With so many SEO tools available online how do you know which one to choose? In this blog post I’ve included 8 choices here that I have used during my 20 years SEO career.
It’s true. Search engine optimisation used to be fairly easy.
Back in 2008, you could hire a writer to quickly write cheap keyword-stuffed articles for your website and article directories. You could employ another person to paste your links on every comment box, forum, and directory in the world. The goal was not quality but quantity. The more links and keywords you had, the more search engines believed your site a valuable resource. Top of the page rankings followed.
As crazy as this sounds nowadays, it’s actually true! I used to do this for clients and achieve amazing results.
Luckily things have changed. As searchers who seek useful information to help solve our problems online, we generally don’t find low value content when we run an online search.
Around the mid-2000s, search engines realised that SEO’s were using loopholes to rank their sites artificially. So, they started making changes to improve search results for internet users.
Google was the leading search engine that everybody focused on, and they made the most waves with their Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates, but all the major search engines made similar changes.
This means today; there’s a lot more to SEO than there used to be. Fortunately, there are a lot more tools too.
Here are some of the tools that I have used during my 20 (+!) years of web mastering and working as an SEO.
We can’t really talk about SEO tools without talking about SEMrush.
This is one of the best and most comprehensive search engine optimisation tools out there. They have been building and perfecting this tool since 2008, and it shows.
It includes many of the features that you would get as a standalone option from some of the tools on this list. So, if you only want to invest in one search engine optimisation tool, this should probably be it. You get:
- Keyword research tools
- Content auditing tools
- Competitor research tools
- Ranking reports
- Social media and paid ad tools
Pro: Very easy to use
SEMrush is very easy-to-use and has all the tools you need for most search engine optimisation needs in one place.
It has in-depth keyword research capabilities, including competitive keywords, so it’s easy to see what you should be working on to rank a site.
This tool is geared towards helping you build your site’s organic ranking, which means you can save on PPC costs in the future.
What I also love is their mobile app. It’s completely free to use and gives you a great snapshot of your top 10 keyword rankings.
Con: Too much information at times
Sometimes this tool gives you too much information, which can be overwhelming. The pricing of this tool is also relatively high, which means it’s not accessible to everyone.
SEMrush has both monthly and annual plans.
- Pro – $99 p/m
- Guru – $191.62 p/m
- Business – $374.95 p/m
Ahrefs is another of the oldest and most comprehensive search engine optimisation tools out there. They’ve been around since 2011, and their platform has constantly been evolving since then. So there is a decade’s worth of trial and error built in here.
This tool is one of the best out there for backlink research. Not only can you discover where your backlinks are coming from, but also who is linking to your competitors. This makes it a lot easier to identify and approach sites that might be willing to link to your own website.
They also offer detailed competitive analysis, keyword research, and ranking analysis tools. It’s everything you could possibly want in a search engine optimisation tool – and more:
- One of the most straightforward keyword research tools out there
- A detailed ranking history for the keywords that he researches
- Outbound link monitoring
- Content Explorer tools that allow you to analyse any page on the internet
Pro: Wide range of on-board tools
Ahrefs has one of the best search engine optimisation toolboxes out there right now. Pretty much anything you need to check or analyse on any website on the web, you can do it here.
They are also very active in making changes to the platform in line with search engine changes, so they are new tools and capabilities all the time, and you will never waste time doing things that don’t matter anymore.
Con: Learning curve for new users
Ahrefs can be a little intimidating the first time you use it. They do assume a certain baseline understanding of search engine optimisation. So, if you’re just getting started, you might find that the learning curve is quite steep. There is also no free trial option with this tool. However, you can use it for seven days for just seven dollars.
Not exactly the most budget-friendly tool out there. Pay annually, get 2 months free.
- Lite - $99 p/m
- Standard – $179 p/m
- Advanced – $399 p/m
- Agency – $999 p/m
MOZ is another marketing leading search engine optimisation tool. It’s used by professional SEO’s and site owners to increase traffic, rankings and visibility.
It started life as SEOmoz in 2004, which was a blog and online community about search engine optimisation, and it wasn’t until 2013 that they rebranded as MOZ and started marketing their first SEO tools.
Today they have a full suite of tools available for subscribers at MOZ Pro. They also have several free tools that you can use without an account or a subscription.
