As SEOs and webmasters we have a lot of work on our plate, and because of that we try to use any help we can get to speed things up and improve our work rate, make it as productive as possible. This is one of the reasons why we use so many tools in this line of work, well that and the fact that some things we simply cannot accomplish without using some tools, especially in the SEO industry.
My take is that you should use only what is necessary and which speeds up your workflow, in my case it seems that I use a bunch of tools, but I rely on each and every single one of them to scale my work and improve my productivity and results. These are the best SEO tools, no, the essential SEO tools for any webmaster or SEO if you want to have the best performance with your SEO campaigns.
1. Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics
These are the two most essential tools not just for SEOs, but for every webmaster. Maybe you can do your work without the rest of the tools or their alternatives, but these two tools are irreplaceable. Learn to use them as much as you can. Webmaster tools can help you easily identify errors on your website like technical issues, speed issues, 404 pages and dead links, missing meta descriptions and titles or too long or too short titles, all of the important technical staff that can prevent your pages from ranking highly in the SERPs. You can submit your sitemap through GWT and also set defined URL parameters for crawling or skipping, instead of poking around your robots.txt file or even .htaccess file, which can be more advanced than most users know.
It will also help you find the most used keywords to get to your site and show you referring websites. Analytics will feel in the gaps, demographics, user behavior, conversions, everything you need to know to form a full picture of your users and their engagement. Now with the real time analytics in place we can finally see how are visitors are really using our website, we can learn from their behavior and improve the site, the options are limitless. We can see out post as soon as it goes live how each of the social media sites react to our new posts, that can help us identify the best platforms to focus on for social media marketing as well as geo targeting. For advanced users, Analytics are all about tracking conversions, so if you run an ecommerce store this is probably the most useful web tool for your business.
2. Adwords Keyword Tool
The most used keyword research tool we have, the most useful and with the biggest data of keywords. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be, it gives us what we need to know. For those of you that are still new to website optimisation it may be easy to trust the results you see and then pick your head later on when you see that you achieved the number one rank for a certain keyword but your don’t get 5% of the search volume shown in Google Adwords Keyword tool.
The data is not perfect, but it can give us an insight. First tip is to use exact search volume and not broad search. Exact search will give you a much better insight into the real search volume for the keyword, and the broad search volume encompasses all the phrases that have your main keyword as a part of the query. This can be really useful to figure out how much traffic can be found in long tail keywords.
Example: VPS Hosting
So we have around 33,000 exact searches for the term VPS hosting, but a broad match of 135,000. That means that there are 102,000 searches that have “VPS hosting” as part of them, the long tail derivates we can take advantage of like “windows vps hosting”, “cloud vps hosting” and “cheap vps hosting”. This helps us see the bigger picture and do basic research for possible keyword phrases we will target.
3. Google trends and Google insights
To improve our keyword research we can use a few more tools provided by Google. Insights for search will show us which keywords related to the main keyword are on the rise, what is the search trend for our keyword and we can even see which regions are searching for that particular keyword, which will help us with geo targeting. This helps us identify breaking keywords that are rising in popularity and could be taken advantage of, as well as for which regions we can target these terms. Also helping us figure out the potential of a given phrase in global, especially if we match the data with broad vs exact match numbers we got from Google adwords keyword tool.
Google trends will pretty much do the same; they will show you the geo regions, even cities and languages which are most commonly used to search for your keyword. This helps us determine if the keyword is saturated or not, if there is a consumer need and if the keyword is still worth pursuing. It also helps us figure out where to start and what to target, vertical searches are an important part of website optimisation, so geo targeting should not be dismissed at any point, in fact this way of searching can give us more insight into local SEO potential than Google adwords tool.
Lipperhey is a great new tool for beginners or even professional SEOs that want to scale their work load and get some basic onsite recommendations, but not on a general scale where you can’t see a thing, but for an actual page. The tool scans your website and gives you actual recommendations for each page that needs improvement while creating to-do’s so you won’t forget. So the tool will help you improve your description, titles, scale content, remove excessive keywords and even with technical stuff like style blocks, H tags and even recommendations for internal linking.
This is not just a great tool for newcomers and DIY SEOs, it’s also great for experienced SEOs that want to improve their productivity by letting this software run website analysis and give them actual recommendations to improve a certain page or pages. No need to stress out how time consuming that can be going from page to page, and this website offers you the opportunity to cut that time by almost 90% in my experience.
5. SEOmoz or Raven
When it comes to advanced SEO and some professional link building, competitor research, keyword difficulty, onsite audits, SEOmoz and Raven are the tool to have. You can use either one of them, or you can use alternatives if you know of any good ones. I hear good things about Ahrefs, but still haven’t tried it.
These tools resemble analytics, but they also give you a great advantage for link building and backlink research as well as real SERP ranks for you keywords. I find both of them irreplaceable in my work, SEOmoz can give you a quick peek into authority of a domain as well as other useful metrics and of course great link building tools, while Raven has social tools and link building tools that help you identify prospects and engage them.
