What’s in my SEO toolbox for 2017

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Whether you’re a seasoned SEO professional, or a web site owner that’s trying to optimize your own site, there are a ton of SEO tools out there to choose from. Many are dedicated to doing just one thing well, and others offer a lot of different capabilities all bundled together.  Some are free, some are not.  One thing to keep in mind is that free doesn’t mean bad or less functional, and expensive doesn’t mean good (or great).

With that said, here are my [current] favorites.

Web Crawling

No doubt about it here.  If you’re trying to crawl a web site, or verify the validity of a sitemap.xml file, nothing will do the job like Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. Besides all the basic information (URL, page title, <h> tags, meta description) you can connect it to Google Analytics and Google Search Console.  You can also set up custom filters to search for all content with specific text or extract specific text from all the pages.  And you can do the filtering and / or extraction via CSS, XPath, RegEx or plain text. Anyone who’s trying to do SEO without this tool is working with one hand tied behind their back.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider isn’t free, but it’s worth every penny.  You can download it here.

Log File Analysis

It’s a bit old school and a lot of SEO’s don’t pay much attention to log files these days, but if you’re looking to dive really deep into your site’s performance, you really need to look at the server logs.  Screaming Frog’s Log Analyzer allows you to upload your log files, identify crawled URLs and analyze search bot data and behavior for invaluable SEO insight. So, what can you do with it?  You can:

  • Identify Crawled URLs
  • Find Broken Links and Errors
  • Discover Crawl Frequency
  • Audit Redirects
  • Find Uncrawled Pages
  • Identify Large and Slow Pages
  • Improve Your Crawl Budget

Again, this tool isn’t free.  But if you really want to get into the weeds on your SEO, you need it.  Download it here.

Rank Tracking

Ever since Google removed keyword information from Google Analytics, it’s been harder and harder to see which keywords drive traffic to individual pages and where those pages appear on the SERPs for each of those keywords.  Authority Labs goes a long way towards replaced that information.

Authority Labs allows you to track the position of hundreds of keywords across multiple domains over time for several search engines. The tool also allows you to see what types of SERP listings are working for you.  These include basic text links, image links, video links and rich snippets. In addition, you can look at positions on mobile vs desktop search and export the data into a CSV file for analysis in other tools.

To be clear, creating an effective SEO campaign isn’t just about getting pages into the number 1 position on the SERPs. But when you prepare your reports for your Clients, it’s nice to be able to point to a report and say, “Here. Look at what we did for you.”

Authority Labs isn’t free, but you don’t have to download anything to use it.  Just go to the web site (https://authoritylabs.com/) and sign up.

Keyword Research

Market Samurai is another great tool and I use it for two specific tasks.  Keyword Research and Competitive Research.

Keyword research couldn’t be easier with this tool. Just create a project, add your keywords (one per tab) and Market Samurai will tell you all of the variations on that term as well as the number of searches (daily, weekly or monthly), the number of competitors you’re going to be up against and the amount of money you might be expected to pay for each click in a paid search campaign.  Also helpful is the graph showing the 12 month trend for searches on that keyword.

Competitive Research is something that’s often overlooked in SEO.  Many of my Clients are concerned about who else sells the same product or service as them but they often overlook who else they’re competing with for visibility on the SERP.  Market Samurai can do that.

Just go to the SEO Competition tab, enter the keyword you want to rank for, and Market Samurai will give you a list of the top 10 competitors for that keyword.  You’ll get the specific URL that the competition is ranking for as well as Domain Authority, Citation Flow, Trust Flow, Referring Domains, # of Backlinks, and a lot of other information.  This can help tell you now only who you’re competing against but how you can target them. Good stuff.

There is a free version of Download Market Samurai as well as a paid version. Your choice.

Social Monitoring

Let me say this upfront.  There is no evidence that any direct causal relationship exists between likes or retweets or pins and organic search position.  But having said that, there are correlations between social media mentions and organic search positions. Why? Because the more visibility your Company or your Brand has on social media the more likely someone is to click on your content when it appears on a SERP. For this reason, I always advise my Clients to coordinate their social media and organic search campaigns.  And the tool I use when it comes to monitoring social mentions and correlating that information to my organic traffic is Nuvi.

There are so many ways to use this tool that it’s scary.  OK, maybe not scary.  But it’s overwhelming.  You can monitor all of your social media platforms in one analytics package. You can track hashtags and see when and where you get traction. You can see who your key influencers are and contact them directly from the app. You can produce fully interactive reports with live data.  Here’s a sample screenshot from a couple of years ago when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl:

Nuvi is another paid access app. No download is required, but you will have to fill out a form and go through their sales pitch before you can see anything live.

Sign up here: https://www.nuvi.com/

Paid Search

What do I like about SEM Rush? Everything.  Along with SpyFu, it’s one of my go-to tools when I have to do a paid search campaign.  Display

Not that SEM Rush is limited to paid search data. It’s not.  The tool provides data on organic search, paid search and inbound links, and I use it for all of that and more.  But when I’m looking for insight on what a Client’s competitor is doing for paid advertising, especially display advertising, it has few equals.

I like SpyFu for the almost the same reasons.  It’s a versatile tool that provides a wealth of information (organic, paid, etc) on what’s going on with your competition.  But what I use SpyFu for more than anything else is its paid search marketing information. SpyFu will not only tell me what keywords are being targeted for paid search ads, but it will tell me when the ads ran, what position they ran in, and what percentage of ads were served for every campaign. Why is that valuable? Because I can see at a glance what’s working and what isn’t.

You can get SEMRush here (https://www.semrush.com/) and SpyFu here (https://www.spyfu.com/).

There are a lot more tools that I like and work with but these are the SEO tools I can’t live without.

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