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A few weeks ago BrightEdge was nice enough to invite me to their Share14 conference where they announced the newest version of their “SEO and Content Marketing Management Platform” in front of approximately 1,000 customers and search pros. I was sufficiently impressed by both the conference and the new features that I thought it would be of interest to my readers.

When it comes to industrial strength SEO tools I have historically been a bit of a luddite/skeptic. I learned SEO when there was no Google Webmaster Tools or Screaming Frog or BrightEdge. There were crappy text browsers like Xenu (Xenu was both awesome and awful at the same time) and Google. And there were always free geeky services like SEO Browser that kind of got you part of the way there, but for the most part you had to switch off your targeting computer, let go and use the Force…


Use the Force, Luke on Star Wars Video

Often when larger clients have expressed an interest in using higher-end SEO tools like BrightEdge, Conductor, SEO Analytics, etc. my typical response has been:

  1. You’re going to use it a few times in the first month and never use it again
  2. The actionable items you get are typically not actionable for you as they require page by page optimizations and the larger the website, typically the harder it is to optimize any particular page v. optimizing a template.
  3. For $30K/year (or whatever the going rate is these days – it varies by the number of keywords tracked. I think some monster brands that are paying North of $100K/year) you can license SEMRush, Ahrefs, SpyFu, MajesticSEO and 20 other SEO tools, cobble together a lot of similar data to these big tools and have plenty of dough left over for a great holiday party.
  4. The big advantage of these tools seems to be in facilitating communication/reporting amongst a large team, although they can also create confusion as yet another report/task tracker that the team has to keep track of.

So I approached the BrightEdge conference with more than a bit of jaundice in my SEO eye.

The first thing that struck me about the conference was its size and the makeup of both the audience and the speakers. According to BrightEdge there were about 1,000 attendees, many of them from large brands and agencies. And the speakers were straight out of a PubCon/SMX roster. The educational and networking opportunities were top notch. It made me wonder how this kind of event will effect the attendance at the usual search conferences. All in all, Jim Yu and co put on a great show. Note to Jim, if you ever get tired of building SEO tools, you’ve got a great future in game show hosting.

Jim Yu BrightEdge

So BrightEdge did a great job of warming me up to introduce their new toolset. Instead of doing a full review, I thought I would touch on some of the new features that made me start to reconsider the value of these Ferraris of the SEO world. If you want to get a run down on BrightEdge’s feature set check it out here.

Blended Rank
There are plenty of rank tracking tools that report on the various result types in a SERP (local, video, news, etc), but I found the UI for BrightEdge’s Blended Rank report to be a great way to get a quick understanding of how the different Universal result types were influencing rankings across a large keyword set. This could be quite helpful when deciding on a content strategy (e.g. should you invest more in local because Google is showing more images in your target SERPs). They also had a pretty cool report from their “Data Cube” that showed how seasonality affected rankings, which is something we often grapple with over here.

Content Optimizer
Content Optimizer is kind of like Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin on steroids. It’s basically a keyword and link analysis tool that integrates into your CMS so when your writers are writing, they can get instantaneous recommendations on rankings, keyword targeting and linking. The tool also shows the content of other sites that rank for a specific keyword which is super-cool. This still requires some training for writers on how to think about this kind of data, but it goes a long way towards solving the problem we often face when writers get trained and then kind of forget everything after a couple of weeks. A very cool feature.

BrightEdge Community Edition
BrightEdge Data Cube
This was by far my favorite feature. During the conference a client had emailed me asking why a competitor ranked above them for a specific keyword. Normally this would require looking at the ranking URL, checking backlinks and internal links and then making some assumptions as to how they all worked together. BrightEdge’s Community Edition appears to make that task a lot easier and faster. They basically have boiled down all of BrightEdge’s functionality into a browser plugin so when you hover over a page, you can see all of the critical SEO info on the page (rankings, links, etc.) in a pop-up. The tool hasn’t been released yet but I kind of wanted it when I saw it. It felt like seeing a new iPhone.

As I said at the get-go, a lot of this functionality can already be had by cobbling together various SEO tools, but just as Apple has become quite good at taking stuff that already existed, like phones with Internet connections, and making them better, I think the BrightEdge team may have taken the game to the next level, particularly for sites that have a large, complex keyword set and are willing to work at a page-by-page level.

I guess I am still a luddite/skeptic, but after attending Share14, I am starting to get the big SEO tool religion. I guess we’ll have to see what Conductor announces at its C3 conference in a few weeks and how it compares, but BrightEdge has certainly come a long way from its origins as a fancy rank tracking tool.


 
 

4 Comments

  • Sean Elkin  September 18, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Nice write-up Andrew.

    I tend to use a handful of tools (or, sometimes, a dozen) for particular clients as needed…and I still use xenu on occasion for some deep site crawling (long in the tooth check here).

    I also test drive some of the more expensive tools (say in the thousand(s) a month range). Most have slick interfaces with lovely graphs and charts. But it always seems that when I dig deeper, they all have shortcomings, which inevitably means I have to pull from other tools anyway.

    And the biggest, consistent problem I find is in exportation. It’s great to see slick charts/graphs on a web-based tool, but if you can’t EASILY export those in an editable format for integration into client reports, then you end up either

    1)re-creating them anyway (assuming you can get the raw data out of the slick tool)

    2) use screen grabs (in which you end up with a bunch of dissimilar images cobbled together with often blurry results) or

    3)arrange direct client access to the tool (which isn’t always possible, and may not be a good choice from a business standpoint).

    Did they demo a good exportation capability? Any discussion of pricing?

    Sean

    Reply
  • Andrew Shotland
    Andrew Shotland  September 18, 2014 at 8:46 am

    They didn’t demo exports, but I would be surprised if that was an issue – seems like such a basic thing.

    Re pricing, they didn’t talk about it, but my guess is it starts at somewhere around $0.5/KW/month which seems kind of high.

    Reply
  • Josh Rodriguez  September 22, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Hey Andrew, it sounds like the conference was a lot of fun. Thanks for breaking down the tools. However, like you I’m a bit of a skeptic. The community edition seems pretty neat, but is it really all inclusive? Maybe when it goes live, they’ll give you a copy to demo it, I’d love to hear how it works in the real world.

    As you said in the beginning for 30k a year, you can get quite a bit. With that said, if you had to pay for the service, would you?

    Reply
  • Andrew Shotland
    Andrew Shotland  September 22, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Josh, for the right client it might be worth it

    Reply

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