Awesome Motive Acquires the All in One SEO Pack Plugin

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

Screenshot of the main settings screen for the All in One SEO plugin.
Primary settings screen for the AIOSEO 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.”

27 responses to “Awesome Motive Acquires the All in One SEO Pack Plugin”

  1. 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…

  2. Rank Math is planning a PRO version. See this customer support post here: https://support.rankmath.com/ticket/rank-math-pricing/

    Agreed that there are some things in SEO plugins that are hard to master. One immediate example is setting up your Facebook Developers key for OpenGraph. You have to have some experience with a Facebook Developers account to know how to set that up and find your own Facebook ID, which is hidden in the code on the front end and you need to View Source to find it. You also need to know what you’re looking for.

    And, while it’s nice to have, so many plugins can now connect with Google Search Console that those fields for connecting to search engines are rendered moot. You also need to know what to copy and paste in those fields and how to get those identification credentials.

    These things are explained by AIOSEO with tooltips to their own site knowledge base, but it’s not made easy by either Google or Facebook to just connect and forget about it.

    Personally, I love AIOSEO. Great team. And, in full disclosure, I worked for them for a bit to help rebrand and handle holiday email marketing campaigns a few years back. Regardless, they are super professional and have built a great plugin with terrific support.

    As for Yoast, they’ve simply been much better at marketing. Getting Neil Patel and others to mention Yoast all the time and being listed as the go-to plugin so frequently on their blog and other blogs from other SEO publications gave them a hand up in the marketing world, but I’ve always thought AIOSEO was a better plugin, at least for SEO pros. To me, Yoast serves the beginner, whereas AIOSEO is a bit more sophisticated for an SEO professional.

  3. There are so many SEO plugins to choose from, All in One Seo and Yoast are the two most popular ones. I have used both on different sites. Both have their own advantages. In this fast moving SEO world, one has to cope up with the changes. Hope this acquisition gives users more benefits to explore.

  4. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. Yoast has been no. 1 for so long, but with the full might of Syed’s empire (WPBeginer etc) now behind AIOSEO, my bet would be that within a year or so there will be a new SEO plugin king.

  5. This part of the post describing the acquisition caught my attention:

    “Awesome Motive CEO Syed Balkhi announced his company acquired the All in One SEO Pack (AIOSEO) plugin”

    The AIOSEO plugin is under GPL. Anyone can is free to acquire the plugin under GPL. So why is the acquisition talked about as if the plugin itself was acquired?

    What was really acquired are the rights to plugin’s brand trademark and the staff who developed the plugin.

    I think better and more accurate would have been, “Company X acquires company Y, the creators of Z plugin. The acquisition included, 1, 2 3…”

    This sets us up for better understanding and discussion of the transaction.

    Thanks!

    • Technically, the copyright/ownership of the plugin was acquired and not just the code. Nit-picking that difference does not help clarify the acquisition for the layperson who may be reading the Tavern. From their perspective, copyright of the plugin and ownership of any branding is no different than simply saying the plugin was acquired. For the purposes of writing for our full audience, it is fair to say that the plugin was acquired. Even Syed’s original announcement doesn’t make this distinction, likely for the same reasons.

  6. I used the All In One SEO plugin on all my WordPress sites a few years ago but I’m not a technical person, so it became more and more complicated for me to configure or even know for certain that my settings were making any difference.

    This is one of the main reasons why I switched to Yoast as it was less technical and more simple for me to setup and understand.

    Although I think Syed Balkhi is the perfect person to change the future of the plugin as he knows what WordPress users want and as he plans on simplifying the plugin, I will certainly consider switching back in the future.

    From my own experience, a massive amount of people use WordPress to build their sites because it’s less technical and simple for beginners, so the plugin will do much better if focusing on that segment of the market.

    I’m looking forward to checking out the plugin once Awesome Motive have updated the interface based on their own insights of this growing market.

  7. When I began using using WordPress 8 years ago, all-one-SEO was the craze of the moment and I enjoyed it. But Yoast green-bar and auto-keyword analysis make it almost impossible to beat.

    Hope this new team gets this plugin going.

    • From a buyer perspective, the XML sitemaps feature could be interesting too. The upsell to users could be features that plugins provide to extend sitemaps since core will be shipping a basic feature set with no options.

      • Why would somebody install an extra plugin for xml sitemap if the feature is present in core? No plugin = no upsell.

        • Sitemaps in core will be just a basic feature. Plugins may add image, video, and news sitemaps, which won’t be in core. They can also provide options to exclude posts/pages from a sitemap. There’s room for different types of caching, particularly for larger sites. Sitemap-related features won’t disappear just because the basic feature is in core.

  8. Never heard about this plugin. The only two familiar with me are Yoast and RankMath. May have to give it a try.

  9. I had been using Yoast for a long time, but a month ago I installed RankMath in my new website. Now let us see what is new in AIOSEOP. It would be fun to see.

  10. I am non-tecky person and build ecommerce site based on wordpress, installed yoast seo plugin discovered from youtube tutorials but when I checked on google speed insight it show low scoring. Then I install another plugin W3cache but it has too much details that I don’t know what to configure and what to not.
    Please help if someone has got suggestions.

  11. I was shifted from yoast seo to all in one seo pack from last 2 years am fully satisfied with it. And i love it just because we can control bounce rate. I wana recomend that all in one seo pack should come with 301 and 302 redirect feature.

  12. We are using YOAST free version for a while but now, we switched to SEOPress but, I am wondering in the long run if WordPress will not come with its own solution… Why not a Gutenberg block for SEO? We know from the previous post here on WP Tarvern that they want to push more Gutenberg and it will be a nice addition, don’t you think?

  13. I tried a lot of SEO plug-ins & just cannot part with yoast because it’s of accessibility. I tried rank math recently & it did not work well with my screen reader & yoast use to own google analytics plug-in which was later acquired by Syed Balkhi & then broke the accessibility features in it. For me it just cannot be just a great product, it should be an accessible product.

  14. If they do the same to AIOSEO as they have done to the beloved Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin, we should be very scared…

    • True, we have uninstalled GADWP from various customer sites now (and replaced with GAinWP) after may complaints about suddenly missing functionality and weird ExactMetrics notices all over the dashboards etc.

      • I’m getting in on this thread a little late but have noticed that the Schedule Frequency on AIO, even though is set to Daily, is actually weekly. Changes I’ve made to pages are not being made at all – have this plugin on multiple sites, too. Googlebot hasn’t visited my business site in weeks. Not at all happy with AIO at this time. Very disappointing.

  15. Yupp the All in One SEO plugin is also a very good plugin. But in my experience I like the ‘Yoast’ seo plugin. Just Not because it is a famous plugin.

    Just Because ‘Yoast’ have a great feature which is readability test, i like the feature most. And ‘Yoast’ seo plugin also offer a on page seo guide in every post, so it is very easy to check the list when doing onpage on every content.

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