SEO Tools make life more difficult for SEO specialists
A few month ago, Patrick Coombe, a popular figure in the SEO community, had this to say about a popular SEO tool:
“I'm not going to name any names but a very popular SEO tool keeps adding more and more features — and I keep getting more and more confused. There are over 100 features, and I use about 4 of them, maybe 5 or 6 – the rest of them (to me as a professional SEO) are totally unnecessary.”
And you know what? I totally agree with him. Professionals use very few features in SEO software. Why? Well, there are two main reasons:
- Bad UX,
- Lack of focus on the actual workflow of SEO specialists
Problem 1 : UX Issues
UX is probably the most important element of any web-app today. The problem with most SEO tools, though is that they were released a long time ago and any updates and new features have been kind of wedged into an aging interface that wasn’t designed for them in the first place. This leads to super-cluttered UIs.
For example, take a look at this menu from a famous SEO app. Let’s say you just want to find keywords. You know, the first step of any SEO workflow? To do that, you’d have to navigate to:
- Phrase match
- Related Keywords
- Keyword difficulty
- Keyword magic tool
- PPC keyword tool
- Keyword overview
When you work as an SEO, you need to pull a keyword list quick and export it to Excel to organize the keywords. When you have to go to two different places, you’re losing time twice:
- On understanding each menu item (i.e. “Phrase Match” and “Related Keywords” are on separate screens
- On assembling all your information in one spreadsheet. You could be merging two different exports into one sheet. And if the information comes from six different tools… you’ll be here all day!
From the software publisher’s point of view, there are six powerful features that each provide different data. But, from the user’s point of view, there are six steps for completing one simple task. See, it’s not just about having every feature imaginable in one SEO tool; it’s also about what users need to get done in their day-to-day SEO work.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all SEO tools are bad. There are some amazing tools out there that really help SEO specialists with their work every day. As an SEO, I’m really grateful for tools like Majestic SEO, Moz, SEMRush, Ahrefs, etc. They produce great data and useful insights. The way I see it, the real problem with SEO software isn’t the quality of the data or the list of features. In fact, the average app probably has more feature than you could possibly use in your day-to-day SEO work.
I’ve been an SEO specialist for 10 years now and the most common complaint I’ve heard from my clients and colleagues has been:
“I can’t hit my SEO goals because I just don’t have enough time”
So I sought out to understand why. There had to be a solution, I thought. And that’s when I uncovered the second - and most important - problem.
Problem 2 : Lack of focus on the actual SEO Workflow
As the CEO of an SEO company, I came across this problem so much that I had to make sure I wasn’t the only one. So in December 2016, my business partner Stėphane and I spent 3 weeks in NYC and San Francisco with one simple mission: to understand what made SEO so time-consuming. I wanted to study exactly how experts went about their work. Using LinkedIn, I hand-selected 45 SEO specialists to meet with. For diversity of opinion, I looked at four different profiles :
- SEO freelancers
- SEO specialists in web or
- SEO agenciesSEO writers
- In-house SEO specialists
We spent anywhere between 1 to 3 hours which each person. Our goal was to create a huge diagram describing the average SEO specialist’s workflow. Every question we asked was open-ended, yet precise. For each SEO task someone mentioned, we asked follow-up questions so we could understand the exact sequence of their work.
As an example, here are the questions we asked an agency SEO specialist who is in charge of audits:
- When you have a new client, what is the first thing you do? The second? (etc..)
Ok, so you told us you usually start with keyword research. What are the different steps to this task? (...)
You told us that your third step is to export the different keyword lists you made with Google AdWords and Moz to Excel. Can you describe how you use this export?
You said you have seven columns in your spreadsheet: Primary Keyword, Secondary Keywords, URL of Targeted Page, Search Volume, Competition, Priority, Notes. Can you explain how you find the targeted pages? (…)
Ok, I understood that for the targeted pages, you select pages that already rank for the keywords, and if there is no page ranking, you check the website for a page that might fit. How do you know if the page fits?
