Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of taking specific action to make a website appear higher in search engines for specific keyword phrases. Ranking #1 in Google can make or break a business and many niches have strong competition. Finding and using the best SEO tools to your advantage can make all the difference in the world.
Types of SEO Tools
Before we get started let’s first consider how many types of SEO tools there are. For example, you may want one tool to help with keyword research, another for competitor research, and another for position tracking! Some tools provide all these under one roof but others are hyperspecialized to complete on single tasks. Below are the general types of tools out there:
- Site Audits & Technical Analysis
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Position Tracking
- Backlink Analysis
- Schema Markup Tools
Some of these tools are free, some are premium, and others allow limited access with either reduced features or throttled usage limits. Knowing the different tools you need to employ for your site can help you understand which ones can be bundled, which ones can be added on, and which ones can be ignored entirely.
Technical Tools & Site Auditing
These tools help analyze your website to identify SEO problems such as improper Schema.org markup, duplicate content, or broken links. Staying on top of these attributes can help ensure webcrawlers like GoogleBot are able to easily discover your site’s content and maximize its PageRank.
Putting in all the hard SEO work to rank your site higher isn’t nearly as effective if you can’t measure results. Knowing the results of your efforts is priceless. Keyword tracking tools monitor your website’s presence in the search engines for certain keywords and keep a record over time.
Backlinks are the key to SEO success. Having a tool that can show you what types of backlinks your competitors have, new or lost backlinks to your site, and audit the power of backlinks is indispensable. Google provides some of this data for free but, at best, it should be considered incomplete.
Knowing how competitive other websites are for certain keywords can be your ticket to success. Finding lucrative keywords to target can allow you to get your foot into the door and connect to a new audience. In most cases, competitor analysis requires the use of several tools to paint a complete picture. Some premium tools provide such services all in one place.
The Best SEO Tools
Google Webmaster Tools
If you don’t use any other tools you should at least be using the Google Webmaster Tools. These allow you to submit sitemaps, analyze backlinks, and even see which keywords are driving the most traffic to your website. Google gets stingy with their data but what they provide is still priceless.
Bing Webmaster Tools
This is similar to Google’s toolset but allows direct indexing in Microsoft’s search engine. Even if you don’t plan to target Bing in your SEO campaigns, having this tool to provide additional insight into your sites’ performance and backlink profile is valuable.
Google analytics can help you flag problem pages and determine where users are driving revenue or missing out. This is another free service provided by Google that comes at the expense of letting them all up in your sites’ business. It’s still the industry standard for website analytics and can provide valuable insights such as referrer data.
Google Mobile Friendly Test
Google announced awhile back that mobile will be a serious consideration for how they rank any and all websites. Knowing whether your website is accessible to mobile devices is a must. This tool helps identify problematic elements on your website and offers insights on how to fix them. Anything above a score of 50 is tolerable. Don’t shoot for 100—even Google doesn’t earn a 100.
Google Schema Markup Tool
Certain types of HTML and/or JSON code help identify your website’s elements to search engine crawlers. They tell them where the pages’ main content is, who wrote it, what it’s about, and much, much more. Implementing proper Schema.org markup can become a rabbit whole. The Google Structured Data Testing tool provides invaluable direction in assuring your site gets “dressed” for succes.
Google Pagespeed Insights
Pagespeed is one of the most important SEO factors that can be easily influenced. One can’t snap their fingers and have a solid backlink profile overnight but improving website speed is often as simple. Google provides a page speed testing tool to help identify steps you can take to make your website faster. Some are no-brainers but others involve some technical expertise.
Pingdom is a company that offers several technical tools for assessing and monitoring website performance. Their most popular tool is the website speed tester. Many prefer this tool to Google’s Pagespeed insights for its detailed summary of issues and resolutions.
GTMetrix is a competitor of Pingdom and offers a very similar service. It’s hard to say which of the two are best so we usually use both of them. After all, they’re both free! The GTMetrix Y-Slow score is incredibly useful in helping identify and resolve website bottlenecks that can degrade overall performance.
SEMRush is an enterprise-grade SEO tool package that offers many features such as rank tracking, backlink analysis, and keyword research. They are used be nearly every professional SEO in the world and are considered a backbone of most SEO toolkits. They’re reputation precedes them for being the best keyword research tool available. Downside is the $99/mo. pricetag.
Ahrefs enters into nearly every conversation where SEMRush is mentioned. They offer all the same tools and services but excel in backlink research. Their backlink index is considered the best in the world and vital to most professional SEO workflows. That said, their keyword research tools and feature-based pricing tiers are a bit difficult to deal with sometimes. An ahrefs subscription will run you around $99/mo.