SEOMoz Kicks Off Buying Spree with Followerwonk

By Erin Griffith , written on August 15, 2012

From The News Desk

When SEOmoz raised an $18 million Series B round of funding earlier this year, the software company noted that it would be on the prowl for acquisitions. Today marks its first: SEOmoz has acquired Followerwonk, a Portland-based Twitter analytics company with just three people on the payroll.

Sometimes it's good to start small.

This is CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin's first company and his first acquisition -- he's okay with working up to a larger one. Fishkin said there is one deal in advanced talks and three more potential deals in the pipeline. For its part, SEOmoz is growing quickly and organically: the company is up to 82 employees now, predicting revenue between $18 million and $20 million this year.

Mergers often resemble the delicate tap-dance of dating, with suitors putting out feelers, and acquisition targets soliciting indications of interest. Fishkin's first deal more closely resembled online dating: He simply sent an email to the generic inbox at Followerwonk that said, "I would love to know more about the mysterious geniuses behind your team." The seduction tactic worked -- the deal closed in just over a month and SEOmoz customers will have access to Followerwonk tools immediately.

I noted that SEOmoz had saved the bootstrapped company from having to raise venture capital. Fishkin responded, "And they saved us from having to spend a fortune!" The company doesn't take itself too seriously -- you may remember the fairly hilarious "memenouncement" of its Series B funding from Foundry Group and Ignition Partners. It was deemed internally at PandoDaily as the best press release we have ever seen.

The companies' offerings are complimentary: SEOmoz helps professionals hone their organic search rankings. It uses a freemium model and has just under 17,000 paying subscribers and two million monthly users. The company's focus is on helping small and medium-sized businesses, but "has a lot of enterprise customers almost by accident," Fishkin says. Individual marketers at large companies like MTV, Wells Fargo, and Virgin Airlines use SEOmoz because it's simple and inexpensive, he says.

Many SEOmoz customers are actually paying for Followerwonk, but as of today, it's free for them. Followerwonk allows marketers to do Twitter profile searches, user comparison, and analysis through visual graphs. SEOmoz has almost no social capabilities and will roll Followerwonk's features into its platform in the next nine months. Followerwonk has 250 to 300 paying subscribers and users in the tens of thousands.

SEOmoz didn't acquire the company for its users -- the company's acquisition strategy consists of shoring up weaknesses in its own offering, or acquiring data and related analytics tools that would take too long to build internally.