Disclosure: “These reviews are my own opinion based on almost 20 years in marketing. They are not advertisements. Every tool I review I reviewed because I used the tool first without compensation or encouragement. Affiliate links are marked (“AFF) which means I have signed up to the affiliate program. The tools here have merited a mention in my reviews based on my satisfaction. If I prefer any tool, I add a review of it to this page. If the tool has an affiliate programme, I usually sign up to it and make commissions on sales via my links. Having an affiliate programme is not a requirement to make it on to this page. Disclaimer.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo 2018
Some tools are total garbage! The tools on this page are certainly not.
No ONE tool does it all in 2018. Here is a list of my notes on my favourite entry-level tools to help to do SEO.
These are time-saving tools I use, have purchased, trialled or can recommend, with almost 20 years experience in internet marketing. These reviews include paid and free browser extensions and plugins; cloud-based online tools with monthly subscription packages and paid desktop software packages.
The best SEO tools will save you valuable time, can provide you with insight and can help you quickly explore challenges and opportunities. The caveat being, of course, you will need some degree of experience to get the very best out of most of the tools.
Tools like these help you make a better website and increase user satisfaction and user experience. That is very important if you want to rank high in Google, for the longer term in 2018.
Your competition is using these tools and others like them. I use them too. You might find use for 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 and often, for years.
These are ‘white hat’ SEO tools. I don’t list blackhat tools on this page. I have marked affiliate links as (Aff* = Affiliate in case you skipped past that big box at the top).
Table Of Contents
Keyword Research Tools
The Google Keyword tool is still 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. I believe you need to be signed in to an Adwords account to get the most of it in 2018. I have developed my own SEO toolset that works with several Tool APIs so I don’t use the Google Keyword Tool at all in 2018.
I do not think it is as useful as it once was, though, unless there have been changes I am not aware of. Beginners might find it easier to use one of the third-party keyword research tools I list below.
If I want competitive keyword data quickly – I, like a lot of other professional SEO, usually get it from SEMRush (Aff*) these days. There are a couple of other options I go into below, too.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SEMrush. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
SEMRUSH IS MY FAVOURITE ALL-ONE SEO TOOL. It is a Site Auditor, Keyword Research & Competitor Analysis Tool.
I have enjoyed using SEM RUSH (Aff) for over the last (almost) 10 years.
Semrush is a keyword research tool for, well, professional keyword research, site analysis and competition analysis. This tool does a lot of things. Much more in 2018, since I started using it many years ago.
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 based in the 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 link building 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 is an all-in-one suite of digital marketing tools popular among much professional SEO.
It includes almost every tool you’d need to manage a successful organic online marketing campaign.
You can register for free (AFF) 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 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 the average monthly number of searches for this keyword. The 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 the 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 you see the cached SERP (search engine results) page for each keyword.
By analysing this data you can assess which keywords might be worth targeting your SEO efforts.
SEMrush (Aff*) 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.
Long Tail Pro
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of LongTailPro. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
Long Tail Pro (Aff*) is a keyword research tool that includes some clever competitor analysis to help you target the right keywords on your website.
This tool can quickly analyze the top 10 results in Google for each of your keywords, saving you boatloads of time.
This tool also checks important SERP data points like keyword usage in the Title Element and Meta tags, Domain & Page Authority, Moz Rank, Number of Backlinks, Domain Age etc.
This is a great tool for keyword researchers, and I know a few colleagues who like it too.
I can recommend Ubersuggest for quick Google Autocomplete research, too, and also I’ve found Answer The Public to be very useful, too, when investigating what QUESTIONS are being asked on Google by users about a certain topic.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SearchMetrics. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
The Searchmetrics Suite (Aff*) is designed to help marketers working for enterprises and agencies plan, execute, measure and report on internet marketing strategies.
It has a free account where you can see some information of how your site performed over the last 6 months.
It’s useful for competitor keyword analysis and to get a quick overview of any site that already has some visibility in Google.
SearchMetrics has LOTS of data and that places it amongst the best seo reporting software you can buy.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SpyFu. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
SpyFu (Aff*) is also a great tool for competitive keyword research, and while I don’t use it that often, many of my colleagues and peers really like this tool so it may be worth giving it a test drive.