Using the answers to these questions (among others), we were able to draw out a typical SEO workflow:
This SEO workflow takes place in three different environments:
This means that SEO specialists are constantly going back and forth between these different tools. For the website, the client, or the company, there are only two high-value tasks in the workflow above:
- Creating content
- Fixing issues
On average, these two steps represent only 42% of the time spent by our SEO specialists. The rest of the time was spent on low-value and repetitive tasks:
- Finding keywords
- Grouping keywords that should be targeted by the same page
- Mapping keywords and pages
- Organizing keywords
- Setting up an SEO rank tracking tool
- Setting up audits with an SEO tool
- Going back and forth between the SEO audit and
These tasks take up 60% of SEO specialists’ time for one specific reason: SEO tools are only SEO tools. They are not SEO workflow tools. They each come with a long list of features, but they’re not where the SEO work actually takes place.
We need a place where SEO work can take place
We created Mazen because we identified the real problem with SEO. It’s not that people don’t know how to do it. On the contrary, there are thousands of great SEO specialists, SEO agencies, online SEO guides, a dynamic SEO community, and audit and keyword research tools out there.
No, the real problem with SEO is that the work is long, tedious, and mostly spent on repetitive and low-value tasks.
Mazen is the first SEO workflow app that allows you to manage your entire SEO workflow from just one screen. From researching keywords to editing CMS content, everything can be done from Mazen’s unique and magical dashboard.
This is a game changer for any SEO specialist. In the diagrams below, we broke down the “average day” of an SEO specialist using Mazen and compared it to one not using Mazen : Mazen is the First SEO Workflow Tool.
Mazen is the First SEO Workflow Tool.
Mazen is the CRM for SEO
Remember the days before CRMs, when you managed customer lists in Excel spreadsheets, contacted them using your e-mail client, and managed your client meetings in your calendar?
The back and forth between those three tools was such a time-killer.
And then came the CRM.
At first, it was just an idea. We believed that SEO should be about creativity and marketing and we wanted to create a technology that could do all the boring stuff for our users.
So we headed back to Mazen HQ (we run a digital agency and developed a popular SEO tool in France called Optimiz.me). We put our heads down and worked hard on finding the simplest way to do all of the repetitive tasks we identified in our SEO workflow study.
We started by defining our goal. This was not going to be about features. It was going to be about letting SEO specialists focus on creativity and efficiency, the things they love most about their jobs.
When everybody on our team was on board with the mission, we got to work. Our first objective was to design a simple screen. Not a convoluted app, a screen. Just one. We thought that if we could fit the entire SEO workflow on a single screen, we would have achieved our goal.
We hired three UX designers from a top New York agency to work with our VP of Product, our CEO, and our CTO. Together, we built our first wireframes… on Post-Its and white boards.
Testing, testing, and more testing…
Before we even wrote a single line of code, we created a wireframe mockup using InVision. It was just an animated sequence, but our testers could click on buttons, navigate, and give us their feedback. We made a couple of changes, but we were on the right track.
The fake video demo that led us to TechCrunch Disrupt
In January 2017,we still didn’t have a line of code, but we created a short video and sent it to TechCrunch Disrupt NY. We wanted to see if our product had legs before we really started building it.
We think they like it: We were selected by Disrupt NY to present in Startup Alley.
Mazen: the entire SEO workflow on one screen
Mazen allows you to view and control your entire SEO workflow from a single screen:
- Select keywords
- Automatically group keywords as primary and secondary
- Automatically find the best page on your site for each group of keywords (one topic per page)
- Audit your website (technical problems, title tags, content)
- Edit and update your website directly via our CMS connector
- Track your rankings, as well as your competitors’
- Customize your experience. Create new views and choose whatever information you want to display: e.g. keywords, rankings and traffic for each keyword, title tag of each page targeting the keywords, alt texts, backlinks, page authority… The list goes on!
SEO specialists understood the innovation we were offering just from our pre-launch homepage.
