Below are most of the SEO tools I use daily to analyze, check, edit, research, deploy, build, maximize, optimize, and automate all my SEO campaigns. Enjoy!
Google PageSpeed Insights
Pagespeed Insights is my bread-and-butter for speed. Other SEO bloggers might downplay it as irrelevant, but What are you talking about? It’s Google. It is THE most relevant page loading audit anywhere, if you care about rankings in Google, which, of course, you do! And now, it even includes speed!
How I use Google Pagespeed Insight:
- Identify which images to Smush
- Identify which files to defer
- Identify which files to minify
- Determine if my server is fast enough (server response time)
- Show off my 100/100 pagespeed scores to my friends
Google Structured Data Testing Tool
I insert a lot of inline schema structured data and JSON-LD into my important landing pages. How do I determine if it’s all copacetic? This tool. Enter in a url or a code snippet (JSON-LD, HTML, etc..) and the tool points out any errors. Edit the code on the left and get the new result on the right. Copy, paste, done! Also, this is a great thing to “steal” structured data from other sites. Put the competitors url in the tool and see what they got. Alter it to your specifics and get in the game!
Google Search Console
Why it is important:
- Submit sitemaps
- Identify crawl errors
- Identify 404s to redirect
- Identify crawl warnings
- Submit urls after every edit for immediate indexing
- Link to Google Analytics for keyword insights
Recently I found some crazy amount of traffic coming from France in Google Analytics. I went straight to Search Console and found a bunch of french search terms we were ranking for and the landing pages. Turns out the landing pages were all 404s. I went to Remove URLs in Search Console and got them removed from Google.fr. Those pages were all a bounce so it was a problem. Removing the urls from google solved my problem and my bounce rate reduced significantly. Thanks Google Search Console!
Google Chrome Developer Tools
I’m a developer as well as an SEO so Chrome Developer Tools in invaluable. In Chrome, right click on any element of a webpage and select “Inspect”. There’s a whole world in there to explore. In Developer mode I am concerned mostly with CSS so I go straight for the “Elements” tab. For SEO I look at “Sources” and I look at Speed and the Waterfall in “Network”. It’s brilliant. And now there’s “Audits” which tells you everything you ever wanted to know about performance and accessibility.
Google Mobile-Friendly Test
This is a pretty basic tool but you must pass it before you can pass Go and collect $200. One of the most common problems it finds is that buttons and menu items are too close together and therefore can’t be pushed properly. Fix that!
Bing Webmaster Tools
Just kidding, I don’t really use this. I submit a sitemap and forget it. Bing has a 6% market share of search compared to Google’s >90% so why bother?
Another speed tool. I am obsessed with website speed. After I have done everything I can think of for onpage SEO and waiting around for a rankings boost and go to these tools and improve the “speed”. I almost always* see a ranking boost when I improve a speed score.
*There was one glaring exception. I decreased speed to improve rankings. Of course these things are multi-variate, so it was the decreased speed, per se, that improved rankings. It was the thing that was fixed by removing a speed “fix”. I’ll go into that later, in another post. Stay tuned right here.
A well respected speed tool. Easy to use. Nice interface. Shows a waterfall and speed recommendations. Google.com does pretty well in it!
Web Page Test
I don’t know why, but this is the speed test tool of choice for many web hosts, including WP Engine. I had a speed problem with them awhile back and they consistently showed me the results they got from this tool. Of course I showed them something else and we went round and round. So maybe this is not a very reliable tool (unless you’re a web host and want to show something positive). Anyway, WPEngine migrated my sites to a new server with an updated PHP and solved the problem. They are cool. I just wish we didn’t have to waste so much time battling it out with competing speed tests/tools.
There are many website crawlers and auditors out there so why Seorch. I don’t know, I just dig it! Gives my everything I need and nothing I don’t. Seorch is my go-to page auditor when I know the url and I know what I’m trying to optimize for. Enter the terms and Seorch lets you know when your headings are in the wrong order or when your meta description is too long, etc…
What I learn from Seorch:
- Everything I ever wanted to know about Semantic tags
- My heading architecture
- All my important meta information
- My Flesch reading score
- My page speed recommendations
Seorch also has a web-crawler for all your links. And it has a white label dealio I’ve never used to show your clients some awesome stats. I’m sure it’s pretty neato because all the free stuff is spot on.
RankRanger is my all-time favorite. If you are doing any kind of SEO you need to track your results. Use the best. Enter in your domain, your keywords, your Search Engines and your search location and let RankRanger do its magic. Track ranking over time. Track trends. Make and control all your graphs. Make custom, white labeled, dashboards for your clients: show them only the views you want. Do onpage site audits. Download tons of data. Use the robust API to build your own applications and dashboards.
