5 Advanced SEO Tools Worth Paying For

Every SEO knows that they if they want a powerful, advanced SEO tool, they’ll need to pony up some cash for it.

Ken LyonsNow, there are a number of free SEO tools out there that are very good, but they have limited capabilities, because they’re free.

So if you’re into keyword research, or looking to evaluate potential link prospects or perform competitor analysis at a higher level, you’re going to have to bite the bullet, open your wallet and pay for premium tools.

Trouble is, it’s hard to know which SEO tools are really worth the money.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 5 of the most advanced SEO tools I use in my daily SEO activities – OK, I work for the team behind one of them. These tools, though, are invaluable to my SEO efforts

Rank Tracking

I use Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker to monitor SERP listings for my clients. Now, there are a lot of keyword rank checkers on the market, but in my experience Rank Tracker stands head and shoulders above the rest. I prefer Rank Tracker because it has everything I’m looking for in a rank checking tool: speed, accuracy, ease of use and slick reporting tools.

Some of the features I love in Rank Tracker are:

  • Limitless keyword tracking: you can track rankings in over 590 search engines with no keyword or domain limits
  • Auto-pilot tracking: set the tracking tool once and run rank checks automatically for set dates and time
  • Historical rank tracking: every time you check your rankings, Rank Tracker charts the all ranking changes for each individual keyword and your site’s overall SERP visibility


Cost: $99 for Rank Tracker software

NOTE: Link Assistant also offers a host of other tools that I’ve heard great things about but haven’t had time to test drive. But going by the quality of Rank Tracker, I’m sure these other tools are just as effective.

Competitor Research

When I’m digging up competitive intelligence for a new client or even a new keyword vertical I want to target, I always pop open the SEO Book Competitive Research Tool. For the record, the SEO Book Competitive Research Tool is powered by SEM Rush. But I’m advocating using the tool through SEO Book because, as an SEO Book member, you get access to a slew of other great advanced SEO tools and SEO training as well.

With the Competitive Research Tool, you can conduct site-wide or page specific analysis to “spy” on your competitors and discover:

  • Keyword Metrics: Which keywords are competitor sites or a their individual pages ranking for
  • Traffic Value: What’s the percentage of traffic that a particular keyword drives to a competitor’s website
  • Related Keyword Values: What are the highest traffic and most valuable keywords related to your own target terms

For example, I’m working with a new client who owns a bridal boutique. First thing I did was to run a quick analysis on a competitor website I identified to see which keywords are driving the most traffic.


What’s interesting here is that none of the other keyword competition tools I tried identified the keyword “wedding favours” (UK spelling) as a high value keyword. Many didn’t even return the UK spelling at all. But using the Competitive Research Tool, I’ve learned it’s this site’s top traffic-driving keyword and one I should target.

Cost: $300 per month, which includes access to advanced SEO tools, a great forum community and SEO educational guides.

Link Management, Link Marketing

I’ve demoed numerous link management tools and Buzzstream is far and away the link management software on the market. Buzzstream provides a comprehensive suite of tools for link tracking, monitoring link relationships and for collecting link building intelligence.

Buzzstream also makes link building a whole lot easier with their Buzzmarker feature. This tool automates the process of researching and screening link prospects by scanning an entire website for key metrics, such as:

  1. Toolbar Page Rank
  2. Domain age
  3. Number of inbound links

It also grabs all available contact information, from email addresses, to WHOIS info, to Twitter and Linkedin profiles.

Once you’ve reached out to a prospective link partner, Buzzstream records all your outreach touches with a prospect (be it on email or Twitter) and tracks activity on the prospect’s site to see if a link has been added to your site.


Cost: Buzzstream for link management starts as low as $29 per month for a “Solo Package.” Buzzstream offers a social media monitoring tool too, which is excellent and provides daily link and brand citation alerts.

Link Analysis

Every day, there’s another, new competitive link analysis tool coming on the market. But for my money, Majestic SEO is still the king of backlink intelligence. One of the primary reasons Majestic SEO is #1 is because it boasts the largest link data index in the world. To me, this differentiating feature is critical because if you want to outrank your competitors through link building, you need access to the best, freshest and most comprehensive link intelligence data on the Web. The recent upgrade of the Backlink History Tool lets you chart the historical link discovery patterns of competitor sites to your own.


Majestic SEO is also a great tool to monitor your own site’s link profile. Once you verify site ownership, you can obtain detailed reports on your sites:

  • Proprietary backlink data
  • Anchor text distribution
  • Historical link acquisition data
  • Top referring domains

Plus, the tool offers a “daily update” feature that provides a daily journal of new inbound links. What’s more, Majestic SEO captures data on deleted links and link redirects, so you can investigate any drop in SERP position or traffic activity if you feel it’s link-related.