I was recently impressed by the accuracy of this tool in judging actual traffic trends to a site:
Hat Tip to Sistrix, too. I’ve played about with this tool in the past and was impressed, and I have heard good things about it recently.
Crawlers & Broken Link Checker Tools
Google crawls the web looking for content to index and present to its users.
SEO Crawler tools mimic ‘Googlebot’ (in a limited way, it must be said) and crawl and list elements that can be ‘optimised’ to make your pages easier to crawl and index properly.
SEMRush Site Audit Tool
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SEMrush. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
The SEMRush Site Audit tool is a fast and painless way to quickly identify simple technical or basic on-page issues your website may have, with minimal fuss and preparation.
Reports are ready within minutes, are easy to understand (even for the most inexperienced users) and include practical solutions for issue resolution and guidance for further investigation/research where required.
The tool automatically crawls your website and checks it against an extensive set of industry expectations and standards when it comes to usability. I won’t list the full set of tests/checks in this article, but some notable features of the audit include:
- Identify Broken Links:- Internal, External & Images are checked
- Page Meta Review:- Titles or Descriptions too long, too short, missing or duplicate?
- Page Headers:- Check 404’s, 301’s and other internal redirects
- On-page:- Canonical, H-tags, Alt tags and other best practice on-page optimisation
- Structural:- Sitemap.xml, robots.txt & AMP page validation
- Page Speed:- Does the site load quickly enough for all devices?
- https / http:- Migrating to https? Are all internal link references consistent and secure?
- hreflang:- International/multilingual site checks
The results from the site audit can be easily shared with clients or development teams, and because re-auditing is so simple, it’s a great way to track and compare site improvements over time.
How to configure your site audit
It is very easy to run a technical audit using SEMRush. To begin, you first need to (AFF) create a ‘Project’ on the SEMRush Dashboard
Enter the target URL and assign a ‘Project Name’, then select the ‘Site Audit’ set up:
In most cases, the only ‘default’ parameter that will need to be changed will be the ‘limit of checked pages’, you want to ensure all potential URL’s are included in the crawl. A quick way to determine this to do a quick ‘site:youdomain.com’ search in Google:
For more experienced users, there is a range of options to tailor the crawl, including:
- Custom Checked Page Limit:- Increase this for larger sites
- Select Crawl Source:- Organic site crawl or only target URL’s contained in sitemap.xml
- Select User Agent:- Use default or specify Google Bot
- Crawl Rate:- Specify a low rate via robots.txt to avoid server resource issues (primarily on large sites)
- Include/exclude URL’s:- You can specify sections of the site to crawl or ignore based upon URL patterns/parameters
- Re-crawl Schedule:- Determine when the site should automatically be re-crawled.
Once you are happy, simply hit the ‘Start Site Audit’ button and wait for notification that the crawl is complete.
SEMRush generates their own ‘Site Health’ score based upon the total number of ‘checks past’ to ‘checks failed’ ratio. This gives an instant overall idea of the sites current technical set-up.
This is updated after every re-crawl and shows the overall trend, handy for large and regularly updated sites.
The next section summarises the number of site issues found during the audit. The issues fall into 3 categories….
- Errors:- The most severe issues found
- Warnings:- Less severe but still recommended
- Notices:- General best practice elements, which help the overall site quality
The ‘Thematic Score’ info boxes lead through to some useful data on the overall site crawl equity, https and international (or ‘hreflang tags’) implementation.
The most crucial errors and warnings are also brought forward and highlighted:
Lists all site errors and warnings, with brief but useful explanations of the importance / relevance / potential solution for each element.
Pages with errors are then grouped, so it is extremely useful for identifying shared or page specific issues:
Lists all URL’s picked up during site crawl, and you view/filter / summarise the data based upon metrics including:
- Crawl Depth
- Issues Found
- HTTP Status Code
- Re-audit URL’s individually (if required after fixes have been applied)
In addition, you can pull data directly from your Google Analytics account to help with top page identification and prioritization:
Click on site links to see individual page reports listing details/issues to be addressed:
Ideal for ongoing reporting and issue resolution tracking. This dashboard provides short-cut links to access sets of URL’s based upon key technical metrics which can then be easily exported or shared.
