My Recommended SEO
The purpose of this post is simple. I frequently get asked about the tools that I use for SEO analysis. This is everything from keyword research, to analyzing the competition, to looking at backlinks. This post will be an ongoing one-stop-shop for me to direct those questions to.
There are a massive amount of SEO tools available today. If there are some that you use that I didn’t list I would LOVE for you to list it in the comments below. One last thing before I start, none of these are affiliate links. They are all honest recommendations.
First up – My Top 6 Most Used SEO Tools
These are the tools that I use most often, and frequently leave open in my browser.
Term Explorer is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s the single best keyword generation tool that I’ve ever used. It is remarkably similar to our once beloved Google Keyword Tool (may it rest in peace). In order to use you simply put in your keyword into the “bulk keyword tool” and press go. 30 seconds later you have a kick ass list of at least 1,000 keywords to go off of. This tool has some very clear benefits over the old Google keyword tool as well, in that it makes it SUPER easy to copy and paste without annoying brackets, and you can even copy it into spintax form for all of you grey-hatters out there.
Term Explorer also has some other analysis features to it, but I’ve never really explored (pun?) those too much. There is a forever free plan of up to 5 keyword jobs a day. As you can see it is highly accurate.
Pro-tip: Use this tool to generate your tier-2 keyword list for diversity (Google updates b comin!)
I’ve used SerpIQ for a long time now, and it only continues to improve. The main focus of this tool for me is competition research. My team and I all use SerpIQ for analyzing the competitors within different niches. It is a brilliant way to take a quick “snapshot” of what you are up against. I really can’t describe how much time this can save you in the long run if you are a power SEO’er, and it’s probably even better if you’re a noob since it takes difficult topics and portrays them in an easy to understand scorecard format.
SerpIQ works by analyzing a lot of data points, including
- On-page optimization
- Social signals
- Page Rank
- Domain authority (not the SEOMoz metric)
- Informational/Commercial intent
- Advertiser presence
- And probably more that I don’t know about
There is a 7-day free trial, and then paid options after that.
Update September 2015: I unfortunately can no longer recommend this tool. The Google algorithm has outgrown this tool, and it hasn’t been able to keep up. On top of that, it took me 2 months of non-stop emails and canceling via my bank in order to finally get the product cancelled. TL;DR this product is no longer supported.
Vectorfy is the new kid on the block. This idea was from a mathmatical genuis of a guy, that was later developed and commercialized into one of my favorite tools. It’s awesome, and you should be using it no matter what the color of your SEO hat.
Vectorfy is a “content relevancy” tool. It’s a complicated subject, but in layman’s terms it tells you what and how many “vector keywords” you should use within your content to make it the most relevant to the Google algorithm. This makes ranking for keywords (and specifically longtails) easier, and really amplifies your link building.
For example, if I was going to try and rank this page for “SEO tools” then according to the tool I should also be using other terms within my content such as:
- and malware
(see what I did there?)
There is literally zero downside to using this, so do it.
This is an industry standard to me. Ahrefs is what the pros use to check backlinks of a URL. I quite literally use it daily. For me, it makes it super easy to take in a lot of data quickly in regards to linking. It is also usually thought of as the leader in backlink SEO analysis tools. Majestic SEO and SEOmoz are both good to check certain things, but Ahrefs is the best as far as I’m concerned. Easily accessed information about a URL and/or domain:
- Total inbound backlinks
- Unique domains
- Tweets, likes, shares and G+’s
- Link gain/loss chart history
- Anchor text “cloud” (like a tag cloud in wordpress)
- Top 10 anchor texts referred by page and domain
- Inbound link freshness date
- Dofollow/nofollow/image/text link attributes
- Internal/external links
- … you get the picture. It does a lot
The benefits of using this are numerous. If you’re looking at serious competition analysis then combing it with SerpIQ is an awesome punch for in depth research. There is a “baby” free plan with Ahrefs.