Probably one of the best things about the MOZ service is that it’s a la carte.
You can choose to have all the tools you need as part of MOZ Pro, choose their local search engine optimisation tool only, or use free tools like the MOZ toolbar.
Pro: User friendly design
What I really love that MOZ is that it has so many different tool options available.
You can choose to have everything at your fingertips or only select the parts you want.
MOZ also has a very user-friendly user interface, so it’s a joy to use. Their web analysis and keyword tools also make improving your content and website easier.
There is also a fantastic community that has built up over the years, so they have a lot of the greatest search engine optimisation minds on call when you need some tips.
Con: Can be overwhelming if you are just getting started in SEO
Sometimes having so many features available can be a bit overwhelming. If you are just getting started in search engine optimisation, you might find that you struggle to figure out what to do first.
This also isn’t the cheapest search engine optimisation tool out there. But you are getting nearly 20 years of in-depth industry knowledge built in, so it is worth the investment.
MOZ does have some free SEO tools that you can use without signing up. There is also a 30-day free trial, so you can try the Pro version without committing.
- Standard - $99 p/m
- Medium – $179 p/m
- Large – $299 p/m
- Premium – $599 p/m
Once you do decide to pay, packages start at $99 and go all the way up to $599 per month, depending on the features you need.
4. Our own free website grading tool
Yes, our free tool is one of the best starting points for finding our what is wrong with you website SEO.
I’m including it here because I truly believe that it helps business owners and website managers know what needs fixing with their website.
Our self-serve report is non-technical and you get a full website audit, competitor analysis, SEO scores, social media, paid search and local listings reviews.
Pro: Takes about 30 seconds to run, no log-in required
This free service offered by Hub Masters allows beginners to understand their site performance and also more experienced marketers to dig deeper into the report to find out what is wrong with their SEO and digital marketing. It also includes keyword opportunities that would help attract inbound leads to your website.
Con: SEO experts will want more
More advanced SEO experts will no-doubt like features included in some of the other major paid-for SEO platforms. This service is aimed at business owners and marketing teams who are starting to make improvements to their website and digital marketing.
5. Advanced Web Ranking
Another one that I keep coming back to occasionally is Advanced Web Ranking.
If your primary interest is in tracking keywords, then Advanced Web Ranking might be the tool for you.
It’s designed to allow you to track large volumes of keywords at any given time. It also allows you to track their stats on over 3000 search engines, so you don’t only see results from the big names.
This is great if you want to monitor your progress in different countries where Google may not be the top search engine.
The software accommodates large volumes of keyword terms and pulls data from over 3000 search engines. It also allows you to sort and drill down and results by location, search engine, and other demographicsAdvanced Web Ranking has been around since 2002, so they’ve had time to perfect this tool.
Pro: Track a large number of keywords
Keywords are critical if your search engine optimisation goals are primarily built around content. This tool allows you to track a large number of keywords so you can find out exactly which words and phrases you are ranking for and which you need to work on.
Con: It is a fantastic keyword tool, but it doesn’t do much else
Advanced Web Ranking is a bit of a one-trick pony. It is a fantastic keyword tool, but it doesn’t do much else. So, you will need other tools to fill those gaps if you choose this one.
There is a 30-day free trial that you can use to try Advanced Web Ranking before you buy.
- Starter - $49 p/m
- Pro – $99 p/m
- Agency – $199 p/m
- Enterprise – from $499 p/m
6. Google SEO Tools
So, if you want to get your website to the top of Google rankings, it makes sense to use the tools that they make available – it’s a bit like insider trading. Why not go directly to the source?
There are a few key services offered by Google which will help with your SEO and website performance generally.
- Google Analytics. For monitoring and understanding your website visitors, how they found you and how they use your website.
- Google Search Console. This tells you how many pages have been indexed by the search engine and which are your most popular pages. You will also be able to see who is linking to you and what the top searches for your website are.
- Keyword Planner. If you want to conduct keyword research via Google, you need a Google Ads account. This does require a credit card for sign-up, but it does give you access to all of Google’s keyword data.
- This allows you to build better PPC ads and helps define the ideal direction for your content on your website. If you don’t run ads, you also won’t pay for this service and can run as many searches as you like.
