Of all the tactics for driving traffic on the web, search engine optimization (SEO) is perhaps the most powerful, given that 53% of a website’s traffic can typically be attributed to organic search, according to a BrightEdge study. But the practice of SEO has become more complex and it involves more considerations than SEOs enjoyed in the “ten blue links” era.
SEO is not just about content creation and promotion anymore. It also involves improving the user experience and adapting to the evolving ways that search engines display and deliver results across different platforms like voice assistants. However, traditional SEO practices are still relevant. Keyword research, page-level analysis, backlink tracking and acquisition and rank tracking, are still essential for success even in a changing landscape.
SEO platforms offer numerous capabilities that include all of those, as well as competitive intelligence, social signal integration and workflow rights and roles.
Enterprise-level platforms may also provide more extensive link and site audits or analytics that include predictive scoring systems to identify potential opportunities to improve page performance or link authority. Vendors differentiate by offering more frequent or detailed data updates or content marketing features that sometimes require additional investment.
The following section, from our SEO platform guide for marketing (downloadable here), discusses some of these capabilities and the key considerations involved in choosing an enterprise SEO platform.
Link analysis and acquisition
Links are still one of the key external or “off-the-page” factors that can help a website rank higher in search engines. Most platforms for enterprise SEO offer link analysis (i.e., what sites are linking to yours), link building or removal suggestions based on competitive analysis, and other reports that show opportunities for getting links (i.e., what sites should you ask for links from) as part of their core platforms.
Keyword research/rank analysis
Keyword research — finding out what terms people use to find your website, how your pages rank for different queries, and how you should use those terms in your copy — is a fundamental part of effective SEO. Almost all platforms for enterprise SEO offer keyword research tools that help marketers understand how consumers search for content, and what keywords are bringing traffic for competitors.
It’s also worth noting that rank analysis has become more complicated as Google has increased its use of more dynamic and visual search engine results pages (SERP). Marketers are not happy with just a simple numeric indication of how their page ranks for a specific query; they want to know if it’s shown in a Carousel, in a Knowledge panel, with Sitelinks — or any of the other ways crawled content is being displayed on the SERPs. One of the latest additions to this category, Visably, offers a very different perspective on ranking, going as far as to look at all of the content on pages that rank for a certain keyword and then categorizing those pages.
All of this data aims to give brands a sense of how they’re perceived in search overall, even if the brand-related activity is happening on third-party sites.
Search intent-based analysis
Google’s search algorithms, often powered by artificial intelligence, now focus less on keyword matches and more on search intent. To counter the lack of keyword data, SEO platform vendors are developing more tools to analyze search intent and predict or recommend the most relevant content that would meet the searcher’s needs.
Custom site crawls/audits
Content quality is a key factor for SEO success, so marketers need to use site crawls or audits to evaluate their websites. Enterprise SEO platforms can help by providing suggestions for improving keywords, page layouts, and site accessibility. They can also rank and score different elements of the web pages, such as HTML tags and meta-tags.
The frequency of site crawls varies among SEO platforms. Some do it daily, while others do it weekly. The best tools should be able to scan the whole site, not just a sample of pages, and should also support mobile-friendly and AMP pages. However, some sites are too big to be fully crawled by any tool.
Social signal tracking and integration
Social media activity isn’t directly included in search engine ranking algorithms, but pages that are highly shared benefit from higher traffic, and watching social activity can help inform content creation and distribution strategies.
Most enterprise SEO platforms track, measure, and integrate social signals into their analytics and dashboard reports. These capabilities range from social signal tracking and correlations to site traffic and conversions, as well as social profile monitoring and sentiment analysis, and contact-relationship management.
While most vendors do well at tracking organic traffic, few currently track paid social activity.
Explore platform capabilities from vendors like Semrush, Ahrefs, Brightedge, Conductor and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on enterprise SEO platforms.
Content marketing and analysis
Google has made content quality more important for SEO with its updates and features like BERT and RankBrain (Hummingbird). So, marketers need to create relevant and fresh content to rank well.
