If you’ve been involved with SEO for your own sites or clients sites for any length of time, you’ll understand that the success you achieve is directly related to the tools you have at your disposal. We’ve been providing SEO services for clients and on our own sites for over 10 years now (I’m now classed as a veteran), and over that time I’ve either purchased, tested, or trialed almost every tool that has been released. This includes tools to simply make the process of SEO become more efficient, to tools that claim to be a one click set-and-forget solution. So far, I haven’t come across any tool that does everything, although there are a couple of tools that do come close.
SEO Tools – you get what you pay for
As with all tools, it’s how you use them that will determine the success you have. While it’s not absolute, the price you pay is generally relative to the quality of the tool. A one time $27 tool will rarely give you the results you need long term, and many times with a Google or algorithm change, it may become obsolete, or even worse, harm your sites.
Our most valuable tools, indeed come with a price tag, generally in the form of a monthly subscription.
The tools we use, can generally be classified as follows:
- Link and Traffic Analysis Tools
- Rank Tracking Tools
- Domain Analysis Tools
The following are the tools we cannot do without on a daily basis:
Without a doubt, ahrefs.com has become our most used tool on a daily basis. It not only is quite intuitive to use, it has a vast array of features that are almost unmatched by any other tool.
One of the reasons ahrefs.com stands out, is the sheer data it has behind the tool. If you check out their numbers page here (https://ahrefs.com/big-data), you can start to build up a picture of the size of its database. According to this page, they have almost 1 billion content pages (998 million) in their index.
They claim to discover 1.8 million new pages every 24 hours. On top of that they total keyword index is currently sitting at about 7 billion. This is impressive enough, but what’s truly astounding is the number of backlinks they track. This includes link tracking for 174 million domains, 190 billion pages, 15 trillion internal backlinks, and 2 trillion external backlinks.
The sheer number alone, make it one of the most accurate tools on the market. SEO is never absolute as it’s dynamic on a daily basis.
“Ahrefs team takes great pride in collecting, processing and storing large amounts of data for search marketing professionals.
We crawl the entire web 24/7 (much like search engines do) storing petabytes of information about live websites — how they link to each other and what keywords they rank for in search results.
We process large amounts of clickstream data to maintain the world’s biggest third party database of search queries with refined monthly search volume and advanced keyword research metrics.”
What we use it for
The main purpose we use this tool is to very quickly and very accurately get an overall perspective of a domain, or group of domains. The reasons are many and varied, from finding the external link profile of a competitor’s domain or an expired domain we are looking to purchase, to quickly understanding what keywords and phrases our own sites or competitors’ sites rank for. It really is the “swiss army” knife of SEO tools.
A break down of the features are as follows:
This is essentially the engine room of the tool, where you simply add a domain or URL, and within seconds you can see all the data you’ll ever need, including backlinks, anchor text, top referring content, referring IPs, keywords the site ranks for, top pages, competing pages, PPC data, top landing pages and so much more.
With this feature you can enter a keyword or topic, and the most relevant content from around web will be listed. This is a great feature to get content ideas, understand what is trending, and social interaction of a piece of content. We use this regularly for content curation. You can filter the data based on a number of criteria such as search traffic, referring domains, domain rating, or social signals.
This feature is actually rather under-utilised in our opinion. There are many keyword tools on the market, but we are finding the keyword tool within ahrefs.com is as good or better than most, even if some SEO’s think it was an afterthought by the ahrefs team. We like the way the data is presented and the way search suggestions and related keywords are neatly grouped for deeper analysis.
Great for quick keyword research for volume, trends, location and CPC analysis. There are a heap of metrics to work with that are beyond the scope of this article. We’re pretty sure this will be the only keyword tool we are using soon.
This tool we haven’t used all that extensively, as we run other software for our rank tracking. However when we simply add a domain into Site Explorer, all the keywords that the domain ranks for are shown in the organic tab. However with the rank tracking tools, you can actually add in your own keywords to track.
To be honest, we haven’t used this feature much to date, but it does pull back some interesting data and gives a broad overview of the health of a particular domain. Specific data it generates includes crawl logs, internal page health, social signals, potential errors such as broken links, and 404s, images, load times, page status codes and more. Once we get a chance to delve deeper into this feature, it’s probably worth it’s own blog article.
The other main features include ahrefs domain rank, domain comparison, batch analysis, and link intersect. Specifically, we use the batch analysis and link intersect tools often. It’s a great way to filter a batch of domains all at once. For example, we might have identified 200 expired domains using https://www.expireddomains.net/ . We can then throw these 200 domains in to the batch analysis, and instantly filter by domain rating or total links, and quickly filter down to a handful of domains for a manual review, or to simply put into Godaddy.com to check auction prices.
