SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of getting more and better quality traffic to flow to your website via organic search results.
Unlike paid search ads, no direct payment is needed. People arrive at your site from certain search queries/keywords (90% of the search market is Google’s, by StatCounter’s numbers).
How SEO Tools Help Youℹ️
There may be no one way to scale to the top of search rankings but it can be broken down roughly into 3 dimensions:
Most businesses will primarily focus on this aspect. This can include tracking your search position against popular search queries. Some tools, like SpyFu, are focused on sales ROIs, and will give you reports and other visualisations to help you hit goals.
(See: How we increased a VPN’s traffic by 500,000/mo.)
Once you’ve set up a monitoring system for specific search queries, it’s largely an automated process. When any issues occur, a comprehensive SEO tool like Ahrefs will alert you 📲.
When setting up a new keyword that you think could rank well, you’ll want a tool with the ability to give you lots of data points and suggestions to guide you on whether to invest time and energy in pushing it.
You’ll want to eye four aspects here—for each keyword: Page Authority (specific page’s visibility/rankings for a query), Domain Authority (a whole domain’s visibility/rankings for a query), Search Volume (how many are searching for a keyword) and Difficult Scores (how hard it is to rank).
[Table sourced from Mangools: a rough guideline for SEO difficulty scores]
Truth is, all four aspects are subjective to the tool’s calculations. Much of a good tool’s data is governed by Google itself. SEO tools track data points given from Google’s big 3 offerings: Google AdWords, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console—among others.
Not all SEO tools also carry this out (Ahrefs does), though crawling is an important part of ranking investigations. The process is pricey and complex and used by SEO experts and other analysts. Crawling provides data on how websites link to each other, indicating SEO trends and emerging opportunities.
Check what your website’s doing well (and not so well), as well as your competitor’s. Crawlers check link architecture, URLs, images, scripts, and linked apps (Ubersuggest is a free crawler that you can use to check a site’s “health”).
Another aspect of crawling are backlinks (the number of outside links directed towards your website), which search engines read as a marker of popularity.
Backlink tracking gives you quality insights to help you develop your visibility (Majestic and LinkResearchTools provide the most powerful backlink tracking).
Enterprise SEO (‘The Enterprise Tier’) 🏫
The third dimension is “the enterprise tier”, or “enterprise SEO”, which probably won’t be relevant to you unless you’re a big business (not small to medium), due to pricing.
This connects PR, social media, content marketing and SEO at the corporate level. These strategies target optimizing the organic visibility of large enterprises, with thousands of pages that need specialist SEO teams to channel more traffic.
Unlike small business SEO, enterprise SEO focuses on short-tail, very competitive search queries, with highly time-sensitive techniques. This can really affect conversions.
SEO tools speak the various languages search engines use, some of which is powered by artificial intelligence. Without powerful tools to streamline the process, this would be a monumental effort.
We’ve looked into the best tools to help you to optimize your rankings by targeting the most effective and opportune search queries—and actually talk to your customer.
#1 Ahrefs: Comprehensive SEO Tool
- Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
- Backlink Health Checker
- Sitewide Audit
- Content Research
- Progress Tracking
- Web Crawler (Site Explorer)
- Data Constantly Updated
- 175 Keyword Reports Per Week
- Track up to 500 Keywords
- Not the Most Powerful Crawler
- Costly for Small Businesses
Ahrefs might well be the best comprehensive SEO tool, with powerful competitor research insights. Spy on your competition and mirror the best practices.
Trial period: 7 Days (for $7)
Starting: £99/mo (cancel any time)
Best Features ✅
With a single click, get visuals on three crucial SEO tools using the Site Explorer, all on one page:
- Organic traffic – See the search queries your competition is ranking with and which pages bring in the most attention
- Paid traffic – See which of your competition is doing paid advertisement and exactly where their sales funnels lead
- Backlinks – See what websites are linking to your competition and assess their backlinks for quality
[Backlinks example—switch between the three with one click]
And, with regard to the Keyword Explorer, Ahrefs is the only SEO tool that shows the estimated clicks for your search query.
