Analytics SEO (Laurence O’Toole) interview by BristolSEO

Laurence O’Tool shares his future vision of Analytics SEO (the workflow SaaS SEO software), his inspirations and market influencers.

Over the last couple of weeks I interviewed Jon Henshaw from Raven Tools and Paul May from BuzzStream. Both interviews have been gems. This week I’m proud to introduce Laurence O’Toole from Analytics SEO. Since been showing a demo of this software as SES London a few years ago, the software has improved leaps and bounds. Today they have launched yet another version of this UK based software. It’s well worth a look.

My personal opinion is that if BuzzStream and Analaytics SEO joined forces, this would push the expectations further for the other SEO Software providers.

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.

Enjoy.

  1. Can you describe Analytics SEO as if I knew nothing about it?
    An online software platform that helps you build a more successful website, increasing site visits and sales conversions by automatically guiding you through an automated search engine optimisation process.
    Analytics SEO is an enterprise level platform and set of SEO APIs designed to offer the most automated SEO solution we know in the marketplace. It can save an agency thousands of hours of billable time and that’s just if they only use it for reporting!

    As a result of the software being designed to be easy to use, it has also become a powerful training tool for clients and less experienced SEOs as it breaks the process down and explains the issues, recommendations and results along the way.
  2. What was your inspiration for creating Analytics SEO?
    I used to run Thomson Directories online business and in 2002/03 we launched a very successful scalable local PPC platform which helped small businesses get into Adwords very easily.  I had always envisaged rolling out a scalable SEO platform at some point in the future but at the time no one was ready.  It was only years later, when I was running my own SEO agency that I started to think about building my own SEO software platform.
    The issue for SEO agencies, as I’m sure you know very well, is that the more successful you are, the more business you bring in, the more work you have that needs organising.  It is difficult to scale an agency without having systems and processes in place.
    I felt that we were drowning under a sea of spreadsheets; so we looked for a solution that would help us manage our 5 Stage SEO process effectively but we could not find one that met our needs.  There were plenty of SEO tools out there but none that were built with workflow in mind; we needed a process driven suite of tools and processes that could run automatically and that could improve collaboration, communication and coordination across our team and with our clients.  After an exhaustive search, we decided to build our own.

    We decided to build the software around a flexible SEO process, presenting all of the data an SEO might need in one place and making it really efficient to both run detailed reports in minutes, whilst enabling businesses to scale as the platform is at its most powerful when managing many websites.
  3. Since the commencement of your SaaS product, what have been the highs and lows for Analytics SEO?
    The biggest high has been seeing the team and software evolve at such a rapid pace.  It’s quite fun to compare the software today with our first version in early 2009 – I can’t believe we chose a red and black interface when we first started – what were we thinking!
    We love working with all of our customers and are very driven by their feedback and ideas.   Passing on the economies of scale caused by our strong growth over the last twelve months to our customers in the form of much lower usage based pricing has always been a highlight this year.  We had been perceived by many as premium SEO software, but with the latest changes, the software is now accessible to the masses.
    In terms of the lows….two spring to mind; The first was in Q1 2011 when we unfortunately had 12 hours of outage after the Blue Square internet facility where our hosting company (TSO) are based went down – thousands of sites were affected and although we got back up without suffering any data loss, a few lessons were learned the hard way!  I should just add, to be fair to TSO their service is excellent and I do recommend them.  The second was when we lost a superb developer when his girlfriend moved back to Lithuania!
  4. Which top 3 features of Analytics SEO would you say outshine the competition?
    Drilling down to just three is a little tough ;-), but areas I believe we are industry leaders in are:

    1. Service
      We offer a SaaS based solution.  The two keywords in here are software and service.  For us, and our customers, providing great service is just as important as providing great software.  I want us to build a reputation for being friendly, trustworthy and customer focused.
      Our development and support team is almost definitely our biggest USP as a business. We have invested heavily in a 100% UK based technical team with SEOs and developers who have worked with organisations including IBM and many other major brands.
      You are able to call or email our technical team any time during office hours and get a swift response. We genuinely work closely with all of our customers and take a great deal of pride in the level of free support and training we offer.
      I would expect if you spoke to any of our customers they would tell you they love our support team.  We’ve even done on-site training for some customers and are actively seeking clients in Hawaii, Mauritius and the Seychelles!
    2. Reporting / Keyword Rankings
      We believe we offer the most comprehensive own-branded SEO reports in the industry that can be generated in minutes and exported to Excel, PowerPoint or PDF format. They can be annotated easily and our pricing should deliver an ROI for any agency even if used for reporting alone.

