Every SEO uses different tools and resources. Some tools are paid, some are free and some are internally developed tools that we use for ourselves and our clients - but we all use them. Very often I get asked what tools people should use if they're looking to optimize their own sites and what resources they should use to keep up with the latest going's on. While telling people how to optimize their own sites and what the tools we use isn't generally the best of business practices – I just can't help myself. If your budget doesn't allow for the hiring of a professional SEO company – trying it yourself may be the only option. I also try to remember that once-upon-a-time I was optimizing my own sites and was new to SEO and without the open advice of others already involved in the community – I wouldn't be running a successful SEO company today. To this end, it only seems right to provide a list of some of the main tools we use on virtually every site.
When I initially started writing this article I was going to cram a slough of various tools and resources into one article but the article was going to end up running WAY too long to hold your attention (or mine) so I've cut it into three EZ parts (as opposed to three EZ payments which you'll be familiar with if you too watch late night TV with a laptop in front of you writing things like SEO articles). But let's get to the meat of this article shall we? The series will be divide into three parts:
So let's begin with Firefox. Let me first say, I don't know if Firefox is officially the browser of SEO's but if not – it should be. You can download it here.
And now the extensions that make this browser invaluable to SEO's ...
If I had to lose all but one of my SEO tools – this would be the one I'd keep which is why it gets listed first. This little tool allows me to quickly look at the top 10 results in the SERPs and within seconds see all the PageRank, indexed page numbers, backlinks to that page, domain backlinks, the age of the site and much much more.
This tool doesn't provide any revolutionary information in that it's all data that can be accessed directly however it reduces tasks that would take many minutes down to a few second. It then provides easy links to more detailed information. A fantastic tool.
Oh, and it also adds a line through all nofollowed links. Very handy when link building.
Aaron Wall over at SEO Book has added a great tool to the mix that duplicates a lot of functions of SEO Quake but which has enough additional features to be very useful. Basically – neither is a replacement for the other.
Like most tools – it provides information that can be accessed without HOWEVER with this Tool Aaron allows users to find tons of relevant site and keyword information quickly and painlessly. From keyword traffic to keyword trends, from backlink counts to social media mentions – this tools gives quick access to tons of information.
Admittedly I prefer the layout of SEO Quake and some of the easier functionality BUT
A HUGE tumbs way up (two of them in fact) to Joost de Valk who made all our lives simpler when this tool launched. What this tool does is displays the PageRank and anchor test of every link when you perform a backlink check on one of the major engines. I suppose you could visit every single site and get this information yourself and there's value in that to be sure but when you need a quick analysis of a site's backlinks – this tool is invaluable.
As a note – works VERY well with SEO Quake.
With this tool we're getting a bit more advanced. For those of you who understand coding or are learning (and you should be) this tool is incredible. It allows for quick testing and viewing of a site for it's structure including inage info, table and cell information, W3C compliance, CSS details and MUCH MUCH more.
I can't possibly list off all the functions this tool offers and admittedly – I don't use them all but I use enough of them regularly for this tool to make my top 10 list.
This is an odd tool to add and it's purely a convenience tool but like adding a second monitor to your system – once you have it and realize that it saves you just a few seconds but it saves you that dozens of times per day you quickly realize that your productivity relies on it.
With a simple click of a button this tool loads Internet Explorer into your Firefox tab so you don't have to go back-and-forth between browsers when testing. I could survive without it but since you have Firefox anyways ...
This is another tools with many uses. On the surface it simply displays PageRank, Alexa and Compete rank and mozRank data but with a right-click of the icon you get access to a whole sleugh of additional information including fast links to whois, the robots and sitemap files, keyword density information, Archive.org info and it'll even highlight nofollow links.
A lot of thes features overlap other tools noted above but I will say – I have it installed and so should you.
Now this is the main sleugh of extensions I have installed for Firefox (read: the ones I use virtually every day). This isn't to say taht's all there are and I can't stress enough the benefits of visiting https://addons.mozilla.org/ and looking for more useful extensions specific to your needs (RSS, Twitter, coding, etc.) I have about a dozen more installed than are listed here but those above are the main Firefox SEO tools I use daily.
Welcome to part two of this three part series on SEO tools and resources. In the last part we discussed the variety of Firefox extensions used for SEO. In this article we'll discuss some of the free and affordable tools you can use to better your organic optimization efforts. To make sure that when I say affordable I mean for virtually everyone I'm going to set the bar at $100/yr or ownership. Admittedly, we use tools that cost more than this but many of those tools will be out of some people's price range.