Two main screens with condensed visuals show an immense amount of information from a single glance. See hundreds of keywords ideas, clickstream data for 171 countries updated monthly, results for other search engines (eg. YouTube, Bing, Amazon, Baidu) and standard metrics.
Also find powerful metrics unique to Ahrefs, which includes: return rates, percentage of clicks, and percentage of paid clicks. They have one of the most accurate estimates of search volume; their clickstream data is updated monthly—not months at a time, like some SEO tools!
It costs you $99 per month which may be high for a small business (SEMrush is pretty much the same price so that’s something like standard).
Ranking the cost benefit based on the quality of Ahrefs’ data, they are REALLY accurate relative to cheaper or free tools. Cancel any time if you want to do intermittent deeper dives at the beginning of a project and then specific points later.
Another drawback—if you go on the Lite plan—is you’ll have keyword tracking data updated weekly (every 5 days on the Standard plan), rather than daily.
SEMrush arguably also has better PPC features though Ahrefs should be good enough if you’re handling only a few sites. But overall for quality comprehensive data, it arguably doesn’t get better than this.
Ahrefs: Get a 7 Day Trial.
#2 Semrush: Comprehensive SEO Tool
- Easy Detailed Site Audits
- Keyword Research
- Keyword Gap Analytics
- SEO Keyword Magic Tool
- The Marketing Calendar
- SEMrush Projects
- Identify & Eliminate Toxins
- 100 Reports per DAY
- Track up to 500 Keywords
- 1 User Limit on All Plans
- No City Search Filters (Only Country)
Ahrefs vs SEMrush: while Ahrefs is a bit easier to use and lets you grab info faster, with other superior benefits (like being able to do keyword searches for a variety of search engines, not just Google); SEMrush provides superior PPC data, many more reports per day, much better toxin elimination capabilities, and phone support.
Trial: 7 Days (free but downsized)
Starting: $99.95/mo ($83.28/mo annual)
Best Features ✅
If you want to do site wide audits that can look into the ins and outs of your site and your competitors (including what keywords perform best for you and them—including recommendations for winning in SERPs), SEMrush is probably your better bet.
You’ll get to see things like keyword usages, traffic coming in via desktop and mobile, keyword trends, estimated traffic, changes in top positions, top pages, top subdomains—get what you need to be at the top of Google’s page 1.
[See the Exact Paid Campaigns for Search Queries]
That includes the keyword overview screen, which even shows how your competitors are using keywords in their paid campaigns. Learn by modelling your rivals and apply it to emerging opportunities to outcompete them laterally.
Try SEMrush Totally Free.
#3 Answer the Public: Top Keyword Generator
- Unlimited Daily Searches
- Unlimited Users per Account
- Reports Automatically Saved
- Great for Quick Keyword Ideas
- Priority Customer Support
- Export Data in CSV Format
- See High Res Images with Each Search
- Free Plan Available (Limited Searches)
- Great Visualizations
- No Search Volume Info
- No Basic Keyword Metrics
Use Answer the Public (ATP) to quickly generate lots of search query ideas, based on what people are currently typing into search engines.
Trial Period: Use free (limited daily searches)
Starting: £99/mo ($79/mo annual)
Best Features ✅
Choose your database of choice eg. YouTube. From there, you can target specific keywords. Results from that query will be accumulated together and arranged in a single, striking image.
Change the preposition and ATP will find you the popular keywords that use it. Some clever prepositions you could use are ‘vs’ and ‘or’ which would bring up results like YouTube vs Spotify and YouTube or Tiktok. Other very useful terms can produce commercially useful information.
We would NOT recommend using this alone. While you’ll get lots of useful current ideas, ATP doesn’t give you keyword metrics such as difficulty, search volumes, PA/DA, CPC and PPC.
This is best used in conjunction with a deeper insights engine like Ahrefs/SEMrush, or something free like Ubersuggest. Try Answer the Public for free.