The link intersect feature also comes in very handy. For example we can add our top competitors into the tool, and then compare with our own domain, and quickly find out link opportunities that we are missing out on that our top ranking competitors have.
Ahrefs.com make it easy to get a taste of their data, with a $7 FREE trial. Prices then start at $99 / month.
SEMRush has been around a while, being founded in 2008. They claim to have over 400 employees around the world.
While many of the metrics are the same, this tool provides keyword data, backlink analysis, and SEO audit analysis, the main benefit we see is the in-depth and accurate traffic analysis you can identify for any domain or URL. If you run any sort of paid advertising, including (PLA (Product Listing Ads) or Google Shopping ads, this tool really helps you dig down into the data.
Although it’s always been important, the amount of traffic a site gets, across all sources, is important to the value Google identifies in that page, and how it will rank in Google. Further to this, traffic to pages with links that point to another URL, will greatly influence the value of that page. In general terms, the more relevant and quality traffic a page receives, that value will also be passed on via outbound links. Traffic to inbound links therefore becomes really important when identifying potential link sources for your target pages and URLs.
SEMrush.com displays its traffic data in a number of different ways, and the timeline graph, complete with google data points (algorithm changes and updates), really helps understand the history of a URL or site, how it’s tracking, and identifying penalties or problems.
Without fail we always check traffic as standard protocol with this tool for every domain we analyse. It’s simply too important too not do, and with this tool it’s fast and easy.
Paid Advertising Research
The other feature we really like with SEMRush is the paid advertising research feature. This includes AdWords, product list advertising (Google Shopping Ads), and display advertising. This analysis has become very important for our PLA for our own and clients e-commerce stores.
Ultimately we always use SEMrush and Ahref.com in combination, and gives us the best overall analysis of any URL we want to check.
Sign up for a 7 day FREE trial here. Pricing starts at $99 / month.
For any SEO agency or website owner who is serious about improvement and performance, if your baseline tools add up to a total of around $200 / month, it’s an absolute no-brainer. With just ahrefs.com and SEMrush, you have 99% of the metrics and analysis you should ever need.
Rank Tracking Software
If you’re just running 1 or two sites, you can get away with using the rank tracking analysis provided by ahrefs.com, semrush.com and even Google Search Console. However if you run a number of sites, eCommerce stores, affiliate sites or have clients, you definitely need dedicated rank tracking software. We currently use Rank Tracker by SEO Power Suite and Pro Rank Tracker. There are pros and cons of both, and it depends what you are trying to achieve.
https://proranktracker.com/ is probably the most popular rank tracking software on the market. It’s cloud based and has a nice simple user interface. We started with this software and still have a subscription for a number of sites. Supporting all the major search engines in the world, including Google, Yahoo, Youtube, Amazon and a host of others, its extensive features make it one of the best platforms on the market.
It has adequate reporting updates daily for desktop, mobile and local rankings (Google Maps) and for every location in the world. One of the features we use is the shared reporting for staff and clients.
The only downside is the pricing model, where you pay on the number of terms tracked. If you’re an agency, and have many clients, it becomes rather expensive to track 1000’s of keywords at once. But it’s ideal if you have your own sites.
Pricing starts from $19 / month for up to 300 keywords on unlimited URLs, all the way up to 50,000 keywords.
We moved to Rank Tracker by SEO Power Suite at the point we were tracking 1000’s of keywords for our own sites and clients. The software runs on your desktop and needs to be downloaded, and can be safely used with only a handful of semi-dedicated proxies. We use and recommend https://buyproxies.org
With this platform, you can track unlimited keywords across unlimited URLs for a onetime LIFETIME software cost. There is also a free version with some limitations, mainly that you can’t save projects or schedule tasks or export the data. Reporting is very good and you can white label reports for clients if you purchase the enterprise version.
There are so many features within this software, it’s doubtful you’ll ever need to use them all. A really cool feature is the ability to sync up with Google Analytics and Google Search Console to get really deep data on your domains.
SEO Power Suite also has a number of other really powerful tools including SEO SpyGlass, Website Auditor, Link Assistant. Essentially SEO Power Suite could certainly replace both ahrefs.com and semrush.com. Similarly the software is desktop based, and you can pay for a lifetime license.
SEO Spy Glass is basically a link tracking alternative. Website Auditor can check the health of any site including traffic, content, and HTML. Link Assistant is a tool to identify link opportunities and can help with your outreach campaigns.
