Commentary

The 'Mystery' Of SEO

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SyCara founder Fionn Downhill believes one of the barriers to adoption of search engine optimization (SEO) is the fact that the industry still needs to remove the sense of mystery about how it works. The people making the decisions to deploy the marketing strategy aren't interested in the technical side. They just want to hear about the return on investment and how to bring in more sales. "It's real complicated stuff that goes on behind the scenes," she says.

About 11% of online budget goes toward SEO, Downhill says, and raises doubt that in 2011 the market share will even tip 15%. She doesn't believe SEO will hit higher adoption rates until folks find a way to remove the geekiness.

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Downhill points to social media adoption rates and insists the ROI pales in comparison with SEO. Marketers don't want a list of what needs to be done. They want an expert to tell them how to solve the problem. So, the former Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) board member hired some SEO specialist who understand the process to code a suite of features for an SEO tool she calls SyCara (pronounced si-car-a).

Downhill and her team at Elixir Interactive began developing SyCara's suite of SEO tools two years ago when they saw SEO professionals were reticent about using SEO because they perceived it too difficult to implement, given the current tools available.

The tool features site analysis, ranking, traffic analysis, site auditing, and workflow and process management. An email alert provides a warning if someone makes a change that has an adverse influence on the SEO strategy. The tool also integrates into an analytics platform. In fact, it's Downhill's dream SEO tool she tells me. Built and coded by SEO professionals for SEO professionals.

Although complexities exist, companies expect to spend 43% more on SEO in 2010 than they did in 2009, according to SEMPO.

SyCara, in beta development, has early stage funding from private investors, including Tallwave, and Stuart Larkins, Managing Partner of Twin Capital and former SVP of search at Performics and DoubleClick.

3 comments about "The 'Mystery' Of SEO".
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  1. Chris Nielsen from Domain Incubation, December 9, 2010 at 4:42 p.m.

    "The tool features site analysis, ranking, traffic analysis, site auditing, and workflow and process management."

    Oh, that takes out the mystery alright....!

    This tool may be a SEO's answer to sliced bread, but given the description I'm not so sure. Where's the keyword research and page optimization options? From my prespective, all I need are those and some good site submissions. Forget about traffic and rankings, where's the conversion analysis?

    Basic SEO is simple, low-cost, and effective. But all the money is in PPC/SEM. Any questions why SEO is not at the top of everyone's to-do list? :-)

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, December 10, 2010 at 10:34 a.m.

    Fionn, if you're monitoring the buzz step in and answer the questions.

  3. Fionn Downhill, December 11, 2010 at 10:12 p.m.

    Hi Chris,
    You and I do not find any great mystery in SEO but the more traditional marketer and budget holder does. Or at least that is what they tell me. You can also see that in the disproportionate amount of online budget going towards SEO v PPC. I have interviewed many CMO's on this subject and have put together and sat on a number of panels on selling search to the C Suite. I am told over and over the reason SEO is not on the top of their To Do List is because they see it as too complex and in many cases not a legitimate tactic. Hard to believe after all these years that is still the perception but it is. Until we can convert SEO language to everyday marketing speak and take the technical language out the adoption will stay low. No CMO whose average tenure is now about 18 months will put budget towards something they see as very risky. After 15 years I believe as an industry that it is way past time we solved this just like PPC has been solved. I completely agree with you SEO should be about conversions. Rankings mean very little if they are not bringing in more business. The tool does provide that information through traffic analysis. The page optimization is in the site audit reports.

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