Nothing makes digital marketers nerd out like talking about tools. Marketers are hugely dependent on hacks, tricks of the trade and tools that help us get the job done (and done well).
Tools for SEO in particular, are critical. There is so much more today that contributes to SEO, it’s important to not only know what information you need to look at and why, but you also need to know where to get that information as quickly and how to act on it as efficiently as possible. The tools I’ve put together fall in the following categories:
- Best Free SEO tools and Chrome extensions
- Premium SEO tools
- Best mobile apps for SEO
There are countless tools, but time is our most precious resource, right? Let’s dig in!
The Best Free SEO Tools and Chrome Extensions
You’d probably expect me to say something like my favorite SEO tools are Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, Yoast for WordPress, yada yada. Of course those are amazing SEO tools I couldn’t live without in my regular arsenal. But I think we can do better with this list.
- Portent’s Content Idea Generator – engaging, interesting titles for your content can make or break your SEO. In today’s noise, nobody is going to click on, read, share, or link to an article that appears boring. While not appropriate in all content gen scenarios, this tool adds a little whimsy, creativity, and fun. Mostly because the titles suggested are just plain weird. I plugged in the topic of this article, “SEO Tools,” and here’s what they suggested: “17 Ways SEO Tools Could Leave You Needing a Lawyer,” “What the Beatles Could Learn from SEO Tools,” and “Why SEO Tools are the 51st Shade of Grey.”
- Think With Google’s Mobile Site Speed Tool – while there are lots of great site speed tools, I like this tool in particular for two reasons: 1) it allows you to generate a report to receive custom fixes that you can email yourself and share with your team; and 2) you can enter in your competitors’ websites to benchmark their speed compared to yours.
- Google Tag Manager – because I come from a content background, not a technical one, making technical SEO changes has been my career Goliath. While I use Google Tag Manager for a lot Paid campaigns, it’s great for SEO to add tags without editing code. GTM allows you to add schema, canonicals, and make other HTML changes
- MozBar Chrome Extension– Moz has been such a leader in SEO software and tools, and while I have since moved away from Moz to SEMRush for SEO (more on that below), I’m still religious about using their free MozBar tool, which you’ll still need a free Moz Community account to use. When toggled on, you not only get to see Page Authority and Domain Authority in the SERPS, but you also get to see on-page elements, attributes like canonicals, page speed, and markup. You can also check out how I use MozBar when targeting Position 0/featured snippets.
- Keywords Everywhere – cue the angels singing down from heaven, because Keywords Everywhere is a godsend. It’s a free Chrome extension that. Here is Life Before Keywords Everywhere (LBKE):Here is life after Keywords Everywhere (LAKE) – can you see all of that glorious search volume data:
- Schema Markup Generator – you know Schema is important, but it can be challenging to get the markup just right. Enter this Schema Markup Generator tool which gives us a much-needed, fill-in-the-blank shortcut to get rolling with schema entities
- Google Alerts – here’s why: SEO is all about being seen as THE expert in a topic or niche. When you get alerts on said topic or niche, the articles listed serve as great fodder for promoting on social media, and also, to help jog inspiration by seeing what similar content competitors and other industry leading sites are putting out. I always create Google Alerts for my clients’ top keywords.
The Best Pro/Premium SEO Tools I Use Daily
There is a time and place for using free SEO tools, as you saw from the list above. As much as free tools are amazing, at some point, if you’re serious about SEO growth you’re going to have to pony up and pay for a premium SEO tool. Pro SEO tools help you either get to the next level or get your job done faster with less friction and frustration. Here are the ones that I’ve deemed to be worth the monthly and annual licenses:
- Grammarly – after using the free version for a few weeks, I finally bit the bullet and paid for an annual Grammarly subscription. I write a lot of reports, emails, and content, and need to be able to have more peace of mind and get them out the door faster, which is exactly where this tool shines. Currently, an annual license is $140.*
- Screaming Frog – Screaming Frog has been a tool I use not only to audit client websites, but to also evaluate competitor websites for competitive audits. I used the free account for YEARS, but as the size of my clients’ websites grew, I just found the 500-URL limit wasn’t enough. The *$200-ish annual license has been well worth the money.