Here are some of the key tools you need to use to help insure the successful optimization of your website.
Many of you are likely familiar with Google's keyword tool but it needs to be noted. This is a great resources to researching keywords. As with all keyword tools, it has it's limitations and most would agree that it seems to overestimate search volume but nonetheless – it is probably the best of the keywords tools out there, especially at the price.
No individual set of data is perfect and no stage of the SEO process is more important than keyword research and selection. Keyword Discovery is a great tool to compare with the Google keyword data. Where you find commonalities you know that 2 independent sets of data agree. With a free trial that may itself work for many – it's certainly worth looking into.
While the paid version of this tool is more than the $100/yr max I noted previously – the free version provides some great data. Simply enter a competitor URL and you'll find out some valuable data about the keywords they rank for both organically and AdWords. This is great for competitor analysis as well and finding keywords you might not have thought of.
A fantastic free tool that crawls websites, reporting back all the broken links. Over time almost all sites get broken links – running this tool periodically will help you find them so you can fix them.
Arguably one of the most important of the SEO tools. Google Webmaster Tools allows webmasters (and SEO's of course) to see their website the way Google does. With this tool you'll get to see what your site is appearing for in the results, what pages on your site are linked to but don't exist, and a wide array of errors and statistics.
With this information you can repair a number of issues. If your site is appearing for phrases that you're not getting traffic from you can review your titles and descriptions to see if you can improve your clickthrough rate. Xenu won't show you the links from other sites that are pointing to pages that don't exist – Google Webmaster Tools will. You'll also find good backlink information for your site as well as a lot more.
Page Prowler is a backlink research tool that allows the user to collect large amounts of potential backlink information, sort that data by site strength, and then proceed to pursue these backlinks. The use of this tool is primarily in the way of saved time. There is no function of it that cannot be done manually however it can compile data that would take a person hours or days to collect quickly and easily.
Full disclosure – Shawn (the developer) asked me to advise on the development of this link building tool and I'm also assisting in it's marketing. I was extremely impressed with Shawn's first version (PR Prowler) and this new software includes additional functions and information. I felt the need to note this but I'll also note that we at Beanstalk use this tool regularly. I would not include it here if it didn't deserve to be and I'd include it here if I had nothing to do with it other than my using it.
Advanced Web Ranking is probably the most affordable of the better rank checking software programs. It has a ton of great features including scheduling and auto-report generation. You can set the searches to take place slowly to reduce the impact on the search engines. I still recommend to run it in the evening to further minimize your impact during high-volume search periods.
This is probably one of the most popular tools on the Beanstalk site. One of the pet peeves I always had with online rank checking tools was checking rankings one-at-a-time. This tool allows you to check your rankings on Google ten at a time. Apparently other agree as it's the most used tool of our set.
While in this list we're tried to include a solid set of very affordable tools, you might mind value in tools we don't use. This list is regularly updated and includes some very interesting (though not part of my daily arsenal) tools. Highly recommended to visit at least once. I have it in my bookmarks and check back every couple months to see what new tools have launched.
Welcome to part three of this three part series on SEO tools and resources. In the last two parts we discussed the variety of Firefox extensions used for SEO as well as an assortment of other free or affordable SEO tools. In this article we'll discuss some of the resources you'll want to access on a regular basis to keep up to date and informed on the goings-on in the search engine and SEO realm.
We're doing to cover a few different types of resources below and I'm going to try to keep this article to a reasonable length so let's begin ...
when there's a breaking story or you want an expert opinion on a subject, a good first place to hit is the media sources in that industry. The SEO industry is no different and there are some amazing albeit often unconventional media sources. Some of my favorite are:
Webmaster Radio is an Internet-based radio station with some great programing ranging from affiliate marketing to PPC to organic optimization and much more. With shows hosted by experts in their fields from Danny Sullivan (Search news) to Dave Szetela (PPC) you'll solid information that is well-sounded. I'd list my favorite shows however what I like may be different than you and what I need to know may be different than what you need to know so look through their programming and either listen through your work day as I often do or download the podcasts for later listening.
WebProNews offers up-to-the-minute information on virtually every event. They have reporters writing constantly and have other scoring SEO blogs and other news sources, compiling the information in one place for easy access. They also have great articles by third-party writers and a very active readership that is proactive in their commenting. Definitely near the top of my go-to list when I'm looking for news and current feedback.
This site is difficult to classify as it fits into a couple categories but I decided to include under media as that's my primary use. They include tools, resources, a directory and much more on their site. My primary use of this site is for the articles and newsletter.
