Generally, I go pretty light on tools. I use one browser (Chrome) and I still use Twitter.com instead of Hootsuite, Buffer or anything else.
If I didn’t have a single tool other than these I wouldn’t be slowed down at all. It adds up to about $150 a month.
- Canonical Inspector Chrome Extension
- IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkit
- Redirect Path Chrome Extension
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Wappalyzer Chrome Extension
Wappalyzer is builtwith.com in Chrome Extension form. Clicking the icon in the address bar will display a wealth of information on everything from programming language to CMS to Analytics platforms.
Use Screaming Frog SEO Spider to get lists of redirects, or crawl your own list of redirects to see if they’re working. Redirect Path is incredibly useful on a page by page level to find out where a page goes when you’ve clicked on it, and what kind of redirect is being used.
I’ve worked with sites whose developers insist on using 302 (temporary) redirects, for whatever reason. Redirect Path is fantastic to check on the fly without running crawls, and pretty/easy to understand enough that I can just send a screenshot to show it’s not doing what it’s supposed to.
When I’m looking to update or implement canonical tags then I’ll use Screaming Frog, but for spotting issues, Canonical Inspector is incredibly useful.
If the current page has a canonical tag that does not refer to itself as the canonical version then the icon will show up blue in the address bar.
It’s allowed me to remove ‘check canonical tags’ from my internal process – I can see that they’re wrong before I’ve even looked at the page – and because poorly implemented canonical tags are so often a problem this can save me huge amounts of time.
In SEO, a strategy is having an idea what might be required before you start to process the data. Having a blue indicator at the top of the page helps me to maintain that rough idea of what I need to be doing at all times, even when just diagnosing issues.
When I first started my career in SEO I used to audit sites on the fly – without crawls – because I didn’t know any better. I would manually check response codes by going to SEO Book’s server header checker, and I’d guess the likely URLs of pages that might cause duplicate content (www. vs. non-www. versions, /index.php or index.html etc.) – needless to say I didn’t charge…
If crawls seem daunting that’s a bigger reason to start crawling everything you can.
Download this: Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Pay Dan Sharp £99 for the year (he’s a nice man and it’s worth every penny).
Bookmark this: SEER’s Screaming Frog Guide to Doing Almost Anything
Try everything. I guarantee you’ll learn more about your site this way than any other.
I also use IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkit, because I love pivot tables. The value for me is finding out how broken a website is very quickly. I can end up with a table something like the below and prioritise what needs doing (update robots.txt if necessary first – very quick – and then unnecessary redirects would probably be the starting point because I can do that all at once).
The crawler does also tell you which pages these errors are found on, and in the case of a broken link on the page it will identify which one is broken. So very useful.
There are 1,000,000 SEO tools on the market, and all of them have their uses. I have a Moz subscription for example, and I do use a couple of features at least once per week. But the ones I couldn’t live without…
If you get a penalty – or if you work on a site that you think might be at risk of getting a penalty – or if you see some changes at some point that you think could be down to links – you’re going to want to audit your backlink profile. I would do this anyway.
You need as much information as you can get. Google Webmaster Tools provides a snapshot of your links, but nowhere near the full picture, which is why they’ll point out links you’ve never seen before if you fail a reconsideration request.
Generally I would use Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Majestic and Ahrefs to get all of my link data, but if I’m being honest (and I don’t have a penalty) – Google and Bing Webmaster Tools will give you a useful amount of historic links and Ahrefs will help you do some solid analysis.
SEMrush is awesome for keyword research. Use AdWords Keyword Planner, use Searchmetrics (see below), but use SEMrush if you want to put keyword research into perspective. I want to see more than just search volumes, like how relevant I already am for that keyword and who else is relevant.
Sugarrae wrote up a great piece about all the things SEMrush can do, check it out if it’s of interest.
Searchmetrics has a million uses, diagnosing Google penalties and algorithm changes being chief among these.
It’s often tempting to say ‘don’t pay too much attention to the visibility scores’ and ‘Searchmetrics is only a trending tool’ but it’s so much more than that. It can tell you exactly what you’ve lost and the page that is no longer relevant for that keyword (or as relevant as it was the week before). Since Google analytics can’t tell you this it’s invaluable.
So the example above, the massive spike on the left-hand side this happened and we got 4 links from TechCrunch, 2 from the Guardian, Engadget, the Verge, a site-wide sidebar on the New York Times and some other stuff…massive spikes from links don’t last forever and that died down in the middle, and on the right-hand side we launched a new website and tidied up a lot of redirects.
I think it’s fair to say that I probably use Searchmetrics 5 (different) times each day.
Searchmetrics will cost you $69.50 per month for the essentials version…it doesn’t have Ireland though, which is hopefully something Marcus Tober will fix if you tweet at him enough.
I’m hoping nobody notices I didn’t say BuzzSumo, which is awesome, but not really something that crops up in my day to day. I would definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you do a lot of outreach.
I totally cheated here because I have a rank checker built in Excel. If I couldn’t use that I would probably recommend Advanced Web Ranking. The cheapest subscription is $49/month.