A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: The evolution of search platforms: What makes a platform “enterprise”?
In the first of a series on the evolution of available tools in the marketing and SEO environment, Erin talks about changes and addresses some of the biggest movements in user needs.
Erin O’Brien, President at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Erin: Welcome to today’s episode of FOUND Friday. FOUND Friday is a weekly web series that we do on search, content marketing and all things that are going on the digital findability space. If you’re listening from iTunes or another podcast channel, you can check out the video version on our YouTube channel, GinzaMetrics, and then the FOUND Friday episodes are there. And if you are checking us out on YouTube, we are also on iTunes.
Today I want to talk about changes in the search and content platforms base and address some of the biggest movements I’ve seen in user needs. The conversation that we’re going to have today is the first part of a series that we’re doing on platform choice and the evolution of tools available in the space.
I know that we’ve addressed the search and content ecosystem in previous episodes and a lot has really changed since then. As marketing departments and professionals continue to sort out their needs based on channels, available technologies and dynamics, platforms have also been focused not just on innovating to meet those needs but staying on top of changes to search engines and putting device and location specifications and a variety of other things. So everybody is moving from two different areas.
So what we’re going to address today is a shift I’ve seen in what people are looking for when they talk to us about platforms, which is some polarization between what I’ll call data providers versus full service platform options. What I mean when I mention this is that there seems to be a widening gap between people looking for just data output versus insights, recommendations, account management and other more full service needs.
Within the data provider group there’s actually some variations as well. So two noticeable groups being people who seems to want high level analytics and information because they don’t have the team size or resources to utilize a lot deeper data than that. Most of the time, these people prefer a lighter weight solution with a simple interface, some reporting and analytics capabilities, but don’t want to pay for a lot of the bells and whistles of a larger platform that they know that they won’t need.
Then the second group is people who are potentially looking for really large sums of data but want to add it to another existing platform or integrate it with some other solution. And so a lot of these people are really just looking for data that they can export via API and then add in somewhere else.
Then there are some folks who are typically looking for what really would be a full-service platform and they actually tend to have some similar needs as well, maybe all of these needs or some combination of them. Typically what we’re looking at there is big brands and agencies to manage multiple sites in a single account, international brands and agencies that have multiple locations of sites to manage, a desire to integrate workflow and team management capabilities that’s usually in there, deeper data and analysis of the keyword content in local levels. They typically also want reporting that’s white labeled, customizable, some kind of custom dashboard solution. Typically there’s also the request for integrations with other tools and platforms. The last is usually around more like on the account management and support feature, so being able to have somebody there to help out.
While these are certainly not all-encompassing traits nor do they match a description of every single person looking for a platform, these descriptions are kind of a growing trend in user types. So this got me thinking: what really makes a solution enterprise and how are we defining users’ needs and continuing to build tools that have the capabilities that people are looking for based on some of these shifts?
In some cases, the need for large part is the data without the need for additional insights or locations cause people to look at enterprise solutions that they feel like they’re overpaying for because they feel like the only way to get quantity is within enterprise solution or they end up looking at smaller solutions that they don’t necessarily feel really fit the bill either or they don’t get the support and assistance that they need because sometimes smaller solutions don’t necessarily have that component of it. So instead of guessing or using my own experience in search platforms to expound on what I think is going on here, I thought what we’d do is try to get your opinion on what makes a platform enterprise or not enterprise and how important each of those features actually matters over others.
So today I want to actually go over some features that I’ve heard people talk about in terms of what actually makes something enterprise or not. Then what we’re going to do is we’re putting together a survey that will ask you (the marketers) and users in the world what actually seems to be more important than others and whether or not the feature actually is an enterprise feature or just something that you expect from any tool whether that tool is considered an enterprise solution or not. A survey will be in the show notes on the GinzaMetrics blog and we’ll also send it out via our Twitter and Facebook channels. Those will be available there, so please feel free to weigh in and let us know.
To make some of the feature overviews easier, I’ve broken out the variables into four types which are volume, data availability, integrations and organizational structure. Starting with volume, what I’ve got added in here is number of keywords to be tracked. One of the interesting things, by the way, when we’re talking here about the volumes stuff is with volume a lot of people equate sheer volume of data with the solution being enterprise and yes, while it may increase the cost, just increasing the volume of data does not necessarily denote an enterprise solution. You can use inexpensive tools and still get really high volume. You’re just probably not going to get a lot of other bells and whistles attached to it.
Back to the list in volume, we’ve got number of keywords, number of search engines available. What I mean by number of search engines available is a couple of different things. When I say that here in volume, I’m talking about how many search engines can we track at one time inside the platform? We’ll talk a little bit about other search engine availability in data.
