Over the years of doing SEO I have used countless SEO tools and management software. For many of us within this small industry, finding out who produces the software we use daily is simple. However, do we know the story behind these companies and how they reached where they are now? Over the coming weeks I shall be sharing interviews I’ve had with the market leaders of SEO software companies and asking them straight questions and I expect to receive great honest replies. If you haven’t been requested by me yet, please drop me an email.
My first interview is with Jon Henshaw from RavenSEO. I’ve been using this software for many years. In the past I have written articles suggesting improvements that would benefit RavenSEO users, so interviewing Jon was a milestone.
- Can you describe Raven as if I knew nothing about it?
Raven helps you research, manage, monitor and report on your SEO, social media and paid search campaigns. It’s designed for independent professionals, search marketing agencies, in-house marketing departments and large enterprise teams. It alleviates the need for spreadsheets, keeps everyone on the same page and the reporting alone can save a company thousands of dollars a month.
- What was your inspiration for creating Raven?
Before Raven existed, we were an Internet marketing agency. We got tired of our team being out of sync – especially our link building team – and spending countless hours each month gathering data from different tools, and then spending hours manually creating client reports. Building upon the success of some tools we had already created (SERP Tracker and SEO Analyzer) we wanted to make one seamless platform that would bring everything together. We also wanted to take the pain out of reporting, which was a huge time suck. So Raven was born, out of a need to solve our own problems as an agency.
- Since the commencement of your SaaS product, what have been the highs and lows for Raven?
Any time we release a new feature, it’s a big high. We are a company full of creative people who love to innovate. Nothing brings us more joy than to see a feature come to fruition, and to then see our customers love using it. When I think of lows, I think of times when we couldn’t work on new features or make existing features better. Those times were usually due to lack of resources or technical problems. We love using the platform as much as our customers do, so we experience the same highs and lows they do. If something isn’t working correctly, nobody is happy. When everything is working perfectly, and there’s new toys…err tools….available, everyone is happy.
- Which top 3 features of Raven would you say outshine the competition?
- I believe the first thing Raven does best is our unified platform. We’ve created an environment that supports enterprise level access rights, white labelling and industry standard tools into one cohesive toolset. The tools are easy to navigate and use, and many of the tools can push data to other tools. For example, if you’re doing keyword research, you can easily add those keywords to the Keyword Manager or SERP Tracker with one click. The ability to have everything in one place is priceless for many of our customers.
We call the screenshots Link Clips, and Raven provides a high resolution version for every link that is active. It also crops the image and provides a callout for the link. It’s perfect for visualizing link records, and our customers’ clients seem to really love it.
- The third feature that outshines the competition is our reporting system. The unified platform allows us to report on all aspects of a campaign. That includes research, link building, social media, site analytics, e-commerce and goals, email newsletters, and now AdWords campaigns. Our Report Wizard makes building reports incredibly easy. In fact, you can create a report that would typically take you hours or days in just a few minutes! The reports can also be branded with your own logo and scheduled for automated creation and delivery.
- Do you have time to read the SEO blogs while developing Raven, if so, which blogs/twitter accounts do you follow?
I depend a lot on industry friends, Twitter and now Google Plus to keep up with trends and news. Since I follow a lot of people on Twitter, I generally learn about things by happenstance, or if someone mentions or messages me about it. There are a few blogs and news sites that I follow via RSS. They include SEOBook, Blind Five Year Old, Distilled, BlueGlass, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, State of Search, Search Engine Watch, Web Pro News and SEO by the SEA. There are many more than that (I’m sure I’m forgetting some important ones), but those are the main ones that immediately come to mind.
- There are a broad range of techniques within the SEO industry, how do you think Raven manages to facilitate this?
We take a generalized and agnostic approach to SEO. We’re more interested in the tools that everyone needs to manage and report their data with, and less on focusing on one specific approach versus another. That’s one of the reasons we’ve made the Link Statuses, Link Types and Website Types completely customizable. It’s not our place to force our customers to use certain terminology. Every professional does it differently, and we want to enable them to do it the way they want to do it. We also recognize that some people abhor the idea of paid links, while other make it a major part of their campaign. For that reason, we allow paid link type options to be hidden from the system. We also hide our advanced paid link settings until a paid link record has been created on the account.Our approach is not completely unbiased though. I’ve made decisions to leave out certain functionality based on what we think is relevant. For example, I’ve purposely chosen to leave out a Keyword Difficulty tool from Raven, because I believe it’s irrelevant to what SEO’s should be focusing on. You either focus on target keywords for your site or you don’t. I prefer an optimist’s approach, which is why we created the Insights section. Instead of focusing on how hard something is, focus on your opportunities. For example, focus on the keywords that have little traffic, but convert well. That’s a much better place for an SEO to start, instead of looking at how big the wall is they have to climb. You’ll never get anything done if your starting point is rooted in “how hard is this going to be?”. If you’re good at what you do, regardless of difficulty, you’ll be able to make positive gains in your campaign.
- Without giving too much away, what juicy features are on your roadmap for the next 12 months?
We’re weeks away from launching our new real-time social stream and social media monitor . The stream will incorporate social searches, tweets connected to your Twitter account(s), and news from your Facebook account(s). Around the same time, we’ll be launching a major upgrade to our Research Assistant. It will include much more data from MajesticSEO and the SEOmoz Link Intelligence API. That update will be amazing!We have a lot planned for 2012 and I don’t want to give away too much. There are a couple things I don’t mind mentioning. First, we’re working on a completely new and unique toolbar for Chrome. We’re taking what we learned from our Firefox toolbar and incorporating existing and yet to be released features into it. I’m very excited about that. The other thing I can tell you about is contacts. Specifically, we’re working on a better way to manage relationships for link prospecting and social media interaction. We hope to have both of these features available by the end of the year or the first quarter of 2012.
- What third party tools do you wish you could implement but don’t currently have an API?
Google+ is the first one that comes to mind. They just released an API, but it doesn’t allow you to post to it yet. I also wish that the Google Webmaster Tools API supported more of their features. There’s enough there to make it useful, which is why we incorporated it, but I’d love to bring in their ranking data. There are a few other third party tools I would love to implement, but for competitive purposes I’m not going to mention their names ;) What I will say is that we are in talks with several of them, and I expect to launch two of them early next year.
- Who inspires you in life and how is this transposed into your work life?
There’s no one person that inspires me. I’m inspired by freethinkers. I mean that both philosophically and also as it relates to innovation. It’s the people who throw the textbooks out the window and strive to find their own answers that I connect with the most. It’s how I think and work, and it’s also something I share with Scott and Patrick (the other two co-founders). For me, rules are made for people who aren’t interested in real risk, innovation and success.
- What conferences are you attending over the next 12 months and will the envoy be giving out the famous Raven t-shirts?
The conference that I know I’m going to for sure is PubCon in Las Vegas. We’ll be giving out a ton of t-shirts at that conference, and we’re bringing back a limited edition t-shirt that people have been begging us to make for years. You’ll have to come by our booth and pick one up for yourself to find out what it is :)
Thank you Jon for your time. I appreciate you taking your time out to divulge so many details.
Jon has been involved with website development and Internet strategy since 1995. He’s taught Internet training courses professionally and has spent a good portion of his career consulting for SMBs within the U.S.
Before becoming a Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Raven Internet Marketing Tools, he was an Internet Strategist at Sitening, a performance-based Internet marketing firm in Nashville, TN.