BrightEdge's SEO Platform Plugs Into Webtrends

BrightEdge are on a mission to simplify how chief marketing officer's (CMO) connect with their audiences and make it possible to effectively manage SEO activities based on ROI. This week, BrightEdge launched a new feature called BrightEdge Connect for their platform which enables their SEO platform to plug into enterprise web analytics platforms such as Webtrends Update August 5th, 4:31pm EST: and partially into Adobe/Omniture and Coremetrics).

Like Conductor, they perceive an imbalance at the heart of the search marketing community. Quoting Shar VanBoskirk's Forrester report, US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009 To 2014 in our conversation, Jim Yu, CEO & founder of BrightEdge, said 72% of clicks are organic whilst only 28% of clicks go to paid search listings, yet out of a combined spend of 15.4BN on search marketing, paid search commands a whopping 84% of the budget.

Operating in stealth mode until June 2010 BrightEdge has raised $8.5m from Altos Ventures and Battery Ventures, and is already managing $1bn in annual revenue across their client list, which include, VMware, Trulia and Myspace. BrightEdge offer what they dub an "enterprise class SEO platform". They argue that "you can't manage, what you can't measure" and whilst Google has done a great job of managing ROI via paid search, it's been almost impossible to do the same thing for SEO. Such a situation continually begs the question among the C-suite - how do we know if SEO is worth the effort?

BrightEdge's target are all the CMO's managing big brands with large advertising budgets. Their goal is to "operationalize SEO" and make it easier to report on key performance metrics and distribute them around the company, believing "everybody in company that touches the web impacts SEO". Put another way, they want to make SEO as simple effective and easy as PPC. Their technology combines two sources of data via web crawlers and web analytics data and seeks to answer two questions:

1. What's happening out there on search engines? (e.g. rankings, inbound links etc)
2. Did visitors convert?

On their latest development, Jim Yu said "With BrightEdge Connect, organic search is finally a first-class marketing channel that can be accurately measured against all other web programs, allowing companies to focus on those initiatives that deliver the best results."

A quick tour of the interface
Some of the SEO metrics measures include rankings and backlinks, which are combined with key business indicators such as purchases, visits and conversions from existing web analytics. Existing web analytics solutions only ever include website metrics and never SEO metrics so this development means managing SEO could be done in the same way one would manage other marketing channels such as paid search or social media - in one place with a common ROI.

Webtrends Integration
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"As SEO becomes central to many companies' online strategy, executives are demanding instant visibility into this channel's performance," stated James McDermott, Vice President of Business Development at Webtrends. "By leveraging the combination of Webtrends' Open Exchange and BrightEdge Connect, managers at all levels get visibility into SEO operating metrics directly inside Webtrends' dashboards."

Peter Brumme, Vice President of online marketing at SolarWinds echoed this sentiment saying, "For a company like SolarWinds, where web-based marketing is a key driver of customer acquisition, it is critical to have an end-to-end view of SEO performance that's tied to our business metrics. This visibility helps us make the right trade-offs between SEO and our other channels."

Executive Dashboard
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As you can see from screenshot above, the executive dashboard provides an at a glance view of search ranking performance, both aggregated across long tail terms and by category. One can imagine that a metric to persuade the C-suite to invest further in your strategy would essentially be to grow the blue portion of the bar chart in such a way that is co-comitant with an overall upward trend in the "Stacked Rank Count for Pages 1-3" - and compare this performance improvement with ROI data.

Although it is not possible to see in the "Share of Voice" section, this pie chart actually represents the coverage of all sites in a keyword category, such that you can see whether your strategy is generating an overall increase in organic rankings against competitors. It's unusual and reminiscent of the traditional PR metric of 'column inches', as it effectively posits market share on search engines in the context of search engine results page (SERPs) coverage across thousands of keywords.

Keyword Dashboard
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The keywords dashboard is also an interesting improvement upon the traditional keyword search referrers report of most analytics programs. Rather than simply displaying traffic via inbound keywords, this report matches search frequency to ranking changes on search engines. Again, one can imagine a metric to follow here would be oround 'breakout terms' that storm up the charts with a significant corresponding change in search position. If that were to happen, you could argue that your strategy hit 'gold'.

Too Good To Be True?
It's undeniably exciting to see companies like BrightEdge and Conductor aiming to beat the black box of search engines by building their own crawler based solutions to monitor rankings. Furthermore, it's equally exciting to see enterprise level analytics firms like WebTrends (with BrightEdge) and Omniture (with Conductor) forming alliances with SEO specialists to help close the loop on analytics data and differentiate their paid products against other free web analytics solutions.

However, arguably, such tools really only make life easier in your company boardroom rather than in the war room of search marketers. It would be false to say that automated SEO reporting platforms will make it easier to attain top positions, because as ever, any website is still at the mercy of the algorithm. Nonetheless, the SEO intelligence these tools offer will enable tactical marketers to reduce wastage and pick their battles more wisely.

Update August 5th, 4:31pm EST: To clarify, BrightEdge only has a 2 way data integration with Webtrends via Webtrends' Open Exchange. BrightEdge is not part of the formal partner program called Omniture Genesis.