16 Tools That Will Help You Kick Ass at SEO
I’ve really been trying to spark some good discussion on the forum recently with a bunch of threads. I’ve made it my personal goal to at least post one new helpful thread every week. I run a lot of services here on the forum and I am also in the middle of expanding my offline agency reach, so I’m not always able to write as much as I would like to. So far I have been able to stick to my plan and throughout the past few months I have received a lot of PMs from both noobs to people that have SEO companies and rank their own affiliate sites for a full time income.
One question that I have received dozens of times has to do with SEO tools. A lot of people are familiar with the popular automation tools.. GSR, scrapebox, etc. While those still play a big role in SEO, you need to know how to use them if you want to play on the darker side. That might be a topic I touch on in a post down the road, but for now I want to put together a list of 16 tools that will help you be a better SEO. Some help you uncover the information needed to outrank sites, some help you to uncover niche/ranking information and some just help you to save a ton of time by making long processes much easier.
Some of these are free tools.. some are paid.. and some have coupons and trials you can sniff out online. Check them out, give them a try and learn how to use them. If you are serious about being better at SEO you will need to become familiar with all of these tools. They all serve a purpose. There is nothing on this list that is really hard to learn. This is a good starting point for noobs as well as people that have a bit of experience. You need to always be learning so even if you think you are the best SEO in the world skim through this list and see if you really know as much as you think.
I’m not going to litter this post with a million links. Every tool listed here is a simple Google search away. These are all very reputable resources and softwares.. I’ve used and tested them all. Learn to master them..
1. Moz Toolbar
The Moz Toolbar is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox and it is 100% free. It is something every SEO should have installed on their computer. It gives you a nice overview of some data you can use to decide whether a particular page is worth pursuing a link on. You can see the social shares the page has received and also see the Domain Authority of a page.
Now if you have read my stuff before you know I say Domain Authority is useless. It is to an extent.. BUT if you are seeking out link opportunities and you land on a page with a DA of 8 you know to keep going.. not worth your time. Now, if you see a DA 60 page you can then look deeper into it. Use this tool for preliminary link opportunity discovery.
2. Moz Opensite Explorer
Opensite Explorer is Moz’s data based on their own link index, which they call Mozscape. It’s important to fully understand that this is simply third party data. Google doesn’t take Moz’s data into consideration. I could come up with my own index of links and make up my own metrics and call it t0mmy’s SEO Data.. and it would hold the same weight as Moz.
This info should be used as a guide.. along with all the other tools listed. Nobody knows how to game Google’s algorithm 100%. It is a lot of speculation and guessing. Opensite Explorer gives you info on the strength and authority of sites and pages. It is also a tool that can be used to explore link profiles. I use it to see what links sites are using to push them up.. and them analyze those pages.
3. Google Keyword Planner
First thing is first.. the “keyword difficulty” ratings here refer to pay per click competition.. NOT how easy it is to rank a keyword. This is something I see so many people mess up. Use this tool to get keyword suggestions to rank for.. not to see how hard a keyword will be to rank. Plug in your domain and main keyword in this tool to get a list of suggestions. If you find terms that have high monthly search volume they are worth looking into more.
If PPC competition is low for a keyword with high searches this could potentially be a golden keyword to rank for in the SERPS.. use this to find obscure keyword suggestions. You probably aren’t going to find that million dollar keyword here, but some suggestions might trigger you to think of more long tail keywords you can easily rank.
If you aren’t promoting your content on social media, you are already behind the game. You hear the SEO gurus scream “CONTENT IS KING” all the time.. but guess what.. good content does help with SEO. Let’s not even get into the “do social signals impact rankings” debate.. what I will say is this: social media promotion helps more people find your content, which can lead to links when they reference or share your content on their sites.
Hootsuite is probably the easiest social media post scheduling tool available and there is a FREE version anyone can sign up for. There is no reason your content shouldn’t be dripping out on social media 24/7. Schedule it so far in advance that you don’t even have to worry about it during the week. They even have an Instagram feature now too.. I haven’t tried it but I did get an email notification that Hootsuite now also supports IG.
This is probably the most popular link discovery tool. Not only should you be monitoring your own sites links with this tool, but you should be constantly monitoring the sites in front of you and behind you. A lot of SEOs just focus on the sites in front of them.. but guess what? The sites behind you want to move up just as bad as you! Don’t you think they are doing SEO? Of course they are! Sometimes I find my best opportunities when I dig into the link profiles of sites behind the site I’m ranking.. I pay close attention to sites moving up slow and steady. The quick jumpers are usually spamming so you don’t want to duplicate that.. look for slow and steady climbers… they usually have the best links. Copy them and you will not only stay ahead but also move up too.
6. Wayback Machine (Archive)
Ok, what is a HUGE part of SEO these days? PRIVATE BLOG NETWORKS. Not the ones (public) that you find here in the market place.. I am talking about REAL PBN’s that SEOs build to rank their own sites. These networks are indeed private and not a single sole knows they exist.
If you want to build a network that will help you rank, you need to start with kick ass domains. You can look at all the site metrics you want.. but one thing most fail to look at is what the website last looked like when it was live. Many times you will be building your network from dropped domains.. and it is important to be certain the site wasn’t shit back when it was live.
Use Wayback Machine to see what content was on the site. Does it look dodgy? Was it a network site before? Were there random footer or sidebar links? Or was it a legit site? Do not ignore this is you are serious about building a PBN that works.