Cost: A monthly subscription to Majestic SEO starts at just £ 9.99, which gives you up to ten standard backlink reports and five advanced reports to analyze hundreds of thousands of links.

Keyord Research & Content Authoring

This one’s mine :) – I’ve heard some search marketers describe WordStream for SEO as “keyword research on steroids,” which is pretty accurate. WordStream for SEO features a suite of really powerful keyword analysis and content authoring tools to perform:

· Keyword Research: generate keyword suggestions that are pulled from a deep database of search engine queries

· Personalized Keyword Suggestions: mine your own site data to discover relevant, proven keyword opportunities that people have used to find your site

· Keyword Analytics: instead of guesstimates based on popularity, WordStream for SEO gives you accurate visit and goal data for your keywords on a continuous basis

· Keyword Organization: with sophisticated grouping and organization capabilities, you can segment keyword lists and discover new content opportunities

Another fantastic feature in WordStream for SEO is the Firefox Plugin for blogging, which connects your keyword research with your content creation efforts.


The WordStream for SEO Firefox Plugin works alongside content management platforms (such as WordPress, Blogger and Drupal) to help you generate better, more focused, search engine ready blog posts, product pages and sales copy.

The plugin also keeps a running count of each keyword phrase you use as you type, working to keep your writing “on message” after the initial research stage. WordStream for SEO is also fantastic for content topic discovery. It taps into your site’s historical search query data so you can get fresh content ideas based on proven keywords.

Cost: The WordStream for SEO suite of keyword research and content authoring tools starts at just $49 per month.


Thanks for the guest post, Ken!

Just about every day I get asked which tools do I use, so over the next couple of weeks I aim to share the best ones (like my recent Clicky real time web traffic stats review).

I’ll be reviewing a few (if not all the tools above in more depth later in the month, and a few others).

Any questions, or indeed tools you like, feel free to share in the comments :)

PS – Disclosure – This is a guest post, no affiliates, no paid links.

If you develop seo or web dev tools and feel left out, do drop me a line about a guest post, like this useful how-to from Ken which shows interested folks in my feed what’s available out there.

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27 Responses

  1. Kieron Hughes says:

    Have you had any experiece with Crazy Egg analytics? We’ve recently been looking into using it, and it looks really useful.

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      Yes I like that one too. I’m doing a review of that later :) Pretty cool.

  2. Directory Submission says:

    I use a free alternative to rank tracker but only give SERP results for the top 100. So if you website does not rank in the top 100 they cannot display results. With rank tracker can you see if your keyword is in the top 1000 for example? I would like to track my progress from way down til its in the top 100. Thanks

  3. Aaron says:

    Those are all tools I haven’t heard of with the exception of SEO Book. How do these compare to some all in one tools like Raven SEO or SEOMoz.org

  4. David Richards says:

    Have you ever been a member of SEOmoz? I’ve been a member there for some time but have often wondered whether SEO Book might be better. That is afterall where it started for me!

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      Not for a while David – I don’t use that many tools I dont get free access to trial lol

