The Forrester Wave™: SEO Platforms, Q4 2012 - Rio SEO

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The Forrester Wave™: SEO Platforms,
Q4 2012
by shar VanBoskirk, October 31, 2012
FOR: Interactive
Marketing
Professionals
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.
© 2012, 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
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, Technographics
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, 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 email clientsupport@forrester.com. For additional information, go to www.forrester.com.
FOR InTERAcTIVE MARkETIng PROFEssIOnAls
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
Technology platforms offer Viable seo
solutions
We Added sEO Platforms To Our search
Marketing Wave Process
Our Evaluation considered Three Dimensions
The seo platform Market is in its adolescent
phase
Vendor profiles
leaders
strong Performers
contenders
supplemental Material
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.
Related Research Documents
The Forrester Wave™: search Marketing
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October 31, 2012
The Forrester Wave™: Us search Marketing
Agencies
January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: seo platforms, Q4 2012
Rio sEO leads, With BrightEdge Following As A strong Performer
by shar VanBoskirk
with nate Elliott, sarah Takvorian, and Jenny Wise
2
4
6
7
OcTOBER 31, 2012
FOR InTERAcTIVE MARkETIng PROFEssIOnAls
The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 2
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2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
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):
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The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 3
©
2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
1. 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
95% 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
Source: Forrester Research
,
Inc.
Vendor
BrightEdge
Conductor
Rio SEO
SEOmoz
BrightEdge S3
Conductor Searchlight
Rio SEO Automation And
Analytics Platform
SEOmoz PRO
Product evaluated
Product version
evaluated
S3
N/A
N/A
1.0
Date evaluated
Q3 2012
Q3 2012
Q3 2012
Q3 2012
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?
FOR InTERAcTIVE MARkETIng PROFEssIOnAls
The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 4
©
2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
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.
FOR InTERAcTIVE MARkETIng PROFEssIOnAls
The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 5
©
2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
Figure 2 Forrester Wave™: SEO Platforms, Q4 ‘12
Source: Forrester Research
,
Inc.
Go online to download
the Forrester Wave tool
for more detailed product
evaluations, feature
comparisons, and
customizable rankings.
Risky
Bets Contenders Leaders
Strong
Performers
StrategyWeak Strong
Current
offering
Weak
Strong
BrightEdge
Conductor
Rio SEO
SEOmoz
Market presence
Full vendor participation
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The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 6
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2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
Figure 2 Forrester Wave™: SEO Platforms, Q4 ’12 (Cont.)
Source: Forrester Research
,
Inc.
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
STRATEGY
Strength of management team
Company vision
Development strategy
Client satisfaction
MARKET PRESENCE
Global presence
Customer base
2.55
3.00
3.00
1.00
5.00
3.00
1.00
4.00
1.00
1.00
3.00
5.00
0.00
3.20
3.00
3.00
5.00
2.00
2.35
1.00
3.70
Forrester’s
Weighting
50%
15%
15%
15%
5%
15%
10%
5%
5%
5%
5%
5%
0%
50%
30%
30%
20%
20%
0%
50%
50%
2.05
3.00
2.00
1.00
3.00
2.00
1.00
2.00
1.00
1.00
5.00
3.00
0.00
2.60
3.00
3.00
3.00
1.00
2.35
1.00
3.70
3.90
5.00
2.00
5.00
5.00
3.00
5.00
4.00
5.00
5.00
1.00
3.00
0.00
3.60
3.00
5.00
3.00
3.00
2.35
3.00
1.70
1.93
1.00
4.00
1.00
1.00
2.50
3.00
1.00
1.00
0.00
3.00
1.00
0.00
3.60
5.00
3.00
1.00
5.00
4.30
5.00
3.60
All scores are based on a scale of 0 (weak) to 5 (strong).
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.
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The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 7
©
2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
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.
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The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 8
©
2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
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.
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The Forrester Wave™: sEO Platforms, Q4 2012 9
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2012, Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited October 31, 2012
endnoTes
1
Forrester projects that spend on search engine optimization tools and services will top $4 billion by 2016.
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, Q4 2012” report and Forrester’s upcoming “The Forrester Wave™: Bid Management
Software Providers, Q4 2012” 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 2011. 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.
Forrester Research, Inc. (nasdaq: FORR) is an independent research company that provides pragmatic and forward-thinking advice to
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IT, marketing, and technology industry leaders successful every day. For more information, visit www.forrester.com. 81182
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