Last Thursday, Awesome Motive CEO Syed Balkhi announced his company acquired the All in One SEO Pack (AIOSEO) plugin. Michael Torbert, the plugin creator, first released AIOSEO in 2007. Since then, the plugin has been downloaded over 65 million times. It is currently active on over 2 million WordPress sites.
Balkhi said his company acquired the project for two primary reasons. “First, because our users continuously asked us to build an SEO plugin that’s easier to use and is more affordable,” he said. “They specifically wanted an SEO plugin that was reliable and results-focused like some SaaS software is.” The second reason was that he did not want the plugin to end up in the wrong hands. “All in One SEO has played an important role in the history of WordPress, in the history of WPBeginner (since this was the first SEO plugin I used), and there are a lot of users who rely on All in One SEO Pack to optimize their WordPress site for SEO.”
“I’m confident in handing over the reins to such a great organization in Awesome Motive and excited to see what the next chapter brings for AIOSEOP under your leadership,” said Torbert in response to Balkhi’s announcement.
For many years, AIOSEO enjoyed the spotlight. It was the go-to SEO plugin for a large segment of the WordPress user base. However, in recent years, Yoast SEO has captured a larger share of the market. It is currently installed on over 5 million websites. Other plugins such as The SEO Framework have also eaten into the market. Plus, newcomer Rank Math SEO has been making waves and picking up users at a steady clip. Needless to say, there is much fiercer competition among SEO plugins than in AIOSEO’s heyday.
“The SEO plugin market is definitely a competitive one, but I feel it’s only competitive by quantity,” said Balkhi. “WordPress as a platform is flourishing, and one of the reasons for that is the choices/freedoms that WordPress offers to users, including the choice of which SEO plugin to use.”
Balkhi has a knack for growing products, and the WordPress ecosystem is steadily growing. Currently, over 14 million websites use his software. He launched WP Beginner, a free WordPress resource site, in 2009. Since then, he’s launched successful products like OptinMonster, a conversion optimization toolkit; WPForms, a drag-and-drop form builder; MonsterInsights, a Google Analytics plugin; and more. In 2019, his company launched RafflePress, a contest and giveaway plugin.
Balkhi noted that he does not manage all of these properties on his own. “The truth is that I’m blessed to work alongside with some of the most talented people in the ecosystem that are my partners in various ventures, such as Thomas Griffin, Jared Atchison, Chris Christoff, John Turner, Blair Williams, Steve and Stephanie Wells, Josh Kohlbach, and now Benjamin Rojas,” he said. “Without my partners and the rest of our amazing Awesome Motive team, none of what we do would be possible.”
The question is now whether his company can grow AIOSEO’s audience from its current 2 million users while turning a profit.
“Our growth plan for the next year and beyond is to make an SEO plugin that’s geared towards beginners and non-techy business owners,” said Balkhi. “An SEO plugin that’s always reliable, comes with exceptional customer support, and most importantly is results-focused. I believe when we meet these three criteria, we will have done more than enough to set ourselves apart from the competition.”
Except for Torbert, the entire AIOSEO team is joining Awesome Motive and will continue working on the plugin. “Some of the team members were previously part-time contractors, but now they will be working full-time on AIOSEO, so you can say that the product team has actually grown,” said Balkhi.
Benjamin Rojas will be taking the lead role in managing the plugin. He was previously one of the senior members from Awesome Motive’s OptinMonster team. Alongside this change, the company is planning to add two new hires in the coming weeks. Balkhi expressed a desire to “hit the ground running at full speed.”
The Future of the Plugin
The current version of AIOSEO (v.3.3.5) feels a bit dated. It lacks integration directly with the block editor, relying on the older meta box system. The settings screens do not fit completely into the WordPress admin UI. Cleaning up these areas could offer some quick and instant wins in the short term.
AIOSEO and other SEO plugins, in general, need to make the complex simple.
SEO plugins can be painfully complex to configure. At times, the user experience can be overwhelming. The average user should not need to be an SEO expert or spend half an hour configuring a post’s SEO options. It should not feel like work before sharing content with the world.
“Aside from SEO experts and consultants, just about everyone else finds SEO to be confusing,” said Balkhi. “How do you know whether the SEO settings that you have are driving results? Is the green light enough or is it lying? Is the green light even relevant?” These are the types of questions Balkhi said his company receives from users. “Unfortunately there isn’t a single solution in the market that solves these problems,” he said.
Based on what is currently available, there’s a gap between the set-it-and-forget-it type of SEO plugins and highly-advanced plugins. There’s an unclaimed middle ground that guides users without complicating things.
Balkhi is not yet prepared to provide specific details from the roadmap, playing it a little close to the vest. “I want to build a WordPress SEO plugin that’s both reliable and results-focused,” he said. He will be working closely with the team as they work to revamp the plugin.
“I have a lot of plans to improve the product, and I’m really excited to be bringing several of our internal SEO tools into a single plugin suite to share with the larger community,” said Balkhi. “My goal is that after our series of updates and new features, All in One SEO will give WordPress sites an even bigger SEO advantage over other third-party CMS platforms.”
I think this is a bold (i.e., risky) move as the competition in the SEO space has really heated up.
SEOPress is $39 per year for unlimited sites and, RankMath is free. Gone are the days when Yoast can charge $129 per year for premium + local bundles.
I love WPForms, so I hope Balkhi is successful in this fierce battlefield…