Best SEO Tools

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Top 3 SEO Tools

The goal of all SEO strategies is to increase organic traffic to our website content by improving keyword rankings. To do this, you might want make an invest in SEO Tools and take a more involved approach to optimizing your content with modern digital marketing practices. If you aren’t doing it, your competitors are.

Studies show that the number one position in Google gets 33% of search traffic.  Similar studies show that page #1 of the Google search results gets 91.5% of Google Traffic.

Percentage of traffic by Google results position by Chitika

This shows real value in ranking our relevant content on page #1 or even position #1 for keywords or phrases for which we believe provides real value to our audience.

Here is an example of the value of organic search from analytics data of one of my clients.

External Traffic Internal Traffic
62% of all external traffic comes from Organic Search  33% of Internal Traffic still comes from Google

For this client, who has a very large websites (10s of thousands of pages), even their employees are doing Google searches to find content on their own website.

Like you, I’ve scoured the internet for the powerful tools that give us data and insight into what searchers are looking for within our niche. I’ve consumed countless industry case studies and articles for strategies on how to rank in the search engines and increase organic traffic to the website as part of a content marketing strategy.

The main focus of most SEO strategies includes:

  • performing keyword  & competitive research,
  • technical SEO Website Audits,
  • and link building Backlink Analysis.

These strategies take care of the two components of SEO:

  1. On page SEOThis part of SEO is concerned with the actual web content we publish. A large portion of the technical on-page SEO is taken care of by our WCAG accessibility standards, however performing regular scans of our existing content using a web crawler like Screaming Frog (an industry leader) built to identify any SEO or other technical issues is crucial to optimizing content performance.
  2. Off page SEOlinks or backlinks are the single most important external (off page) signal for search engine rankings. Think of links on other websites pointing to our content as votes.  Google uses the number of votes (backlinks) and the quality of those votes to decide how we perform in the search engine results for the search terms we care about. Therefore backlink analysis is vital for understanding why a piece of content performs the way it does and how it matches up with content of our competitors.

To pick our list of the best seo tools, I’ve expanded on these practices to build a larger strategy:

  • Perform a detailed audit including keyword research and on-site content analysis.
  • Complete an in-depth on-page technical SEO audit and optimize page titles, meta-descriptions, header tags and image alt tags. Clean up internal linking and navigation and develop new content.
  • Execute off page efforts including link profile analysis (backlink analysis) of healthy and toxic external links and fix broken or toxic links and Identify new link building opportunities, and give 301 redirect recommendations for 404 pages.
  • Create branded content marketing pieces including infographics and articles to increase authoritative links back to the website and boost engagement through social media.
  • Build out new landing pages with content that targets industry keywords that we are currently targeting.
  • Increase the hierarchy of the pages that were targeting some of their high volume search terms.
  • Eliminate unnecessary subfolders, allowing more authority to fall to the pages that specifically targeted relevant keywords.
  • Optimize the architecture of the site through internal linking and on-site navigation to improve crawl-ability and enhance user experience.

Top SEO tools

With no further ado, here is a list of the best tools.

 

SEMrush-Logo

SEMRush

Function: Keyword & Competitive Research Tool
Cost: $69.95-$549.95/Month
Website: www.semrush.com

In order perform Keyword Research, monitor how our content is performing in the SERPs, and keep a close eye on what the competition doing, it is recommended to purchase an online tool like SEMRush.

Performing competitor keyword rankings will help you:

  • Generate new keyword and content ideas
  • Better understand competitors’ target audience
  • Discover which keyword rankings you could improve for increased traffic
  • Find keywords that are driving traffic to your competitors’ websites
  • Guide decision-making for website expansion.
  • Identify what is useful or what is going bring in the most traffic and shares.
  • Quickly and easily identify potential content ideas based on what your competitors are doing.
  • Brings more relevant users to the site
  • Gives content creators/authors a reason to create content

Keyword Research

The data we pull from SEMRush will help you:

  • determine content gaps,
  • find high opportunity keywords (provide content ideas),
  • compare and contrast competitor content/ranking efforts,
  • develop and guide content and SEO tasks.
  • and use SEMRush to identify and begin monitoring keywords we already rank for.

The target should be to create a page that will rank fast for different longtail keywords (Keyphrases with 4 words or more), be of high quality to stimulate organic backlinking, and have it grow over time for the main keyword.

Note:  “Keywords are defined by length into 3 groups: Head (1-2 words), Body (2-4 words) and Longtail (4+ words). While Head terms are getting a lot of search traffic, they are also highly competitive and the user intent is all over the place. Best is to optimize your content for a combination of Body + Longtail variations”

ahrefs_logo

AHREFS

Function: Backlink Analysis
Cost: $79-$399/month
Websitewww.ahrefs.com

As backlinks are the single most important external (off page) signal for search engine rankings, it is recommended to subscribe to a backlink and brand mention tracking software like AHREFS.