  5. Mark says:

    Ken, Thanks for your opinions on this tricky area to get good information. I’ve recently been scanning the paid tools and been unimpressed with the marketing tactics, particularly from Link Assistant. I see you understated the ownership cost significantly by not mentioning the ongoing search engine updates fee – perhaps because they do a damn good job of hiding how much this adds up to. I quite liked the free versions of their products, but their marketing turned me off, and the ongoing costs extortionate (IMO). I have also looked at the offers from Web CEO, IBP, Raven SEO, SEO Elite, SEOmoz and SEObook, scanned the forums, and even tried some of the freebees out. Oh and Wordstream too. Almost all these tools end up at the same pricepoint (about $50/month for the first year, except SEObook at $300/month). I’m decidedly underwhelmed at this kind of offer. Not because I believe software and services should be free or cheap. I’ve charged myself out for lawyer level daily rates, and worked for 10 years for a software company who’s entry level product was a desktop Windows application for £2,300 a seat. So I know what quality service and quality software (and marketing) looks like. The quality of software, support and marketing in the area of SEO tools appears to be pretty shoddy based on my long experience of the software business. I think many of the tools are useful – mainly as productivity aids, but for this, they are amateurish and overpriced. Also, almost everyone in this industry pretends they are doing something clever to do with search engine algorithms, and that this necessitates hefty monthly rate to keep the product up to date with the changes to those search engine algorithms. All 693 of them. Pah! Maybe I’m missing something, but I contend THAT part of these tools is snake oil, since no-one knows what the damn algorithms are and I wouldn’t trust someone else’s guesswork with my hard SEO effort. As for 693 algorithms to keep up with, well that just says something about the amount of respect they have for the intelligence of their customers. (I forget which vendor claimed that, but several of them use a similar argument). I scanned the SEO forums and I see, again and again: Q: what’s the best SEO tool? A: brain storming Usually followed by “Do you have a URL for that?” :-) I am a noob, but I think the paid tools vendor offers suck, and that I will be better off using the bits I can for free and building my own automation with DB, spreadsheet, and Google APIs. I thought of writing a detailed comparative review of these tools and charging $100 a shot for it, given the difficulty getting any reliable info. I think that would be well worth the money, given these tools all work out at $50/month or more. But by the end of my cursory survey I realised that report was probably going to say “don’t buy this, its largely rather poor UI on top of dubious claims, and marketted to squeeze the maximum money out of naive SEO’s hopeful they’re buying a magic bullet.” Or something along those lines. If so, I think it would be $100 very well spent, but I doubt the purchasers would agree! They would far rather I said: “Buy Groovy SEO and spend $50/month and all your clients will be amazed and grateful.” People buy poor tools and put up with the shoddy sales pitches because they want to believe this, not because its true. Sorry Shaun, clearly this is a blog post rather than a comment! To finish, I did find a great free SERP report generator on my travels. Its new, so check it out: http://searchenginereports.net/ I have no association with any of the products I dissed ;-P Mark Twitter: @webalyst

  6. Tom Demers says:

    Hi Kieron, I work with Ken at WordStream, and we actually use Crazy Egg. It’s really useful for testing various design elements and finding out exactly how users interact with your site. Definitely worth paying for (we use a lower tier subscription and it’s only ~20 a month) though I suppose really it’s more for usability than SEO. Tom

  7. Mike Jones says:

    You can dol alot of this tasks with only one tool like Market Samurai or am I missing something?

  8. Zack says:

    What it really boils down to is what your specific needs are and finding a tool that matches those needs. Some SEO’s are more savvy than others and each have different types of clients as well which can sometimes influence they type of tools you may need. There are also personal preferences too. Some folks are fine with using multiple toolsets and some like doing everything themselves. Others may look for a tool that is more of an all-in-one type thing. Most tools have a free trial, so the best thing to do is try before you buy.

  9. Ken Adams says:

    HI Ken, I would love to network with you in regards to SEO etc. I am a self taught web/seo/ addict. I taught software for a major company (leader in its industry 700 stores). About four years ago my current company was the leading online retailer in our niche. At one point we were spending 1.4 mil a year in Google Ads. I do not want to go into details but I would like to share my thoughts and ideas with you. The amount of info out there is both huge and contradictory. I have used SEO software and have logged about 5000 hours in the last two years on research and experiments. I currently have about 20 affiliate sites that we have custom made software for and our main site has a huge presence on the web. In addition this is where it gets interesting, we have about 800 clients whom have copied our website. Our Alexa Rank is just under 100,000US but there again how accurate is that. LOL. I’m getting ready to have a mobile app built for my company and involved in a future reality show. I have put several sites on top without spending a dime but I still am wet behind the ears as far as SEO goes, only what Ive taught myself. I have a direct relationship with three of the top programmers in the gaming industry and would love to share information. My major areas of focus right now are duplicate content, optimizing a site that has been a force for 10 or more years and rewriting content that took ten years to build! HELP! LOL PS I have always been an end user, I’m a programmers nightmare. LOL. Thanks Ken Adams BA Cultural Anthropology BA Human Resource Management

  10. Paul May says:

    Thanks for including BuzzStream in this list, Ken!..great list of tools to be grouped with. We’re working hard to constantly move the product forward, so it’s encouraging to get this kind of feedback. In fact, we had a new release go out last night with some very cool features (link reporting, custom fields, custom import templates and highlighting of the contact info we find on a page)….lots more coming over the next two weeks as well. Paul May BuzzStream founder @paulmay

  11. Gordon Pryra says:

    Perfect list. Ive just hit the point in getting my own site out there that I’ve started to look at whats availiable if I pay for it. Like anything to do with da interweb, the vast majority is either dross or stolen from someone else. As Mark points out in the post above (snake oil etc) Most tools are nothing that you can’t do yourself as they just track changes day on day. With this in mind, apart from keyword style tracking tools that rely on propiety databases, what im looking for is a lazy mans graphs and SERP tracker which saves me the hassel of doing it myself. I’ll give Majestic a crack based off your recomendations

  12. Richard says:

    I have an SEOMoz pro account so I’m a little dissapointed not to see it on the list of top SEO tools, makes me wonder if I should be looking elsewhere. Trouble is I don’t do enough SEO to warrent paying SEO Boook $3.6k per year or I’d snap that up.

