SEO platforms are growing up -- but they’re only in their adolescent phase. That’s a key takeaway from a new Wave report by Forrester

The Forrester Wave report, "SEO Platforms/Q4 2012", finds a variety of needs that the platforms could fill. For instance, the platforms focus primarily on ranking and visibility, Forrester said, but could provide more discovery marketing solutions that marketers will begin to demand.

Emerging Tools in SEO

The study said these discovery solutions could include cross-platform asset promotion, content management, integrations beyond search and web analytics, and user interfaces that more closely resemble the kind of controls and feedback offered by campaign management tools.

Another major area for growth identified in the report is the opportunity for organic search strategies -- which help to better position sites in search results -- to evolve into capabilities for marketing content across non-PC devices like tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles.

The report noted that organizations are beginning to invest in standalone search engine optimization technologies, instead of primarily relying on agencies to do the work, because marketers now have experience with organic search and because the price competition for keyword ads is compelling them to seek alternatives.

Additionally, sites with huge amounts of content have exploding SEO needs that are expensive for outside agencies to handle, and, since 2009, suitable SEO standalone platforms have started to appear.

Four Companies

The evaluated SEO platforms enable organizations to audit site content and structure for visibility in natural search results, identify steps needed to improve visibility, and manage the SEO process. The report also restricted itself to companies that make 95 percent of their revenue from software sales instead of SEO service and had revenues in excess of US$ 5 million. This led to four companies being evaluated -- BrightEdge, Conductor, Rio SEO and SEOmoz.

Rio SEO, a recent spinoff from search agency Covario (who was also listed in the Forrester Wave for Search Marketing), was identified as the only leader because, the report said, “it actually creates optimized content and web pages instead of just providing optimization recommendations.”

BrightEdge, however, was noted as a strong competitor, based on its content auditing, forecasting and security capabilities, and the fact that it was the only vendor with a proprietary international office. SEOmoz has widely used, easy-to-manage audit tools but lacks some of the functionality provided by the others, while Conductor was assessed as providing an “earnest” customer-centric focus that doesn’t make the mark in content auditing, optimization, or support for mobile.