If you have been running your website for a while and you are in need of more traffic then you are probably wondering what are the best SEO tools?
Well don't worry, we have got you covered.
But there are so many different tools available now that it's an overwhelming process deciding which tools you should be using.
In this guide, I aim to solve your SEO inertia and help you pick up some tools to help you report on your performance and seek out easy wins to generate more traffic to your website in no time.
We are going to evaluate a list of the most useful SEO tools for different types of business with a focus on budget, performance, and user-friendliness to help you can build the best toolkit for your needs.
We are going to be looking at a mixture of free, freemium and paid SEO tools that you can start using straight away.
It's worth noting that tools aren't the complete solution to your prayers and you will need to employ the right tactics to get the best return.
Many people adopt too many tools without learning how to use them properly, this is a bad idea and something that should be avoided at all costs.
I recommend picking up one or two new tools at a time and learning them thoroughly before complicating your SEO stack with yet more tools.
So what are the best SEO tools to use in 2018?
I'm going to break down the best SaaS products, Software, and services available by their purpose and capabilities.
Keyword research is an essential component of effective search engine optimization. If you don't know what your customers are searching for and what is driving traffic to your competitors you are at a massive disadvantage,
Keyword research can also teach you a lot about your customers and how they discover the kind of product or service you are offering.
Moz Keyword Explorer
A tool available from Moz.com that allows users up to 20 keyword searches per month for free and if you upgrade to Moz Pro you can perform many more searches below. The amount will depend upon the package you sign up for though.
Moze Keyword Explorer gives you information on the monthly keyword search volume, the difficulty rating, the organic click-through-rate and then gives you a priority score based on these data sets.
You can then take a look at the first page of SERP results for that specific keyword and dig into related keyword suggestions so you can look through and find other keyword variations and opportunities. This can be a great way to discover long-tail keyword alternatives to your primary keyword.
This tool is simple but effective and a great tool for beginners who don't want to be overwhelmed with too much info at once.
Google Keyword Planner
A free tool from Google that has been an essential keyword research tool since the early days remains a useful tool to this day however used to contain a lot more data before the big G made major changes to how their data was collected.
Google Keyword Planner requires you sign up for a Google Adwords account and while you are required to add a credit card you can use this tool to your heart's content without having to actually start an ad campaign and spend any money, so it's still free. This is because the tool is designed to be used in conjunction with your AdWords campaign.
While the tool hasn't evolved and added features over the years it is still essential in any SEO Toolkit because the data is coming directly from Google, not a third party tool.
One useful bonus of using the GKP is that by having the bid amount and competition for each keyword you can easily surmise which keywords are "money words" that drive buying customers to websites.
Add this dataset to your decision making and you will be able to increase your conversion rate and target the right kind of search intent.
SEMRush falls under our SEO Essentials and is a tool we recommend to anybody taking their website and SEO seriously.
SEMRush has many uses but the ability to see your competitors keywords as well as which keywords are driving the most traffic to their websites and the percentage of their total search traffic a keyword is bringing in are extremely powerful tools to have at your disposal.
SEMRush provides lots of other data on each keyword your competitor is ranking for including the position they are currently ranking in, keyword difficulty, cost per click, the total number of results for that keyword, and the search trend for the term over previous months.
You can quickly see which pages gross the total number of visits from search by going to the "pages" section under "Organic Research".
It also tells you the number of keywords or phrases that are driving traffic to these specific pages. Often this will show you that it's not only one or two search terms that are bringing in all of the traffic, usually its a combination of ranking well for a couple of primary terms as well as a long list of longtail keywords.
The results can often be surprising, but this is why it's so interesting and can lead to lots of content ideas for your own website.
SEMRush operates a freemium model with limited use for free users and a pro version for those who want to unlock the full features.
This is another great keyword research tool that gives you some great long tail keyword ideas.
The free version hides the data and only shows you a list of related search terms the system detects but this is still useful information you can then go and plug into other tools.
Or sign up for their pro version as this is one of the best tools of it's kind giving you additional insight into keyword research for other platforms like YouTube, Bing, Amazon, and eBay.
So if you want to rank your videos or products natively on the platforms you publish this tool will come in handy.
Don't underestimate the power of YouTube SEO on how it can bring a lot of traffic to your website.
Like SEMRush this is an SEO essential for anyone who is serious about their SEO strategy and taking their website and online business to the next level.
