My Favorite SEO Tools
Search marketers’ toolboxes differ based on the type of optimization in which they specialize and how comfortable they are with raw data versus ready-to-use graphs. Many helpful tools aren’t specifically made for search engine optimization at all, intended instead for data analysts or web developers.
These are my favorite SEO tools. What are your go-to tools? Share your favorites with us in the comments.
Another plugin for Firefox, Firebug gives you the power to view and modify HTML, style and layout in real-time without leaving the browser. Use it to verify if a link is nofollowed, or add text to the page to find out how many words you can add before the design breaks.
When you just need to see if an error page really returns a 404 file not found server header response, or if a redirect is a 301 temporary redirect, Rex Swain’s HTTP Viewer can help. It also lists out the HTML for each page it requests, so you can see if a page that returns a 200 OK status is actually serving a meta refresh that acts like the 301 redirect you were hoping to see.
Live HTTP Headers
When I want to know everything about a site, I set my frog loose. Screaming Frog crawls any site – even secure and password protected sites (presuming you can supply login credentials) – and produces a report of every page matching your criteria. It’s a quick way to compile lists of URLs, server header status, title tags, and even custom content. If you need a free tool, Xenu Link Sleuth is less fully featured but gets the job done in 90 percent of the cases.
When you have a list of URLs, this Excel plugin can crawl them to return specific pieces of information, such as title tags, server header status, backlinks, indexation data, duplicate content and more. SEO Tools also integrates with Majestic SEO and Google Analytics for deeper backlink and performance analysis.
My most frequently used SEO tool, Excel helps me make sense of the mountains of data we collect and analyze for SEO. Have a look at my favorite SEO tips and formulas for Excel.
Claiming to possess the world’s largest link index database, Majestic SEO has become my go-to source for backlink data. Even its free account produces some great insights. The splatter graphs illustrating a site’s link authority and trust are a bit harsh on the eye, but they communicate the essence of a site’s link profile perfectly.
I haven’t historically trusted of all-in-one SEO analytics solutions, but Searchmetrics is changing that. It integrates with web analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, and tracks links and rankings equally well. The interface is more intuitive than others I’ve used, and the presentation of data is attractive. I have no intention of giving up my toolbox of specialized data sources, but if I had to I’d turn to Searchmetrics.
Sometimes you just need to take a screen grab. Snagit saves your screen and lets you annotate it with more features than most. I use it to document search results, graphs, web pages and other information that has a tendency to change frequently so that I can remember clearly later why I optimized something the way I did. Snagit is also extremely helpful in creating presentations.
Google’s Suite of Tools
No SEO tools list would be complete without Google’s suite of tools. Google Analytics is the most SEO friendly web analytics package out there, because it’s reporting is focused on the URL rather than the page. Each page name can have many URLs, but each URL only loads one page. By focusing on the URL, Google Analytics allows us to determine exactly which versions of a page are driving performance and which are dead weight. Google also brings us Google Webmaster Tools and Google Keyword Planner. We’ve written about both frequently, and for good reason. They’re essential to planning and managing SEO campaigns. Read more at “Guide to Google Webmaster Tools” and “SEO: Using Google’s New Keyword Planner.”
SEO changes daily, between the search engines’ algorithm updates and the creative new ways the leaders in search marketing dream up to boost performance. It can be hard to know which SEO information sources to trust. Besides Practical Ecommerce, I read Search Engine Land for SEO news, Moz.com for in-depth SEO studies and educational material, and Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal for other SEO tidbits. All four of these publications are dedicated to search marketing, and are staffed with search professionals who stake their reputations on SEO performance.