ADOTAS – “SEO today is a lot like email marketing was a decade ago,” says BrightEdge cofounder and CEO Jim Yu. “There were consultants and scripts you would use, but it took the introduction of enterprise-class platforms to bring it to the mass market…. The value of the channel is very clear, but the gap is a single platform for companies to leverage. ”
Yu believes BrightEdge’s SEO Platform, introduced yesterday as the company emerged from stealth mode, fulfills that potential by providing quality, scale and reliability as well as a trusted standard for the SEO channel. It’s the first enterprise-class platform for measuring organic search — an integrated suite for all parties involved in SEO across the company that is a world beyond point solutions currently available.
As paid search becomes a less attractive option with marketers having optimized their paid portfolios and keyword prices skyrocketing, SEO appears to be the new frontier in search. While BrightEdge has witnessed demand ramp up over the last 18 months, in the last six it has absolutely exploded.
“The traditional channels are getting very saturated and competitive, so what’s the next big channel that’s untapped?” asks VP of Product Marketing Albert Gouyet. “If you look at the organic web as a whole — SEO, social media, blogs, news, etc. — the part that’s the most actionable and measurable today is SEO.”
In stealth, the company has focused on delivering success to its large customers working with the SEO platform, making sure it delivered on the goods. BrightEdge now boasts an estimated $1 billion in revenue generated through SEO annually, making the team feel confident enough about its offering to unveil it to the world.
“What you’re getting from SEO is extremely qualified and typically high-quality leads from an advertising point of view.” Gouyet says. “People have left SEO untouched for a while because PPC was working so well.” BrightEdge’s SEO platform in effect allows marketers to treat SEO the same way as PPC or another traditional online marketing channel, he says.
“Think about when you search — oftentimes you’re tuning out the ads and mostly clicking on the natural results,” Yu says. He cites iProspect’s “Search Engine User Attitudes Survey,” which reports that 72% of clicks derive from organic search vs. 28% from paid. It’s a stat that you’ll find in study after study: for every click on a paid ad, there are roughly three to four clicks on the organic side.
While marketers know getting to that top organic search slot is critical, Yu notes the paradox is that, according to Forrester, last year $13 billion was spent on paid search in the U.S. vs. $2.4 billion spent on organic.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” he says. “Google has done a great job of making it easy for advertisers and marketers to measure the ROI of paid search… But it’s been nearly impossible to do the same thing for SEO.”
To determine ROI on SEO, marketers are forced into the highly difficult task of melding search engine rankings with user interactions on web properties, two completely different data sources.
“Most SEO managers have to spend days and weeks in spreadsheet hell trying to put together these two pieces of information to answer the ROI question,” Yu says.
After leading a core part of the Appexchange Group for Salesforce.com, Yu left in 2007 to start BrightEdge with the goal of applying the Salesforce’s SaaS model to SEO. He had been puzzled by how the firm could get such varied reports on paid search in terms of cost and ROI, but no couldn’t do the same for organic — even though it was creating more qualified leads.
“Just as Salesforce simplified the salesforce automation and the CRM process, our mission is to simplify online marketing,” he says.
Yu assembled a strong executive team that hailed from Salesforce, Digg and Google; raised $8.5 million in venture capital from Battery Ventures and Altos Ventures; and recruited an engineering team with advanced degrees from Stanford and Berekely.
Making SEO as simple as PPC required three not-so-simple steps. First, and possibly most important, was the creation of a closed-loop analytics system tying SEO to the revenue it generates, one marketing initiative at a time. It’s a unique piece of tech and Park notes that a patent is pending.
Next was the creation of a high-performing and highly scalable infrastructure capable of handling billions of pages and keywords, indexed to expose any site’s SEO footprint. Basically a heat map that shows hits for any domain highlights competitors’ SEO strategies.
Finally, once you have an initiative, you have to execute it homogeneously across the company, in effect create an on-demand focal point for SEO collaboration across an enterprise. BrightEdge’s SEO platform simplifies the process of building reports and competitive intelligence while giving actionable recommendations on writing content. Reports can be specialized for each associate’s role in the SEO process.
“Everyone who touches the web impacts SEO,” Gouyet said. “It’s not isolated like other marketing channels. It creates a great challenge for marketing organizations because they have to align a lot of people around the same common goals and metrics.”