SEOmoz acquires AudienceWise and continues its move into Portland

By Richard Nieva , written on January 23, 2013

From The News Desk

A few hours into 2013, Sarah Bird, COO of the marketing software company SEOmoz, received a tweet praising her company: “Happy new year @seomoz and @randfish! Thanks for making the Internet work and user friendly. We <3 #seo too :)”

Love, Anonymous. Yes, that Anonymous, the amorphous, covert hacker group. No doubt unexpected, but it does prove a good point: Everyone could stand to use some search engine optimization – even the most infamous hacker organization. “Well, they put out a lot of content,” says Bird, laughing.

Any endorsement is a good endorsement, right?

The Seattle-based company peddles software that helps businesses to better their inbound marketing. Users can track their website's performance in various rankings versus their competitors. The service also provides feedback on the kinds of links and title tags that are most effective for customers, and what they should change. Customers – besides Anonymous – include small firms and heavyweights like Disney and MTV. In May, the company raised an $18 million series B by Foundry Group and Ignition Partners.

Aside from winning the hearts of some hackers, the company has also been growing rapidly this year. Today it announced the acquisition of its third company in five months. SEOmoz bought Portland-based AudienceWise, a consultancy firm focused on developing and building audiences for news publishers and ecommerce websites. But that’s not the important part of the announcement; the consultancy business is actually not even a part of the deal – of which terms weren’t disclosed, other than that it was in the low seven-figures.

The tie-up is an acqui-hire – a talent grab for cofounders Tim Resnik and Matthew Brown, two Internet marketing veterans. SEOmoz was mostly interested in the IP each of them had developed. One tool is an analysis program built for Twitter and used during the election last November, which closely tracked who was being talked about and why. “It really got how influence spreads," says Bird. AudienceWise will still keep its branding, and Resnik and Brown will retain about one or two clients, says Bird.

Also significant is the fact that each of the company’s three new acquisitions – Followerwonk and GetListed being the other two – are based in Portland, which says something about that ecosystem and the exits coming out of that tech community. And SEOmoz isn't the only one making news in the city. Janrain, a social media marketing firm, confirmed a $33 million funding round last week, among the biggest venture rounds ever in for an Oregon Internet company, according to the Oregonian.

SEOmoz also announced the opening of an office in Portland, where the company will and develop its next generation of products predicted to launch in April.

While the company has some prominent customers, the landscape around SEO is rapidly changing. The popularity of media companies like BuzzFeed have changed much of the thinking around gaining traction of the Internet. Social sharing – and the analytics around it – has added a wrinkle to Internet discovery that SEO doesn’t touch. Other social utilities are getting more into the game as well. The URL-shortening service Bitly launched a social data API launched earlier this month to give developers more information about real-time attention spikes.

Social makes SEOmoz's business more complicated, which has prompted the company to launch several tools for social search optimization over the last 18 months. No doubt, Anonymous approves.

[Image source: Mr.Thomas]