Ideal for tracking site improvements over time, this is especially handy when large teams or different departments are involved.
The progress tab compares and presents data from each site audit in a graphical format. You can easily overly specific ‘issue’ metrics to get a clear indication of where improvements are being made and more crucially where issues are on the increase.
The SEMRush Site Audit (AFF) is a great tool to quickly analyse/review the technical set up of any website. The results can be easily shared or export for further analysis, and should give you a clear indication of where the main problems lie.
A key benefit is the ability to schedule re-crawls / re-fresh data which tracks progress and issue resolution. It is especially useful for clarifying and targeting issues for development teams, and outputs ready-made reports for clients.
Resolving underlying technical issues should be the main priority following an SEO Audit. Nothing should be left that will impede the search engines from crawling and indexing your content
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Sitebulb. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
Sitebulb (Aff*) is a new easy to get to grip with website crawler and auditor.
The Sitebulb Audit includes analysis, insight and guidance on the technical and content requirements of modern SEO.
The reports are quick and the results are easily interpreted with actionable insights The main features/benefits are summarised below.
The core function of the tool, it performed well on the sites I tested.
It is easy to configure and there is a range of advanced options for including or excluding URLs and tailoring the crawl rate for specific site or server environments.
The Audit process is easy to configure and reasonably quick to run (depending of course on the size of the site).
It’s easy to re-run crawls at any time and the because the data is stored locally in its own database structure, you have the benefit of easily comparing data over time, which takes analysis to a much deeper level.
Further information & instructions on the audit process can be found in the Resources section of the Sitebulb (Aff*) website.
Overall Sitebulb looks to be a great ‘allrounder’ in the site audit category, and its flexibility will be useful for experienced SEO’s and newbies alike (some understanding of SEO practices is required).
As a crawler, while it’s perhaps not as fast as Screaming Frog, it has a better UI and it’s storage method means it’s less local resource intensive.
As a site auditor it does a pretty good job, particularly from a technical point of view, however, it’s error reporting and resolution advice is not yet as comprehensive as SEMRush for example (with which it shares a number of similarities), but it is, however, cheaper and is not does not share the same restrictions on usage.
It’s unclear if it is as good at handling ‘monster’ sites as Deepcrawl, but it is certainly more accessible and with unlimited projects (in theory) cheaper to run.
I would imagine we will see this crawler and auditor turn into a very popular website crawler tool.
You can get a FREE 14 Day Trial of the tool by clicking here (AFF).
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog SEO Spider (For Mac & PC) is a crawl tool for analysing the structure of a website.
THIS IS MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE TECHNICAL SEO TOOL.
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).
SF is just about the best SEO software you can buy in 2018 to investigate site structure and for quick log file analysis IF you are technically minded.
Get a free version too to test it out, before you buy it.
Website Auditor Software (For Mac & PC)
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SEOPowersuite. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
I paid for a copy of Website Auditor (Aff*) to have a play about with and I liked it.
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*)
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of DeepCrawl. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
Deep Crawl (Aff*) is a great online SEO tool and an ideal solution when crawling larger sites, or if you need your crawler in the cloud. This tool is very useful for large site migrations, and it can easily check hreflang tags are set up correctly.
Basically, it’s similar to Screaming Frog (above), but has the benefit of remote crawling, saving you having to do it yourself.
Another benefit is Deep Crawl carries out some pre-analysis for you to identify obvious technical problems with your website.
Highly recommended for larger sites, and one of the best online SEO tools you can buy.
A hat tip to Oncrawl, too – as I have heard good things about this cloud-based web crawler and analyser. Unfortunately, I have not had that much time to play with this tool.
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.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of URLProfiler. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
URL Profiler (Aff*) is a multi-task tool that can be easily configured to grab data from any URL.
This is desktop software for PC and Mac and is developed more for the technically minded SEO. This is a handy tool for checking if your URLs are indexed in Google, for instance, or if you want to quickly grab social and backlink data for any URL.
Highly recommended for the technical SEO.
ProRankTracker Rank Tracker Software
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of ProRankTracker. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
ProRankTracker (Aff*) 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
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Advanced Web Ranking. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
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.
So much so, that we’ve resorted to 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 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 the cloud version FREE, you can access it here (Aff*).