Search engines use backlinks (Inbound Links) as a proxy for human endorsement. More links from trustworthy sites on relevant pages equals more organic traffic. The links feature allows you to pull all the links to a specific URL and then sift and sort to dig up the information you want.

Determine What Marketing Tactics Are Working for Competitors

You can take your competitors – big and small – and see where they are getting their links from. You can go and try to get the same links. You can use the information to understand what has been working in the industry and use it to develop your own unique tactics.

Search engines use backlinks (Inbound Links) as a proxy for human endorsement. More links from trustworthy sites on relevant pages equals more organic traffic.

Site Explorer

The links feature in AHREFS allows you to pull all the links to a specific URL and then sift and sort to dig up the information you want (How many social media shares, how many links to this page…etc.).

The Top Content feature allows us to look at how specific pages on our site perform with respect to backlinks and social shares. With this information we can understand what type of content works and what gets little attention, shares and links. We can also use the same tool to analyse other websites to learn strategies that work.

The Top Referring Content feature shows us what content on the Internet that has a link to the URL we are exploring has the most links/shares or estimated traffic. We can get a ballpark estimate of what links send referral traffic to a URL.

The Broken Links feature allows us to see where which links are linking to or linking out to a URL that no longer exists. We would use this data to create redirects where needed.  Also, we can use this feature to find new backlink opportunities by reaching out to web site owners to use a link to our site in place of a broken link. This can lead to increased rankings and increased traffic.

Strategies

  1. Determine which marketing tactics are working for competitors or partners.
    • Look at competitors to see where they get their links from, and attempt to emulate by getting links from the same sites (Outreach).
    • Use this data to understand what has been working in the industry and use it to develop our own unique strategies.
  2. Determine What Content Does Well
    • Understand what pages actually get links if you are building your organic presence.
    • Understand what gets shares.
    • Understand what types of content gets picked up.
    • What’s the one piece of content for competitors or industry publications that drive 80% of their links and shares.
  3. Identify Low-Hanging Fruit / Easy Link Opportunities
    • Does an industry publication have links to all your competitors, but forget to link to you?
    • Is there a reporter that interviews your competitors but not you?
    • Use the link Intersect tool identifies these opportunities.
  4. Identify Influential Marketing Prospects
    • Identify influential websites that are already linking to competitors and/or industry publications, attempt to emulate or come up with similar linking strategies.
  5. Conduct A Broken Link Building Campaign
    • Broken link-building is one of the most effective and consistent link-building tactics in SEO.
    • Find resources that no longer exist, rebuild them on our site, then pitch to get the links currently pointing at the broken resource switched to point at ours. Measure ranking and traffic results
    • Correct any broken links that our site has.
      1. Wikipedia is a great source for broken link building technique (How to use Wikipedia for SEO)

Content Explorer

A marketing tool that shows the most shared content around any topic.

Inform PR Strategy

“Press release and pray” is not an effective PR strategy, especially if you want a quality pick up from a major publication.

The best angle for getting a press pickup is that the piece will bring in readers. We can use Content Explorer to figure out what pieces do well and what type of content a publication likes.

Another great use of this tool is to target journalists by analysing which type of content certain authors like to write about.  If they have written content about National Defence, Canadian Armed Forces or general Defence related issues they are a good candidate for outreach:

  • Pitch a story idea, which will include a link to our site (to a specific piece of content)
  • Request a backlink in one of their existing defence or CAF related articles.
  • Identify influencers
  • Identify opinion leaders
  • Identify who to establishing relations with
Understand a Topic

We can use Content Explorer to understand what angles, language and facts resonate with people on any given topic.

Look for Top Performers’ Commonalities

Use Content Explorer to figure what form our content should be in. Many times a text post won’t work but a video will. Or an infographic will work in one industry but not in another. For example, if you we Content Explorer and see that every top performer has a video included…we should probably include a video in our content.

Set Benchmarks for success

Content Explorer can be used to get a ballpark benchmark for a successful campaign. If our goal is shares and the best campaign in your industry generated a 1000 shares – “success” might be defined as 100, not 10,000.

Understand Platform Types & Goals

Use Content Explorer to figure out what Content fits our marketing goals. For example, if it’s a campaign to drive organic traffic, sort the listing by # of links – not by overall shares.

View URL Data

Lastly in the Content Explorer results, there’s a little drop down that will show you detailed link data and the keywords that the content most likely ranks for. That data is invaluable for planning a well-rounded piece of content.

 

Screaming Frog Logo

Screaming Frog

Function: SEO website Audit
Cost: Technical SEO Website Audi
Websitewww.screamingfrog.co.uk

In order to perform content inventory, identify and act on any errors like missing or duplicate meta-data, page titles, alt tags and other W3 Web Content Accessibility Guideline accessibility compliance issues, it is recommended to purchase a high powered web crawler like Screaming Frog. This tool can also be used to crawl our intranet content (discussed below).  A free alternative to this tool is Xenu Link Sleuth.