You can purchase the individual tools, but as of writing this article, you can get all the tools for the same cost. The professional edition is only $299, and the Enterprise version is $699. You can see the full list of features here: https://www.seopowersuite.com
When it comes to keyword tools, there are many options. Some are expensive and some are free. We’ve used almost every tool on the market at some stage. What we’ve learnt over the years, is that you need to listen to Google. This sounds simple enough, but it’s all you need to do. So with that in mind, on a daily basis we use Google’s free data that is available to everyone. The best FREE tools we’ve found is Keywords Everywhere.
It’s really simple to use and you can just install the browser plugins for either Firefox or Chrome. We choose to use the Chrome extension as it seems to show the data in a better format when you pull back data. The tool comes with a free API key, and you simply add that to the extension.
There are two main ways to use it. Be sure to setup your location’s setting first.
Inside the extension itself, you can add a list of keyword ideas and have the tool pull back search volume, CPC and competition, using Google’s own data.
This is the feature I really like. Simply do a search for a particular topic, and you’ll also be served keyword data including related keywords and terms that people also searched for while researching the topic. You can export the data, or continue to click on the related search terms to dig deeper.
Not only does it work with Google, but the extension will show data for the following sites
The websites that we currently support are :
(1) Google.com – the data is shown right under the search textbox
(2) Google Search Console – the data is shown in the Search Analytics page
(3) Google Analytics – data shown in the Organic and Search Engine Optimization -> Queries pages
(4) Google Trends – data shown in the queries widget
(5) Google Keyword Planner – data shown in a new column
(6) Google Search – data shown under main keyword as well as related searches
(7) YouTube – data shown under the searchbox
(8) Amazon – data shown under the searchbox
(9) eBay – data shown under the searchbox
(10) Etsy – data shown under the searchbox
(11) UberSuggest – data shown alongside keywords in this awesome keyword suggestion tool
(12) AnswerThePublic.com – data shown in popup on each spoke of the wheel, data also shown in the alphabetic listings
(13) Soovle.com – data shown next to each keyword all over the page
(14) KeywordShitter.com – data shown under the main text area next to keywords
(15) Majestic – Anchor Text Report
(16) Moz Open Site Explorer – Anchor Text Report
UPDATE: New Software – Netpeak Checker & Spider Tools (18-3-19)
Currently we’re testing new SEO software for auditing and comparing sites. I have to admit when I first downloaded the software (it’s a desktop application), and started it up, I figured it was just a rip off of Screaming Frog, the most popular and now veteran SEO scraping tool on the market. But as I started to use the software and understand it’s features, it actually does more, and to me so far it seems more intuitive to use.
There are actually 2 tools that come with an account.
– Netpeak Spider
– Netpeak Checker
Here is how NetPeak describe the Checker tool:
A desktop tool for SERP scraping and data aggregation from top SEO services to analyze and compare websites in bulk. It allows you to research the backlink profile or sites, and evaluate the SEO of your competitors. You can compare URLs by parameters of well-known services: Ahrefs, Moz, Serpstat, Majestic, SEMrush, etc.
Netpeak Checker makes it easy to get a taste of their data with 14 days of FREE trial.
Prices then start at $13.30 / month.
We like ahrefs.com for most of our site comparison and competitor analysis, but I will be playing around with this tool over the coming weeks and months. I do like how it aggregates all the tools together in one place and gives a birds eye view of an entire market.
This tool on the other hand provides similar data to Screaming Frog. Maybe it’s just me, but I always struggled (or became impatient) with learning how to use Screaming Frog to it’s full capacity. NetPeak Spider so far seems to much more intuitive. A particular feature I like is the ease of checking internal links.
The features include:
- user agent settings
- URL restrictions
- Duplication and canonical checker
- Internal page rank checker
- Check all links and redirects
- Meta errors and settings
and the list goes on.
So for now I’m still testing, but it does look promising. If it wasn’t for the Checker, I may have passed on testing this software, as it didn’t seem to do anything our existing tools already did, but with both the checker and spider in combination, it could be very powerful. More to come in a month or two with more testing.
Using SEO tools in your online business is a no-brainer. But you don’t need 100’s of different tools to give you all the information you need to make informed decisions. The tools we’ve outlined here in this article allow you to pull back 99% of the data you’re ever likely to need to improve the performance and search engine rankings of your own or clients’ sites. For around $200 per month, you can have all the data at your fingertips. If you look around, you’ll probably also find some group-buy options to make it even cheaper.
Want us to do it for you?
If everything here seems a bit advanced, or you’d like to benefit from using an agency which performs the above work at volume, contact us today.