#4 Google Search Console: Top SEO Tool
- Allow Google to Crawl Your Site
- Fix Indexing Issues
- Request Re-Indexing of Content
- View Google Search Traffic for Site
- See Search Query Traffic to Site
- See Click Rates
- Identify Best Traffic Pages
- Learn Your Click Through Rates
- See What Search Queries are Winning
- Can’t See Competitor Metrics
- No Difficulty & Volume Metrics
Use this free SEO tool to troubleshoot your site for any issues that might be causing penalties, and see just how well your SEO implementations are paying off.
Trial Period: Free
Best Features ✅
Eliminate SEO ‘toxins’ by troubleshooting your site’s position on the web.Also confirm that Google can crawl your website. While your site will be included in Google searches by default, confirming will improve Google’s ability to view you.
You’ll also be able to view search traffic for your website. This includes the frequency of your site appearing in results, and what search queries it appears for, plus the click through rate for specific queries.
As it’s Google (we mentioned in the intro that they control 90% of the market), you’re getting it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Google search console doesn’t show difficulty scores or search volumes for keywords. It is possible to add those two columns, using Keyword Everywhere.
They charge $10 for 100,000 credits (1 credit = 1 keyword). You’ll also get limited data for competitors (just generalized). Try Google Console Free.
#5 Woorank’s SEO & Website Analysis Tool
- Sync Google Search Console/Analytics
- Comprehensive Web Review
- Backlinks & Indexing Data
- Keyword Tool
- SEO Monitoring
- Lead Gen Tool
- Track up to 50 Keywords
- Great FAQ Section
- Easy User Interface
- Bit of a Learning Curve
- Intermediate Level KW Research
This doesn’t reach the standards of the top players like Ahrefs and SEMrush, but you will get useful insights, for a bit less than those two.
Trial: 14 days (free)
Starting: £59.99/mo ($39.17/mo yearly)
Best Features ✅
Use the Keyword Planner to track the essential SEO metrics: difficulty scores, number of clicks, search volumes, and CTR. You’ll gain insights for new opportunities, and be able to use this tool to find credible search queries with which you might rank well.
The trial period doesn’t include some Premium features. This also isn’t the most approachable client for those new to SEO. You’re also limited to one user per account. Overall, the quality of data from this client does not seem as sharp as the best comprehensive SEO tools available on the market.
Try a 14 day free trial.
#6 Ubersuggest – Top Free SEO Tool
- Comprehensive SEO Data
- Backlink Data
- Rank Tracking
- Keyword/Content Suggestor
- Sitewide Audit Reports
- Competitive Keyword Research
- Free Trial
- Special Lifetime Deal
- Over 50,000 Users
- Some Irrelevant KW Results
- No Keyword Gap Analysis
An essential SEO tool for individuals and small businesses on a budget. Jump right in for only a small investment (or with a free trial).
Trial: 7 Days (free)
Starting: £13.36/mo ($133.55 LIFETIME)
Best Features ✅
The free trial contains super impressive premium features that you won’t find elsewhere so generously—this is much better than Google’s free Keyword Planner.
Sure, the data might not be as cutting-edge accurate as something like Ahrefs (maybe a few months old), but that might be a great starting point for you.
There’s a section dedicated to content ideas generation (similar to Answer the Public, though not as visually creative). You essentially get all the essential metric dimensions for ranking for search queries as well as data for: PA/DA, crawling, and backlinks.
It can be tricky—or unwieldy altogether—to get keyword data on specific niches. The tool is intelligent but lacking a bit at the top end. There is also no dedicated mobile app and it’s unclear how update the search query data is compared to the best of the best comprehensive SEO tools.
That said, it’s not only good for the price—it’s an intelligent and well-rounded client. There’s a LIFETIME deal on at the moment, which could be a good investment (for almost the same price that the leading SEO tools charge per month for their basic plans).
Try Ubersuggest’s Free 7 Day Trial.
#7 Animalz Revive – Free SEO Refresher Tool
- Content Refreshment Analytics
- Uses your Google Analytics Data
- See % Traffic Loss
- Track up to a Year
- Articles Clearly Organized
- Great UI
- Simple: Just Enter Email
- Highly Specified Tool
- Some Sharing of Private Data
Stop your domain losing traffic from decay by getting crucial insights on page drops, so you can update those pages to something more relevant. Brilliant tool.
