The one question I get asked more than any other about SEO is ‘what tools do you use?’.
Unlike a lot of SEOs I know I’m not a big fan of letting tools do too much of the work, as I never fully trust a heavily automated process and I actually quite enjoy the slow and sometimes mundane task of manually crunching through data! But even so, I naturally have to depend on some tools to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
I’m planning to do a series of posts about all the tools I use for different aspects of SEO – and this first one is focussed on the tools I use for on-site, or on-page, SEO (by the way, I have no affiliation with any of these tools):
Google and Bing Webmaster Tools
If your aim is to rank well in Google and Bing and you don’t have verified Webmaster Tools accounts, then you’re doing it wrong – and you should immediately follow these links to sort it out: Google WMT / Bing WMT.
Both of these Webmaster Tools accounts provide a wealth of useful data regarding how the search engines crawl and index your site as well as any technical issues your site may have, what search queries lead to impressions and clicks (very useful in this world of (not provided)!), your link profile and loads more.
Other Google tools
While I’m on the subject of Google, I may as well get all of their tools out of the way!
For on-site SEO, I use Google Analytics to regularly monitor user engagement (bounce rates, time on site etc…) as well as improve on-page optimisation efforts by hunting down juicy ‘long-tail’ terms deep in the keyword reports.
I also find it useful to regularly check on popular pages – particularly landing pages – and to identify those that aren’t performing as well as the site average.
When researching keywords I always use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, which may not be totally trustworthy but it’s close enough. I’m lucky enough to work in an agency that has a strong PPC offering, so I often get to use some actual, paid for, keyword data straight out of live AdWords campaigns – which is nice! I also sometimes turn to Google Trends for some added keyword data, but not very often as it’s a bit clunky.
I also use Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool regularly, as it provides some good, actionable data on page download speeds.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
This is probably the best crawling/spidering tool I use. It might not look great, and it may have a rubbish name – but it quickly provides a lot of useful technical and on-page data. I use it mostly to check on server response codes across a domain (particularly any dodgy 302 redirects lurking around) and to see the meta data all in one place (especially title tags and canonical tags).
The free version of Screaming Frog will crawl and provide data on up to 500 URLs – which makes it a great ‘starting point’ tool for checking onsite SEO.
I went through a period of trying all the ‘premium’ SEO tools to find the right fit for me and my agency. I eventually settled on Raven, and then two weeks later they announced they were dropping all the ranking data because Google was playing hardball with its API access. When that happened I jumped ship straight to SEOMoz, and have never looked back. It gives loads of actionable data on technical issues like duplicate content and gives solid weekly ranking data – which clients always appreciate!
If I need to get some quick, ad hoc ranking data then I use SEO Powersuite’s Rank Tracker. It’s a bit fiddly but once you’ve got to grips with it it works pretty well.
Sometimes it’s useful to see a page exactly how a search engine sees it, which is where Browseo comes in. It provides similar information to Screaming Frog, but is much more visual – so it’s perfect to get a quick snapshot of any potential issues that I might have missed when scanning the page myself.
It’s also great for training purposes as it helps those who are a bit more unfamiliar to SEO to understand how search engine spiders actually work, and what they are looking for when they crawl a URL.
It’s very common for me to run out of ideas when carrying out keyword research, so I often find myself turning to Ubersuggest. This tool basically provides a big list of variations of a keyphrase using Google’ autocomplete function. A lot of what it returns is unusable, but there’s usually something in there that sparks a bit of inspiration.
What on-site SEO tools do you use?
As I have a (probably unhealthy) aversion to tools, I haven’t tried all the tools out there and wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some great ones that I should check out. If there’s any SEO tools you use and would recommend, please let me know in the comments…
Good to see someone who doesn’t let tools do all the work, it’s always so obvious when it’s an automated process and kind of insulting to a client paying the cash for a personal service!
I’d add Microsoft Excel to that list, barely a day goes by when I’m not thrashing data in it. Invaluable.
Good call Alan, I didn’t even think to include Excel – despite using it for about 75% of my day! It’s easy to take for granted I guess….