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 plays nice with my Mac Book Pro.
Link Assistant Rank Tracker Software
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SEOPowersuite. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
I purchased a copy of SEO Powersuite (AFF*) to have a play about with and for review purposes, and I like it. I reviewed its stablemate 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 its performance over time.
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.
SEO Powersuite (LinkAssistant.com)
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of SEOPowersuite. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
SEO Powersuite (Aff*) 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.
I use this toolset to have a poke around but my favourite out of the tools is Rank Tracker (AFF*) to run quick ranking audits which come on its own, or with SEO Powersuite.
I use 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 historical 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 – 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 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 (though I’ve not used the MOZ tools for a while).
I do also use AHrefs if I really want to double-down, so to speak, on backlink research for a site and ensure I am getting the most available links to a site (after I have looked at Majestic data, of course).
Link Research Tools
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 is GREAT for getting link building ideas – but a 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 (a part of Citation Labs) is a brilliant tool for doing this.
With this tool, 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 spent a 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 (or it did, when I last used it) – scanning a well-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, its 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 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!
Kerboo (Formerly Link Risk)
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Kerboo. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
If you need a quick overview of the quality of your backlink profile – KERBOO (Aff*) 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.
KERBOO (Aff*) is a powerful manual penalty and penguin recovery tool.
Cheap too, considering the time it saves you.
Clicky Web Analytics
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Clicky. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
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 (Aff*) 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.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Grammarly. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
I know my grammar is lacking and it is something I’ve always aimed to address.
I doubt grammar is an influential ranking signal today, but, correctly constructed sentences should make reading this blog a better user experience.
Also, translations would be more accurate.
A greater grasp of the English language and a wider vocabulary is a real advantage to an SEO in 2018.
So I am cleaning up my blog and all future posts.
I installed Grammarly (Aff*).
Grammarly is a free Chrome browser extension that helps identify and fix grammar and spelling errors and it’s now also one of my favourite SEO tools.
I love the way Grammarly alerts you when you are using repetitive words and offers you synonyms to replace them.
That’s a great assist if you have a feel for what you are doing.
It’s useful because, often, the number of unique keywords on a page is closely proportionate to the number of keyword-based searches a page can (usually) rank for in Google.
Easy to install, Grammarly works in the background in Chrome browser on my Mac and integrates efficiently with WordPress.
P.S. I used Grammarly to write this post.
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.
Nofollow For Chrome
QUOTE: “Paid links: A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. In order to prevent paid links from influencing search results and negatively impacting users, we urge Webmasters use nofollow on such links. Search engine guidelines require machine-readable disclosure of paid links in the same way that consumers online and offline appreciate disclosure of paid relationships (for example, a full-page newspaper ad may be headed by the word “Advertisement“).”
Find paid links on the page and check that links that should be nofollow are nofollow. I have on-page tool NoFollow for Chrome installed. This browser extension is excellent for quick page hyperlink analysis. it highlights rel=nofollow links on the fly which I find useful.
Awesome Screenshot Minus
Capture those magic moments for posterity.
I capture screenshots day-to-day (useful for SEO like me) and I use this simple to use and free on-page tool 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 picture of an entire web page that is too big to fit in your browser window.
Woorank is an impressive on-page tool ‘freemium’ tool that does offer a lot of quick functionality in the free version. Check it out. We have a free tool on the Hobo site that does a lot of the same on page SEO checks.
Redirect Path for Chrome is a highly recommended on-page tool and valuable little plugin that can help you quickly identify the number and type of redirects if any, that brought you to a page. This is incredibly useful for page migrations and site clean-ups. I use this little extension every day to check on the number of chains in a redirect to a page.
QUOTE: “We follow up to five redirect steps in a redirect chain if it’s a server-side redirect.” John Mueller, Google
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.
SEO Tools For Excel
If you’re not running your own functions with Excel – Excel Tools For SEO is a great place to start(I also have URL Tools installed). SEO Tools for Excel is a fantastic toolset – once you start with this stuff you can’t live without it unless you build your own tools, of course).
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.
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Dropbox. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
No wonder Steve Jobs tried to buy it. Dropbox is a genius idea – 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 (Aff*).
