There are many tools on the market today that can save you a lot of time and effort. There are also lot of seo tools out there that are a waste of money.
These are some of my favourite seo tools for 2014 (I keep this page updated). These are the time saving tools, browser extensions and desktop software packages that help me do seo day to day. I am a bit stuck in my old ways and I don’t rely on too many tools but the ones I do, I use constantly.
SInce I originally wrote this post (which I keep updated year to year), I’ve developed a free seo tool of our own, which is a prototype for a much more extensive tool set I’m beta testing at the moment, and we are already using in-house.
Here’s simple version of the Hobo Tool that will check your site for free for obvious issues – http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/auditor/:
Crawlers & Broken Link Checker Tools
If you’re not running tools like these, then you’re probably not getting a full picture of your site, as most search engines find it. These tools can quickly help you identify any major issue
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog SEO Spider (For Mac & PC) is a very popular crawl tool, and a favourite of mine. It’s a tool for search engine optimisers, website managers and web developers, that spiders a site in a similar way any search engine spider would.
This is a GREAT tool to audit your website from a technical point of view, and can quickly collect a lot of the important information you need to help audit your site.
It’s available for PC and Mac. As a Mac user, I’m often confronted with software that slows my mac down a little, so it was a pleasure to see this thing run in the background in a quiet, efficient manner.
Run the spider and it will grab information on your pages, links, page titles, redirects, 404s, heading tags, status codes, attribute lengths, anchor text, alt text and numbers of internal back links, numbers of external links on each page – and some juicy information for seo like click depth, canonical tags or meta-refresh detection, and more.
You can also output this report to CSV to have a closer look at.
As the title says – highly recommended for seo and web designers everywhere. I ran this tool on a small site and on a site with more than 10,000 urls, and it worked no problems. You can get a free version too to test it out.
Run the spider and read up the general advice laid down in our on page seo topic page on this site.
Integrity For Mac Only
Find broken links on your site (a free tool for Mac SEO and Web Designers). Broken links are a pain in the backside – for one broken links are a waste of link strength, not to mention what a bad user experience they are. Integrity for Mac users is a cool little tool.
Unless you enjoy clicking every single link on your site followed by the back button, then you’ll need to use a website crawler like Integrity!
This is a free desktop tool for mac seo and website designers that spiders your website and picks out broken links. It will also extract URLs from a website to a CSV.
It’s perfect for checking a small site once complete for any broken links or missing images without having to dig through it manually.
Apparently it can generate an XML sitemap suitable for submission to Google too, and help check a site for unique page titles. Apart from this, for seo, you can see at a glance links with 301 redirects, or canonical issues, or even old links to dev servers etc.
Another great addition is the ability to actually see at a glance your most linked to pages and how many links EXACTLY they have, and from where.
Not bad at all. A no brainer especially for Apple Mac designers.
If you are a PC user check out a free, older bit of software (but still reliable): Xenu Link Sleuth.
Website Auditor Software (For Mac & PC)
Sometime ago I paid for a copy of Website Auditor (Aff*) to have a play about with and I like it.
You can download a free version to trial (ZIP FILE (Aff*)) before you part with any cash, too.
Basically it’s a tool for spidering, checking and evaluating the links and pages on your website. It’s ideal for seo and web developers alike who are tasked with maintaining a website.
I like it to get an idea of the structure of a site – to see how many pages have the least/most links, which pages have external links and finding broken links. it can do a lot more, though.
It’s quite powerful, and can certainly help you audit a site – it’s purpose.
WebSite Auditor will help you easily find and fix the following problems:
- Broken links
- HTML code errors
- Duplicate content
- 404 and other server response code errors
- Not indexed webpages
- Missing or too long titles and meta description
I found Website Auditor pretty easy to get to grip with, and it does have a few powerful features:
- Site architecture and internal linking analysis
- Most linked-to and linked-from webpages
- Google PageRank distribution across all pages
- Link Value that each webpage can pass per link
- When each page was indexed and cached in major search engines
- Not indexed webpages
- Complete website SEO health check
- Domain’s and each webpage’s performance in search engines and social media sites
- Keyword density and prominence in each page element on your site and among top 10 competitors
- Most popular keywords and keyphrases used by your site and top 10 competing sites
It has a cool REPORTS feature that will even let you print a client friendly report if you need it.