  13. Jordan says:

    Great post, Ken. I notice you are based out in the US. I’m not sure if location is the reason, but whenever I’ve used a US-developed (aren’t they all?) rank tracking tool in the UK the results have never matched up to manual checks. I am giving Link Assistant’s Rank Tracker a go though.

  14. Tasarım says:

    Lovely list Ken. Some of these tools i’ve never heard of. I might try rank tracking out since i need a tracking tool that has more features :)

  15. Ian Artimovich says:

    Ken, Many thanks for putting Rank Tracker on the list and for your kind words. It’s great to see our software put in line with such fantastic products. @ Directory Submission Yes, Rank Tracker let’s you check up to 1,000 results which is the maximum search engines show. @ Mark Thank you for your feedback, both positive and critical. At Link-Assistant.Com we invest a lot of resources into keeping our software up-to-date. Though you’re skeptical about it, we do have to watch for algorithm and serp format updates of over 600 search engines. If they change something we’re usually able to roll out an update within 24 hours so that our users always get accurate results. The update fees are mentioned on the order page and most of our customers don’t see any problems with that. Sorry to hear you were turned off by our pricing model when you liked our tools.

  16. Ken Lyons says:

    Hey, Guys. Sorry for the delayed response. You’d think that by using all these SEO tools to make my life easier I’d have more time to respond to comments. But it just means I have more time for more work… @Mark: I hear what you’re saying about paid vs free tools. Free tools are great, but quirky, buggy and, well, free. It’s the old adage, you get what you pay for. Also, I have the luxury of my employer paying for these tools. If I were a solo consultant and the money was coming out of my own pocket, I would be hard to justify the expense and I might be singing a different story. Just being honest here. That said, these tools save me a ton of time each day. They automate the tasks I often perform manually that were tedious, time consuming and a royal pain in the ass. It has nothing to do with “knowing Google’s algo” and everything to do with making my life simpler and more productive and allowing me to direct my actions into areas where my company makes more money. @Ken: Happy to network with you. Shoot me an email: klyons@wordstream dot com. @Shaun: Thanks again for the guest posting opportunity. Cheers! Ken

  17. aaron wall says:

    Hi Aaron As for the following… “Those are all tools I haven’t heard of with the exception of SEO Book. How do these compare to some all in one tools like Raven SEO or SEOMoz.org” I would say that each has strengths and weaknesses. Raven SEO is quite affordable at the lower end and makes some stuff scalable on the agency front. SEOMoz has their link data, which if Yahoo! Site Explorer goes away, will be only one of 2 decent to high quality link data sources available (along with Majestic SEO). Some of our tools I haven’t promoted too heavily publicly…like we just launched a pretty cool domaining one & are still adding more features to it. We have some other tools like the ability to compare keyword lists against each other to find overlaps in data sources, as well as some tools that are powered off of 3rd party data. Many of our customers tend to be pretty SEO savvy, but at our current price point the bulk of what people are paying for is the member’s only forum. If we set up a tools only offering we would have no problem pricing it at like $50 a month or whatever…but the reason our price is fairly high compared to other services is that none of the other services have a lead SEO who has made 20,000+ forum posts in their forum :D But we should look to stratify our set up with multiple price points fairly soon(ish). — Hi David As for… “have often wondered whether SEO Book might be better. That is afterall where it started for me!” If you liked what you got from us in the past I imagine you would like what you get now. The biggest value to our service is the forums though…tons of individual tips worth hundreds to thousands of Dollars each shared by hundreds of great SEOs. But we will likely test out offering more price points in the near future to accommodate various levels of access. ———– Hi Mark I find the following comment, to be frank, quite pathetic. “The quality of software, support and marketing in the area of SEO tools appears to be pretty shoddy based on my long experience of the software business. I think many of the tools are useful – mainly as productivity aids, but for this, they are amateurish and overpriced. Also, almost everyone in this industry pretends they are doing something clever to do with search engine algorithms, and that this necessitates hefty monthly rate to keep the product up to date with the changes to those search engine algorithms. All 693 of them. Pah! Maybe I’m missing something, but I contend THAT part of these tools is snake oil, since no-one knows what the damn algorithms are and I wouldn’t trust someone else’s guesswork with my hard SEO effort. As for 693 algorithms to keep up with, well that just says something about the amount of respect they have for the intelligence of their customers.” You claim that almost everything is overpriced because *you are ignorant* of the field. Good for you, and I hope you have to deal with many clients just like yourself…who think that anything they are ignorant of is overpriced. You certainly deserve it for expressing such an ignorant opinion publicly – on an SEO website no less! If you can’t make $50 a month from search you aren’t trying very hard. Plenty of people make that every DAY. Plenty make that every HOUR. Plenty make that every 15 minutes. Some make that every 5 or 10 minutes. But the people who are making hundreds of Dollars per hour from search *even while sleeping* are not the people who think $50 a month is outrageous. People who think $50 a month is a lot typically are not making high 6 or high 7 figures a year. —- Hi Richard In regards to this … “Trouble is I don’t do enough SEO to warrent paying SEO Boook $3.6k per year or I’d snap that up.” … I promise we should have something to help make the price more accessible within the next month. :D

