The last year or two has seen a big shift in the infrastructure that SEO agencies and in-house teams have had at their fingertips, as full campaign platforms have finally come of age.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has always been a data heavy enterprise, and any team with any coding ability at all pretty quickly started to hack together tools to deal with it. Pretty quickly, some of those companies realized they could offer those tools to customers directly, and suites such as SEOmoz's and Ontolo's were born, to name but a couple. The next step is obvious: integrate all the keyword and page optimization data for a particular site, along with link graph data and basic task management, and, hey presto, you have an SEO campaign platform.
And, the newest kid on the block is Dutch company SEO Effect.
Like most similar tools, SEO Effect has a lot to it, and a single review can but dip the toe in its water. However, two things impressed straight out of the box: the research tools and the flexibility of the system.
The flexibility starts just with creating an account and adding campaigns. Unlike most platforms, which have fixed packages, each allowing a certain number of campaigns and other resources, SEO Effect allows you to buy credits and then allocate them between campaigns as you need to. If you're an agency managing campaigns for sites both large and small, that's invaluable. There's a free trial as well, of course.
The flexibility also extends to the tools themselves. Many platforms shoehorn you into a certain way of work (that can't really be avoided), which can be a bit of a barrier for uptake amongst SEOs who already have fairly fixed ways of doing things. Whilst SEO Effect can't avoid that completely, they do the best they can, with many of the tools having both "basic" and "expert" mode, the latter offering a lot more options.
Almost all platforms now offer the ability to track trends in your data over time: keyword positions, your link graph, traffic data pulled in via the Google Analytics API. Indeed, some platforms, such as SEOmoz's don't do a lot more than that. Of course, SEO Effect has these basics, but what really impressed me with the ability to do actual research within the platform, and merge resulting data with an existing campaign seamlessly.
The tool is divided into four main areas:
- Research keywords
- Site optimization
- Link strategy
- Monitoring trends
Task management is also promised. Let's dig into the keyword research area a little to explore what the tool can do.
SEO Effect works around the concept of multiple, flexible assets within a campaign. So, for example, instead of limiting a campaign to a fixed number of keywords, you can have as many keyword research lists as you like, each containing as many keywords as you like. You can use these to research keywords for different topic areas, for example, or different products that you sell. Opening a new keyword research list gives you this screen, with options for geographic location and language:
Step two lets you enter a keyword list manually, extract it from Analytics or from your own (or someone else's) site. Each method has its own set of options, but ultimately, you end up with a copious list of keyword ideas. This is where things get interesting:
There's a fair amount of information here: overall and long tail traffic estimates, along with data pulled from your own Analytics profile, telling you how much of the traffic you already have and how much more you could potentially get with a top ranking for that keyword. There is also the ability to drill down further into the keywords (using any of those presented as a stem for a new list) and to get more detailed information on each. The only piece of information this review thinks would be useful on the overview panel is a difficulty estimate.
It's important to note, of course, that all keyword data can only ever be estimated (at least under present conditions). The sources of that information, the search engines themselves, have never been that forthcoming about exact figures, and the only truly reliable way to find traffic data has been to run a paid search campaign. However, some data is always better than none, and this extra information is welcome here.
Once you have a list with which you're happy, you can assign a relevance to each (and label the keywords), and add them to your campaign's master list. The tool will track absolute traffic and estimate traffic share for all your keywords, and back date it to the date you install Analytics on the site. The usual CSV export options are also available.
One thing that the tool doesn't do is track keyword positions. While a debate rages about their importance, again, some information is better than none, and this is something that this reviewer would expect to see in a comprehensive campaign tool, even if it's not the primary metric.
Just a Taster!
This dive into SEO Effect's keyword research tool will, with any luck, have given you a taste of how it works and of what it's capable. It does have a lot more to offer in terms of link prospecting and on-page optimization.
All tools grow and change over time, and SEO Effect promises more features in the future, including dramatic performance enhancements (some reports are very slow currently). Some areas of the interface are a bit unintuitive and not all the information is where you'd expect it to be, but, as a beta tool, again, these are areas that will improve over time. Overall, it's definitely work checking out and keeping an eye on.