I really like this tool. The only downside for me is the actual reporting function. NOT the reporting function itself – that is cool, more the metrics it focuses on.
It suffers from the same shortcomings a lot of tools suffer from – reporting focuses on a few metrics and scores them in a way I don’t think is as valuable as it could be to the overall seo process. But then again, effective seo is not as machine-friendly as some seo software companies would hope it to be.
All in all a good seo tool for auditing your website structure, I’ll be using it for a while, and test it out more, I think. Available for Apple Mac and PC.
SEMRUsh (and Google Keyword Tools)
The Google Keyword tool is still invaluable – even if it is inaccurate, steers you down transactional roads, and is not as useful as it once was. With API in hand – it’s the first place to look when doing SEO. But if I want a LOT of data quickly – I usually get it from SEMRush. Also – try out Ubersuggest for some quick Google autocomplete research.
I must say I am enjoying using SEM RUSH (Aff), a keyword research tool for, well, professional keyword snoopers. I had, in the past, steered clear of most of these types of tools as I had traditionally found them, while useful, very U.S. centric.
- My interest was renewed when I was told about the new SEMRush UK keyword database (as I am UK based obviously):
- Currently indexing top 20 results on 6 million keywords across more than 6,4 million domains. 47768 users. Last update: 29 of May 2010
Well – I like it. This tool lets you see:
- which keywords seem to be popular in your niche,
- related keywords, phrases and terms you might consider weaving into your content and linkbuilding strategies
- gives you an idea (when you aggregate the data) which natural listings in Google are providing competitors unpaid traffic
- lists top ranking sites competing for those keywords
- shows you on average how much a click on this keyword is worth in Google Adwords (although it would be nice to see that in Sterling (£) rather than dollars
- illustrates how competitive this term is (in Adwords at least, by number of competition)
- how many (on average) times the keyword or phrase is typed into the UK version of Google
- you can get a cool firefox plugin as well and export research data to usual formats
- …and more
You can really do some neat stuff if you are a keyword monkey. SEM rush has databases for US, UK, Spain, Germany, France & Spain markets if you need to international.
I’m using it at the moment (or I would hesitate to actually blog about it) so here’s the aff link again – there’s a FREE ACCOUNT OPTION with limited features to give you a feel what it’s all about – Click here to find out more about SEM Rush.
Link Analysis Tools
MAJESTIC SEO & LINK RESEARCH TOOLS
I love Majestic SEO – it’s the first place I look when looking at the back links of a competing website. It’s been the BEST link building tool available for as long as I can remember – way before Yahoo Site Explorer was mothballed. Majestic SEO seems to be built into everything these days – but standalone it is still a brilliant link prospecting tool. I do LOVE Link Research Tools though – much better for reporting back to clients for instance. Hat tip to Open Site Explorer, too, but I’ve not used MOZ tools for a while.
Link Research Tools, is also one of the very best link research tools I’ve used recently. In fact, having these tools running in the background is a bit like having an extra member of staff.
If you are into fancy charts, they are there. If you just want the data for export, you can do that too. I usually just want the data for my own purposes – and the Backlink Profiler Tool is probably my favourite. The Common Backlinks Tool is pretty useful too. I should say the tools are REALLY easy to use as well. Link Research Tools connects with the other well-known search engine optimisation tools on the market so you can grab a lot of data for lots of pages. The more data, the better.
Pricing is pretty reasonable too. My only real gripe with the tools is I’d like to be able to run more of the tools FASTER – but I think this limit is by design at the moment. I found myself wanting to set up campaigns and run multiple tools with fewer clicks – but I think that ‘speed limit’ is in place by design too. Still, I can live with that.
I use the competitive link analysis provided by tools like these:
- to look for any obvious short cuts to take advantage of – it’s always nice to impress new clients immediately, and get them involved (I should do this more, in fact)
- to see which competitors are really spamming it up and getting away with it
- for ideas about posts for a client site that attracts links
- to see which newsworthy items pick up links from the press for instance
- to identify when the site pushes for traffic via linkbuilding
- to pick out the links from quality, respected sites that I might have problems getting – for discussion with client’s marketing department
- to get an idea the type of sites that will link to a competitor
- to look at the soup of links that a no1, no2 and no3 site especially can get away with and still rank top in Google
- to LEARN how other sites have got where they are.