Number of locations that can be tracked with each site. Is this a tool where you can only track just U.S. or just another location? Can it even track international locations? Number of locations you can track per site.
Number of locations that you can track per keyword. When we’re talking about number of locations you can track per keyword, maybe for each keyword you need to track 3, 5, 50, 100 locations – can the tool do that?
Number of pages that can be included, number of sites per account, number of users per account. Number of competitors that you can monitor or analyze at any given time. This is actually typically a bigger differentiator. Can the tool actually track, monitor a lot of different competitors for you? How does that look? Can it actually compare them versus locations, etc. that gets in the data in a minute as well? Also things like volume of reporting included in your plan, in your account. What does that look like?
Those are some of the volume things that we’re talking about. How many of these things can your account handle or are included in your account? Because sometimes what you’ll do is you’ll start out with a more inexpensive tool. By the time you add in all this volume and all these features, you’re get the base price of an enterprise platform which may have worked out better for you in the long run anyway because of some other things like better account management or whatever, or sometimes you’re at the very, very base price of an enterprise tool when what you could’ve done is grabbed a less expensive tool and added some stuff on and maybe you wouldn’t have even reached the bottom part of the enterprise platform tool. Again, stuff to consider.
Data availability. Some things I’m thinking about here that I see and hear a lot of requests for is daily versus weekly or monthly call, how often are you actually getting data updates? This is really important. We do daily standard. A lot of people do weekly standard or there’s the option to upgrade to daily. That’s an important factor to consider.
International tracking. Can it track not just Google, Yahoo, and Bing? If you’re here in the U.S., what can it do? Baidu, Sogou, Naver, DOM, Yandex, all kinds of different stuff. Does it do all the local instances of Google for various countries that you might want to track?
Local tracking. Beyond different search engines, actual local tracking including both local search and local pack data, if that’s something of interest to you, a lot of times that’s a bigger feature depending on especially how much of it you need.
Keyword Discovery. Can it actually find new keywords that you should be tracking and paying attention to? Can it discover those at your competitor level too? Speaking of competitors, can it discover new competitors? Are they competing with you on this type of content or that type of content? Are they competing with you for these keywords or those keywords? Does it help you monitor and analyze what’s going on with all that?
Device level breakouts from mobile tablet and desktop and then device specific data for things like iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android tablet, stuff like that. If you need more granular data at the device level, how available is that?
Recommendations for improvements. Here we break them out into keywords and content crawlability and page structure. How deep are the recommendations? Are they at the page level or at they at the full site level? Can you group the recommendations? Can you assign them as tasks? How does that all work?
Universal search or true rank based on other on-page elements. What we mean by that is a lot of people will look at a rank tracking tool that just provides ranking data for you and export that and include it into something but you’re missing in a more traditional rank tracking data say now with all the other things that are on your SERP is we’ve got stuff like shopping results, videos, local pack, knowledge panel, all these different things that happen to be included on the page. So you may be in position one or two and have traffic expectations based on that ranking data but what you’re not seeing is that there are ten other things included on this page that have actually pushed your number one ranking down, essentially sometimes bull of the fold [? 10:55].
Being able to actually understand that would mean that if you wanted that kind of information to include in your data and all you’ve been doing id just exporting a large amount of ranking data for tracking keywords, you may not be getting the full picture. So sometimes you may not see what you think you’re supposed to be seeing and wondering what’s going on or thinking that SEO doesn’t work or that your search strategy isn’t working when in actuality what you really need to be able to see is what we call universal search, other people call true rank or whatever.
Other things in this data availability, structure category include things like reporting outlets. How can your reports be sent to you? Is that PDF? Is it embeddable html? Is it CSV? Is it Excel? Do you have the option to pick between these different things and use different variations?
Also, how deep are analytics and insights? Is the tool actually attempting to do some analysis, make some inferences for you or draw parallels between things? How configurable is the data within the actual tool?
One of the things that we have is you can actually move columns, sort by any column, take columns out, add things in; super adjustable and customizable based on what you’re looking for. Because everything is modularized, you can adjust things like date ranges and other filters – stuff like select by content group, select by keyword group, select by location, select by all these different things and slice and dice. How easy is it to get the data views that you need directly in the platform without having to export pieces from a lot of different platforms or from a lot of different places of platform and then do that yourself somewhere else? That’s potentially important to other people.
Onto integrations. One of the things we hear about regularly is the availability of an API that can be integrated with other platforms. This is specifically important for the people who are really just looking for a lot of information and then want to put it into a larger VI thing or combine it with paid search or combine it with something else that’s going on internally. So, API to export.
