When it comes to finding the right search engine optimisation (SEO) tools for the job we’re fortunately spoilt for choice. Whether you’re looking solely for free tools or you have some budget to spend on a tool offering premium features, there are tools to serve even the simplest of tasks.
Good SEO tools should do two main things:
Save you time – This means that it provides value by way of extracting and reporting data that would otherwise be difficult to get access to. For example, Screaming Frog has ability to crawl millions of web pages, which would be an impossible task to do manually.
Identify problems – As well as opportunities to improve your website. There are several ‘all-in-one’ tools available that can do both of these things.
However, with so many available it can be difficult to know where you should be investing your time (and potentially money). With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of free and subscription-based tools that I’ll be using this year, and I’d recommend you do too.
All of these tools have exciting and progressive features that will allow you to effectively improve your SEO performance in 2018.
1. Google Search Console (new version)
From an SEO standpoint, Google Search Console is an absolutely mandatory tool. Previously known as Webmaster Tools, this useful service is the best point of communication between your website and Google. With the Search Console update announced in January 2018, which will replace what is now known as ‘classic Search Console’, users receive even more supercharged features including 16 months of Search Performance data to replace the current Search Analytics report (which only includes 90 days), as well as detailed Index Coverage Reports.
These features are are so incredibly intuitive, it potentially removes the need for many of the premium services that are available within other website analysis tools.
While tools such as SEMRush and Ahrefs provide similar search performance metrics, these tools do not give you the same insight into your website visibility in Google search as Search Console. Features such as International Targeting, Crawl Stats, Fetch and Render, URL Parameters & actual ranking and impression data on the top 1,000 pages and queries would be impossible to obtain from other sources. Furthermore, if you’re unfortunate enough to receive a manual penalty, Google will notify you directly through your Search Console account. Evidently, if you’re trying to improve the SEO of your website, you would be seriously disadvantaged not utilising Search Console every single day. Website: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools
Trial: N/A Free version available? Yes Paid version: N/A Alternative Search Engine-owned reporting tools you could use; Bing Webmaster Tools As mentioned, tools such as SEMRush, Raven ToolsandAhrefs provide some of the same features as Search Console, however with no direct communication between your website and Google they don’t provide the same insights and value.
2. Google Pagespeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool which grades your webpage with a speed score for mobile and desktop devices, and also provides some useful suggestions for improvement. Page speed is important for providing a good user experience and correlates with lower bounce rates, which explains why it’s used as a ranking factor by Google. Page speed is becoming increasingly more important, especially on mobile devices, with Google recently announcing that will soon be moving to a mobile-first index and page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Page speed is evidently really important to Google, and the new interface demonstrates how they are looking to continuously improve the tool to provide a wider range of insights, including real-world Chrome user data.
If page speed has not been a primary focus for your website previously, 2018 is the year to really crack-down on improving both your desktop and mobile experience, the latter being your top priority. Website: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ Trial: N/A Free version available? Yes Paid version: N/A Alternative website speed tests you could use;
Pingdom Website: https://www.pingdom.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? Yes. Allows you to monitor a single domain with limited features. Paid version: From £7.95/mo DareBoost Website: https://www.dareboost.com/ Trial: No Free version available? Yes Paid version: From USD $21.00/mo URIValet Website: https://urivalet.com/ Trial: N/A Free version available? Yes Paid version: N/A GTMetrix Website: https://gtmetrix.com/ Trial: N/A Free version available? Yes Paid version: From USD $14.95/mo (15% discount available on annual billing)
Majestic is purely focused on backlink analysis, and it’s likely that because of this that they do it so well. Majestic boasts “the planet’s largest link index database” and this doesn’t appear to be an unreasonable statement as they claim to have have 6.6 trillion pages in their database. Majestic is the best way to check links that you and your competitors’ have accumulated over time. Majestic is also known for their Trust and Citation Flow metrics which give you an idea on how “authoritative” a website might be based on the links that are pointing to your website, as well as further up the linking ecosystem. Other useful features include anchor text analysis, as well as seeing which links are using NoFollow directives, or have been deleted. While Majestic is similarly priced to what you might expect from this kind of tool, it really does offer the best database which you would struggle to find elsewhere, and is a widely trusted tool of SEO experts. Website: https://majestic.com/ Trial: N/A Free version available? Yes, but it’s very limited Paid version: From £39.99/mo Alternative backlink research tools you could use;
SEMrush Website: https://www.semrush.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? Yes Paid version: From USD $99.95/mo Ahrefs backlinks Website: https://ahrefs.com Trial: Yes but costs USD $7.00 Free version available? No Paid version: From USD $99.00/mo Linkody Website: https://www.linkody.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? No Paid version: From €13.90 p/mo AuthorityLabs Website: https://authoritylabs.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? No Paid version: From USD $49.00/mo
4. Screaming Frog
SEMrush contains a multitude of tools, making it a highly powerful suite. Some of the best features for SEO’s include the keyword difficulty tool, keyword gap tool, keyword position tracking and organic keywords report, which includes search engine results page (SERP) features.
All these features are analysed at a country-level, and the best part of this is that you can analyse your competitors’ websites.
SEMrush isn’t always perfect, and I will often use other tools to sanity check the raw data. They’re constantly publishing new features in beta which are interesting but are often lacking the detail provided with more focused tools.
However, as an entire package, SEMrush is the best “all-in-one” tool I’ve tried, and without doubt saves SEO’s a lot of time doing otherwise onerous tasks.
Website: https://www.semrush.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? Yes Paid version: From USD $99.95/mo Alternative multi-purpose SEO suites you could use;
Ahrefs Website: https://ahrefs.com Trial: Yes but costs USD $7.00 Free version available? Yes Paid version: From USD $99.00/mo SpyFu Website: https://www.spyfu.com/ Trial: No (but money back trial) Free version available? No Paid version: From USD $19.50/mo Alexa Website: https://www.alexa.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? No Paid version: From USD $99.00/mo CognitiveSEO Website: https://cognitiveseo.com/ Trial: Yes Free version available? No Paid version: From USD $99.00/mo
With so many SEO tools in the market, it is difficult to know whether you are investing in the right ones. This is even more true when you know there are fantastic free tools out there like Search Console and Screaming Frog’s free version.
The fact is that whilst SEO tools can’t always tell you everything, they can help you make informed decisions based on the data they provide. Therefore, I firmly believe that having access to good SEO tools and using them to improve a website’s performance on a regular basis is an absolute must. Although it’s important to remember that age-old saying “a bad workman (or workwoman) blames his tools”. Understood correctly, this means that some people cannot always find convenience in using the tools to do the job, and this is true for people using SEO tools. If you find you or your company fall into this category, it might be time to consult an SEO specialist or agency. Disclaimer: These are tools that I use the most at Blue Array, among a large suite of tools. Using any SEO tool usually requires some level of experience with SEO and a good knowledge of how search engines and website technology works. Part of the art of SEO is in the interpretation, prioritisation and implementation of what these tools report.