I’ll admit, you can do good SEO without fancy tools. However, when you are at an agency managing multiple SEO accounts and have keywords, links and blog posts flying through your head all day you really need some tools to help with efficiency. I have found a set of tools I work with every day that practically do my job for me. Each of these tools is good all on its own, but together they make a killer SEO combo.
1. Firefox with a few Add-ons
What is it good for? To find issues with websites & on-page optimization.
What is it good for? To find link prospects.
Ontolo goes waaaaay beyond competitive link building, instead of looking at the links your competitors are getting and copying those, Ontolo will open up a completely new (and sometimes untapped) territory. You will need to put some work in up front to find commonalities amongst the types of sites that will link to you. This tool is a little bit (okay, a lot) complicated to get the initial setup done right. But once you figure that out (oh and the Ontolo guys will totally walk you through it over the phone). BAM! You get hundreds upon hundreds of potential links all in a filterable, downloadable excel spreadsheet, which can then be uploaded to…
3. Raven SEO Tools
What is it good for? To organize, assign and track link prospects.
Raven SEO Tools is a dream application for type-A people who like everything neat and organized. I use it to upload my link prospects from a spreadsheet that Ontolo spits out. Then I can mark these new links as queued and assign them to someone for outreach. Once you reach out on particular link you can add contact info for the website and mark it “requested.” At this point Raven Tools takes over and will automagically check the link to see if it goes live. You can also use Raven to track keyword rankings and integrate with Google Analytics. Mostly I just ogle at my list of acquired links.
4. Google webmaster tools
What is it good for? To notify you of issues and jumps in crawl rate.
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) should be a crime. Seriously. They give you a TON of useful information that Google could totally hoard for themselves. Things I check and track monthly:
- Crawl rate. Why? Major increases or decreases in crawl rate could be indicative of something bad or good. If your crawl rate drops dramatically it could mean that a bunch of links to your site have disappeared, or that pesky web designer in the other room keeps disallowing pages on the robots.txt without telling you. Yeah, it happens, so if you keep track it every month you can usually find out what went wrong. If you see spikes it could be a slew of tweets or social mentions of your site (hint: this is good).
- Pages indexed. This one is only helpful if your xml sitemap is up to date. Either your CMS automatically updates your sitemap.xml file(s) every time you add a new page or blog post or video or you manually update it. Why do I look at pages indexed? Because I said so. No, mainly for the same reason as tracking crawl rate, you need to know if hundreds of your pages are dropping out of the index, or if new pages aren’t getting picked up. Also if some of your pages aren’t indexed try to figure out how to get them in there.
- Crawl errors. This report is gold. Find and fix all of your 404s every month. You can also get other errors from this report, but a vast majority of what I see in here is 404 errors. Nip those in the bud.
5. Open Site Explorer
What it is good for? To compare stats about your site to others on the web and to find out who is linking to who.
I’m totally biased towards SEOmoz products, but not without reason. They really do have the best SEO software, and mad props to them for winning best B2B startup at Seattle 2.0 last night. So, onto the tool. SEOmoz created their own index of the www and call it Linkscape. Linkscape data can be mined using their tool Open Site Explorer (OSE). It’s not as big as Google’s index and gets updated monthly as opposed to constantly, but it’s pretty darn close to the real deal. How I use it regularly:
- Track my site’s Domain Authority, mozRank, mozTrust, linking root domains and external followed links.
- Track the same data for my SEO competitors.
Why? If you beat out your competitors in all of the above metrics, you are more than likely beating them on the organic SERPs. Granted, social metrics DO have an effect on ranking, sp these things don’t make up the entire ranking algorithm. It’s a good way to benchmark your progess. Even without competitor data, if your numbers continue to increase every time the index is updated, you are probably doing something right.
How else is OSE helpful? You can see what kinds of links your competitors are getting, but instead of going after those same links I take the trends I find and input them into Ontolo to get NEW links that my competitors don’t already have.
And with that, we have come full circle. Each of these tools on their own are not nearly as powerful as their power combined. The tools are kind of like the Planeteers from Captain Planet. With the power of all five you can save the world from ecological destruction.. err at least you can save your site from being dominated in the SERPs.