Best Features ✅
Boosting your traffic on a page (but even as much as 300%) may be as simple as identifying what pages have the largest drops in attention.
A common reason for lowered attention for specific pages is that the information looks irrelevant eg. you have a post about something with ‘2019’ in the title—but it’s 2021.
By detecting a drop, you can update the page, revamping it with more attractive content. A crucial tool for websites that have been around for a while and want a quick way to detect weaknesses.
This is a highly specified tool, so you won’t see more broad features to do with search query research. Also, they’ll have some access to your Google Analytics data.
Sign Up with Animalz Revive.
#8 Canirank – Best Comprehensive SEO Tool for Non-Techs
- SEO Team Available for Hire
- Keyword Research Tools
- Site Audits
- Link Management
- Keyword & Rank Tracking
- Competitor Analysis
- 10 Bonus Reports / Month
- 5 Keyword Reports / Day
- 50 Link Opportunities / Month
- Very Limited Free Plan
- Doesn’t Always Get Things Right
- No Google Analytics Integration
They’re an interesting alternative to Ahrefs/SEMrush for non-techs and those who want to focus on actions rather than minute analytics.
Best Features ✅
CanIRank uses AI machine learning to automate the processing of SEO data, rather than you having too—chunking it all into actionable next steps. The below screenshot is just a small section of the Keyword Difficulty Check Tool.
You might have to wait a while for all of the results to load but you’ll be given a lot of SEO difficulty signals to go on (by combining relevancy & authority calculations), including keyword suggestions that the AI thinks your site (relative to its strength) can rank better for.
You’re getting an idea of the convenience of this tool. If you’re a content marketer (best marketing automation platforms), you can focus on creating content rather than distributing a ton of time towards analytics.
CanIRank also claims to be twice as accurate as the best out there (Moz, Ahrefs & SEMrush) when it comes to measuring keyword difficulty.
Mostly, you’ll need to try this for yourself. If this tool was as good as it claimed it would be a no-brainer. Some people doubt the reliability of this software while others say it’s incredible. We suggest trying them out for a probationary period.
Try these guys out free for a week.
#9 Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test – Free Simple Tool
- See Page Loading Issues
- Mobile Preview Screen
- Site Wide Usability Report
- Help Pages for Improving
- Discussion Group
- Google’s Direct Analytics
- Free to Use
- Uses Google’s Analytics
- Very Simple Tool
- Highly Specific Tool
A very straightforward and useful tool: get confirmation from Google itself that your website is mobile friendly.
Starting: £0.00/mo (x months)
Best Features ✅
Some countries have more smartphones than personal computers, which is why having a mobile friendly online presence is crucial. Simply type your website into this page and you’ll be given a rating:
Not much to say here. This tool pretty much only does one thing. Google hasn’t given gradations when it comes to mobile responsiveness. We can only assume they won’t directly penalize you for not being as mobile responsive as other sites—just hit the cut-off point.
#10 Kwfinder: SEO Keyword Tool
- Ad Hoc Keyword Research
- Keyword Suggestions
- Specific to Google SERPs
- Rank Tracking (SERPWatcher)
- No Setup Required
- Easy to Use (Simple Search Box)
- 10-Day Free Trial (Full Access)
- 100 Keywords / Day
- 200 Tracks Keywords / Day
- Really Only for KW Research
This is your go-to for laser-like keyword research and suggestions, though you won’t find the wider functionalities seen in more comprehensive SEO tools.
Starting: $49/mo ($29.90/mo annual)
Best Features ✅
You don’t have to be an SEO expert in order to use KWFinder. The user interface is very straightforward, with a simple search box. The suite’s good with long-tail keywords: the querying process shows you opportunities, through related keyword suggestions and SERP mapping. The price is good if you’re focused solely on keyword research for your SEO strategy, and you can find key markers such as difficulty ratings.
It’s not comprehensive such as the likes of SpyFu, Moz Pro, SEMrush, and Ahrefs. You might want to buy it in complement to one of those high-level tools. It might also work as a stand-alone, as detecting the right search queries is one of the most important elements of a winning SEO strategy.