Pro-Tip: Anytime a new business approaches me, the first think I do is go and look at their backlinks in Ahrefs. You can learn a lot about someone from their backlinks. Any site with only 2 links is almost certainly not a big deal, and if you pay attention to the anchor texts you can see what people say about them.
SEMrush is another tool that does A LOT overall, but that I use for very specific purposes. SEMrush will allow you to look at an overview of all the keywords that a website or individual URL ranks for. It lists them in order from highest traffic producer to lowest for the site.
Here is a report for Moz.com
With this report you can check where a lot of their main organic traffic comes from. For example according to their click through distribution settings the #1 organic traffic referrer for Moz is actually “Fridays” ( and #13 is “Uhaul”??).
There is so much that you can do with this data.
- Find your competitors keywords to try and target
- Check your own website to find keywords that you didn’t know about to target
- See if a website is healthy. We use this at Smash Digital a lot for brand new clients to see if the domain is penalized beforehand. There is a nice traffic chart to see if there are any sudden drops at any point.
- Find keywords that need ‘just a little’ love. You might be ranking around #20 for some large terms and not even know it.
This tool does a ton more than I’m talking about here, but these are the main focuses for my use of it. Play around with for an hour and you can have a solid new toy for your tool-box.
Pro-tip: If you are doing PPC advertising, use SEMrush to check out what ads and keywords your competition is focusing on. If you know they are successful, then you now know how to be successful as well.
Other Great Tools
There are hundreds if not thousands of SEO tools out there. A lot are crap, but many are wonderful. These don’t necessarily merit everyday use, but they are fantastic to know about for whenever you might need them.
Frequently when doing SEO you are presented with abnormally large sets of information that can be hard to organize for various tools. These will help.
- GetSpintax – Quickly put a large list of keywords or URL’s into spintax for with the click of a button.
- TextMechanic – Change the case of your letters, find and replace in bulk, remove duplicates, randomize lists, and so much more.
(this is one of the few tools that I actually donated to willingly)
- Google Keyword Planner (of course) – The new anti-seo version of the once great Google keyword tool.
- Keyword Shitter – Surprisingly it is a great keyword generation tool! Don’t let the name fool you.
- HitTail – A longtime #Boss in the SEO market. Hit Tail will look at your websites existing niche authority, and tell you what keywords you can rank for naturally without additional backlinks. I also highly recommend this email marketing software by the same creator, but that’s another story.
- Uber Suggest – The name should speak for itself.
- Traffic Analysis– TrafficAnalysis was built as an answer to Google’s “Not provided”. The tool allows you to know about 90% of the keywords that bring traffic to your website, as well as the ones bringing traffic to your competitors (the latter feature probably being the most powerful about the tool).TrafficAnalysis also classifies the different keywords by “potential” order (based on current rankings, competition level, and volume), showing you which keywords you should focus your SEO efforts on in order to get maximum results. To provide such information, the tool uses data from the API’s of SEMRush, Searchmetrics, Google Analytics, and Google Webmastertools.”
- Ninja Tools Google Scraper – Not really a keyword tool, but it’s a simple Google scraper. Very useful. This site also has several other tools, but this is really the only one I usually use.
- KeywordTool.io – Nice tool that I was just recently introduced to. It is an autocomplete keyword generator. You will get some nice and unique relevant keywords here that you problably won’t get elsewhere.
This is for finding broken links, bad structuring, dead stuff, etc… In other words the boring stuff that does matter and should be given attention to.
- Screaming Frog – SEO spider tool. Should be a standard for everyone to audit your websites. (you can also use for broken link building).
- A1 Website Analyzer – The owner of the tool actually emailed me to tell me about it. It looks great! His words: “After site crawl, it can filter and show you all pages (including broken links to internal and external URLs), file sizes, response codes, duplicate content, titles, descriptions, H1, H2 canonical, internal anchor text to pages, image alt text, link line numbers, link follow/nofollow states, navigation click length, all top keywords and a ton of other data.
It will also calculate internal link juice “score” of all pages. (The tool has been in constant development since 2006.) If configured so, it can validate HTML/CSS, spell check and perform custom search for text/patterns throughout entire website.”