- Snagit Screen Capture – Snagit has been a tool I’ve used since Day 1 of my SEO consulting business. From audits to analysis to reporting, I capture and send clients, developers, and colleagues dozens of screen captures every day. Not to mention using them in slides for SEO trainings and workshops, and in blogging and content creation pieces like this blog post. You pay $50*, and then can and should do occasional upgrades over the years.
- Zoom – recording screenshares videos and scheduling webcam calls with clients is a constant when you work with clients all around the world. Plus, I am a huge believer that you need to show SEO in action, as SEO is one of those channels where it’s hard to see the work that is needed behind the scenes. I use the Pro version, which is around $15/month*, and so worth it.
- SEMRush **– I saved the best for last in this section, as I truly run my consulting business from SEMRush. It’s a full comprehensive suite of tools I use daily for keyword research, rank tracking, competitive research and analysis, technical SEO auditing and weekly checks, quick website reviews, PPC ad copy ideas and costs, traffic analysis and history, evaluating ranking decreases, linkbuilding research and targeting, and much, much more. I used Moz’s premium $99/month software for years, and I was dragged away, kicking and screaming. Nobody likes change, right? Within a week I never looked back.
Haven’t checked your backlinks recently? Pop in your URL (or better yet a competitor’s URL!) and check out SEMRush’s database of links:
Sadly, like many serious pro tools, SEMRush doesn’t offer a free package. The best you can get here is a free 7-day trial. Caution – if you’re going to do a free trial, I suggest you set up the following to really see the value: a site audit, position (rank) tracking, and backlink audit for your most important keywords.
*pricing reflects what’s on the website at the time of writing this article
Best Mobile Apps for SEO
Can’t live without your phone? Me either! Do you often work on the go? Me too! Obviously, there are a zillion apps that we all use and love. But if I HAD to narrow it down
- Slack – “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’m fortunate collaborate in a few great Slack groups that help me with sticky SEO situations, and general comradery, tips and trends
- Headspace – do you know a guy named Tim Ferriss? He wrote/compiled a fantastic book called “Tribe of Mentors.” He observed, after interviewing more than 200 leaders, that 80% had “some form of guided mindfulness practice.” As my mind can go a million miles a minute, I’ve found a year paid subscription to Headspace to help me remain calm and focused
- Google Ads – you can’t dispute the fact that SEO has changed dramatically from five years ago. SERPS have changed, CTRs have gone down, and zero-click searches is here to stay. If being at the top of Google for core keywords is important, diversifying but adding Google Ads and monitoring frequently is important
- SEMRush Position Tracking **– logging in on a desktop or mobile website is for suckers. When you need to keep on top of your rankings, SEMrush’s keyword tracking app is hard to beat
- Evernote – ever read the Checklist Manifesto? I’m a big fan of checklists for personal and professional use, and I use Evernote to keep me updated on the go. From summer bucket lists to speaking/presenting checklists to notes on my favorite books, I keep it all in Evernote
- Audible – after spending hours staring at the screen, I simply cannot stand to continue to stare at words in a book. Enter Audible, which has allowed me to consume so many more fantastic business, mindset, and marketing books than conventional reading
- Asana – I live and die by my Asana. And on the go, I can check in to make sure I’m working on the right tasks, in the right priority order. From one-time tasks to repeat weekly and monthly items, Asana’s app keeps me grounded.
- Apple Podcasts –I use Podcasts to squeeze more learning and inspiration into small chunks in my day. From carpooling to brushing my teeth to organizing a closet, I’m able to stay on top of SEO trends with my favorite podcasts (check out DigitalCast, Voices of Search, and Search Talk Live for a few I tune in to regularly
And that’s it! The top 20 SEO tools, extensions, apps and sites I use on the regular.
If you have an SEO tool you can’t live without – let me know in the comments or on Twitter.
A Marketer’s 12-Month SEO Game Plan in 20 Minutes
Introducing the SEO Action Plan Template
This is an SEO marketing calendar. It’s the place where you document exactly what you’ll be doing for SEO every month, January – December.
It’s designed to get your SEO moving forward within 20 minutes.
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