Unfortunately, there is no free version however you can sign up for a free 7-day trial then after that, it's 100% pay to play with Ahrefs.
Fortunately, it makes up for it by being by far the best backlink analysis tool available on the market and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon.
Ahrefs also has a keyword research tool called "Keyword Explorer" that provides in-depth insights into any keyword you want to analyze.
Keyword Explorer displays a large number of keyword suggestions, supports data from 100+ countries, keyword difficulty, number of clicks, search volume and more.
Ahrefs contains advanced metrics like return rate, clicks per search % of clicks and % of paid clicks, the information you won't find on any of the alternative keyword tools.
If you only have $99 on an SEO tool each month Ahrefs should be your go-to.
SpyFu made its name as a great PPC keyword research tool that allowed you to see where your competitors are spending their ad budget but over time it has evolved into a more thorough SEO suite of tools.
SpyFu SEO Keywords section gives you an overview of your competitor's keywords so you can analyze the opportunity vs difficulty of each and then dig deeper by searching for those terms in other keyword tools.
While SpyFu is focussed on competitor research you can, of course, analyze your own website and keyword performance too.
SpyFu's Keyword Groups lets you get a holistic view of your competitor's keywords by topic before you drill down to see which keywords within each subject are driving the most traffic.
SpyFu has a feature called Kombat for looking at shared organic keywords between multiple websites. It will automatically find a couple of relevant websites to compare with that it has detected share keyword ranking similarities but also allows you to then change them and add custom URLs.
SpyFu offers limited features for free and has a pro version.
Dubbed as "The Reddit Keyword Research Tool" Keyworddit is a very clever service that harvests data from specific Subreddits to give you keyword suggestions based on the data that's scraped ordered by the number of times a particular word or phrase is mentioned.
This is one of the best ways to find LSI Keywords, that's latent semantic index keywords and refers to keywords that are related to your primary keyword. Google takes these terms into consideration and they can also help you rank on Google for longtail keywords that can drive additional traffic to your website.
Reddit is a great source of information on pretty much any niche or subject and as such, it acts as a great hive of keywords just waiting to be tapped into.
Keyworddit is also completely free.
SECockpit is one of the more advanced keyword research tools in this list and gives you a considerable amount of information other tools lack.
With SECockpit you plug in your seed keyword and it generates you the data for that keyword while also showing you a list of relevant LSI keywords.
One of the handy features is how it highlights low competition keywords which can be easy wins when you are starting out. We all like the low hanging fruit!
SECockpit also shows you if there is an Amazon, YouTube or eBay link in the first page for your search term, the reason that's useful is that you are up against strong competition to make a sale when you are trying to appear alongside these juggernauts.
SECockpit also scrapes the "searches similar to" feature that appears at the bottom of the Google search results that can lead to finding some more great keyword opportunities.
A tool that has been around for a number of years and comes from the famous digital marketer Neil Patel UbersSuggest scrapes Google Autocomplete data so you can use it for keyword analysis and looking for keyword opportunities like LSI Keywords.
You simply input your seed keyword and then select the country of interest and press the "lookup" button.
UberSuggest gives you the search volume, cost-per-click and a competition score for each keyword it generates from your seed word.
You can also change your search from web results to image, shopping, YouTube, and news. YouTube is especially handy if you are also doing video SEO.
Seed Keywords Tool
SeedKeywords is a different tool in that it helps you to find out what people are typing into the search box by creating campaigns.
You create a mock scenario for a search query and then share a custom link with your contacts and ask them to complete the search based on the suggestion at the top of the campaign.
When people complete the search it then logs their query along with everyone else.
You then get a list of search terms your contacts would use when searching for the product you advised of in your campaign.
This of it as a modern vox pop approach to doing keyword research with a little help from your existing contacts and customers.
Content Optimization & On-Site SEO
Optimizing your content on site is an important aspect of any SEO strategy, here are my favorite tools for analyzing my own content and the content of competitors for ways to improve.
BuzzSumo is a great tool for finding the best content for a specific keyword based on how it's performed on social media.
Ever wanted to find out what content works best for any topic or competitor? BuzzSumo is all you need to do just that.
When you search a website or search phrase Buzzsumo will break down a list of articles ordered by their combined number of social media shares and links.