- Xenu Link Sleuth – Another great website diagnostics tool to test any crawling problems
Backlink Analysis Tools:
As stated before, I prefer Ahrefs for this, but there are other great tools as well.
- Majestic SEO – Has some unique metrics that I do like.
- Open Site Explorer – The Moz version.
Content Generation And Spinning:
I don’t recommend usage of these unless it’s for backlink blasts, but either way here it is.
- WordAI – This is the single most impressive “keyword spinner” that I’ve ever used. I put “keyword spinner” in quotes because it does much more than just spinning. It actually intelligently rewrites.
Example: “I will shoot a panda tomorrow” is rewritten to: “Tomorrow I will shoot a panda“. It’s probably a better writer than me. Test it for yourself and see.
- The Best Spinner – Everyone and their Grandma has abused this.
- Kontent Machine – Awesome content generator to be combined with the spinners above for blasts.
Backlink Blasting Tools:
WARNING!!! Do not use if you do not know what you are doing and have a clear understanding of strategies and SEO risk analysis. You will kill your website and you will cry. These take a LOT of training.
- ScrapeBox – I want to be clear that ScrapeBox is actually a very versatile tool. It does SO much besides just blasting links, but it’s most known for blog comment spam. Personally I wouldn’t use it for backlinks at all anymore unless you understand how to customize it properly, but it’s still the longtime king of the mountain for anyone’s arsenal.
- GSA Search Engine Ranker – Spam tool. No doubt about it. Out of the box it has some ok functionality, but if you take it further and learn about creating contextual posts, scraping non-spammed platforms, and learning how to think outside the box with it the results can be killer. This is where using WordAI and Kontent Machine come into play. It’s great for tier-2 backlinks
- SEnuke – It can still be good if it’s customized. Any of the standard platforms have been spammed to death with it though. Don’t drink the cool aid too much unless you plan on putting in the effort of customization.
Tracking large amounts of keywords is key to know what’s working. Especially now that the analytics is blocking most keyword data, keyword tracking is now more important than ever. Not to mention it’s a nice vanity metric to look at 5 times a day in order to help you procrastinate. When it comes to picking a rank tracker, everyone seems to have a different opinion. It really just depends on which one works the most organically with your brain. There is no right or wrong.
- SERPfox – This is my favorite rank tracker for Google. For me it makes it the easiest to take in large amounts of data quickly. You can select what geo-location to track, and can easily generate easy to understand charts to see keyword progress. The downside of SerpFox is that it does not automatically track both Google and Bing. You have to add Bing in separately, which can also eat up your keyword tracking quota. Either way I still use it.
- Microsite Masters – This tracker is undoubtedly superior in many ways. It has some great features for ROI tracking so that you can see what’s working, and the timeframe for certain SEO tactics to work (always an average). It also lets you easy share ranking charts publicly with others if you so choose. The only major downside of this for me is that the UI doesn’t work organically with my brain. I can’t take in the data as quickly, and when you track the SERPs of hundreds of sites like I do that time can really add up.
I’m heavily involved in the Amazon space, which I see as more or less just another search engine to game, errr, I mean optimize for. So with that I’ve invested in two companies that really help out for others playing in this space.
- Ad Badger – Amazon PPC Software – This is kinda self explanatory. It’s a kickass software that was just released that automates Amazon PPC management to a new level. Takes management of the Amazon PPC campaigns down to minutes a month, while seriously increasing profitability. If you’re not quite ready for the software, then at least check out their simplified paid traffic guide.
- AMZ Refund – Amazon Seller Reimbursement Service – This is just a beautiful app for ANY Amazon seller. It’s almost literally free money. As a seller you probably know that Amazon warehouses lose or damage inventory, and sometimes Amazon support will give refunds when they shouldn’t. Well, AMZrefund simply audits your seller account and then shows you how much money Amazon owes you, it then takes an 8% cut for the work and you keep the rest. (see what I mean by no-brainer).
Please let me know what you think of the list, and add in any other tools that you use in the comments below.