We wanted to continue gathering feedback from the SEO community, so we launched a one-page site with a call to action to register for the beta. The page described how we were going to save SEO specialists’ time, listing the key features of our future software:
We promoted this one-page site via Facebook and we asked each subscriber why they wanted to join us :
Mazen looks as if it can make my SEO life simpler
Searching for an all in one tool to boost my SEO workdays
It looks like an awesome tool that will save me and my clients TIME and MONEY
Aggregating and editing data in one dashboard
Looking for a more efficient way to work on SEO
Our company manages 20-25 websites & directories in the addiction treatment space, and if we had an easy place to manage all our sites it would keep our productivity high in less time.
Looking for one tool to do it all.
Currently I am working with multiple spreadsheets and it’s becoming difficult to manage
I'm intrigued by the time savings and possible cost savings. We seem to have to piece a lot of stuff together for clients’ SEO using SEM Rush Reports and Google Analytics, and then make changes in individual sites and pages with tools like Yoast. It's just not a streamlined process and consumes a lot of time. We work with small to mid-sized businesses and tried to offer them "packaged pricing" that aligns with their budgets, but I feel like half of our contracted time is spent on the admin of SEO and not actually focused on putting great SEO-building content out there.
You seem to be focused on what's most important to me, and that's saving time. I have the knowledge and I have the tools, but it's hard to find enough time in the day to take action. Your features seem unique and interesting.
If you can do what you say you can do, we can use that time to do more client work
Because I would want the tedious process of SEO to get simpler & more efficient
Seems interesting if it can do what it says; time-saving possibilities are a key driver
As a digital marketing manager at my company, I am always looking for tools that can optimize my workflow and increase efficiency.
Need to speed up SEO work for client sites
I use four different tools to manage SEO and I would like to just use one
Looks promising. SEO needs an industry shake-up
Thank YOU for your time today. We think we can add value to your software and possibly be an evangelist in the US - as long as we like it 🙂 We look forward to seeing the beta
Thank you so much. I just completed the survey. I’m excited to see what happens. Please let me know next steps
I really enjoyed Mazen’s pitch at last night’s StartupBoost event. Having been in the digital marketing space for much of my career, it’s clear how valuable Mazen can be. It’s definitely one of those products that makes you think "Why didn’t I think of that? And why doesn’t it exist already?"
Encouraged by the feedback, we hired a dream team
We knew that if we wanted to be an SEO tool that lets you manage spreadsheets and your CMS, we would need highly specialized personnel.
- PHP expert to build a bridge between our software and CMS platforms (since most CMSs are written in PHP)
- An AI expert to build us a technology that would not only suggest keywords, but automatically select the best ones, group them, and find the best landing pages for each - even if a website has a million pages. Our guy has a PhD in semantic web and artificial intelligence and developed a really innovative search engine for his doctorate.
- And four web developers (Node.js) for the back and front-end
- One Infrastructure specialists for proxies and performance purpose
The entire team was involved in every step of creating and fleshing out Mazen’s UX and features.
Within two months, and with very little communication efforts, we already had 1200 signups to test our beta. We were even interviewed by journalists intrigued by our product. Below is a clip of a TV interview we taped in the Nasdaq office in Times Square.
In march, we were interviewed by BFM TV, french equivalent of CNN :
The best SEO tool is one that brings value
In March 2017, we joined an incubator (Impact) and set up shop at the Galvanize coworking space in NYC. This program gave us access to experts who helped us with all things entrepreneurial. One of them said to us: “Ok, you say you save SEO specialists time so that they can focus on what really matters. But, at the end of the day, do you tell them what really matters?”
What really matters to you ?
We asked our 1,200 beta testers what really mattered to them. We got different answers, depending on their personality, their role, and their professional background:
Getting more clients and making more money
Making clients happier
Having more time to spend with family
Isn’t that powerful? We can help companies grow, we can make our clients’ clients happier, and we can even help make our clients’ families happier.
That’s a real privilege for us and we can’t wait to continue this adventure. So here’s our pledge to you: we’ll continue to focus on what really matters to us, making your life easier, so that you can spend more time on what matters to you and what you love most about SEO.