After attending Content Marketing World, SMX East and Pubcon this fall, a few trends stood out from talking to conference attendees and the exhibit floor crowd. First, most people use a set of tools for SEO insights and they freely admit it is not the most efficient process. Many expressed interest in wanting to look at changing their process within the next year. Second, many don’t understand the difference between a tool and a true software platform. Finally, out of the people who use enterprise software and understand the market, many wonder why there is such a difference in enterprise pricing.
Based on our conversations with the people who are directly involved with the marketing stack, including search marketing, social and content marketing, here are 10 questions you should ask before selecting your organization’s next SEO software platform partner.
1) Do They Have A Web Presence-Centric Approach?
This is a key differentiator within the SEO industry. Can they track your brand’s on-site and off-site content in the search results? Upwards of 60% of new brand interactions and sales funnel activities are based on off-site content. As a brand, you should understand how this content plays apart in your overall content visibility.
2) Can You Set Up Customized Reporting & Dashboards?
You are going to need to communicate your content performance from the CMO/VP down to product managers, outsourced digital agencies or your in-house team. Dashboards will enable a glimpse into a short term performance vs viewing trends in quarter-over-quarter or year-over-year reports in PDF or Excel formats.
4) Discuss The Accuracy of Global Web Presence Data? Ask about tracking the visibility, by country, by city, by engine, by language, by device, etc.
The best example of how complex search data can be can be found in Google Belgium. Belgium has three separate indexes; a Default index, French and Dutch. This means your potential visibility can be different even within a single country. It also means managing a brand’s web presence in the European Union with multiple languages is more complex than monitoring one language in one country.
5) Keyword Data From Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools is Not Enough – Ask About Not Provided Insights.
While Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools provide some insight into keywords driving traffic, it is not nearly enough to make informed decisions on your strategy. Only seeing traffic from organic search can’t give you the full story for content marketing insights. Ask what the platform can provide in terms of helping to actually identify the potential keywords hidden behind Google’s Not Provided stance. Which keywords are most likely driving traffic to your content?
6) Does the platform have Competitive Intelligence & Search Visibility Scoring?
Every CMO or VP of Marketing wants to know their brand’s visibility score/share of voice when it comes to the keywords which matter to their market. They also want to know how it compares to a competitor by country, region or search engine. This can be trended over time and used as an index to gauge the success of your content marketing strategy from a search perspective.
7) Does the platform provide Business Intelligence Extendibility?
Does the platform allow for 3rd party data to be easily incorporated into dashboards or reporting? You may want to combine other lead generation data points or even Paid Ad data to your Organic Search data based on a content campaign. Identify the flexibility platforms have to play well with other tools in your marketing sandbox.
8) Built-In Site Auditing Capabilities?
Understanding if there are any technical SEO issues with a website is a critical starting point in the optimization process. An SEO Site Audit is typically used as a one off report, which can be sent to an external web team or in-house webmaster, but it should be done regularly and tied directly to your search data to gauge the impact of improvements. Brands should be automating a report like this to check for 404s, 301 redirect issues, crawl issues and overall structural website issues.
9) How can the platform help build content and keyword insights into your content marketing workflow?
Understand how you can get keyword insights to help drive strategy in your content planning meetings. How easy is it to obtain this information? Can you review the content your team has published for optimization insights? Look at the metrics provided for tracking content marketing performance based on keyword insights, both on-site and off-site.
10) Culture, Education and Community: Discuss what happens after the sale. How does the vendor build up your internal team’s competency in search, social and content with training and education?
Every SEO vendor should have a vision to educate and train your team, so they become search experts and can apply their acquired insights into your digital marketing strategy. Ask specifically about the support your team will be provided beyond the platform. This is above and beyond any paid set-up/on-boarding fees which may already be included. Understand the level of on-going training available and how your team can leverage it.
Bonus Question: What does the track record of innovation look like for a vendor and do they seek client input?
This may be the most important question of all. Is the platform adaptable to changes in the industry? As this a piece of technology you are presumably investing in long-term, you need to ensure the platform will grow with industry developments and will have staying power. You don’t want to invest in tech, which will be obsolete within three months. Ask what innovation strategies the company has to grow the platform accordingly.
Third Door Media regularly publishes a buyer’s guide with the most recent being Enterprise SEO Platforms 2015. This report outlines a feature-to-feature listing of each Enterprise SEO Software vendor. The list can look daunting when you see many platforms have the same checkmarks on each feature. Take your time, talk to each vendor and ask a few of the questions which resonate with you from our list above.
It is time to move from using multiple tools to a platform solution which fits into your greater digital marketing strategy.