I’m doing it.  Waving three vendor categories at the same time.  And I can’t wait (seriously, no satire intended.)

For those of you less familiar, Forrester’s Waves are detailed analyses of technology vendor and service providers done in order to help our user clients select the best partners for them. (Please note: the keyword in the preceding sentence is detailed. A Wave typically takes 12 weeks to conduct and includes multiple inputs like product demos, client reference interviews, and written responses to an RFP-like questionnaire).

Well, over the course of the next three months, I will be waving search marketing agencies, bid management platforms, and SEO automation tools. In the past, I have evaluated only search marketing agencies as many of them provided proprietary technologies, and stand-alone technologies were still quite immature. But since Q4 2011, I’ve gotten more and more inquiries about search marketing technology players as well. And search technologies have really made some strides in the last 12 months.

Despite the work ahead, I’m excited for the process because I expect interesting things. I believe that search marketing is refocusing on “getting found,” so I’m going to be looking at how well agencies help marketers get discovered through traditional and non-traditional search engines (think Yelp or OpenTable).  Bid management tools are evolving outside of just paid search bid optimization to compete with demand-side platforms. For example, Adobe is combining its SearchCenter and Efficient Frontier products into a master platform to optimize biddable display, search, and social media.  And Marin Software has a similar idea. It is initiating a new approach to “revenue acquisition,” that is, automating the acquisition of profitable leads regardless of channel.

Most SEO automation tools are still evolving. But I think the opportunity here is for them to eventually supplant traditional content management solutions (which, frankly, let the SEO opportunity pass them by). For example, Rio SEO, a spin out of San Diego-based Covario will announce tomorrow its acquisition of Top Local Search, a set of technologies focused on automating site, mobile, video, and promotional content for merchants with local storefronts or franchises. This is just one step Rio SEO is taking on its course to optimize earned and owned content assets for improved visibility across the Splinternet – including websites, search engines, mobile apps, and eventually even search tools embedded in digital hard drives like DVRs. I’m excited to dig into the nuts and bolts of Rio SEO as well as its competitors – firms like BrightEdge, Conductor, and Altruik.

So, based on that preview, what would you like me to evaluate in the course of these studies? Are there particular capabilities you seek in your search agency, bid management tools, or SEO automation platforms?  I’d love your input as I put together my initial evaluation criteria.