Get KWFinder: Free 10 Day Trial.
#11 Moz Pro: Top SEO Software – Comprehensive Marketer’s Tool
- Site Crawl Tool (Troubleshoot)
- Page Optimization Recommendations
- Link Recommends for PA/DA/Spam Score
- Custom Reports
- Advanced Keyword Explorer
- SERP Analysis
- Generous 30 Day Free Trial
- 150 Keywords / mo
- 5000 Backlinks / mo
- UI Not so Intuitive
- Hard for Non SEO Experts
It might be the most complete and powerful SEO tool of them all, but perhaps better-suited to SEO experts and large businesses, rather than SMBs.
Trial: 30 days (free)
Starting: $99/mo ($79/mo annual)
Best Features ✅
First and foremost, you will get leading metrics from your keyword investigations using this too, including page optimizations and a troubleshooting crawling system.
You’ll be allowed 5 campaigns/2 users, 300 keyword rankings and 250,000 page crawls each month. As for the Keyword Explorer tool, the visualizations are top notch.
They go a step further than Ahrefs, by giving you an idea of the click-through rate and paid search competition sum equation, summarizing it as “opportunity” and “potential” scores. If you don’t have deep SEO know-how, this can be a credible time-saving feature.
In spite of that, the UI is overall a bit precarious. The Keyword Explorer needs a fair amount of scrolling with somewhat disjointed third-party links to Moz Pro products.They offer an excellent trial, that said-
Try Moz Pro’s generous 30 day free trial.
#12 Exploding Topics – Free Keyword Trends Tool
- Find New Marketing Opportunities
- Actionable Insights
- Trusted by Shopify & Apple
- 2k Topics in Database
- Filter by Topics Related to You
- Filter by Time
- 100% Free
- No Signup Needed
- Find Emerging Trends
- Tool Does One Thing
Simple tool, it lets you identify topics/search queries that are bubbling up and just beginning to become trendy, for SEO purposes..
Starting: 100% free forever
Best Features ✅
No email signup is needed: simply filter by the amount of time a search query has been growing in popularity for and the category your business is interested in.
For example, you might select a query that has been growing for the last five years, or the last month. And you might restrain it to the ‘beauty’ category.
A very cool free tool to pop out every now and again and see what might catch your eye. See topics that are growling at a “regular” rate or “exploding”. There’s even an explanation in subtitles for what a particular search query means.
It has very limited functionality, but we found its results relevant—this could be a useful addition to your SEO campaign.
#13 SpyFu: Top SEO Tool – High-Level Comprehensive Marketing
- Deep PPC & CPC Reports
- Paid Advertising
- Interactive Marketing Reports
- Track Backlinks
- Unlimited Search Results
- Wide Search Query Types
- Cheapest Top SEO Tool
- Unlimited Keyword Searches
- 5000 Tracked Keywords / Week
- Lacks Wide Crawling
- Complex for SEO Newbies
Very attractively priced with excellent digital marketing capabilities, though perhaps overwhelming for SEO novices.
Trial: 30 Days (money back)
Starting: $33/mo (£39/mo annual)
Best Features ✅
The client is adapted to handling both typical business needs and advanced SEO user ones. The user interface’s slick enough to tackle both in a neat way, and every plan will give you an unlimited amount of domain, KW, and backlink searches.
The Keyword Research tab gives you comprehensive insights about a wide array of key metrics you’ll need in order to make decisions on which queries to try to rank for.
Right next to it are other very useful tabs for related keywords, advertiser histories, and backlinks, with an SERP analysis.
If you’re simply looking to identify and organise search queries for targeting, SpyFu may be over the top, as they focus so much on monetary aspects and advertiser breakdowns.
Try SpyFu’s 30 day money back offer.
Best SEO Tools Research
Head to the introduction of this guide for a summary of the main types of SEO that most businesses will need to consider.
Importance of Backlinks
Backlinks are an aspect of crawling and solid SEO. The quality of your website’s inbound links can inform you on your weakest and strongest points.
