themselves visible like SEO. SEO programs are becoming too large to manage manually. As SEO budgets grow, so do SEO programs. This means more pages to optimize, more content to create, and more work tasks to manage and measure in order to stay competitive. For example, real estate listings site Rent. com tracks more keywords (up to 1,000 from 150) in less time (100% fewer hours) with an SEO platform than it could by hand. The Splinternet means new ways to find. Users search and access content across many platforms, not just on websites using PCs. 2 Consider social magazine Flipboard, which allows users to page through and share favorite periodicals via their tablet or smartphone. The future of SEO will be less about structuring Google-friendly websites and more about creating and syndicating content into multiple formats for easy user discovery. Technology options are at last viable. One of the reasons organic search projects relied so heavily on agency services is that until recently standalone SEO technologies simply didn t exist. Tools and resources first started to appear as ad hoc offerings beginning around 2009, but it is within the last 18 months that platform providers have formalized their products and acquired a critical mass of key features. We Added SEO Platforms To Our Search Marketing Wave Process The above trends are leading more Forrester clients to ask us for help assessing SEO platforms. So this year, we added two new technology categories to our search marketing Forrester Wave process. Look for three search Forrester Waves overall: search agencies, bid management software providers, and SEO platforms. 3 We found quickly through the research process that the SEO technology space is blossoming with myriad newcomers, many of whom provide related, but not directly comparable, solutions. So we were quite specific about the kind of tools we would include in this study in order to review like competitors. We screened in software products, which do three things (see Figure 1):

4 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Audit site content and structure for visibility in natural search results. Usually the first step in any SEO project is figure out where a site ranks on Google.com. We evaluated tools that automate this process. 2. Identify and value steps to boost search rankings. An initial audit will identify the content or structural changes needed to improve visibility. We evaluated tools that apply algorithms to then forecast the value or feasibility of essential modifications. 3. Manage the SEO process. Lastly, platforms eligible for this study also provide project management and workflow capabilities. This means that several other types of SEO providers were not eligible for this evaluation. Excluded were: Service providers. Agencies and other services-oriented firms are eligible for our Search Marketing Agency Wave. This SEO platforms study was for companies attributing more than 9 of their revenues to software sales. 4 Companies with revenues less than $5 million. We limited the vendor pool to firms large enough to credibly serve enterprise search marketers. Point solutions. There are other types of SEO technologies like BloomReach or Altruik which solve specific SEO needs like optimizing product pages. For this study, however, we focused just on tools that provide auditing, measurement, and process management. Stay tuned for future Forrester research exploring other SEO software considerations. Figure 1 Evaluated Vendors: Vendor Information And Selection Criteria Vendor Product evaluated Product version evaluated Date evaluated BrightEdge BrightEdge S3 S3 Q Conductor Conductor Searchlight N/A Q Rio SEO Rio SEO Automation And Analytics Platform N/A Q SEOmoz SEOmoz PRO 1.0 Q Vendor selection criteria Company size: Does the vendor have revenues of at least $5 million? Company focus: Does the vendor sell a proprietary SEO platform which supports organic search auditing, ranking support, measurement, and project management? Source: Forrester Research, Inc.

5 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Our Evaluation Considered Three Dimensions Four players screened into the study based on our requirements: BrightEdge, Conductor, Rio SEO, and SEOmoz. We used 21 criteria to evaluate their: Current offering. Here we assessed how platforms support users SEO processes; their functionality for auditing website and non-website content assets (like blogs or Facebook pages); how they identify, value, recommend, and implement opportunities; and the usability of their reports for multi-channel analysis. Additionally, we evaluated vendor integration partners, international client and office support, local and mobile specific offerings, tech support, and platform security. Strategy. Inputs here included the strength and stability of vendor executive teams, executive vision, product development road maps, and overall client satisfaction. Market presence. Lastly, we weighted vendor presence based on global revenues and client volume and retention. The SEO Platform Market is in its Adolescent phase The SEO platforms we studied provide much-needed help to the organic search marketer, mostly in the form of workflow applications and metrics. But marketers will demand these tools to have capabilities that they don t yet. We thought the category as a whole would offer more discovery marketing solutions like cross-platform asset promotion, content management, integrations outside of the search and web analytics space, and user interfaces that resemble campaign management tools. Our evaluation revealed a fledgling market in which (see Figure 2): Rio SEO is the only leader. Recently spun off from search agency Covario, Rio SEO leads because it actually creates optimized content and web pages instead of just providing optimization recommendations. BrightEdge offers a competitive option. BrightEdge takes a solo Strong Performer position for its content auditing, forecasting, and security capabilities and because it is the only vendor with a proprietary international office. SEOmoz and Conductor as Contenders. SEOmoz lacks some of the functionality of other vendors we evaluated, but its easy-to-use audit tools are the most pervasive in the market. Conductor s earnest management team and customer-centric culture aren t enough to overcome its shortcomings around content auditing, optimization, and implementation, as well as a lack of support for mobile and local SEO.

