Conveniently, there is a sizable amount of data about your site that you can collect for absolutely free – just by signing up. However, if you want to get the most out of your time and make the biggest impact with your SEO efforts, a mixture of paid tools and free tools is going to give you the best strategy information, competitive insight, and site data to create a comprehensive list of next actions to knock your SEO and content strategy out of the park.
I go over some of the essentials here, but I wrote a more comprehensive article on the subject in Search Engine Land, for if you’re into the geekier parts of the matter. Check that out here.
The Free Tools
There’s just a massive amount of data collectible with Screaming Frog‘s spider tool. It should be considered the right hand for the technical SEO. Screaming Frog allows you to do a complete technical audit of the site with one tool and collect info like duplicate content, client and server errors, and a custom source code search. There is the option to purchase a “license” that ups your crawl limit and allows you to access all available metrics, but the license fee is the cheapest across the board of all the tools, at around $150 for a full year.
Google Analytics is some of the most useful data that you are going to get about your customers. And it’s free. Analytics allows you to track the way the audience uses your site – what pages they enter into, which they exit on, and traffic sources. You can use this data to analyze your click funnel, to track conversion, and learn more about the type of buyer you have. Many of these tools have the ability to link to your analytics to be able to become a one-stop shop for both conversion information as well as ranking tracking or competitive tracking or whatever it may be.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) allows you to diagnose the problems of your site and report those problems right to Google so there is a clearer understanding between you. It allows you to see your site just as Google sees, and see potential problems that you may not be aware of. You can see what Google is indexing of your site, and check out the impressions and clicks your site gets from its Google keywords.
The Paid Tools
Particularly if you’re in a more competitive market, paid tools will give you edge over competitors and depending on how you are using the information, can be an incredibly sound investment. These come at more of your own personal preference and what your business is specifically looking for. However, I do recommend them because they do offer personalization to fit your needs in a way that free tools often don’t.
SEMRush has you covered with competitive analysis. It’s platform is incredibly easy to use and great for the person who doesn’t even necessarily know what the competitive landscape is like. Plus, it’s pretty cheap, at $80-$150 monthly. SEMrush is particularly useful for finding ideas for marketing content and marketing plans – you can search keyword rankings, trends, competitor marketing practices, and even dollars spent by competitors.
Open Site Explorer also has a great platform for this that won’t dip into your bank account too deep. The $99/mo option allows you to research a great amount of competitor links and backlinks; it’s excellent for scoping out hubs and as well as analyzing your own backlinks. Moz Analytics, a feature of a subscription, is great for tracking data over the long term such as interaction with content, links, brand mentions, and search ranking.
If you’re looking to scrub through your own backlinks or perhaps do some expansion and link building, there is no better link analysis platform out there than LinkResearchTools. It’s got a huge range of functionality and 93 individual SEO metrics that it measures, and is easily able to cater to a wide range of site issues. Link Detox is incredibly important in a webscape floating with spammers and bad site links. If you think your website might be getting penalties for toxic links, LinkResearchTools link detox is one of the most thorough in the game.
There are hundreds of paid and free tools to help you with your search engine optimization. Until you get deep into SEO as a specialty or into very complex sites and campaigns the tools above should handle the vast majority of your needs. Now you just need to go and start using them!