Integrates with Google Analytics, integrates with Google Webmaster tools, integrates with other analytics platforms like SiteCatalyst or something, integrates with a CRM system, and integrates with CMS. These are things that we hear about pretty frequently. Integrates with paid platforms is interesting. People want to know the full-scale picture of search influencing paid, paid influencing search or organic influencing paid, paid influencing organic. We’re getting a lot more questions about how we can tie those two things together in terms of data exports or imports, either way.
Then integrations with other social platforms and content marketing platforms, being able to really share data and get a bigger picture. Obviously, as the ties between search and social tend to get a little bit stronger, people have been requesting a little bit more information around that which seems to be sharing out in the industry in terms of who will provide what and how much information should each platform provide or so they’ll just be like super platform. So we’ll see.
From an organizational standpoint, just like how the company is structured or what the organization of the actual platform itself looks like. White labeling capabilities – a lot of people want to be able to white label their dashboard, their reports, individual site dashboards, the full account dashboard – is that a possibility?
Availability of account management staff. Is there somebody who’s going to be there and able to help you, will talk to you, will check in and make sure that you’re happy? From that end, is there going to be onboarding assistance and is that onboarding assistance live and customized to your specific needs? Or is that onboarding assistance “choose your own adventure” and go to their website and figure it out for yourself? What kind of materials are available for that? When you need support, is it available via e-mail, phone, or chat? How responsive is that? Is it within a 24-hour period? Is it a 6-week time period? Is there international support available? Is support available in your specific and in all of your team’s time zones?
Things like workflow and task management. Can you assign tasks, manage tasks, do some workflow things inside the platform itself? If you’ve got a lot of things going on, can you work with multiple people and track progress?
Automated and scheduled reporting. Things that will actually help update and generate on their own, will schedule and send to e-mails in different formats that you want. What does that look like for you?
Customizable reports. How easy is it to build your own report and build something that you want and need and get it to a client or to your internal team and stakeholders?
Customizable dashboards. This is something that we’ve been offering for a little while that people really like which is unique. We build a lot of different dashboards with different components. Maybe you’ve got a competitor dashboard. Maybe you’ve got a product ideation or content ideation dashboard. Maybe you’ve got a dashboard that’s kind of an executive, quick daily summary. Maybe you’ve got a dashboard that’s all about recommendations. All these different things. You can share the dashboards in between people, stuff like that. It’s typically more of an enterprise-y solution.
Billing options. This is one that people don’t think about sometimes until they get a little bit further down the line which is: do they do credit card payment, invoice payments as well as what does it look like in terms of a contractor? Are you going to be in a yearly contract? Can you go month to month? How does that actually end up working out?
Resources for continued education or assistance. This is another really big thing. How good is the organization you’re working with? How important is it to you that they continue to provide resources that educate you on the industry, educate you on product use and are there available to make sure that you have everything available to be use the platform the best you possibly can?
The last one is what’s your ability to influence their product roadmap to request features and to make suggestions where things that you’d like to see done in the dashboard? A lot of people talk about this in terms of, they want to work with somebody that if they really need to build, they can talk to you about it and not only will it get out of the product roadmap but you can actually work on prioritization.
Obviously, sometimes what will happen is that’s determined by your budget. If you’re working with a really big tool, a really big platform, and you’re spending at the lower end of their client list, then you may not be as likely to get what it is that you’re looking for. Whereas if you work with a smaller or more mid-sized platform tool or a smaller enterprise-level platform tool, you may be able to move your request up a little bit further.
This is also a really good conversation to have that we’re going to talk about in a few weeks which is when you’re looking for various tools and understanding where you sit in somebody’s prioritization, sometimes what you’ll get is a tool that’s 80% or 90% of the way there already and the last 10% or 20% is something that you can work together to build a version that you like of. And if you’re just willing to put in a little bit of extra time, you may be able to get a more custom solution at a less expensive price. That’s really something to consider. I think we’re going to touch on that in the coming weeks.
Did I miss anything? If you think there are factors that affect whether or not a platform should or shouldn’t be considered enterprise, or if you think that I’m completely off-based in this idea of a lot of data provided that’s exportable and used by something else versus a more full-service platform as to where things seem to be going, I’d love to know. When the survey comes out, please take it and let us know what you think. Feel free to weigh in on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday, on our Facebook page at GinzaMetrics, or shoot us notes in the blog, or e-mail me. I’m the president and COO of GinzaMetrics. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That is our show for today.