  18. jason says:

    So you do not actually use link assistant for link building?

  19. Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

    Sorry about the delay in publishing some of your comments – I was on a break for a few days. :)

  20. Mark says:

    Hi Aaron, Thank you. Its nice, and very helpful, to have a response from someone who knows when one is just setting out. I’m happy to make a fool of myself – especially on SEO forums – if it generates responses that I can learn from. I would have liked more information, because I didn’t learn much from your brief contradiction of my opinion. Your disdain and ill will towards me reflects poorly on you. I already know I’m ignorant of SEO and the activity behind the tools, though not of software, technology, business or human nature. As for the marketing practices of companies selling SEO tools and services to SEO practitioners, there’s not much to debate. Its for each practitioner to look at the marketing practices of the industry and judge for him or herself. I’m happy to share my opinions publicly and want to hear back from others. That’s why I did it. I’m ready to change my opinion in the light of new information, from you or anyone else. What I have found so far is common in a young industry such as this. It invariably happens during landgrab because people can make money quicker this way. Then at some point value has to be demonstrated or the business fails. What I would appreciate from you and other vendors, is detail on where the value is. And less bullshit, for example (not from you) about the number of search engines being tracked, or having teams of programmers working through the night and kept awake with coffee, just to catch algorithm changes as they happen and get the updates to customers as quickly as possible. I’d appreciate vendors not designing the product evaluation and purchase process to hide the true ownership costs. What I would like is for vendors to make the product features, their services, and the ownership costs transparent, and to go out of their way to demonstrate the value they are providing before asking the customer to part with hundreds of dollars, or invest months of evaluation time on their say so. I’ve not come across a single SEO tools/data vendor that gets close to this. I am ignorant. You are the SEO expert, so if you know of any, I would appreciate your sharing. Actually, I do know a company who may turn out to be in this class. They are a start-up and their product still being tweaked, so its too early to judge them but I’ll share in due course. I’m probably an odd fish in the SEO industry. My approach is to enable and empower my clients. I’m learning this stuff in order to make it accessible to very small businesses. I’m trying to do this by making it as transparent, simple and cheap as possible. By keeping myself and other costly resources as out of the loop as possible. This does attract clients who don’t understand the value of what I offer or do for them. At least until I’ve demonstrated value. I’m used to that having worked as a consultant for many years. Each client is an opportunity for me to get better at enjoying helping them. Finally, Aaron, you put a lot of emphasis on money in your reply. Money matters, but its not why I’m doing SEO. I’m doing it because I enjoy helping people, and I have the skills and experience to deliver SEO to people who are way out of their depth in this area. I don’t expect or need to make much money out of my clients. I’m here mainly to enjoy what I do, and to help my clients achieve their goals while I do it. Foolishly :-) Mark Twitter: @webalyst

  21. Nevil Darukhanawala says:

    Hi great post of useful tools. I have used various of these tools for many of my clients, and those that I haven’t … well, now I will check them out from your list.

  22. RP_Joe says:

    I find Keywordspy is excellent. It is also usable in non US/ UK markets. Spyfu is good and cheaper for US/UK.

  23. David Jay says:

    For free tools to research the back links of your competitors I find that SEO SpyGlass to be much better than LinkDiagnosis.com. Both provide the anchor text and PR of the linking page but I get a lot of incomplete results from LinkDiagnosis.com. The advantage of LinkDiagnosis is that you can export the results which you cannot with the free version of SEO Spyglass. I have not played with the free stuff from SEOBook much but they look promising. You can find more free link analysis and link building tools at: http://theinternetmarketingresourceguide.com/blog/backlink-analysis-tool-list/ http://theinternetmarketingresourceguide.com/blog/link-building-tools/

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