SEO Analytics: The Big Difference Between SEO Software, Tools, and Platforms

The terms around SEO analytics can be confusing. You’ll often see “SEO tools” used interchangeably with “SEO software” or “SEO platform.” In this post we’ll clarify the distinctions among these three SEO analytics terms, giving a basic overview of the concepts as well as what they mean to you as an analytics user.

Apples & Oranges

SEO Software and SEO Tools

SEO tools are also known as SEO software applications designed to help users perform specific SEO tasks or a range of tasks. For instance, a spreadsheet system is application software. While it’s true that all applications are software, not all software is an application.

SEO software refers to the programs that instruct your computer or mobile device on how to run SEO applications or tools. It is the basic operating framework that underlies and supports SEO tools.

SEO software is only as functional as its applications or SEO tools. In turn, it is dependent on a platform to support it in order to be operational.

SEO Tools and SEO Platforms

Enterprise SEO platforms today enable SEO and content marketing professionals and their clients to achieve a higher ROI from their campaigns by focusing attention on workflow, optimization, collaboration and overall increases in productivity and efficiency. For this reason it’s important to distinguish between a tool and a platform.

  • SEO tools: Most tools serve a single purpose and are specifically designed to help with one specific area of your business or SEO reports, for example, keyword research, link analysis and analytics.
  • SEO platforms: Platforms are built for enterprise scale. A platform provides a holistic solution to a number of client and business needs by offering a suite of integrated technologies that includes monetary, productivity and workflow systems. SEO platforms are all encompassing, integrating the software and tools for SEO management. SEO platforms like the BrightEdge S3 platform are also known as enterprise SEO software because they can integrate data and processes that span departments or teams (often including access to an API).

Below are a few of major characteristics of an SEO software that distinguish it from SEO tools.

1. Designed for enterprise scale. A platform has deployments with deep modeling capabilities — geo, BU, catalog category. Enterprise SEO software should be able to track billions of keywords and pages, large volumes of location-specific data and social signals to give you the right analytics to make informed decisions.

Jim Yu recently wrote at Search Engine Watch about how the role of enterprise technology platforms, like BrightEdge, allow operations teams to scale their campaign reach and focus. Platforms allow businesses to scale their operations. While a one-person operator (for example a small agency) may use a few free tools, growing businesses and large companies (with multiple departmental owners, digital and operational teams) need enterprise-level technology to function and scale efficiently.

2. Secure and reliable. Marketers now have access to unprecedented amounts of important data that is vital to their and their clients’ business results. Enterprise technology providers are trusted guardians of this data. In fact, in many geographies, you have a legal obligation to safeguard this data. A few examples are;

  1. ISO/IEC 27001 standard compliance for greater data protection
  2. Government level encryption
  3. Flexible password policies
  4. Compliance with European Union and Swiss Safe Harbor guidelines for compliance with stringent data privacy laws

3. Customizable and flexible. Platforms need to meet specific business processes. As businesses scale, so do requirements from SEO teams, cross-functional teams and management teams. Platforms are highly adaptive, and different workflow paths can be set that feed into customizable, powerful reporting dashboards for senior management and stakeholders alike.

For example, platforms allow you to:

  • Report via role
  • Utilize workflow capabilities to move from understanding to action
  • Set clear KPIs and maintain organizational alignment
  • Streamline process in terms of how tasks are executed
  • Gain real-time visibility and transparency
  • Close the loop on ROI initiatives
  • Build executive relations and gain buy-in

4. Seamless integration. Platforms should integrate with existing investments via open standards-based APIs. Enterprise SEO technologies gather data acquired through partnerships with trusted data sources. By integrating data from multiple sources, organizing it and analyzing it, SEO platforms provide serious competitive and industry insights that “standalone” tools can not provide.

A great example of integration is one of the world’s first secure search solutions, the BrightEdge integration with GWT data.

In sum, if you want your SEO operations and business to scale in an ever-growing competitive marketplace, enterprise SEO platforms are a necessity. Ensuring you have the right technology in place sets you up for success.

BrightEdge is the essential SEO software and content marketing platform that helps more than 8,500 global brands including 3M, Microsoft, Netflix and Nike leverage SEO and content marketing for success.

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