Disclosure: “I am an affiliate of Hidemyass. This review is editorial opinion. This review is not sponsored.” Shaun Anderson, Hobo
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) using a desktop rank tracker of your choice and a proxy like 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 a service like LOGMEIN or my new tool of choice – Team Viewer– 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.
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.
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 nearly 20 years 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 (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 2018.
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 toolset, so watch out, and good luck.
If I find the time, I will add the rest one day!
TIP! Test Your Site For Mobile Friendliness!
Google is moving to a mobile-first index and that means your mobile experience better be above average!
Test your site using the public tool found here: ALTHOUGH NOTE if you want to be sure your site is mobile-friendly as far as Google is concerned – it means using this tool. Here’s the announcement from Google.
Note that passing Google’s mobile-friendliness test does not mean your website is automatically user-friendly. For a site to be even more user-friendly on mobile devices – you should be relying on W3C technologies – so I would recommend you use the free tool (currently disabled) provided by the W3c:
This checker performs various tests on a Web Page to determine its level of mobile-friendliness. The tests are defined in the mobileOK Basic Tests 1.0 specification. A Web Page is mobileOK when it passes all the tests.
I’m currently bringing my site in line with w3c on mobile friendliness and more general web accessibility recommendations.
The Best SEO Tools for Beginners in 2018
I’ve reviewed a lot of SEO tools over the last 15 years or more.
Here are my top SEO tools that I use almost every day in 2018:
- SEMrush – SEMrush (*AFF) is an all-in-one online site audit and competitor analysis tool. This probably the best all-in-one SEO tool for beginners to get insights about their site and competitor sites, too. SemRush is a paid monthly subscription.
- Google Search Console – This is a free web analytics console from Google. GSC (also known as ‘Webmaster Tools’ is a must-have toolset with limited but sometimes invaluable insights about your own site and messages about your site health direct from Google. Connect it with Google Analytics to get the most data about our site you can get (for free). For most small businesses, you are crazy not to register your domain with this system.
- Screaming Frog SEO crawler – This is a PC-based site crawler tool for experienced and professional technical SEO and web developers. You can use it to find technical and user experience issues on a website. Beginners can glean a lot of information from it too. This is, in all my years’ experience, my favourite technical tool. This is a paid yearly subscription and well worth it.
- Majestic – This is an online tool to analyse the backlinks that point to your website. This is useful if you have backlinks manual action from Google, or want to clean up old link building practices using the Google Search Console Disavow Tool. You can also see your competitors best backlinks too, ideal if you want to see what type of marketing is working for your competitor. Majestic is a paid monthly subscription.
- ProRankTracker – Proranktracker (*AFF) is a simple online rank tracker where you can track daily progress of your rankings. Every webmaster should have one of these standalone rank tracker tools running in the background it is often ideal when identifying ranking drops in Google. Proranktracker is a paid monthly subscription.
- Google Pagespeed Tool – This is an online tool where you can test for speed issues on your website.
- Clicky – Clicky (*AFF) is a very simple but incredibly powerful and easy-to-use real-time analytics tool. For beginners, it is probably much easier than Google Analytics to draw insights from.
- AnswerThePublic – This is a very simple and free keyword research tool to help you if you are creating content around a specific topic. You can use this to find out the type of questions people have about particular topics.
- Redirect Path – This is a very simple free Chrome Plugin you can use to analyse redirects that occur when you go to a URL using your browser.
- Grammarly – Grammarly (*AFF) is a simple grammar and spelling plugin for Chrome if you edit your website text using your browser. It is a simple way to ensure your web copy is not so bad as to put off users. You also do not want to misspell important keywords or synonyms.
Disclaimer: “I do not accept paid placemant on this page. Affiliate links are marked (“AFF) which means I have signed up to the affiliate program. All external links on this page have rel=nofollow to more easily comply with search engine webmaster guidelines, US and UK advertising standards. Where there is no label (AFF) beside links I am not affiliated. I have been in this industry a long time and do have communications with many tool providers on this page.
Buy at your own risk, I can’t guarantee satisfaction for 3rd party tools I’ve reviewed. Hopefully this affiliate program disclosure illustrates transparency and complies with advertising standards. Tool providers can of course send me freebies (which will be disclosed).