Industry Survey Underscores How The SEO Industry Relies On Google’s Free Tools

google-g-logoIf there’s one thing that stands out in the 2012 SEO Industry Survey, it’s that the SEO industry relies heavily on the free SEO-related tools that Google provides.

SEOmoz released the results of its semi-annual survey today — a survey conducted between March and May that drew responses from almost 6,500 people in more than 100 countries. Almost half of the respondents (47.3 percent) were from the U.S., and 77 percent were males.

There’s some interesting data about marketing budgets (for example, 34.4 percent say they spend $1,000 and up on consulting each month) and tactics used (76 percent say they’ve setup or ran a Facebook business page, more than any other specific tactic in the survey), but the data related to the use of free marketing tools struck me.

The top keyword research tool? Google’s AdWords tool. (And Google Insights for Search was second.)

The top analytics tool? Google Analytics.

Top conversion tool? Google Website Optimizer.

Top free SEO tool? Google Webmaster Tools. (see bottom right of image below)

And in each case, there’s not really a close second.


To a large degree, this shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s been in the industry for any length of time.

But it really underscores the strange love/hate relationship that SEOs seem to have with Google.

On the one hand you have SEOs reacting loudly and negatively when Google switches to encrypted search, changes its AdWords formulas and introduces something like Search Plus Your World. And wow … if you want to see/read negative opinions about Google from SEOs, go back and read some of the articles in our Panda update and Penguin update archives.

On the other hand, you have the industry relying very heavily on the free tools that Google itself provides to make the SEO’s job easier and more effective. Google Analytics and the Google Adwords keyword tool are used almost universally, based on survey results. Google Webmaster Tools is used by five of every six respondents, and Google Website Optimizer is used by nearly three-quarters of those who took the survey. Imagine if Google took away one or more of these free tools, like Yahoo closed SiteExplorer last year. What interesting times we’re in right now in search marketing.

(For more on the love-hate relationship that the SEO industry has had with Google and other search engines, don’t miss Danny Sullivan’s article, 2011: The Year Google & Bing Took Away From SEOs & Publishers.)

That’s just a snapshot of the 2012 SEO Industry Survey. Full results are available on SEOmoz. You can also see some slides related to the survey in the presentation below.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | SEM Industry: Community | SEM Industry: General | SEM Industry: Stats | SEM Tools | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Matt Gill

    I think if I was an SEO consultant I’d be a little concerned by this – as Andrew states, what if Google just decides to pull the ‘free rug’ away from under the consultants’ feet and start charging $?

    Interestingly, many big media buying agencies are in a not too dissimilar position, relying on Google ‘technology grants’ to set up and run their trading desks for performance display media…obviously a different field of communications to SEO but it illustrates just how reliant many aspects of the digital media/marketing community are on one company.

  • Ajay Prasad

    SEO without using google tool doesn’t make any sense, such google tools are playing key factor in SEO. Although there are so many other tools also but they not as perfect as google tools are.

  • Art Science Web

    Google really dictates the rules here. But thats ok, it’s like nuclear warfare, who wants to pull the trigger (turning off services) when they’ll be no one left to control?

  • Travis Van Slooten

    Ya, this survey doesn’t surprise me. The tool I suspect that will cause a firestorm sooner than later is Analytics because of Google’s notorious keyword data “not provided” issue. I’ve got sites I’m monitoring where over 60% of the keyword data is no longer provided. Once it reaches 75%, which I fully suspect it will, I’m going to need an alternative.

    Travis Van Slooten

  • Peter Kern

    can you explain what is key factor for SEO besides spying your website by google?

  • Peter Kern

    I removed google analytics because the new version is total rubbish. I prefer piwik instead.

  • Ken Ashe

    You need to use Google’s tools because you only really care about Google. If I cared about Bing, I would use their tools instead. All the third party tools are interesting, but I really only care what Google sees and uses for calculating my rank.

  • Carisa Carlton

    I’m not a big fan of Google analytics either.

  • Hillz

    another good question to ask is…what happens when Google starts using the data they collect about your site against you? Keep in mind, they updated their privacy policy recently

  • Wingnut

    Pretty much this. I used it because it was free… and gave me real info… This not provided and (not set) is bull%$#%

  • Sanket Patel

    I have read all comments there are many negative reviews about google, but still we are preferred Google’s tool for analysis our website. There are millions of people who are using free tools of Google if we want to rank in Google so why we don’t preferred it’s policy. We all follow updates producing by Google and change our website as per Google’s requirements. So according to me Google’s tools are best for me.

  • mohd anis

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  • Gabriel Harper

    If they did that, someone would likely jump right in and scoop up the open market. It would almost certainly result in an outraged webmaster community. They might not charge, but it doesn’t mean all those users & data aren’t valuable.

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