- to learn the idea i might not have thought of
- to learn a bit about the client’s industry and competitors
- to tell clients the task at hand (yesterday I noticed a competitor of my clients had links from The Wall ST Journal, NYTImes etc etc – it helped me point out to the client his main competior was REMARKABLE, actively engaged in sucessful online marketing ALREADY – a player. Another client noticed from my Competitive Link Analysis once a PR7 that linked to his competitor, was actually a site his GOOD FRIEND OWNED. I wonder what will happen to that link…
Often, I use competitor backlink analysis to gather historic and realtime data to recommend to a client or show them how they SHOULD be marketing their business to achieve online popularity, while I set about making them popular online.
I will point out while these search engine optimisation tools are GREAT, it’s how you interpret the data, and how you go about making this data relevant to your business, that will see you succeed in your own link building efforts. I don’t agree with every measurement made by these tools, or with every result they provide. You don’t need the same links as your competitors to rank, remember.
If you are a creative marketer, you don’t need any tools to be a ‘link builder’ – I hate that term.
But…. if you want to see how the other guys are doing it, have an easy job where all you need to do is collect the data, or are looking for a bit of backlink-inspiration, or needing a backlink profile you can be proud of – Link Research Tools are just about as good as it gets.
Majestic SEO is GREAT for getting link building ideas – but as tool like Link Prospector can REALLY expand upon those ideas, once you’ve identified a particular type of link you’d like to focus on. Link Prospector is a brilliant tool for doing this. With it you can look for links pages, guest posts, directories, forums and blogs out there, that there is a high probability you could get a link from. It’s a mountain of data you get back, so make sure you use this tool in a very focused manner.
Used properly, Link Prospector (and the other great tools that come with it) can save you HOURS of work. Expect to spend some time in an excel spreadsheet after you get the data – but it is worth it!
I just spent the weekend playing with this tool and the amount of excellent link data it spat out for me was astonishing. I tested around 10 niches, and it didn’t disappoint in any of them. There are no affiliate links of any sort in this independent review.
In short, Link Prospector is a link building tool to help you find places you can get links from other websites. It helps you narrow prospects in a niche based on keywords you want to focus on. You can find link opportunities like guest posts, links pages, directories and forums, to name but a few – essentially websites that link to ‘your sort of thing‘.
The tool REALLY delivers – scanning a good sized data-set and outputting a mountain of link prospects in the niche you are interested in.
It’s easy to use too, though I have seen some other reviewers talk about data overload, and that deep down, the results you get are a little messy.
True – it can get a little messy if your data mining is too broad. But if you really focus on the types of links you are looking for – once you export that data to excel and have a play with some filters, you can really dig up a lot of opportunities.
If you are wise enough to know that you need links, Link Prospector is just about the best tool out there for helping you identify more places to get these links.
TIP – In a post penguin world, it’s online marketing ideas you are looking for. You do not want to be using the exact same methods as everybody else. You can use Majestic SEO to to get a handle on why the top competition ranks where it does. If you take some of those ideas to Link Prospector and look for more of those types of link opportunities, it can deliver some really good opportunities.
Highly Recommended – Link Prospector is a great tool for finding where you can get links. If you are serious about link building, you are crazy not to give this tool a go. Enough said.
*Link Prospector also has some great support tools!
Google Analytics is the defacto analytics software, and the only tool for checking lots of data – but I find I log into my Clicky account more than I do GA these days – if all I want is a quick and dirty analysis of a page or keyword. Brilliant tool.
When I find a simple tool I like I usually stick with it forever. I’m amazed at the simple things Clicky (AFF*) does so effortlessly. The control panel seems so much more intuitive than for instance Google Analytics. Instantly accessible.
I tried a few real time web stats analytics packages out (I like software with a free trial) and I must say, Clicky is brilliant.
- See who is on your site AT THAT VERY MOMENT
- See where traffic is coming from AND track outbound visitors too
- See your valuable incoming links in action
- See a MORE ACCURATE bounce rate for your pages
- Too much good stuff to mention
…and best of all, Clicky might very well be FREE if you don’t have more than 3,000 page impressions a day – ideal for small businesses.