– More about that: We had a problem not being able to track similar keywords across multiple clients and locations so we we built a dashboard with the RankRanger API and we got it to display everything just the way we wanted. Magic!
How I use RankRanger every single day, it is my go-to rank tracker:
- I monitor my Ranks!
- I build beautiful graphs to show off all the progress with my clients
- I integrate Analytics, Social and all kinds of things in my dashboards
- I find opportunites
- I download tons of data and analyze it in a spreadsheet
- I visualize trends and cross check agains Google Algo Updates
The king of backlink analysis. No other tool including Moz or Majestic will find ALL of your backlinks. I don’t know how they do it. aHrefs consistently finds more backlinks than anyone else and they are all legit. You can’t get actionable advice on one of the most basic SEO factors without valid information and aHrefs delivers. Also, spy on your competitors backlink profile to find opportunities. That’s what it’s all about!
How I use aHrefs every day:
- #1: find backlink opportunities from my competitors
- check the backlink health of my property
- determining if I’ve lost a link and go back after it
- Check out the keywords I’m ranking for!
- Check out the keywords my competitor is ranking for.
- Find opportunities for keyword ranking
aHrefs is a MUST have for any serious SEO. Check out the ahrefs free SEO Toolbar.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
For Technical SEO Screaming Frog is the benchmark site crawler. Enter a main domain and Screaming Frog finds every linked url along with all the info. I use the paid version (to bypass any robots.txt directions) but the free version takes care of all the business.
I use Screaming Frog to:
- Check all my inlinks to to analyze my internal Pagerank architecture
- Check for dead (404) internal links
- Check to see if external links are nofollow, for example
- Check all my SERP snippets at a glance
- Check all my H1s at a glance
- Check titles and descriptions
- Check all my main onpage ranking factors
- Check for all the major response codes
This is an interesting one, and it’s great to show off to your clients, but I’m not sure how actually useful it is. Does that make sense? There is a great guide here, but this is the rundown about how to use Screaming Frog and Gephi together to visualize your internal link architecture:
Step my step Gephi directions for site architecture:
- Crawl your site with Screaming Frog
- Export to CSV
- Clean up your file of external links etc..
- Import to Gephi
- Run Modularity and Pagerank
- Configure the visual
Below is the link architecture of a site with some “siloing”. The site has specific sidebar menus in different categories. You can see the categories (modularity) grouped into colors. Each dot represents a page and each line a link between them. The larger the dot the higher the pagerank.
OK, SERanking is my 2nd choice for rank tracking after RankRanger. But I still use it and here’s how: SERanking is cheaper that RankRanker so I can track more keywords. I put all my super important keywords into RankRanger and my secondarily important keyword phrases into SERanking to keep costs down. There are just fewer features in SERanking, and the graphs are horrible, but it still has its merits. Check it out!
WP Rocket is my absolute go-to, must use, speed plugin for WordPress sites. It’s a cacheing plugin but it does a whole lot more. Basically I use two plugins for wordpress sites that can give me 100/100 Google Pagespeed Insight scores – WPMUDEV’s Smush for images, and WP Rocket for everything else.
What does WP Rocket do?
- Minify and Concatenate files (HTML, CSS, JS) for speed
- Cache for as long as you want for speed
- Combine multiple files into one (CSS, JS) for speed
- Defer files (that dreaded and hard to fix “Render blocking files”
- Critical CSS rendering: this is “critical” to jump from mid 80s to 90s
- Cloudflare integration
There are numerous configuration options available including the option to skip certain pages (I had pages with Gravity Forms that were breaking so I just opted out for those). Solve all, or most of, your speed problems with WP Rocket.
wpmudev Smush Pro
WPMUDEV has a host of plugins for WordPress. The price is steep, about $50 a month, but it’s totally worth it. You get all the plugins for that one price. I use WP Smush Pro on every WordPress site, no exceptions. With the touch of a button Smush Pro optimizies every image in your WordPress Media Library so that you’ll never get that speed error again. It’s magic, and that alone is worth the $50. But wait, there’s more! There is Backups, Defender, and my other favorite – HUSTLE. Hustle is a internet marketers dream. Get all the popups and email conversion grabbers you’ve ever dreamed of. Integrate with Infusionsoft, Aweber or whatever. Get it!
Yoast is the leader for WordPress SEO plugins. There are others, but Yoast holds strong, and for good reasons. The free yoast has many useful features including setting canonical urls, metas for every page made easy, automatic XML sitemap, robots and htacesss files editor, and more. I use the Premium version of Yoast for the redirect manager (every time I make a manual url change on a page Yoast automatically adds a redirect so I don’t lose any juice or mistakenly create a nasty 404). Premium also adds internal linking suggestions, and a year of 24/7 support. One great feature in both version is the ability to configure automatic metas (titles and descriptions) for each page or over-ride it and set it manually. Also, the ability to noindex individual pages is pretty handy.