Enterprise SEO platforms have improved their content optimization and marketing tools to help marketers with this. They offer features like page management, content performance reports, influencer campaigns, and real-time content suggestions.
Some platforms also analyze the content and compare it with competitors to find gaps and suggest improvements. They can help marketers create better and deeper content on relevant topics.
A new trend among vendors is to automatically recommend topics for content creation, saving marketers time and effort. Some even help with developing the content that matches the target keywords.
International search tracking
As more U.S.-based businesses operate online and offline in different countries and languages, they need to have international search coverage. This means they can optimize their websites for different regions, languages, and alphabets. Most enterprise SEO platforms can do this by providing features like international keyword research, global market and search volume data, and global CPC currency data.
Google wants to make mobile and local searches better for users. So, it favors sites that work well on mobile devices. Marketers need more and better data and analytics to help them make their sites mobile-friendly and rank higher. Many vendors have features that let marketers check their sites for mobile issues, rankings, and metrics by device (like desktop, tablet, or phone) and by location.
Technical SEO crawling
Mobile traffic is very important, so marketers need tools to find and fix problems that may make their pages load slowly or look bad on mobile devices. This includes showing how their pages rank for Core Web Vitals. Also, schema markup is needed if a page wants to show up in one of the special displays like featured snippets. Many tools can spot schema mistakes and help fix them.
Marketers know SEO is not the only way to promote their brands and that paid media can also affect search traffic (especially on brand keywords). Some vendors are creating features to help marketers figure out what marketing activity is bringing visitors or sales to their sites. But the declining used of third-party cookies is making this more difficult.
The benefits of using SEO platforms
With hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of pages, sites, social conversations, images, and keywords to manage and optimize, enterprise SEO has become increasingly complicated and time-consuming.
Using an SEO platform can increase efficiency and productivity while reducing the time and errors involved in managing organic search campaigns. More specifically, managing SEO through an enterprise toolset can provide the following benefits:
- Many tools, one interface. SEO platforms perform many tasks in one system. A comprehensive dashboard can help your organization monitor SERP rankings and trends, how you measure up to competitors and your share of voice. The integration and prioritization of tasks, reporting, and user permissions can offer substantial benefits to enterprise-level SEO operations.
- Intent insights. Because of the search engines’ increased focus on user intent, enterprise-level SEO tool vendors are developing machine learning models that analyze user behavior and site content to help marketers answer searchers’ questions.
- More efficient management of global operations. Enterprise SEO tools have built-in diagnostics that can be invaluable on a global scale to identify site-wide issues across languages, countries or regions. These tools uncover macro and micro issues with pages, templates and infrastructure.
- Keeping pace with the search engines. SEO software vendors have dedicated teams and engineers to follow frequent search engine algorithm changes and their impact on the SEO reporting required by enterprises.
- Automated reporting to provide data in near real-time. Many brands end up trying to put a lot of data in spreadsheets and manually update them. But that doesn’t provide a complete view of the data. Most enterprise SEO platforms offer highly customized reporting capabilities that are widget- and wizard-driven to make reporting faster and easier. Many also allow for the export of data to business intelligence tools or other analytics software.
SEO platforms: A snapshot
What is SEO? Search engine optimization encompasses a wide range of marketing activities, including content marketing, user experience strategy, technical analysis, and more, all with the goal of increasing the traffic websites receive from search engines.
What do the tools do? SEO platforms help marketers draw more insights from their work. They offer capabilities such as rank-checking, advanced keyword research, competitive intelligence, and backlink analysis. What’s more, enterprise-level platforms take these functions to new heights with extensive auditing and analysis of page performance, making it easier to find key areas needing improvement.
Why we care. SEO has remained one of the key foundations of digital marketing for years. Search drives roughly 50% of website traffic on average, according to a study on SimilarWeb data by Growth Badger. And while marketers have developed strategies to keep up, SEO’s growing complexity has made this a more complicated marketing discipline that companies cannot afford to ignore.
Dig deeper: What do SEO platforms do and how do they help marketers get found on search engines?
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