I had the privilege to sit down with one Silicon Valley’s great minds in the world of Search and Social, Jim Yu, founder and CEO of BrightEdge. Jim combines in-depth expertise in developing and marketing large on-demand software platforms with hands-on experience in advanced SEO practice. I was fascinated to learn what he had to say about the challenges and opportunities for digital marketers in today’s ever-changing digital landscape, and am pleased to be able to share his expert insights.

CP: What would you describe as some of the primary SEO issues that digital marketers aren’t addressing well in their business today?

JY: To answer this question, I’ll take a step back and look at where we started and how companies approached search. Early on, companies couldn’t easily measure the impact of organic search or returns on their SEO investments. Thus, organizing organic search and understanding the business impact of SEO is where I see the greatest opportunities for brands to derive value today.  This is where BrightEdge has focused its technology so that organizations can get the most out of their SEO efforts. And providing a tight integration of analytics with SEO enables companies to pull in ROI measurement and glean insights on how their efforts are performing and what actions they need to take.

CP: What opportunities do you see in SEO?

JY: I think one of the biggest opportunities in SEO is ‘predictive search.’ In the future, I see thousands of brands delivering predictable, measurable conversions from organic search. In fact, we recently conducted a study of 2000 brands and asked what are their search priorities. Social search measurement, making search more predictive and having an enterprise-grade solution for forecasting were the top responses.  I believe that companies that take a predictive focus on time and efforts in SEO will yield the greatest returns.

CP: You brought up social, which is certainly a hot topic surrounded by a lot of buzz, but there is definitely value to be gained in the social technology landscape. What is the linkage between SEO and social? What should marketers be paying attention to and why?

JY: This is a great question and one that I will answer more elaborately.

One thing that has been really exciting is the massive repository of social signals, and ranking data available. At the beginning of 2011, we did some analysis and noticed something new was driving organic search rankings – social signals. And, that there is a strong correlation between social signals and organic search rankings. Social channels and organic search often run in silos, but there is huge power and value in bringing these two together. We looked at the impact of social channels, e.g., Tweets, Likes and Google +1s, on search rankings. The big question or challenge though is: How do you make sense out of all this data and drive ROI and value?

BrightEdge’s enterprise SEO platform specifically addresses this by tracking likes and shares and making recommendations for what social and search can do in tandem: ‘How can you improve search and social discoverability?’  We have Facebook collaboration, Twitter collaboration, and in fact have done research specifically into how tweets impact organic search. Case in point: TinyPrints.  They increased their organic search by 40% and follower engagement on pages and keywords grew 300% over a month long campaign that aligned Tweets with digital content. (Here’s more on Tiny Prints success aligning social and SEO).

It will become very powerful for enterprises to have teams for social and SEO that work together to look at social messages and their impact on search. By taking all of the search and social data, bringing it together into an enterprise-level workflow, companies can see what is trending really well and make highly-informed decisions about what content to push out in social channels. They will be able to deliver a fluid customer experience, engage their audiences even better, as well as make their company’s Twitter page or blog even easier to discover.

So in summary, marketers should be looking at how social and search can work together and how they can break down the silos between their search and social teams for improved organizational alignment that will offer better decision support and ultimately drive ROI.

CP: Pretty much every company has analytics and SEO in some form; but why in your view is it important to bring these two technologies together in a tightly integrated solution?  And how do you think companies can best organize and align to gain the maximum benefit from their search and analytics capabilities?

Customers demanded bringing together paid and organic search because of their need to have a common workflow. Every single customer can drive a lot of ROI and benefit from the increased capabilities of bringing these two channels together. When you inform what is being done in your organic search channel, and bring in business value from your analytics, it cascades through everything you are doing.  So having a set of technologies that can scale to combine paid and organic data and layer business information together, companies are able to take an ROI approach to their SEO efforts and apply best practices that can drive lift, such as ‘this is a keyword is driving this much conversion value.’

CP: As founder and CEO of BrightEdge, you get to interact with market innovators and movers.  From your vantage point, what are some of the meaningful trends you’re seeing emerge?  What advice would you offer that you believe every digital marketer should be aware of, whether they are ready to embark or not?

JY: First and foremost, as digital marketers, we are at the beginning of a huge transformation when we look at business functions. Marketing is fundamentally changing, and digital marketers have to stay on top of a lot. In Search you have massive changes with Google making 500+ changes per year, and we have to keep up with this rapid pace, distill what changes impact our businesses and what has to be done to stay ahead.

There is also the convergence of channels, and it is critical to have an integrated strategy across the different channels. It is no longer about site updates for SEO, or this is what I need to do for paid search, organic search, or in my social channels. Digital marketers will need an integrated approach.

Lastly, global (and local – which we recently announced) is huge – a lot of companies have a great baseline domestically that they are scaling out across regions and locally within regions. With the additional value from new geographies comes increased complexity for marketers and new, interesting dynamics with a central team supporting all regions and business units. And to that point, having an infrastructure that allows messages to be amplified to a global audience and one that can be targeted locally is also an important consideration.

BrightEdge and Adobe launched an Adobe Genesis Accredited integration late last year and we’ve already seen some great customer successes, including  HeBS Digital that used Adobe® Digital Marketing Suite and BrightEdge technology to increase Loews Hotels’ online reservations by 63%, conversions by 120%, and lift keyword ROI by 44%.


More about BrightEdge

BrightEdge is the global leader in enterprise SEO, helping more than 2,000 of the world’s largest brands stay ahead in the rapidly evolving Internet landscape. BrightEdge S3 harnesses the power of analytics on big-data to drive revenue from web sites, search engines and social networks across the globe in a measurable, predictable way. BrightEdge is based in San Mateo, CA with offices in New York City and London. For more information, please visit www.brightedge.com, friend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/seoplatform or follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brightedge.