While all companies can benefit from a detailed SWOT analysis, hyper-competitive, fast growth industries such as SEO (search engine optimization), require pin-point precision to enter and remain in the marketplace. As a retired Infantry Ranger Major, Dan Anton leveraged his ability to assess situations and create detailed war plans in order to fill a need and defeat the competition. This was his process and the growing pains over the last decade.
Strengths: SEO is very time-consuming and Monotonous
SEO is very labor-intensive. Whether registering to websites, creating content, placing links, tracking data, social networking, it’s usually monotonous and robotic. This was the opportunity and real strength of BacklinksIndexer, which automatically indexed webpages in Google’s index with a very high success rate. Nearly all internet marketers understand the importance of building backlinks, but if Google can’t find them, they are virtually worthless. Other competitors offered comparable services but Dan added an additional layer of service to be a “clear winner” according to ZontSEO. The added layer was brought about by customer recommendations, which shows the importance of customer feedback, as well as human testing before fine-tuning the automation process and going live inside the software.
Weaknesses: Cheap Labor and Artificial Intelligence Have Their Limitations
Weaknesses are usually covered up or ignored by services or software. Serendipitously bugs even go on to become features, but Dan Anton knew his software could be both scalable and affordable, but not ultra-high end SEO. Nothing could replace real life human outreach and public relations, but 80% of SEO tasks focused around backlinks and improving rankings, which is what the software would focus on. By not attempting to be everything, the software remained relevant as a hyper niche service within a niche; specialization and accepting weaknesses allowed the product to remain relevant and useful over the last 6 years, surviving Google major algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin.
Opportunities: SEO is Shifting to User Experiences
The search engines understand user experience is all that matters. A cat and a baby can see the same fish, yet view it remarkably different, one as dinner and the other in astonishment. Ground breaking case studies were done by SEO industry leaders such as Rand Fishkin, showing users could manipulate search results with click through rates, and time spent on site. Much like art, or technology mirroring real life, organisms do influence the world around them, known as biocentrism. Google has data access to the equivalent of 30 million personal computers, from sources such as Google Analytics, Adsense, Adwords, Google Shopping, Chrome and other products. The major opportunity here was to create a product which supplied quality, real traffic to website owners to enhance the CTR (click through rate), while also increasing time on site, lowering bounce rate.
This software would need to combine unskilled labor with automation to not only search for a business, but browse the website before leaving. Other cheap, fake traffic alternatives existed at cheaper costs, but would easily be discovered by search engines and penalized. To gain a huge “army” of searchers would require deep pockets and creating the most advanced SEO software to date, Crowd Search.
Threats: Rising Costs, Footprints, Scaling
The software had to remain affordable, but would require multiple resources from human labor to server resources to fulfill thousands of search interactions each day. Concurrently, competitors began to flood the marketplace with cheaper, bot based traffic, or traffic exchanges. Because the IP addresses were a finite pool or recurring, the competitors were caught by the search engines because of their obvious footprint. Crowd Search remained committed to human traffic, and needed a way to scale quickly. A large portion of initial capital was spent promoting the ability to get paid for searching to work at home moms and craigslist. This then lead to a broader audience with the creation of a mobile application, which allowed searches to be conducted by anyone with a phone and an internet connection. Within a few years the search army grew from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, receiving either payment or credits for conducting searches. To keep costs down much of the actions are now in the background of the mobile application, freeing up time, and keeping costs low while providing real human user metrics.
Theory vs Reality: Everyone Has a Plan…
As Mike Tyson eloquently stated, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the mouth”. SWOT can save many startups from wasting years chasing a moving target, constantly pivoting; by assessing the business climate objectively and creating a systematic plan you can increase your chances of entering, dominating and staying the leader in your industry. Today, Dan Anton runs one of the largest SEO agencies, including a client facing agency in Atlanta, where each new business, software, or feature is meticulously planned and executed, which are the principles learned during his military career.