Tools, tools, tools; in digital marketing there are plenty to choose from, but which ones make the cut when it comes to providing useful insights?
We’ve been rummaging in our SEO toolbox, and want to share some favourites with you. Here are the main ones we use on a daily basis, what they offer and why we love ‘em.
Up first, and probably our favourite tool of the lot, is Screaming Frog - a website crawler which works through a website’s links, images, CSS and scripts. It operates in a similar way to search engine site crawlers and therefore gives you a good understanding of what a search engine “sees”.
The tool has a vast array of reports and ways to analyse the data. Some of the most useful reports include:
- Finding broken links
- Identifying sub optimal meta data
- Reviewing redirects to ensure they are accurate and not part of a chain
- Identifying instances of page duplication
- Troubleshooting hreflang issues
Due to the huge amount of information you can uncover through this tool it is invariably one of the first tasks when carrying out a technical site audit.
You can download Screaming Frog for free, making it one of the most popular tools for SEO professionals. The free version restricts your crawl to 500 URLs, though, whereas the paid version is only limited by the capabilities of your machine.
Tip: Screaming Frog can be quite memory intensive and is limited by the amount of memory the tool can use. By default this is set to 512MB but can be increased using this guide.
Tip: Watch your crawls. It’s very easy to “set and forget” with Screaming Frog and come back to the tool later when it’s finished. However, you may find that the crawler has managed to find a page duplication issue or an infinite loop, which will inflate your crawl unnecessarily. By watching your crawl you will see these issues arise. Simply stop the crawl and add an “exclude” rule to filter out these pesky problem URLs.
There are a number of backlink analysis tools on the market, but in our opinion Majestic is one of the best.
It’s so simple; you just copy and paste a website URL into the search bar, and in return it displays every link it has pointing to that URL. Majestic provide their own metrics for every backlink: trust and citation flow - to provide more info on each link’s value.
Other functionalities include anchor text ratio analysis, the review of new or lost links and information on referring domains. This provides a great overall picture of your backlink profile, how healthy it is and what can be done to improve it.
Tip: Take a look at all the links that make up your competitors’ backlink profiles. You might find that they’re a “house of cards” build on a foundation of dodgy backlinks or that they’ve got some really great marketing ideas that are attracting good quality links. Either way this is useful information to have.
Tip: Don’t rely on one backlink review tool. Tools such as Majestic find links by crawling the web and taking note of all of the links they find. Different backlink review tools crawl different parts of the web and therefore using multiple tools will give you a fuller picture of your (or your competitor's’) backlink profile. Some other great backlink review tools include:
Archive.org is a library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.
For SEO it is useful as it provides an idea of how websites looked and operated at different points in time. It’s really helpful to understand how a site has changed, its age and whether you’re dealing with a dropped domain (where a domain registration hasn’t been renewed).
Tip: It’s useful to note that this tool doesn’t just take a snapshot of the page but preserves the HTML markup too. This allows you to see when a technical change was made to the site that could have impacted organic performance.
GTmetrix is a free tool that analyses a web page’s speed performance. It provides a pagespeed score and recommendations on how to reduce page load times as much as possible. With search engines and users becoming ever more used to a seamless online experience, it is hugely important to ensure that page speed is as fast as possible.
It’s key features include:
- Analysis of your page with Google PageSpeed and Yahoo! YSlow rulesets
- Get your page's page load time, total page size and total number of requests
- See your page's performance relative to the average of all sites analysed on GTmetrix
Tip: Signing up for a free account allows you to have greater control over the test; specifying server location, browser type and connection speed, to name a few. There is also an option to test URLs behind a login which makes testing of staging sites so much easier.
Google Keyword Planner
Underpinning all SEO campaigns, is the need to carry out extensive and targeted keyphrase research.
Google Keyword Planner, part of Google Adwords, allows you to search for specific keyphrases, variations, competition and search volume, making it the go-to tool for any keyphrase analysis.
From an SEO perspective Google appears to be making the tool ever more restrictive in terms of the data that can be gained from the tool. However, it is still the best source for understanding which keyphrases have the greatest potential.
Tip: When prospecting for new search terms using this tool, you may find some of the suggested terms are centred on the wrong niche. Strong use of the include and exclude rules will help you control the tool and focus down on the terms relevant to you.
Tip: The tool will “bucket” monthly search volumes. So instead of being told “keyword x” has 1,000 searches per month you will be told it’s between 1-10,000 which is frankly pretty useless. However, if you have a Google account that is running some paid ads then the search volume data is no longer “bucketed”. Thanks Google!
We couldn’t possibly list our most valued tools without mentioning the obvious - when Google Analytics was launched back in November ‘05 it revolutionised both SEO professionals’ and webmasters’ lives, and it’s now the most widely used web analytics service on the internet.
The key features of GA include:
- Data visualisation tools including a dashboard, scorecards and motion charts, which display changes in data over time
- Segmentation for analysis of subsets, such as conversions
- Custom reports
- Email-based sharing and communication
- Integration with other Google products, such as AdWords, Public Data Explorer and Website Optimiser
So, if your website isn’t attracting the traffic you’re aiming for, or appears to be attracting the wrong type, setting up GA can delve into these issues to help you find out why.
Tip: Get qualified. Google has a free and yet comprehensive Google Analytics training suite with videos and exercises covering most aspects of the tool. If starting out with GA, this is definitely a must
Successful search engine visibility relies on unique onsite content (among other factors). A tool used to assess the uniqueness of your website content is Copyscape, a free plagiarism checker.
Just input your URL and copyscape will provide a list of sites that hold the same content, if any. It’s then up to you what you do with the copy cats…
There are a number of other tools we use regularly, listed below:
Which SEO tools do you rave about? We'd love to know.
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