They even give you an easy affiliate link to promote the software if you like it – which I very much do (so I am using that affiliate link).
Telling you. Try Clicky PRO out FREE. (AFF*) Excellent analytics, and easy to install too.
Rank Tracker Software
Advanced Web Ranking
I’ve tried a lot of ways to check rankings in search engines over the years and generally speaking I’ve been disappointed with most if not all of them. Advanced Web Ranking (aff) is probably the best rank checking tool at the moment.
So much so, that we’ve resorted for many clients to manually checking them / and or developing our own tools to ensure the results we get are what the customer is seeing too. The problem with this type of rankings check is how much time it consumes in the studio. The problem with a lot of automatic website rank checkers of course is that they could well be software packages that violate Google webmaster guidelines for instance.
It automatically runs a ranking report checking keyword positions in Google, and automatically sends me a keyword rank check report via email with details of each keyword position (and over time, this generates a cool graph of ranking activity).
It’s a pretty comprehensive tool and it certainly seems to perform very well, with a good support forum too to ask any questions.
A very neat feature if you run one site is the sheer number of search engines you can can track your rankings on too (thousands of them from what I can see) – not that I bother with search engine submission at all these days of course.
The keyword position reports too are quite comprehensive and you can run as many search engine ranking reports and projects (multiple websites and rank checks) as you wish.
It’s fairly intuitive and easy to set up and use after you play about with it, although trialing it I found I’m having a few problems sending email reports (although I think that may be just me and the way I have it sending emails out).
If you want to trial it free for 30 days, you can download it here. It’s available for Mac & PC and is desktop based.
Note – I’m still not that obsessed with individual keyword rankings – I’m much more interested in creating good content on a site and acquiring back links as naturally as possible to build domain trust – and then unlocking that domain authority by publishing even more content, but in competitive sectors where the linkerati seem to be thin on the ground, for specific keyword phrases, link building is still a must of course.
I’ve been testing out the rank check tool AWR Website Ranking on a small personal site (after being advised it does not break Google’s guidelines – although, if you go by the letter of the law, I wonder if that is wishful thinking, by ALL rank checker tool providers):
First of all, I would like to put one thing aside. There is no way that Google or any other search engine can ban you for using our software‚ And this is because for Google, AWR looks like a regular web browser. We send the EXACT data web browsers send. There is no way for Google to find out that you are using a tool like AWR.‚ And even if they knew, they have no way of knowing your website domain. AWR sends queries that only contain the Keywords, NOT the URL. It then searches the URLs in the results Google sent back. This means they have no way of making a connection between the IP address of your computer, where AWR runs from, and your website. If this was possible, then I could fake this information to look like my competitor domain and then get him banned!
It works as expected, and played nice with my Mac Book Pro.
Link Assistant Rank Tracker Software
I purchased a copy of SEO Powersuite (AFF*) to have a play about with and for review purposes, and I like it. I reviewed it’s stable mate Website Auditor above, which is bundled with Rank Tracker (AFF*) in SEO Powersuite, and I like that too.
Rank Tracker is pretty simple to set up, and as accurate as it can be, when checking your websites search engine rankings for multiple keywords, on multiple engines.
- pick a website
- pick your search engines you want to monitor, and
- tell it which keywords you want to track
- find out the number of searches and competition for a particular keyword or phrase
- schedule it to check for keywords at any set time of the day
- schedule reports to print or export to web, pdf or csv etc
It can also check the competition for the key terms and track your competition if you are interested in that.
You can schedule when it checks your rankings, and you can schedule reports to publish when you want, too.
It tracks everything about your keyword so you can see it’s performance over time. You can get a FREE TRIAL DOWNLOAD (AFF*)(Zip File!) to play about with it too.
It looks ideal for small businesses to track rankings if you prefer a piece of software you run on your pc or mac rather than a hosted solution.
Spreadsheets, Browsers & Other Tools
I have spent a lot of my time in Excel spreadsheets, more so in the last few years. Google Spreadsheets are cool too…. but with too many limitations for me to make it a daily tool. Excel lets you automate just about everything – and I do these days.
There’s nothing more satisfying than taking 30 days work and automating it. You can manage entire sites with an excel spreadsheet – and if you’re not on some level, you’re missing out big time.
