Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the oldest pillars of digital marketing as we know it today – its core concepts could even predate Google by some margin. However, since its earlier days, SEO analytics has always had skeptics arguing that this digital marketing discipline is fading away or that it’d already died off.
Nonetheless, according to the study by Borell Associates, such claims couldn’t be more wrong – in fact, market developments suggest otherwise. It’s estimated that by 2020 US businesses would spend at least $80 billion in Search Engine Optimization services alone, which is more than any other digital marketing service including social media management, web hosting, and website design.
Taking that into account, one can’t deny SEO has grown from a shady manipulative craft to the sought-after, and also lucrative, industry. In this article, I’ll walk you through one technological breakthrough that made this transition possible - APIs.
APIs as the backbone of SEO
In plain language, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are a convenient “bridge” that enable the live-mode exchange of data between applications that may or may not have different programming architecture. The speed and ease of data exchange that APIs provide, allow for all sorts of modern technology and conveniences it offers. APIs are deeply integrated into every aspect of modern life: from how a cab is ordered to how money changes hands. Considering that over 170 new public APIs emerge every month (according to ProgrammableWeb), one can safely assume this hot tech is the underpinning of today’s digital economy. It’s only natural that one of the most notable industries where APIs have found widespread application is marketing technology in general and SEO software in particular. As of June 2019, there's already over 900 Marketing APIs and the number keeps snowballing.
The reason why APIs are so widespread across the SEO software landscape is the huge demand for accurate data that is often left unfulfilled. Collecting information from SERPs (search engine results pages), tracking website positions, conducting keyword research - that’s just a few SEO analytics activities that require significant volumes of data. APIs, in turn, provide the most convenient way to deliver the needed data from a third-party data source to SEO software.
It so happens that the overwhelming majority of SEO software businesses are relying on just several data providers, even though they are tight-fisted by NDAs (non-disclosure agreements are commonplace in the SEO data industry) and usually avoid being public about data sources. Afterall, given the tense competition in the industry and potential legal implications of web scraping, their concerns are perfectly understandable. Some of the more or less well-known players on the SEO data market are DataForSEO, Ahrefs, and Similar Web. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
- DataForSEO. The company is based out of Eastern Europe and has over 300 paying customers, most of which are software businesses and agencies. There’re speculations that DataForSEO could be the primary source of data for the majority of enterprise-level SEO tools, including BrightEdge, SEMrush, and Moz. Even though the company can neither confirm nor deny it due to NDA obligations, the spectrum of data it provides is remarkably wide and can be used to build any SEO application you can imagine. DataForSEO doesn’t disclose its annual revenue, but we can estimate it’s at least a seven-figure company.
- Ahrefs API. This Singapore-based SEO software company grew up to the eight-figure business without any venture capital involved. The key to the company’s success is providing information about incoming and outgoing links on web pages - the cornerstone of almost every search engine optimization technique. Ahrefs also provides backlink index data to other SEO tools via its API, but again, there’s no publicly available information about businesses leveraging it.
- SimilarWeb. Having been on the market since 2007, Israeli-based SimilarWeb raised over $112 million throughout the eight funding rounds, according to CrunchBase. The significant part of data that company provides is collected through its self-titled free browser extension that on the one hand offers instant information about website traffic, but on the other hand, also collects information about websites you visit. Consequently, through SimilarWeb API you can obtain vast volumes of domains’ traffic and other kinds of clickstream data.
Despite the certain technological challenges linked with processing massive volumes of information and in spite of Google’s crackdown on web scraping, using third-party SEO APIs is the easiest way to build an effective tool for SEO analytics. In fact, APIs can сut off much of the time and money required for the development.
The Future of SEO Analytics
The power of Application Programming Interfaces gave a massive boost to the SEO Analytics ecosystem. What’s more, it won’t be slowing down any time soon. Technavio’s market research analysts predict the global SEO software market to grow at a CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) of 15% during the 2018-2022 period, what means a booming incremental growth by some $538.58 million.
At this point, you could’ve already started calculating the possible returns from investing in the SEO analytics industry. While it may seem a good idea to find and exploit a gap in the market offerings, mind the fierce competition. There’re over 7,040 existing tools on the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, so apparently, it’ll take lots of analysis and countless try-outs to come up with an innovative and profitable idea.
Ultimately, your best chance of building a successful product in such a crowded market is to model existing (and profit-generating) solutions. There’s likely an API that will help you get ahead.
Article by George Svash, Director of Content Marketing at DataForSEO