6 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Figure 2 Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q4 12 Strong Risky Strong Bets Contenders Performers Leaders Rio SEO Go online to download the Forrester Wave tool for more detailed product evaluations, feature comparisons, and customizable rankings. Current offering BrightEdge Conductor SEOmoz Market presence Weak Full vendor participation Weak Strategy Strong Source: Forrester Research, Inc.

7 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Figure 2 Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q4 12 (Cont.) Forrester s Weighting BrightEdge Conductor Rio SEO SEOmoz CURRENT OFFERING Workflow and process management Auditing Optimization and implemenation Opportunity forecasting Reporting Integration Global SEO Local SEO Mobile SEO Tech support Security Cost and pricing structure 50% % 0% STRATEGY Strength of management team Company vision Development strategy Client satisfaction 50% 30% 30% 20% 20% MARKET PRESENCE Global presence Customer base 0% 50% 50% All scores are based on a scale of 0 (weak) to 5 (strong) Source: Forrester Research, Inc. Please note: This evaluation of SEO platforms is based on the criteria we deem to be most critical to the market at this time. It is a starting point only. We encourage readers to view detailed product evaluations and customize the criteria weightings to fit their individual needs through the Forrester Wave Excel-based vendor comparison tool.

8 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q VENDOR PROFILES Here are high-level snapshots of what capabilities ranked each vendor in its current position in this Forrester Wave evaluation. Detailed scorecards are available in the spreadsheet behind Figure 2. Leaders Rio SEO. No question, newly launched Rio SEO is the best fit for discovery marketers who want to optimize their content across multiple discovery platforms, not just search engines. Like us, marketers will value Rio SEO s campaign management capabilities like providing marketing asset management and its tools for autocreating optimized web pages, mobile sites, and local landing pages. The firm is new and its execs are still fine-tuning some of its foundational functionality. But based on the momentum of its first 20 weeks in business, we believe this firm will make good on its big, bold vision to automate content marketing across platforms. Strong Performers BrightEdge. Competitive organic search marketers will love the disciplined approach BrightEdge brings to its product development and customer support. This platform can t actually automate content changes, but clients like Tiny Prints and Feeding America embrace its social media solutions. BrightEdge can optimize the content that shows up in fans news feeds and create relevant tweets. BrightEdge also prioritizes SEO recommendations based on their value and feasibility. And it is the only vendor in the study to have a proprietary international office in London. Contenders SEOmoz. SEOmoz is a slightly different animal from the other vendors in the study. It does compete in this category with its workflow, auditing, and measurement software. But its low price and inimitable resource community and crawl data make it more of an add-on than substitute for another SEO platform. Large and small marketers across industries would do well to layer SEOmoz on top of a platform offered by one of the other firms in this study. Conductor. Conductor has limited functionality compared to the other vendors we studied. It can report on, but not audit, social assets. It provides recommendations, but no content automation. And it integrates with web analytics platforms, but few other partners outside of the online search space. Even so, we don t expect that most buyers will tune in to the subtle differences between this tool and BrightEdge. The more pronounced differentiator about Conductor is its temperate company culture. Conductor calls itself the SEO platform for the non-seo, and we agree. This vendor is an able partner for novice SEOs, or ones needing to build awareness within their firm.

