informa
/
Commentary

The Debate Over SEO Automation

Some readers take issue with Yield Software's claim that it can automate much of the manual work associated with search engine optimization. Is Yield blowing smoke? Or are SEO experts who make a living on consulting worried about their business prospects?
Some readers take issue with Yield Software's claim that it can automate much of the manual work associated with search engine optimization. Is Yield blowing smoke? Or are SEO experts who make a living on consulting worried about their business prospects?To recap, Yield, a startup company, is developing a hosted service that uses algorithms to optimize a Web site's ranking on Google and other search engines and to automate the process of buying keywords. My original post on Yield's service, being tested now and due in the first half of next year, is here.

In comments to the blog, Graeme Thickins with tech~surf~blog writes that "midsized firms will eat this up," while Scott Wilson at The Cart Blog predicts "a great recurring revenue model" for Yield.

Others, however, are skeptical. Roger Wehbe (yooter.com) calls Yield's software "a total waste of resources." Another reader questions whether Yield's service isn't so-called black hat SEO -- referring to the unethical practice of gaming the search engines for better ranking. And Internet marketing consultant Derrick Shields, in an analysis of his own, writes, "This isn't SEO; it's Web analytics. You can take analytics metrics and apply them to your SEO strategies, but this isn't SEO."

So, who's right? I called Yield CEO Matt Malden to give him a chance to respond. Malden insists that Yield's service works as advertised and that there's nothing fishy about it. "The natural evolution is that technology advances to the point that automates these tasks," he says. "That's exactly what's happening here." There's still a place for SEO experts to get involved. For example, refining site content and link building are best done by living, breathing decision makers. That said, Malden estimates that 90% of search engine optimization and marketing can be automated. (Competitors include Adapt Technologies, with its SEM in a box, and Marin Software, with its Search Marketer online apps.)

Derrick Shields is right, Malden says, that Yield's service isn't pure SEO -- though it's partly that. But Shields is wrong in describing Yield's service as Web analytics -- it's more than that. "Web analytics just gives you data so you can figure out the problem," Malden says. "Yield takes it to the next level and actually analyzes the data and implements the appropriate improvements."

There's some hair splitting going on here on both sides. I'm no expert, but given my own experiences with SEO, there's got to be a better way. What do others think? Are SEO and SEM ripe for the hosted services model?