- Page Speed Insights. You can use this free tool to run a report on your website to test the page load speed. Google wants to show it’s users fast loading, mobile optimized websites at the top of search results, so I definitely recommend you use this to test your website and look for opportunities to make it faster loading.
Google’s suite of SEO tools can be automated. Once you have uploaded the integration code to your website, Google Analytics and Search Console data will be tracked immediately.
Pro: Most of Google’s SEO tools are completely free to use.
Most of Google’s SEO tools are completely free to use. This means that they are accessible to everybody, and they really are something that everybody should be using. Even if you don’t use any other search engine optimisation tools, take advantage of what Google gives you free.
Con: Not as user-friendly as some of the commercial options out there
Google’s tools are not as user-friendly as some of the commercial options out there. There is a bit of a learning curve involved, especially when adding code to your site and making sure all your settings are correct. It is also much harder to get hold of Google’s support team when you need help. Don’t expect live chat or a support line here!
Unless you used paid ads or some of Google’s APIs, there is no cost to use Google search engine optimisation tools.
Keywords are great, but modern search engine algorithms are about more than just keywords. They’re about answering questions.
It can be challenging to figure out what kind of questions people ask that include your keywords, and AnswerThePublic is the service you need to fill that gap.
All you need to do with this tool is enter keywords, and you will get a list of real-time questions that people are asking related to your keywords.
This makes developing blog or FAQ topics and content ideas very easy. Plus, you can be sure you’re actually helping people find specific answers to their questions – so you’re guaranteed to start doing better in organic search rankings.
I recommend this to my clients who produce content in-house because it:
- Is very easy to use
- Gives you real-time questions people are actually asking online
- Provides lists of related keywords that might not be on your list
- Includes options with comparison operators and prepositions
Pro: Super simple to generate high-quality content ideas quickly
AnswerThePublic makes it super simple to generate high-quality content ideas quickly. You don’t need to sit and think about what to use your keywords for because you will know exactly what people want to know.
Con: You need to use other tools to get the best out of this
This tool does not give you any keyword stats. So, you won’t know what search volumes are. Questions could be asked once or one hundred times and still be on the list.
This means once you’ve chosen the keywords, questions, and phrases you want to use, you will need to use another tool to make sure they have adequate search volumes to be worth the time and effort. It is an extra step that does add some time to the process.
There is a free version of AnswerThePublic that you don’t even need to log in to use. It does limit how many searches you can run, however. So, if you want to check large volumes of keywords, you will need to sign up for a paid plan.
- Pro – $99 p/m
- Annual – $79 p/m
- Expert – $199 p/m
Based on an annual subscription.
So far, we’ve spoken mainly about search engine optimisation tools that are focused on your own website. But there are a few specifically designed to see what your competitors are doing so you can copy their tactics.
This is exactly what Spyfu is designed to do.
It gives you the inside scoop on your top competitors, so you can borrow their best tactics and rank your site faster.
What are some of the features of Spyfu?
- You can analyse competitor keywords and keyword rankings
- View their organic keyword stats
- View traffic and even click-through data
- Viewing their Google Ad campaign information
- Lists of other competitors (so you can do more spying!)
Pro: Find the sites that perform the best in your niche
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the search engine optimisation world, it’s also the quickest way to get to the top of the rankings. Find the sites that perform the best in your niche and copy what they do. Spyfu lets you do exactly that quickly and legally.
Con: Only works with high-traffic websites
Spyfu sometimes doesn’t have data for smaller sites. So, if your competitors don’t have a lot of traffic, by global standards, you might not get the information you need. There is also some controversy about the accuracy of the data in terms of spending on Google ads. So, if you’re interested in that information, take it with a pinch of salt.
Spyfu is one of the cheaper tools on the market, with packages starting at $33 a month.
- Basic – $33 p/m
- Professional – $58 p/m
Why do website owners need SEO tools?
You might still be wondering if it’s worth investing in any of the tools here. Or any other tool for that matter. After all, if you follow good content and quality principles, build a technically correct website, and keep following search engine guidelines, you will eventually rank in your niche.
But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. It can be hard to get a top down view of your website so that you know where to focus your efforts.
This is where I know that these kinds of tools can help. They can show you exactly where your weaknesses are, and they can help you find strategies that have worked for others.