Both of them are massive and include several standalone tools that make the whole suite, we will mention some of them below as talking about all of them would take an entire post. But each one of these SEO suites gives you a great insight into your website analytics, technical issues, backlinks as well as social media metrics and of course a great overview of your competitors.
For advanced link building these are the best tools you can use. Linkdex will serve some hot prospect into your mail just based on the keyword and few filters you set up and Ontolo is the godfather of advanced search queries. These two tools combined can keep your link building campaign run a very long time.
Linkdex will identify some hot prospects for you, sites already linking in, potential sites that link to your competitors or hubs as we call them which is the most likely place for you to get a link. Not just that, filtering the type of links you want to get will help you get some really specific recommendations, so if you choose blogs as your filter you will be given a list of highly potential blogs to give you a link. That also goes for directories, news sites and a dozen other types of websites you can use for filtering.
Ontolo on the other hand is a bit more advanced, and is intended for expert link builders, but novices can use Ontolo as well. The most basic concept is creating advanced search queries to find prospects. You just type in your chosen keyword and check off a few filters like type of content, type of website and Ontolo will give you a huge list of advanced search queries you can use to find link opportunities. You can also set Ontolo to find links for you and report them in your dashboard, so it can also work like Linkdex does.
7. Xenu/Check my links addon
There are two reasons why we use broken link checkers, the first one is to make sure our websites and our client websites don’t have any, Google doesn’t like them, we don’t like them as we don’t want our visitors to land to dead pages by following dead links on our website. The second one is to help us in our link building. A great way to approach a webmaster or a blogger is to let him know that he has a broken link on his website and that you have a nice resource/post/review he can link to instead. You are doing him a favor from the start, so it’s a win-win situation.
For your website GWT will do the trick 90%, it will miss some or it will show you some canonical versions that you removed and it may keep them there for a long time, like we said, GWT isn’t perfect, which is why we need tools like these to check our own websites and not just competition.
8. Rank Checkers
You want to keep track of your rankings to see how your link building and your general content is doing, knowing when and where to push if needed. If you have SEOmoz or Raven you have rank checkers already, but if you don’t there is a free limited version of SEOmoz rank checker or a completely free SEObook rank checker plugin for Firefox you can use.
The full suites of Raven and SEOmoz suites give you access to a great number of keywords you can track and even receive reports on the changes each day or as they change. The free SEOmoz version has limits on daily usage. The SEObook rank checker on the other hand is free and has no limitations, but recent it’s not working perfectly, and with personalization on checking your ranks will give you only 70% of actual results, as 30% of searches are changed through personalization setting for each user. After all, what matters are your conversion rates and not the rankings.
9. Mozbar/SEO for Firefox
There are two more addons, toolbars from SEOmoz and SEObook that can make your life easier regarding website analysis and link building, yup, Mozbar and SEO for Firefox. Both give you insight into certain metric that are helpful to evaluate the website on a first glance.
SEO for Firefox offers Alexa rank, Majestic Rank as well as Page Rank and other very useful data like age of the domain, number of backlinks as well as Google cache and even whois information. These are all useful metrics that can give you a picture of the website’s value, in terms of link building these are the metrics we want to take a look at before we dive deeper into exploring a website and determining whether or not a link there would be useful.
Mozbar on the other hand shows their own metrics including domain authority, mozrank, basic analysis of the page, attributes and link data gathered from Open Site Explorer, of course if you really want to capitalize on this you need a pro account, but the basic data it shows for free accounts is not to be neglected as well, it can be rather useful. Mozbar also has a very useful feature that allows you to highlight nofollow, dofollow, outgoing or internal links of the page you are visiting.
10. Useful bonus tools
And finally we have some misc tools that don’t fall into basic categories but are really useful to have around. The first one is TinEye a reverse image search tool. Yeah, you can do that with Google image search now, but you can do it from your browser, as this is an addon from Chrome. So any image you stumble upon, or your logo, or even a picture you have on your computer, just right click on it and TinEye will find where that image is posted on the web. A great way to do some link building by finding your copyrighted images on other websites and asking them to give you a contribution.
CopyLink is a great plugin to install on your website. It helps with link building without any effort. Anytime someone copies a part of your text, even a single letter, under the copied text will be the title of your page as well as the URL. Some webmasters might delete and just post what they intended, but it is a good push for most webmasters to actually include a link back.
Of course there is a tool no webmaster, designer, programmer or SEO should ever be without, and that tool is Firebug. Yeah you can use view page source from any browser, but a few functionalities that Firebug has, Chrome is not lagging behind though, will make your onsite analysis much better, not to mention if we are looking for hidden code meant to throw of Google.
These are the tools I use on a regular basis; they make my life as an SEO and link builder much easier and more productive, but remember, the power of these tools is determined by the knowledge of the user, not the other way around. Any of these tools can be a great help with SEO and website promotion if you know how to use them. Just knowing the basics will leave you out stranded and your competition will take advantage of that, so learn how to use these tools to their full potential.
Alex Petrovic – Advanced SEO strategist
Link builidng team leader - Dejan SEO company.