Buzzsumo counts Facebook engagements, LinkedIn Shares, Twitter Shares, Pinterest Pins and the number of links it is able to detect and while that latter number may not be wholly accurate you can rest assured the rest of the data probably is and can act as a good indicator as to what the best content is.
BuzzSumo is a fantastic tool to use as part of your content marketing strategy and when doing a content audit and looking for ways to improve your existing content.
Yoast SEO Plugin
Since WordPress powers as much as 30% of the web and Mazepress is built using WordPress I'm going to assume you are using this CMS too.
While WordPress is known for being SEO Friendly, in general, there are several areas where it falls short out of the box and that's where Yoast SEO comes in.
Previously known as WordPress SEO plugin, Yoast allows you to fine-tune every aspect of your WordPress website but most important is the content analysis tool that allows you to analyze and optimize your content for a specific primary keyword.
Yoast also analyses various parts of the way you have edited your page or post and the metadata, images and other criteria that could impact the SEO friendliness of your content.
Yoast is free however they do have a premium plugin that I have only used once or twice and don't think is necessary.
The free version is more than enough to make a massive difference in your WordPress install and how you edit content for search engines before hitting the publish button.
Yoast also includes other essential SEO features like the ability to edit your meta titles and descriptions and adds a comprehensive XML sitemap solution.
Visit Yoast on the WordPress repository.
Moz Pro Page Optimizer
Moz Pro is a premium SEO tool that features a full suite of different tools which includes Page Optimizer.
Page Optimizer allows you to type in the URL to your post or page and then add your primary keyword so it can analyze your content for keyword density and other on-site content ranking factors.
Moz generates a page optimization score out of 100 where it evaluates similar criteria to Yoast, however, can probably get a better idea of the rest of the web page beyond just the content section.
Moz evaluates page title, description, permalink, your content, readability and other factors to determine your score and will detect if you are underutilizing a keyword or stuffing keywords.
That said the idea of keyword density is somewhat antiquated in the modern world of SEO and obsessing over finding the optimal density % is a lost cause,
Of course, including your primary keyword, a few times is still a no-brainer and I am certainly not recommending you don't mention the words at all.
SEO & Website Analysis Chrome Extension by WooRank
A useful free Chrome Extension from WooRank that allows you to view important information in the Google Chrome web browser.
You can use this extension to analyze your own content or you can use it to check competitors websites.
This WooRank extension saves me a lot of time when I want to quickly check things on a website including SEO factors, Mobile responsiveness, local search and usability scores.
Simply click the extension icon in your browser and it will pop open with a window of SEO analysis on the web page you are currently viewing. It's really as simple as that.
Estimate traffic, traffic rank, AdWords traffic and monitor social activity including likes, comments, and shares across various social networks.
The tool also includes lots of on-page ranking factors such as mobile compatibility, accessibility such as font sizes and much more.
Since it's free this is a great tool for beginners who don't yet have a budget but also something I still keep installed to this day despite using premium SEO tools because it's handy to quickly check the SEO of a competitors site or an article on my own websites when digging back through doing a content audit.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console or Webmaster Tools doesn't specifically analyze your page content but does give you insights on onsite SEO technical issues like 404 errors and other problems you might need to fix.
It also allows you to find opportunities where you could improve content and get some easy wins by looking at Search Traffic and taking a look at where you are ranking on page 2 or 3 for a target keyword that is generating a good number of impressions.
Consider taking a look at that content and seeing if you can improve it.
This is when you can run it through one of the content analysis tools to get more insights on where to improve.
Visit Google Search Console
Siteliner is an interesting and free tool for doing some on-site quality checks.
Siteliner looks for things like broken links, duplicate content and related domains.
What I really love about Siteliner is the benchmark comparisons with the rest of the web where it compares your site to others based on average page size, average page load time, number of words per page and other comparative metrics like internal and external link averages.
The tool is simple but easy to use and allows you to quickly make some improvements and spot issues with your duplicate content.
Structured Data Markup Helper
A tool from Google that helps you check that any structured data markup you add to your web pages is valid.
WordPress and Yoast SEO both add certain structured data to your pages but you may want to add custom review microdata and other types of semantic data to help tell search engines and other websites more context about the page.
This, of course, doesn't work unless the code is implemented properly, so always use this tool to check your pages are set up properly with structured data.
Visit Google's Markup Helper
Okay, I see your raised eyebrow at this one but seriously, optimizing your content also includes ensuring there are no spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical errors or sentences that should actually be broken up into 3.