Excel Tools For SEO Plugin
If you’re not running your own functions with Excel – Excel Tools For SEO is a great place to start. This is a fantastic tool set – once you start with this stuff you can’t live without it. Great for combining Adwords data with page specific data and looking for opportunities like under-optimised page titles etc. Tip – Get a Google Adwords API.
Chrome Extensions – I don’t really like third-party tool bars – but I do have the odd plugin installed. Chrome Notepad is a free tool for Chrome browser – ideal for taking quick notes – and FREE. I also have SEO For Chrome installed – good for a quick glance at things and it highlights nofollow links on the fly which I find useful.
SEObook, SEOmoz & Raven have good online offerings these days – some more aimed at reporting to clients. While I do have accounts for all, neither is something I visit daily. I have found tools from these sites tools to be VERY useful on the ODD occasion though – and I know some people swear by them. I suppose it depends on what you’re employed to do, which should influence which tools you invest in.
No wonder Steve Jobs tried to buy it. Dropbox is genius – having a folder you can EASILY share with everybody in work or between computers is essential for us these days. Dropbox is FREE and you can get more space by sharing links like these – Try Dropbox.
SEO Powersuite (LinkAssistant.com)
SEO Powersuite is definitely one of the best all in one desktop seo packages available for Mac and PC. Check your rankings, your competitors, back links and crawl your website. It’s a great tool for beginners. Check here for discounts on SEO Powersuite. I use this tool set to have a poke around but my favourite out of the tools is Rank Tracker to run quick ranking audits which comes on it’s own, or with SEO Powersuite.
If you are using a desktop rank tracker or any other rank tracker software you’ll need a VPN/Proxy. This thing is so easy even I got it working.
You can set up one computer to run ranking queries via rotating proxies (every few minutes or so) via hidemyass and save the results to a Dropbox folder to look at it when necessary (from another machine). I would also recommend you sign up with LOGMEIN – so you can remotely sign in to the rank checker computer in case you need to restart the application. Also good for visiting sites you don’t want tracking you, or incognito scraping (hat tip to Scrapebox BTW).
I don’t use it for soul destroying nefarious purposes like spamming or anything like that but lots probably do.
Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster tools can provide useful insight to your site, but I only really look into these when I am digging deep, or looking for links I am not getting the benefit from.
There are a lot of tools out there that are a total waste of your time, and some are an out and out scam I’ve had direct experience with all the tools I have reviewed here, and over a decades experience in search engine marketing.
If you are thinking of buying any software, remember, there are little ‘cheats’ these days in seo for the beginners – a good tool with only give you work to do.
Keep in mind:
- Competitor Backlink tools can give you ideas where and how to get links but remember you don’t need the same links as your competitors, you just need, well, credible links from reputable websites
- Keyword density is not something you should be focusing on at all if you are writing your articles after doing some basic keyword research.
- Page relevance tools – whatever they might key off of, it’s probably not what Google is. It’s incredibly important to create a semantic and contextually relevant page but you just need a keyword tool (again, probably pretty inaccurate at least when it comes to the numbers)
- Search engine webmaster tools – I use them for identifying if a search engine has any difficulty accessing particular content on a site, and some backlink analysis
- If you have a WordPress blog (you should be using the WordPress SEO plugin) we built a simple plugin that will track Googlebot and track keywords people find your site with – WP Bot Tracker – ideal if you have simple requirements.
The tools I use most often are Majestic SEO (for historic link reports at the beginning of a project),SEM Rush for keyword research, Advanced Web Ranking for checking rankings on a few sites, Clicky for real time website stats, Google Analytics for quick traffic analysis. I also use a couple of different tools for spidering a site and checking syntax I will blog about later.
Rich, accessible, relevant content and editorial links from reputable sites (hey low quality links still work for a while) are what you need to get more visitors safely from Google in 2014. You should be thinking of how am I going to make my site better, how am I going to keep people on my site longer, will the next page I make keep people on my site longer than any other, where is my next quality link coming from?
Analysis paralysis is pretty common with any tool set, so watch out, and good luck.
If I time, I will add the rest one day!
NOTE – I’ve used affiliate links for some of the tools in this post. If I really like something I usually get an affiliate account (that means if you were to buy it, I would get a commission). I have also nofollowed all links on this page to external sites to basically comply with search engines easily.