Kicking Off Forrester's Search Marketing Wave(s)

I’m doing it.  Waving three vendor categories at the same time.  And I can’t wait (seriously, no satire intended.)

For those of you less familiar, Forrester’s Waves are detailed analyses of technology vendor and service providers done in order to help our user clients select the best partners for them. (Please note: the keyword in the preceding sentence is detailed. A Wave typically takes 12 weeks to conduct and includes multiple inputs like product demos, client reference interviews, and written responses to an RFP-like questionnaire).

Well, over the course of the next three months, I will be waving search marketing agencies, bid management platforms, and SEO automation tools. In the past, I have evaluated only search marketing agencies as many of them provided proprietary technologies, and stand-alone technologies were still quite immature. But since Q4 2011, I’ve gotten more and more inquiries about search marketing technology players as well. And search technologies have really made some strides in the last 12 months.

Despite the work ahead, I’m excited for the process because I expect interesting things. I believe that search marketing is refocusing on “getting found,” so I’m going to be looking at how well agencies help marketers get discovered through traditional and non-traditional search engines (think Yelp or OpenTable).  Bid management tools are evolving outside of just paid search bid optimization to compete with demand-side platforms. For example, Adobe is combining its SearchCenter and Efficient Frontier products into a master platform to optimize biddable display, search, and social media.  And Marin Software has a similar idea. It is initiating a new approach to “revenue acquisition,” that is, automating the acquisition of profitable leads regardless of channel.

Most SEO automation tools are still evolving. But I think the opportunity here is for them to eventually supplant traditional content management solutions (which, frankly, let the SEO opportunity pass them by). For example, Rio SEO, a spin out of San Diego-based Covario will announce tomorrow its acquisition of Top Local Search, a set of technologies focused on automating site, mobile, video, and promotional content for merchants with local storefronts or franchises. This is just one step Rio SEO is taking on its course to optimize earned and owned content assets for improved visibility across the Splinternet – including websites, search engines, mobile apps, and eventually even search tools embedded in digital hard drives like DVRs. I’m excited to dig into the nuts and bolts of Rio SEO as well as its competitors – firms like BrightEdge, Conductor, and Altruik.

So, based on that preview, what would you like me to evaluate in the course of these studies? Are there particular capabilities you seek in your search agency, bid management tools, or SEO automation platforms?  I’d love your input as I put together my initial evaluation criteria.


Eyes Wide Open

Not only was this one fiercely well-written article, as it's one of the best I've read in as many months as I can try to get my hazy memory to try to remember, but the information you share helped me immensely! And I understand that you're simply sharing what you're up to professionally, but that transparency is refreshing, and you've inspired me too. I know it took you many years of study combined with a keen intellect before you attained your current level of analysis mastery, but do you have any advice for someone who may wish to emulate your career path? I can certainly see the incredible place you're positioning yourself to be as you will literally know (and have the data to back up your understanding) more about the very real future potential of the bid management platforms and SEO automation tools. I am envious as I applaud you. :)

What about Trada? We're the

What about Trada? We're the only search company to receive funding from Google Ventures, and our model is different in execution, results and customer base from anything else out there.

We're a crowdsourced, performance-based paid search marketplace, where mid-market and enterprise advertisers have access to thousands of paid search experts, who do the work of paid search on their behalf.

We would love to be included in your analysis. Please feel welcome to reach out for more information and please consider me an enthusiastic resource!


Please be sure to observe Web CEO vs SEOMoz vs Raven

Hi Shar,

From 2000 to 2008, the leading SEO tools were desktop software, of course.

The leaders, still found on page 1 of the SERPs for "SEO Software" were my company, Web CEO Limited, Link Assistant and IBP. We now have 865,000 registered desktop SEO software users and our desktop division is a cash cow.

It was around 2008 that Rand Fishkin built SEOMoz as a cloud-based service and forever altered the definition of which companies were even in the SEO tool industry. Raven Tools quickly followed.

Web CEO Online launched in January 2011 after 9 months of beta. Since then, it's been profitable and we have 65,000 registered online users.

We've captured the #7 and #2 spots on Google & Bing for "Online SEO Tools."

Most important, for you, would be what functionality you measure SEO tools by.

I'd like to suggest the following:

1) Collaboration: Using a given SEO toolset, can an SEO agency allow coworkers and clients to access their project (campaign) and work within the tools using their own username and passwords? Web CEO is popular with agencies because we allow this.

2a) White Label: Can an SEO agency using the SEO tools allow coworkers and clients to access their project (campaign) via a login page on their own sub-domain, bypassing the need to tell them that they are using a branded SEO tool?

2b) White Label: Does the SEO Tool producer produce a white label product that can be offered by CMS (content management systems) producers and hosting companies as their own tool?

2c) White Label: Does the SEO Tool producer have an API that can port SEO analysis data into the applications of others?

These are measures/functionalities about which I'd like to discuss with you if you have some time this fall.