Here is a great ]tutorial by Seer Interacive on how to use Screaming Frog

Here is a list of what you can do with the Screaming Frog tool:

 

Basic Crawling

  • I want to crawl my entire site
  • I want to crawl a single subdirectory
  • I want to crawl a specific set of subdomains or subdirectories
  • I want a list of all of the pages on my site
  • I want a list of all of the pages in a specific subdirectory
  • I want to find a list of domains that my client is currently redirecting to their money site
  • I want to find all of the subdomains on a site and verify internal links
  • I want to crawl an e-commerce site or other large site
  • I want to crawl a site hosted on an older server
  • I want to crawl a site that requires cookies
  • I want to crawl using a proxy
  • I want to crawl pages that require authentication

Internal Links

  • I want information about all of the internal and external links on my site (anchor text, directives, links per page etc.)
  • I want to find broken internal links on a page or site
  • I want to find broken outbound links on a page or site (or all outbound links in general)
  • I want to find links that are being redirected
  • I am looking for internal linking opportunities

Site Content

  • I want to identify pages with thin content
  • I want a list of the image links on a particular page
  • I want to find images that are missing alt text or images that have lengthy alt text
  • I want to find every CSS file on my site
  • I want to find every JavaScript file on my site
  • I want to identify all of the jQuery plugins used on the site and what pages they are being used on
  • I want to find where flash is embedded on-site
  • I want to find any internal PDFs that are linked on-site
  • I want to understand content segmentation within a site or group of pages
  • I want to find pages that have social sharing buttons
  • I want to find pages that are using iframes
  • I want to find pages that contain embedded video or audio content

Meta Data and Directives

  • I want to identify pages with lengthy page titles, meta descriptions, or URLs
  • I want to find duplicate page titles, meta descriptions, or URLs
  • I want to find duplicate content and/or URLs that need to be rewritten/redirected/canonicalized
  • I want to identify all of the pages that include meta directives e.g.: nofollow/noindex/noodp/canonical etc.
  • I want to verify that my robots.txt file is functioning as desired
  • I want to find or verify Schema markup or other microdata on my site

Sitemap

  • I want to create an XML Sitemap
  • I want to check my existing XML Sitemap

General Troubleshooting

  • I want to identify why certain sections of my site aren’t being indexed or aren’t ranking
  • I want to check if my site migration/redesign was successful
  • I want to find slow loading pages on my site
  • I want to find malware or spam on my site

PPC & Analytics

  • I want to verify that my Google Analytics code is on every page, or on a specific set of pages on my site
  • I want to validate a list of PPC URLs in bulk

Scraping

  • I want to scrape the meta data for a list of pages
  • I want to scrape a site for all of the pages that contain a specific footprint

URL Rewriting

  • I want to find and remove session id or other parameters from my crawled URLs
  • I want to rewrite the crawled URLs (e.g: replace .com with .co.uk, or write all URLs in lowercase)

Keyword Research

  • I want to know which pages my competitors value most
  • I want to know what anchor text my competitors are using for internal linking
  • I want to know which meta keywords (if any) my competitors have added to their pages

Link Building

  • I want to analyze a list of prospective link locations
  • I want to find broken links for outreach opportunities
  • I want to verify my backlinks and view the anchor text
  • I want to make sure that I’m not part of a link network

I am in the process of cleaning up my backlinks and need to verify that links are being removed as requested

RISKS

As SEMRush (Keyword Analysis & Research) and AHREFS (Off page SEO) are web-based tools that gather big data from online sources, they are not able to penetrate some internal firewalls and collect data on intranet content and will be restricted to use external facing websites.

Screaming Frog (Web Crawler) was mostly designed for external facing websites, but can easily be modified to crawl intranet content. The manufacturer of the tool has confirmed that this tool does noot “phone home” or send any kind of usage data over the internet.

Implementation

An SEO Analyst will use the online tools AHREFS and SEMRush anywhere there is internet access to run comprehensive analysis on web properties as well as any competitor or partner websites to gain valuable content marketing insight and content ideas. These analyses will be provided to content creators and current content owners to aid in the creation better performing content.  This analysis, like keyword performance can feed into your existing Analytics Dashboard (weekly, quarterly and annually).

Screaming Frog (licence based) can be installed on one computer per licence.  Run this tool frequently on any new content you create and on existing content to identify any on-page seo opportunities

CONCLUSION

Ranking high in the Google search engine rankings page is a gold mine of website traffic helping us reach Canadians, stockholders and the rest of our audience. With the right SEO tools we can better target and increase the quality of that traffic using proper Keyword research, Website Auditing and link analysis prior to and after the content creation process.

 

Khalid is a father and husband. He works as an Online Marketer and an SEO with a history in development. He manages on-page and of-page SEO for a variety of business.

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