I’ve never used NinjaOutreach but I’d love to. The most frustrating aspect of SEO is that you can write a perfect post that nobody will read unless you promote it. Outreach tools like Ninja will help you do just that.
I’ve never tried Ontolo either! Come on guys, give me a trial!
Screaming Frog is great for crawling and technical SEO, but apparently Botify is on steroids. Book a Demo and check ’em out. Botify has a crawler, an analytics suite, a log analyser, and Botify keywords (intergrates with Google search console for technical analysis of link structure and keyword research).
Pretty cool little browser that strips all CSS styles off the page so you can see it all its naked glory. It also has a very useful audit including response code, text audit (word count etc…), head information, SERP preview, and headings. Purports to display a webpage the way Search Engines “see” it. Not sure about that, but it’s pretty cool.
I just discovered my favorite feature of BrightLocal: Local Search Tool and Audit! Wow. Where have you been all my life? Run manual google search from any city and/or zip code. I’m sure many of you have clients with local businesses that want to rank in maps. How do you track their rankings from your little web development house in Sebastapol, CA? A: BrightLocal. If you are a premium subscriber you don’t have to run manual searches from the tool – run a local audit and get tons of local ranking factors. Not just that, manage all your citations: oh yea, that’s the main feature of BrightLocal.
Yext seems to have some kind of insider trading with all the big citation sites. Enter in your clients local business information once and Yext makes sure it’s the same across the board. No other service does this, including BrightLocal. We run BrightLocal for cheap clients and both services for serious ones. If you’re on Yext you never have to worry about your citation being “edited” by some 3rd party. I don’t know how they do it, magic. Backlinks are still a big deal, get serious about it!
Google My Busines (GMB):
Well, this is a no brainer. If you’re a local business you need to be using GMB. There’s no other way to get on the map. Another Google monopoly yes, but whaddya gonna do?
Use Google Analytics of course, but use another analytics suite as well. Google strips out personal information out of the record (IP addresses, most of the queries…) but it’s still pretty tops. Turns out if you are logged into any Google service (like gmail like we all are every day) then Google Analytics does not report your search queries. That is why you see all those “not provided” results. Oh well, I guess they care about your privacy to some respect. Not! But whatever, you can get a lot more information by using an additional analytics suite, like Clicky, but start here: Google Analytics.
Clicky is my 2nd analytics suite, behind google, but it has some features that make it indispensable. Clicky has a Spy tab which is exactly how it sounds. Display a users IP address with their city, state and zip code. With this information it will try to find and display the company associated with that IP address. Pretty tricky. This is the most useful to me when I’m running marketing campaigns (email or PPC) because it’s nice to track those users. If they don’t click my button and opt-in and I can still find them and target them again. Dirty. For $10 bucks a month I’d say it’s worth it.
Micro Data Generator
Create LocalBusiness structured data in JSON-LD or inline HTML schema in a jiffy. All the required and recommended properties are here. Won’t create a multi location business, but I haven’t found a good tool yet that will handle it.
This JSON generator will handle more than just LocalBusiness. I write a lot of JSON-LD and this tool makes it easy peasy.
Why do I write JSON?
- I can get structured data on a page without altering it visually
- Google seems to like it, all their examples are now in JSON-LD
- It’s easier than inline schema
- I can add many more elements than I’d want visually on the page
- It helps ranking, I can prove it!
This is a must have if you need to be alerted to SEO issues. I’ve worked in an agency where multiple people were working on websites. I can monitor the things they’re doing right here. SEORadar alerts me to critical issues, like GA tag has been removed, missing an H1, url could not be reached, etc…It has a code diff checker so you can see exactly what has changed on a page. Configure it to for your priorities. Don’t care about H2s? Turn that alert off. I have SEORadar crawl my sites every day and alert me to Critical changes so I don’t have to monitor manually. It’s insane!
The Moz Blog
One word: Rand.
Second word: Fishkin
Search Engine Roundtable
Barry Schwartz will keep you in the loop on the latest Google Algorythm updates and the latest SEO trends. He keeps his ear close to the Google talking heads (at first it was Matt Cutts, then Gary Ilyich and now Danny Sullivan) who dribble little hints out on the whims of some random covertness. It always comes down to the same thing: Create great content and user experience and Google will reward you. Hogwash. Game the system, figure out the algorythm and win the Ranking Lottery! I’ve done it time and again.