If want optimized content your readers are going to love, share and link to then it needs to be readable and flow.
If you have mistakes and confusingly long sentences than you will quickly lose the attention and respect of your audience.
So use the free Grammarly extension for Chrome and make sure you scan all of your articles before you hit publish. It's worth noting they do have a premium version you can upgrade to but the free version is sufficient for most.
This is like having a professional proofreader working for free, so use it.
Panguin is an interesting tool that is an amalgam of Panda and Penguin, two names given to Google algorithm updates that shook the industry a few years ago.
This tool was designed to help people detect Google algorithm changes on a timeline with your Google Analytics traffic data superimposed on top.
You can then look for correlations between massive drops of traffic or improvements and updates that have happened at the same time to help you work out the cause.
One of the best tools to check if you have experienced a downturn in traffic recently and want to pinpoint a certain event.
Search Analytics for Sheets
Google Search Console as good as it is, unfortunately, only stores data for the past 90 days and in the world of SEO 3 months isn't a whole lot of data.
With Search Analytics for Sheets, you can export your data to Google Sheets and keep a record for as long as you are exporting the data.
Search Analytics for Sheets comes in the form of a Chrome Extension and is free.
Install to Chrome here.
Modern SEO is less about tracking your keyword rankings than it used to be but that doesn't mean you don't look, it just means you can't obsess over them as they are not the be all and end all of SEO.
Google makes daily updates to the algorithm and your rankings will be in constant flux even if you aren't doing anything wrong. If you are constantly chasing your tail trying to work out why you dropped a few places you might be wasting your time and causing more harm than good.
With that said it's still a great way to track performance and seek new opportunities so here are the best tools for tracking your rankings.
Google Search Console
The most accurate tool for finding out which keywords are driving traffic to your website and where you are ranking comes from the big G.
Google Search Console, formerly Webmaster Tools gives you lots of insights on your website but arguably the most common use is for seeing where you are ranking on Google search for your target keywords and to find other keywords you are naturally ranking for.
After setting up Google Webmaster Tools simply go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics and you will be presented with a list of the search terms that are bringing traffic to your website.
You can turn on clicks, impressions, click-through-rate (CTR) and your position.
A great way to find new opportunities here is to look at keywords that are getting a lot of impressions and you are ranking between position 10-30 with little effort.
Consider going back and doubling down on this keyword and you can easily climb up those low competition search terms.
This tool also keeps historic data so you can get an idea as to if your search rankings are improving or not and in good Google fashion the tool is completely free.
Visit Search Console
The Moz Pro service includes a good rank tracking tool that essentially grabs data from your Google Search Console to present it in a more intuitive fashion.
Moz Pro Rankings tool gives you weekly and monthly updates on how much your rankings have moved up or down and warnings when it spots an issue with a lot of keywords.
This is a tool I have used quite a lot over the years and find it gives you a great overview of your wins and losses in the SERPs each week or month.
The ability to track your rankings on both a national and regional basis is great for those looking to refine their local SEO strategy. This is where the tool really excels for me.
If you spot a ranking you want to improve you can click the page optimization tool which is also part of Moz Pro and get to work analyzing what you could do to climb the rankings.
Visit Moz Pro
SERPS.com has been going for a long time and for those unfamiliar SERPS stands for Search Engine Results Pages. So it would make sense that they are in the business of tracking keyword rankings on search engine pages wouldn't it?
Similarly to Moz SERPS.com gives you a breakdown of the keywords you are tracking including your current position in Google and other information like the daily, weekly and monthly change, traffic from the keyword, cost per click and the nation you are tracking the SERPS for.
The test tool allows you to perform tests after making changes to your website so you can report on how these changes impacted your rankings.
SEMRush has a great keyword ranking tracker tool that provides insights on both your own website and that of your competitors.
SEMRush's ranking tool is under Domain Analytics > Organic Research > Positions and sheds light on all of the usual criteria but interestingly also gives you information about the % of your total traffic that a specific keyword is bringing your site.
You can see the trend data for the keywords you are ranking for and various other details but unfortunately, it doesn't have the historical information and how much you have gone up or down each week or month for each keyword like Moz and SERPs do.
SEO PowerSuite is a desktop tool that is comprehensive and as well as including a rank tracker tool also features backlink analysis, content audit and keyword tools.