9 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Supplemental Material Online Resource The online version of Figure 2 is an Excel-based vendor comparison tool that provides detailed product evaluations and customizable rankings. Data Sources Used In This Forrester Wave Forrester used a combination of three data sources to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each solution: Vendor surveys. Forrester asked vendors to respond to a 40-question survey on their capabilities as they relate to the evaluation criteria. Scenario-based demos. Each vendor participated in an in-person three-hour proof-of-concept meeting during which it demonstrated its process and technology against three hypothetical client scenarios addressing current functionality, competitive differentiation, future plans, and visions for the future of search engine optimization. We used findings from these conversations to validate details shared in the vendor surveys. Online customer surveys. We also conducted an online survey of at least 12 clients of each vendor. These customer references were provided by the vendors as well. The Forrester Wave Methodology We conduct primary research to develop a list of vendors that meet our criteria to be evaluated in this market. From that initial pool of vendors, we then narrow our final list. We choose these vendors based on: 1) product fit; 2) customer success; and 3) Forrester client demand. We eliminate vendors that have limited customer references and products that don t fit the scope of our evaluation. After examining past research, user need assessments, and vendor and expert interviews, we develop the initial evaluation criteria. To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we gather details of product qualifications through a combination of lab evaluations, questionnaires, demos, and/or discussions with client references. We send evaluations to the vendors for their review, and we adjust the evaluations to provide the most accurate view of vendor offerings and strategies. We set default weightings to reflect our analysis of the needs of large user companies and/or other scenarios as outlined in the Forrester Wave document and then score the vendors based on a clearly defined scale. These default weightings are intended only as a starting point, and we encourage readers to adapt the weightings to fit their individual needs through the Excel-based tool. The final scores generate the graphical depiction of the market based on current offering, strategy, and market presence. Forrester intends to update vendor evaluations regularly as product capabilities and vendor strategies evolve.

10 The Forrester Wave : SEO Platforms, Q Endnotes 1 Forrester projects that spend on search engine optimization tools and services will top $4 billion by See the August 24, 2011, US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011To 2016 report. 2 User access to content is splintering due to the rise of powerful connected devices and the spread of social technologies. See the January 26, 2010, The Splinternet report. 3 For detail about the leading search marketing agencies, see the October 31, 2012, The Forrester Wave : Search Agencies, Q report and Forrester s upcoming The Forrester Wave : Bid Management Software Providers, Q report. 4 Search marketing agency recently spun out its SEO tool set into a separate company Rio SEO. This company was too new to have unique revenues for But the 2011 software billings that Covario management reported to us met our revenue cutoff. Covario/Rio SEO share roots, but Rio SEO now has independent management, office space, branding, and strategy from Covario.

11 About Forrester Global marketing and strategy leaders turn to Forrester to help them make the tough decisions necessary to capitalize on shifts in marketing, technology, and consumer behavior. We ensure your success by providing: Data-driven insight to understand the impact of changing consumer behavior. Forward-looking research and analysis to guide your decisions. Objective advice on tools and technologies to connect you with customers. Best practices for marketing and cross-channel strategy. for more information To find out how Forrester Research can help you be successful every day, please contact the office nearest you, or visit us at For a complete list of worldwide locations, visit Client support For information on hard-copy or electronic reprints, please contact Client Support at , , or We offer quantity discounts and special pricing for academic and nonprofit institutions. Forrester Focuses On Interactive Marketing Professionals «In addition to developing and implementing your company s digital marketing strategy and programs, you are responsible for evangelizing the value of digital marketing across your entire organization. Forrester s subject-matter expertise and deep understanding of your role will help you create forward-thinking strategies; weigh opportunity against risk; justify decisions; and optimize your individual, team, and corporate performance. ILEANA MENDEZ, client persona representing Interactive Marketing Professionals Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) is an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to global leaders in business and technology. Forrester works with professionals in 17 key roles at major companies providing proprietary research, customer insight, consulting, events, and peer-to-peer executive programs. For more than 29 years, Forrester has been making IT, marketing, and technology industry leaders successful every day. For more information, visit

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