No list of SEO resources would be complete without including Search Engine Watch. This site is the one that started it all. Search Engine Watch provides everything from fantastic articles to breaking news to search engine stats and an awesome forum. A definite bookmark.
As with many industries – blogs are a great way to keep informed on the latest goings-on in the SEO realm. The trick, however, is figuring out which blogs are worth reading and which authors are truly knowledgeable. Over the years I've read many blogs and to be honest – I still do. Below are some of the key blogs I reference on a regular basis.
Aaron Wall over at SEO Book has an excellent blog worth reading on a regular basis. I have yet to visit his blog and not find some tid-bit of information that was worth reading either because of the information itself or because often he's just entertaining. Another to add to your weekly reading list.
It's nice to get it from the horse's mouth. For those who don't know – Matt Cutts is the head of Google's Webspam team. He blogs about Google, technology and occasionally his cat. One has to read what he writes knowing that he's a Google employee and as such can't really give away the farm BUT he gives tons of great advice, insight and tips. The perk being – this time you don't have to ask if following his advice will get you banned. :)
Bill Slawski (the author) focuses his attentions on the more technical side of things with tales of patents, algorithmic possibilities, statistics and functionalities. For many, his would be one of the more dry blogs if not for his gift with words and ability to make even the most bland of subject, palatable. You don't need to visit his blog daily but adding it to your weekly journey through the web is recommended.
What blog list would be complete without the inclusion of the SEOmoz blog. Rand Fishkin and crew keep their visitors up-to-date of some great research, news and SEO tips. From opinion pieces to months-long whitepapers you'll find useful information. Again – not necessary to visit every day but a weekly pass is always worthwhile.
Forums are a great place to gather information, especially on current events such as ranking updates. That said, reading forums can be a risky thing. Almost anyone can join a forum and post their thoughts. While this format allows us to capture a wide range of information and knowledge – it also results in less qualified people giving advice as well. So while I recommend reading forums – I also recommend taking things with a grain of salt – at least until you figure out who's who.
The SEO chat forums are easily one of the largest and most popular of the SEO forums. They cover a HUGE array of issues from Google to social media to Alexa rankings to (hold your hats) Ask Jeeves (that's right – the forum's been around for THAT long). Users worth noting are rustybrick, fathom, and randfish.
DigitalPoint also is an ancient forum (2000 – ancient by web standards at least). They cover a wide range of topics from SEO to PPC to affiliate programs. Some users worth noting there are shoemoney, daven, and of course digitalpoint. A great place to ask your questions. Heavily visited and they have a ranking system for their users so you can get a decent feel as to whether they're reliable.
There are a variety of reasons I like SitePoint and I own a number of their books. Their forums focus on design and development (not SEO) but every SEO needs resources on the design and development side.
Newsletters & Other Resources
Of course there are other resources that every SEO or webmaster needs to be able to get their hands on. Here they are:
These are the guidelines set out by Google telling you what you can and can't do and what tactics to look out for. Worth a look over periodically as the do change from time-to-time. If you're heading into the forums for advice you'll definitely want to gander at the guidelines first to make sure that if you get lead astray – at least you'll know what can get you banned or penalized first.
A social media site for SEO. Here you'll find user-submitted stories on a wide array of Internet Marketing topics. Obviously the quality and relevancy of the stories ranges from brilliant to utter crud but the cream usually rises to the top with good stories hitting page one. That said – an occasional peek at specific threads often reveals some hidden gems.
Perhaps I should have included this in the media section above as it's a fine site unto itself but it was the newsletter component that I find most helpful and so I have decided to place it here. Sign up for their newsletter and you'll get daily notification as to when some of the major search engine events happen and some solid advice as to what it means for you.
Jill over at High Rankings puts out a solid newsletter where she provides tips and advice including replies to visitor questions. While I may disagree with some of her points from time to time (the same can likely be said for more of the resources noted and I'm sure others can say the same about my writings and opinions) I've never seen her provide bad advice – my advice just might be different from time-to-time.
Obviously there are a ton more tools and resources available. In this series of articles I've tried to include those that apply to the broadest spectrum of people and that are the most helpful. I highly recommend hunting for your own – especially if you've got issues that you can't find help for here.
Good luck to all the DIYers out there.
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Dave Davies is the CEO and owner of Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization, Inc. Beanstalk specializes in performance-based SEO services as well as consulting, training, link building, PPC management and conversion optimization. He is a noted author and speaker on SEO and Internet Marketing and has been involved in the industry since 2000.
Published - December 2010
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