This is a good backlink checker and it does basically what Ahrefs does but it will often return different data. Remember, these are all third party tools so they all pull from different data pools. It is important that you use as many sources as possible to get the best overall picture of a link profile.
But that is not what I use Semrush for. I look at the PPC data. The ads to be specific. Why? Big companies spend mucho dinero on PPC ad testing. I use popular PPC ad copy in my site descriptions and page titles to help pull a higher click through rate.
I just did a post last week on click through rate and how to increase it. This is a trick that will work in almost all niches!
Site speed and load time is very important. Slow sites don’t rank high. There are things you can do.. like host on a dedicated server or use a content delivery network but that can be expensive and many websites can’t justify spending $200 or more on a dedi. Use GTmetrix to find speed issues. Poor CSS, poor image formatting, etc. If your coder was sloppy or if you have a poorly designed theme there could be a lot of little issues that all add up to a big problem.
Also, check your plugins. So many people install way to many and for simple stuff because they are lazy. Here is an example: the other day I was looking at a site and there were so many useless plugins. Contact Form 7 for a single name/email/comment submit.. just code that and don’t have an entire plugin load. Another plugin inserted a line of code. Don’t be lazy.. insert it yourself.
9. Screaming Frog
This is probably the BEST SEO tool. It is paid and it is complex. I’m not even going to go nuts on this one now, I’m also still learning it which says a lot about how advanced this is. Google search tutorials to see the power of this bad boy. A lot of people don’t use it because it is a paid tool.. but this is something that EVERY SINGLE legit SEO agency uses. It is that good. Watch some tutorials online and you will see the power here. This is a must have for serious SEOs.
10. Google Analytics
Over the past two weeks I have audited a couple dozen sites BEFORE even taking the website on across all of my SEO services. One question I asked every site owner was “How much traffic are you currently receiving?” Guess what 90% of them said? They said “I’m not sure.”
Are you kidding me? They want SEO.. to get more traffic but they have no idea what their site is currently receiving. This is because most of them didn’t have Google Analytics installed. Some of them didn’t know what it was while some were familiar with it but said they didn’t want Google spying on them.
I promise you that Google has better things to do. Analytics has so many features and it can really be the best source of information about your website and traffic. Any SEO that truly believes Google spies through Analytics needs to find another profession.
Get ready for another third party link metric that SEOs get a boner over. Majestic has TF (Trust Flow) and CF (Citation Flow) and many consider them to be a better indication of a websites true authority instead of Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA).
To be honest, I fall in that category. If I could ONLY pick one, I would go with TF all day long. BUT the good thing is that we have multiple SEO tools to use. Moz doesn’t influence Google and neither does Majestic. These guys are trusted more by old school SEOs while Moz tends to attract the noobs. That’s just the way I have seen it.
There is also a Majestic toolbar add-on you can install, which will let you quickly look at the TF and CF of every page you visit. This is good to save time when you are seeking out link opportunities or studying competitor links.
12. Google Webmaster Tools
The best use for WMT? FINDING KEYWORD OPPORTUNITIES! People hear “Google” and get scared. Use the info to HELP you. You can see how many impressions your website received for every keyword that ever made it show in the search results. Use this info two ways:
Find new keywords to rank for. Sometimes you will start showing for a keyword you aren’t even targeting.. if you are then build some links to the page and move up.
If you see that a page is getting a shit load of impression but no clicks then you need to change the title and description. Play with it until you see those numbers get better!
13. SEO Quake Toolbar
This is another free toolbar that works with Safari, Firefox and Chrome. This one is good because it shows some data the others don’t.. page rank (even though they don’t release the update to the public it is still useful to know what the last public PR of a page was) and Alexa data can be useful when doing SEO exploring and digging. I like it for the age.. use this with other tools. For example, if I see a DA 50 and TF 30 page.. but the age of the site is 2 months then you know it’s redirects and bullshit.. and not worth wasting time on.
14. SEO Powersuite
They have a free version, but if you have an extra $299 sitting around buy the professional version. It does a lot and it is a great tool to look into. They used to have a trial.. but now their free version includes their rank tracker that you can use. I think it is the most accurate.. and it is what I use for my personal sites. I use other rank trackers for clients simply because ther reports look nicer.. but tracking your own stuff is nice with this tool.
Some of you will know I’m representing these guys here on BHW. I say that loudly and proudly as this tool is not just one of my personal favourites but a BIG must have for any serious SEO. SERPWoo is unique.. it includes a lot of the metrics and data from several of the tools I’ve mentioned above along with rank tracking, keyword research and a heap of other epic options. The guys behind it are knee deep in the marketing world themselves thus the tool is constantly evolving. I expect to see this just grow in popularity.
Shameless self plug – If you grab this through the thread here on BHW you’re entitled to an extra 10% keywords.
16. LinkResearch Tools
I saved this one for last because this is a tool for advanced SEOs or those with the money to spend. It’s about $650 a month for the plan I use. It kicks ass and does a lot.. but learn the basics first. This doesn’t automatically solve problems. It is a tool.. but a VERY good one. If you have a SEO agency you need this. You owe it to your clients to learn to use everything this tool does.
And that is that! Let’s get a discussion going about SEO tools. What are your favorites? Did I miss any? Find success with one? I want to know..
Also, if you have a suggestion for a future post let me know. I get my ideas from YOU.. so don’t be shy. As always I hope you enjoyed the read. Until next time.. Ciao for now!