I list here some of my favourite entry-level SEO tools. Most of these tools have sales on Black Friday to Cyber Monday, so now’s a good time to explore them.
These are time-saving tools I use, have purchased or can recommend. Free browser extensions, cloud-based online tools and paid desktop software packages.
The best SEO tools will save you valuable time, can provide you with insight and can quickly help you explore challenges and opportunities. The caveat being, of course, you will need some degree of experience to get the very most out of them.
Your competition is using these tools and others like them, so you should think about using them too.
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 regularly.
These are ‘white hat’ SEO tools. I don’t list blackhat tools on this page.
Crawlers & Broken Link Checker Tools
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog SEO Spider (For Mac & PC) is a crawl tool for analysing the structure of a website.
It’s a tool for search engine optimisers, website managers and web developers. SF spiders a site in a similar way any search engine spider would. As search engine optimisation tools go, you’ll need to understand technical SEO and have a firm grasp of HTML to get the most from this tool.
It is an excellent program to audit your website from a technical point of view, and with it can promptly collect a lot of the necessary information you need to help optimise your site.
This program is 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 backlinks, numbers of external links on each page. Quickly identify click depth, see canonical link information or meta-refresh directives. And more.
You can also output this report to CSV.
Screaming Frog spider comes highly recommended for SEO and web designers everywhere. I have used it on small and enormous websites (using a cloud computer to maximise its efficiency). You can get a free version too to test it out.
Integrity For Mac Only
You can also find broken links on your site with this free tool for Apple IOS computers.
Broken links are a pain in the backside, a waste of Pagerank, and a bad user experience.
Integrity for Mac users is a cool little tool to identify those.
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!
Integrity 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.
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 significant addition is the ability to see at a glance your most linked-to pages and how many links EXACTLY they have, and from where.
Not bad at all. Especially for Apple Mac designers.
If you are a PC user, check out Xenu Link Sleuth. It’s free, and still reliable.
Website Auditor Software (For Mac & PC)
I paid for a copy of Website Auditor (Aff*) to have a play about with and I liked it.
You can download a free version (ZIP FILE (Aff*)) before you part with any cash, too.
Website Auditor a tool for spidering, checking and evaluating the links and pages on your site. It’s ideal for seo and web developers alike, 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.
Website Auditor powerful, and can unquestionably help you audit a site.
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 fresh REPORTS feature that will even let you print a client friendly report if you need it.
I like this tool. The only downside for me is the actual reporting function. NOT the reporting function itself – that is cool. I just use slightly different metrics.
It suffers the same shortcomings as most other tools available. 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 solid SEO tool for auditing your website structure. Available for Apple Mac and PC.
P.S. A review of Rank Tracker is below – that’s good as well. You get that with this software as part of the SEO Powersuite (Aff*)
Google Keyword Tools
The Google Keyword tool is still very useful. It’s changed a lot over the years since I used the public version every day. I’ve even picked up some links after I spotted some changes to it:
It was always inaccurate, steered you down transactional queries, and is not as useful as it once was.
I have developed my private toolset with access to various API so I don’t need the public tool.
I must say I have enjoyed using SEM RUSH (Aff) over the last few years.
Semrush is 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 (I am UK).
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 and other geographic regions.
Keyword Research with SEMrush
SEMrush (you get a free trial for 14 days with that link), is an all-in-one suite of digital marketing tools popular among professional seo.
It includes almost every tool you’d need to manage a successful organic online marketing campaign.
You can register for free to try it out:
Once you’re logged in type one of your topics into the search box on the top of the screen and hit SEARCH.
Note: You will notice two more options inside the search box, one says (keyword) and the other lists a region (US in this case but it DOES have a good UK database I work with more):
You can specify what regional search engine you want to see the results from. Even though you reside in one country it doesn’t mean that you can’t retrieve search data from another. This option allows you to specify that.
Once your hit SEARCH the tool will display overview of various data on the theme you’ve selected.
(A keyword overview report in SEMrush)
You can get a LOT of information about your competition and the marketplace with this online service, examples being:
- Organic Search. This section displays data relating to organic traffic this keyword receives. Volume indicates average monthly number of searches for this keyword. Number of results shows how many URLs compete for this keyword.
- Paid Search. This section presents the paid traffic data – cost per click and competitor density.
- Trend indicates monthly distribution of search volume for the keyword. This metric is ideal if you want to establish keyword seasonality.
Phrase match keywords and Related Keywords
These two reports are the heart and soul of keyword research.
- Phrase match keyword shows variations of the main keyword you specified that customers might use to search for a product or service.
- Related keywords report shows different keywords that relate to the main keyword in one way or another.
Click on “View full report” under Phrase match keyword report.
This will give you access to a full list of phrase match keywords SEMrush had found for the topic:
As you can see, apart from the list of keywords the tool also displays information that can help me better assess those keywords:
- Traffic Volume.
- Average CPC.
- Competition Density.
- Of Results.
It also lets me to see the cached SERP (search engine results) page for each keyword.
By analysing this data you can assess which keywords might be worth targeting with your SEO efforts.
SEMrush is a great tool – for beginners and professionals alike. It’s the first place I go to for a quick overview of competitors performance in Google.
Link Analysis Tools
Unnatural Links Analysis
If you need a quick overview of the quality of your backlink profile – LINK RISK is my tool of choice. I can vouch for the experience of the team behind this tool, and expect it will get better and better.
If you know anything about SEO, you will know that your rankings can be severely impacted by low-quality links pointing to your website from other sites on the net.
This tool aims to calculate the inherent risk found within a website’s backlink profile. It can be used for disavow file management and proactive link profile management via a daily imports feature. Link Risk is a powerful manual penalty and penguin recovery tool.
Cheap too, considering the time it saves you.
Majestic SEO & Link Research Tools
I use the competitive link analysis:
- 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 link building
- 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 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 – it helped me point out to the client his main competitor was REMARKABLE, actively engaged in successful 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 happened to that link…
Often, I use competitor backlink analysis to gather historic and real-time 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 love Majestic SEO – it’s the first place I look when looking at the backlinks 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. Hat tip to Open Site Explorer, too, but I’ve not used MOZ tools for a while. I do also utilise AHrefs every now and again.
Link Research Tools, is also one of the very best link research tools available. 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.
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 – the tools above are a good place to start.
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 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 de facto 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
Pro Rank Tracker
ProRankTracker is a simple, easy to use and accurate cloud-based rank checker suitable for most needs.
I use it daily – and I am signed up for the API.
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 one of the best.
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.
The software also can check your Pagerank and Alexa traffic stats too (if either of those metrics are important to you) and can keep an eye on competitors rankings too.
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 backlinks 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.
- 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
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 toolbars – 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.
I capture screenshots day-to-day and I use this free Google CHROME Add-On called Awesome Screenshot Minus.
On my Mac to take a picture of, for instance, small parts of a screen – I normally use the keyword command Command-Shift-4 (I don’t know how PC users do it) but where this software comes in useful is if I want to take a a picture of an entire web page that is too big to fit in your browser window.
Other Popular SEO Tools – SEObook, Moz & 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, backlinks 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 into 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).
The tools I use most often are Majestic SEO (for historic link reports at the beginning of a project), SEMRush for quick keyword research, Advanced Web Ranking or Pro-Ranktracker 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.
Rich, accessible, relevant content and editorial links from reputable sites are what you need to get more visitors safely from Google in 2015.
You should be thinking things like ‘how am I going to make my site better‘, or ‘how am I going to keep people on my site longer‘, or and ‘just 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.