For example: backlinks can affect the visibility of certain pages against keywords, particularly when you’re competing against the pages of your rivals.
Best Backlinks Tool?
While Majestic and LinkResearchTools offer the most complete backlink crawls, any of the comprehensive SEO tools in this list include strong backlink tracking abilities. You’ll get much better overall value.
How to Build an Effective SEO Strategy for 2020 / 2021?
#1 Make a Keyword List
Your visibility depends on the strength of your association with certain keywords. For this reason, keyword research is usually the first stage of any credible SEO campaign.
You can begin with a free (to try) SEO tool such as Ubersuggest and then get even more depth and accuracy by using a trial signup period with Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Keep in mind that, though there is more volume with small to mid tail keywords, long tail keywords normally let you rank quicker. Just typing into Google is a good starting point. Build a list of a few dozen and then go into more depth with one of the tools on our list.
#2 Make Superior Content to Google’s First Page
Type in the KW that you decide on into Google and create something similar but different enough to gain more attention than the top articles on page one.
If their articles go up to 9 recommendations at the most, for example, you can expand this to double the amount: bigger and better (best productivity apps). Or perhaps the information is not up to date. You can post for the current year. Be careful to hook the reader with a grabbing headline.
Note that, when publishing guides, the guide itself is the hook. This requires very little in terms of wording the headlines, other than to take care to update it and let the reader know that the guide is up to date for the current year.
#3 Optimize the SEO
If you can get Bank links from higher authority sites, you’ll be able to share some of that online presence, giving you a ranking boost.
Using the site audit feature, you can get a good understanding of the page and domain authority of your main rivals, or those who are doing well in your sphere in related posts.
Internal linking is also very useful. Find the highest authority page on your domain and internal link from that page to one with low authority. As you can see from the infographic above, shorter URLs that are keyword rich outcompete longer urls.
Make sure to look at the sorts of posts already doing the well for the search query and gauge whether or not you are matching the content users are seeking out (bite-sized list vs full in-depth guides, for example).
Make attractive content that connects with people (best podcast hosting platforms) and keep it updated and you will be on a good path.
FAQs: Common Questions
How Can I Decide What SEO Tools to Use?
The #1 consideration you need to make is what tools can give you a credible advantage.
If you’ve detected a possible opportunity, you’ll want to get the most accurate information before creating the content for your audience.
If you’re new to SEO and also unsure of what opportunity is out there, playing around with low-entry tools may be preferable as you get clarity.
Consider the length of time for each stage of the campaign process and what level of SEO investigation is necessary, including features like KW suggestions and backlink insights.
The top (comprehensive) SEO tools are pretty much priced the same, with SpyFu being a fair amount less. Expect to pay $50-£200/mo. If you are on a tight budget, some of the even cheaper options are Ubersuggest, and KWFinder.
What Is the Most Important Change to SEO in 2020 / 2021?
Probably voice search, mobile, and AI together—although all of these have been around for some time. But in the last year or two, Google has made axiomatic changes to its search algorithms.
For one, the company has begun viewing itself as an artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) organization rather than a search engine company.
ML is making radical changes to it’s search offerings. Featured snippets, quick answers, and accelerated mobile pages are three examples of how predictive recommendations and mobile searches are merging with voice-prompted queries.
These are feeding into each other, eating up some of the real estate of traditional SEO. Sometimes you’ll find the top 5 ranking posts in an SERP squeezed underneath a quick answer or featured snippet box.
The best SEO platforms are implementing mobile-specific data to a higher degree, in order to flatten things out. FAQs are the most impacted by the voice and natural-language aspects of ML.
Best SEO Tool for Comprehensive Campaigns?
- Ahrefs or SEMrush (Ubersuggest if on a budget).
Best SEO Tool for Marketers?
- Moz Pro & SpyFu.
Best SEO Tool for Novices & Budget?
- CanIRank, WooRank & Ubersuggest.
Best SEO Tool just for Keyword Research?
- KWFinder & Answer the Public.
— Dark Horse? 🐴 AnimalzRevive provides clever insights into what pages could do with internal links from HA pages, in order to boost the visibility.