SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) isn’t about guesswork and feelings, it’s about crunching the data, looking at what competitors are doing, finding causes and effects for why you’re either climbing the rankings or losing positions in the SERPs and writing relevant content. A lot of an SEO’s job is fairly detail-oriented, it can be time-consuming, and it can be fairly monotonous at times as well; this is exactly why using some powerful SEO tools that can do some of the hard work for you, is a great idea and why you need to learn how to use them to your advantage.
Here are 7 top SEO tools to help you become more efficient and effective to climb the all-important Google rankings.
Google Search Console (GSC) is a fantastic free tool from Google which helps you to do a number of things in one handy place. Simply hook up your website to Google Search Console (see this handy step by step guide) and you can view how your site is performing, what actual search terms your website is displaying for, number of impressions, clicks, average position etc. This is great at taking some of the guesswork away and looking at opportunities for keywords to target as part of your SEO strategy.
You can also submit your sitemap to Google Search Console to index, you can view the coverage reports which show you any crawling errors and 404s that you may need to take a look at. You can see which backlinks to your website Google is picking up too.
Fair to say that for a free tool this is a daily go-to SEO tool for me to use for my clients and if you’re not already using this I suggest you do. As you will see shortly, there are few SEO tools that are free and even fewer which are as helpful as GSC.
Screaming Frog is an SEO spider tool and crawling software that allows you to crawl websites’ URLs and fetch key elements to analyse and audit technical and onsite SEO. This is very useful for doing an SEO audit on a website to find broken links, 404s, generate XML sitemaps, also to review page titles & meta descriptions in one place, review image file sizes and a whole lot more. It’s another powerful SEO tool which is essential in any SEO’s toolkit.
As mentioned, I would use Screaming Frog initially for an SEO audit on a website or periodically to check fixes and work that has been carried out and to make sure that the website is in good health. If you are experiencing slow site speeds this may be a good tool as well to identify opportunities to speed it up. Say if you happen to have a number of large image/video files that could be compressed down.
Screaming Frog does offer a free version but it is limited to 500 URLs so great for personal use but for agency use you will have to cough up and pay the very reasonable annual license fee of £149.
You may or may not have heard of Surfer SEO before but it has fast become one of my favourite tools to use for on-page content and competitor analysis when I am working on a specific keyword. You’ve probably heard the age-old adage that ‘content is king’ but to do all of the analysis manually and sit there noting observations and guessing would be severely time-consuming and may lead you down the wrong path. Surfer SEO takes all of the guesswork away and provides data-driven clues as to where your content falls down vs Page 1 competitors for a chosen keyword.
It will show you what schema markup competitors have tied to those results, meta title and description lengths, word and phrase count in the content on the page, word counts, length of content, exact keyword in title analysis – the list goes on! Plus it is all displayed in a really fantastic UI which is easy to read and understand. If you are looking to improve your on-page content then Surfer SEO is a fantastic place to start to make informed decisions.
Again not a free tool but their $99 per month package should be more than enough for most users.
You couldn’t have an SEO tools list without the gold standard in SEO tools making an appearance. Ahrefs is a tool I will certainly use each week and it’s best-regarded in the industry for its backlink tools. You can view the backlinks pointing to any specific domain, you can see which are ‘dofollow’ and which are ‘nofollow’ links, you can see which backlinks are new that have been picked up and which ones have dropped off if you want to try and pursue it again. You can also follow the rabbit hole of which links your competitors have and which new links they have been acquiring recently as well.
Ahrefs is much more than just a backlinks tool though, I also particularly like the content gap analysis it provides vs competitor URLs and competing domains to understand the competitors in a specific niche a bit better. One of the more expensive SEO tools around but one that many SEO professionals wouldn’t like to be without.
Back to another free tool provided by Google is the most popular analytics tools that most webmasters and SEOs opt for as it hooks up so nicely with the rest of the Google ecosystem and provides everything you need to get a better understanding about the users who come to your site.
Google Analytics has four main groups of reports – Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions. The first 3 are the ones I tend to use most personally. You can see how many users have come to your website over a given date period since tracking was set up, how long they stayed on your website for, what pages they visited, where those users came from (organic, PPC, Social) and just a whole lot more useful stuff.
You can see which demographics your site is popular with and even what device and browser types they are using to find you. There really isn’t much in terms of analytical data you may want to look at for your website that isn’t available in Google Analytics.
Our tool of choice here at Cariad Marketing for monitoring keywords and reporting to clients. Rank Ranger is a super helpful tool with too many features and reports to cover in this article but just know that this is a powerful tool if you are monitoring keywords either at a national or local level. You can view keyword reports daily, weekly and monthly, you can see if the website appears for any featured snippets in the SERPs and you can even run audits that can help identify any errors and issues you may not pick up yourself which is great for a double-check. I tend to use this tool weekly if not daily sometimes, especially after any sort of Google updates to check on fluctuations on keywords. Super helpful.
Last but certainly not least is this Google Chrome extension which you don’t realise how much you need and value it until it’s gone. At the beginning of October, Keywords Everywhere had to become a ‘paid for’ product and the day it switched from being free is the day I realised how much I use this in my everyday SEO tasks. Google keyword Searches, Suggested keywords with volumes, search console search volumes, search volumes in analytics. This is a brilliant tool for letting you know the average search volumes on keywords, the average CPC on the same keyword and the competition on that keyword. For anyone doing keyword research or looking to optimise a page and not sure which one to go for, this is a great tool to use. Simple but very effective.
There you have it, my top 7 SEO tools to help you save time and climb the rankings with a data-driven approach to SEO. There are many, many tools available and more being built all the time. My overarching advice would be to pick the right tool for the job, find something which is easy enough to use and has a nice UI and most importantly something that you can trust and is known to provide high-quality data to help you make the best decisions possible.