      Keyword rankings are one of the largest challenges we have operationally and we have been able to deliver a great amount of accuracy in this area. It’s data we know has been extremely problematic for some of our rivals, to the extent that some have been forced to give up trying to obtain keyword rankings. It’s been extremely hard work to get to where we are today, but we are now being rewarded for it as we are one of the only tools on the market that can generate certain insights such as highlighting universal search opportunities.
    3. Automated Technical Auditing / Crawling
      Our technical auditing is also very strong and often we get excellent feedback in this area for delivering more detail and being a more “serious” tool as a result.
      We have been able to successfully crawl up to one hundred times more pages than some of our competitors. It is another example, similar to keyword rankings, where it’s been highly challenging, but our technical team have done a stellar job and its now another major strength of our platform.
      It’s amazing to work with as an SEO, as first hand we are able to see the effects of common SEO problems. Examples include poorly formed URL structures, malformed HTML, JavaScript, redirects, large page sizes and broken links. Often practitioners will diagnose these problems well, but often without actually seeing these problems first hand from the search engines perspective.
  5. Do you have time to read the SEO blogs while developing Analytics SEO, if so, which blogs/twitter accounts do you follow?
    On a serious note this is probably one of the biggest challenges! It’s really tough to get the balance right between keeping on top of industry updates and working on our own priorities internally.
    At Analytics SEO we love the UK talent (we’re slightly biased!) including (but not limited to!) Dixon Jones, Martin MacDonald, Richard Baxter, Patrick Altoft, Paddy Moogan, Kelvin Newman, Rishi Lakhani, Jane Copland, Rob Kerry and many more (sorry there are too many to mention including this blog!).
    Although SEOmoz are technically one of our competitors it’s almost impossible not to mention their blog. They do a great job of relentlessly pushing out good content….and they have a lovely friendly way about them.
    It’s also worth mentioning a lot of the very best SEO’s aren’t well known and keep their heads under the radar ;-)
  6. There are a broad range of techniques within the SEO industry, how do you think Analytics SEO manages to facilitate this?
    We are process and workflow driven – and although we have our own 5 Stage SEO process (Site Audit, Competitive Position, On-site optimisation, Off-site optimisation, SEO Results) it is totally flexible and a customer can manage his SEO campaigns just the way he wants them.
    We have an ethos of being highly driven by our customers which is the way any web business should be run; I call it the “Customer Within”.  Our customers, many of whom we’re lucky enough to call friends, are very much part of the team.
    We have a steering committee of top SEOs worldwide that are working with us to develop future versions of the product.  This international perspective is fascinating.  We’re always welcome to newcomers so do drop me a line on LinkedIn if you want to join us!
  7. Without giving too much away, what juicy features are on your roadmap for the next 12 months?
    The next 12 months are likely to be a roller coaster ride with major new features coming by the dozen!
    We’ve got an API already but there’s so much more we can do with it.  In fact, we’re looking for beta testers for a new service we’re launching called http://howgoodisyourseo.com if anyone is interested!
    Other big areas for us will be social media integration, maybe PPC too and overhauling our link building tools with input from some of the most talented SEO’s in the industry.
    We are also investing in creating scalable, machine learning algorithms for clustering, classification and collaborative filtering implemented on top of Apache Hadoop using the map/reduce paradigm.  Crunching all of back end data is becoming increasingly challenging, so we’ll be hiring computer scientists who understand all of this ;-)
  8. What third party tools do you wish you could implement but don’t currently have an API?
    As our backgrounds are very technical we are actually pretty biased towards building our own technology and IP.
    We are proud to be powered by the Majestic SEO API, as almost definitely the best data set for links, bar Google (and they unfortunately won’t sell us any data or discuss their algorithm for that matter – we already tried that!).
    However link data is an exception to the rule, as to build a serious SEO platform you need serious link data, which is very difficult to obtain!
    If the team at Google Webmaster Tools could just improve their API then it would make thousands of SEOs lives much easier!  Rankings, CTR% by position, internal links would all be very nice please!
  9. Who inspires you in life and how is this transposed into your work life?
    My wife.  She has a phenomenal capacity to get things done in good humour at any time of day or night, and has managed to superbly juggle a successful career and high pressure job with bringing up our beautiful twin girls.
  10. What conferences are you attending over the next 12 months?
    We would like to attend all of them, although our schedules are also increasingly more manic! SES, SMX, SAScon, BrightonSEO, ThinkVisibility and SearchLove are all standing out though…

Thanks for your time Laurence and all the very best with Analytics SEO.

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