The SEO SaaS Gap
Every SEO tool is about data to move forward.
It standardizes and automates processes.
Tools should bring data with directives on how to move forward. Give me data and the next step.
The next steps are often one of two things:
- Tweak this
- Create that
Data from tools like SurferSEO, Sitebulb and Screaming Frog provide data with the next step being tweak this:
- Header Count
- URL formatting
- Image size/alt
But Screaming Frog is the outlier here. SurferSEO and Sitebulb will tell you by design what you need to tweak. With Screaming Frog, you need to know what you’re looking at to make tweaks.
Data from tools like Ahrefs, BrightLocal, and a different part of SurferSEO provide data with the next step being create that.
The hallmark of a starter tool is the ability to paste-in a URL to get back data gleamed from the site in various ways.
Because when you’re just starting, your big question is “what do I do?”
And you want your tools to answer that.
Tools define process
This idea was first brought to me by the article Build tools around workflows, not workflows around tools from Linus over at thesephist.com.
And while I generally agree with the statement, I’m more fascinated about what tools can teach us about process.
Tools answer “what do I do?”
My first instinct in learning about a new field is to ask what software do they use.
Let’s say you want to learn how to do something, maybe video editing.
I like to start by learning the names of tools professionally used and the differences between them. Why do people prefer this tool over that tool.
Instead of starting with questions about ”how to“, I start by looking at debates of professionals in the field regarding the tools they use.
A more concrete example of how tools teach you process is Salesforce.
Salesforce is big enterprise tool for standardized sales processes. So, if you want to learn sales processes, all you have to do is use Salesforce or another leading CRM and almost by osmosis you’ll see how sales processes work.
Tools teach you a process.
Adopting to standards rather than setting your own.
Network effect kicks in.
Ahrefs primarily gives you pages and sites that link to a given URL or domain.
Screaming Frog primarily gives you metadata for every page across your site.
SurferSEO primarily gives you metadata for every page across your site.
None of these tools allow someone to hop into the tool for the first time and go, “I know exactly what I should do now.”
But that’s the reaction you should be aiming for.
When I go to a restaurant and the items on the menu are new to me, I always defer to the waiters preference. I don’t know, they’re the experts on their products.
So starter tools are all about pushing forward what data you can get from one input URL.
And what data is helpful? Data that tells you tweak this, create that.
When we come across new tools, we want them to tell us what to do. And when they don’t, it’s frustrating.