This tool offers both a free and paid subscription version and while I haven't used it recently has always done the job well as a rank checker tool and for analyzing technical issues with your page content from missing titles and alt text to other more critical problems.
Competitor Analysis & Research
One of the greatest skills to master in the world of marketing and SEO is competitor analysis and research. If you can learn to reverse engineer your competitors wins you can grow your website much faster by taking inspiration from competitors who have already discovered the best sources of traffic and easiest keywords to rank for.
SEMRush is one of the best competitor research tools that allow you to enter any website and pull up lots of performance metrics and information on which keywords are driving the most traffic to their website.
If you are looking to improve your content strategy then this tool is a must-have.
There is a free version which gives you limited information and the top 10 results from the sites you search which gives you a good taste of what to expect.
To get the most out of this tool you really need to be using the full premium version which gives you a full view of your competitors winning content and keywords.
You can also analyze your competitor's backlinks and use other factors that you can reverse engineer.
SEMRush is one of those tools that after using for 30 minutes will leave you with an endless list of actionable ideas and content to work get to work on.
If you want to get a quick idea of your competitor's gross traffic and the sources that are sending the majority of it then SimilarWeb and their free Chrome Extension are the tools for you.
If you are looking at a handful of competitors and unsure who to dig into, run the sites through SimilarWeb and see which are performing the best and compare the sources to help you find out how and why.
SimilarWeb is one of the best competitive analysis tools and while it has a free Chrome Extension and web tool there are limitations to the data unless you upgrade to their premium service.
Compare criteria including a websites global rank, country rank, and category rank to find who the real market leaders are.
Get an idea of the traffic overview and trend over the previous 6 months, total visits, as well as a list of the websites sending the most traffic.
SimilarWeb also includes social metrics and helps you to find other similar websites.
SpyFu made its name as the best tool for pay per click advertising analysis as it allows you to find out where your competition is spending their paid ad budget.
If you want to invest in Google Adwords or other PPC advertising campaigns like Facebook Ads, utilizing this tool will give you a massive advantage and save you from wasting money on A/B split testing and trial and error when you are first experimenting with these campaigns.
SpyFu breaks down your competitor's traffic and keywords by organic search vs paid search and also gives you information on the top competitors in the same niche.
In terms of organic search data, it gives you a breakdown of how many keywords have just made it to the first page vs the number of keywords that have fallen off. A great indicator as to if a website is quickly climbing up the search engine rankings.
The combined estimated monthly click value is an interesting metric that can give you an idea as to whether a niche can generate a sizable income.
Last but not least SpyFu also allows you to see the backlinks they have been able to detect for each site you want to monitor.
BuzzSumo allows you to weigh which content is performing best for a specific niche, keyword or competitors website.
Simply enter a keyword, niche or URL and click go and you will be presented with a list of the best content rated by virality and the total number of shares on social media.
BuzzSumo's score system aggregates the number of Facebook engagements, LinkedInShares, Twitter Shares, Pins on Pinterest and the number of backlinks it can find to give a total and then lists the posts in order.
This is one of the best tools to quickly get ideas to write about that might work like gangbusters for your website.
You can filter by the last 24 hours, week, month all the way through to much longer time ranges if you are looking for something that is truly evergreen and not just hot today and not tomorrow.
BuzzSumo has a limited free version but to get the most use out of this tool a premium subscription is required.
Want more tools like this? See our guide on Competitive Analysis and How to Evaluate a Website.
The Best SEO Tools - Final Word
Which tools you decide to start using today will depend upon your individual situation in terms of what you want to achieve, your current position and the budget you have available to spend on shiny new tools.
I definitely don't advise signing up for everything even if they are free, it's important to test and learn one tool at a time to properly understand how it can benefit you and to make sure you get the full amount of use out of it.
When it comes to SEO tools and software avoid anything that looks or smells like black-hat or gray hat. These spammy tools and article directory submission tools haven't fooled anybody for years, so save your time, money and reputation and stick to reputable tools and methods for growing more authority.
I would recommend most people sign up for SEMRush or Ahrefs if you want to sign up for an all-in-one suite that offers lots of tools in one package. If you have the budget then I would sign up for both, however, try one first and learn it thoroughly before adopting more tools and complicating your process.
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Web Designer, Digital Marketer & Entrepreneur with over a decades worth of experience helping small and medium sized businesses evolve and adapt to the modern digital marketplace.