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SEMrush

by SEMrush
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SEMrush is an online platform that sets its users up for success in the areas of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click advertising (PPC). It is also useful for those needing to learn more about content, social media marketing, and research on a…Read More

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Best SEO Tools Help

SEO is a huge subject and a lot of companies use multiple tools in order to ensure that their SEO strategy is up to scratch and producing the results they need.

For this reason, there is no single best SEO tool but rather there are several systems and services that can complement each other and help companies to put together the SEO strategy that is right for them and which will deliver the results that they require.

Where to begin an SEO journey

Before any company is able to choose the right SEO tool, they need to understand what they require and where the weaknesses in their current SEO strategy lie. Companies that do not go through this process before selecting and purchasing a tool run the risk of spending a significant amount of money on a tool that doesn’t actually do what they need to.

This is because a lot of the services that fall under the vague catch-all banner of ‘SEO tools’ actually do quite different things. Some function as a keyword research tool, others are designed to help with link building and some services are designed to let companies track their SEO efforts and monitor the performance of their campaigns.

All of these are quite separate niches and are likely to be required by different people within a large marketing team.

Small teams that are starting their SEO efforts from scratch face a slightly different problem. Often, these businesses will find that there are so many individual things that they could be doing or focusing on that it is hard to select any individual task and start work on it. This can lead to a sense of overload that often leads to companies doing nothing at all.

It’s important for small teams to realize that it’s impossible to do every possible SEO task at once (even large companies with big marketing teams let some tasks fall through the cracks). What’s important is to understand the possibilities and make an objective decision about what is going to be the best use of time at the beginning.

Eventually, it will be possible for any company to tackle the full gambit of SEO tasks that are in front of them but, if they can’t find somewhere to start, then the chances are that they will try to do too much at the same time and not succeed in meeting any of their objectives.

This is why the first step to any good SEO strategy is making a plan for what tasks will be completed when. This helps teams to set realistic goals and targets that they will actually be able to meet. Otherwise, they risk trying to do too many things at the same time and failing to meet any of their targets, which can be a very demotivating experience.

How can SEO tools help?

An SEO tool isn’t an absolute essential for everyone who is looking to improve the SEO of their website, but they can certainly make a difference. Some SEO tools focus on one particular area of SEO such as keyword research and others combine a range of tools into one suite.

The combined tools generally have a few advantages over the separate solutions as they are able to combine data about different elements of a website’s SEO and use this to make recommendations about what areas the website owner should be focused on.

However, it isn’t absolutely essential to have an SEO tool in order to start making SEO improvements to a website. Some parts of SEO best practice are universal across all website and some tips, such as working to make a site load faster and improving the experience on navigating a website on a mobile device don’t require a separate SEO tool.

However, many SEO tools on the market have recognized that they are not indispensable for these types of tasks. In order to counteract this issue, they have begun offering project management tools that allow website owners to manage the type of tasks that don’t require direct input from the tools themselves.

This means that there can still be advantages in using an SEO tool for basic SEO tasks, even if the type of data that an SEO suite would generally provide is not strictly relevant.

It’s also worth remembering that some search engines offer free tools that allow website owners to see how their sites are performing on the search engine and which keywords are sending traffic.

While these tools are a good starting point and are good for highlighting serious errors that are costing significant amounts of traffic, they’re not normally enough to power an SEO strategy on their own as they only offer a very narrow insight to the types of changes that will actually make a difference to a site’s performance.

It’s definitely worth reviewing these tools on a semi-regular basis to make sure that no errors have cropped up, but they’re not enough for a serious SEO strategy.

Deciding what to tackle first

There is no single answer on which SEO task is the most important since all of the individual elements of SEO come together to produce great results. However, most sites have particular weak spots that are dragging down their SEO performance and it is here that an SEO team should look to begin.

Some of the most common SEO issues and the tools that can help with them are

Poor quality content

If a website simply doesn’t have the type of content that people are looking for then it will rank poorly on search engine results pages no matter how quickly the site loads or how many incoming links there are.

While it used to be possible for sites to get away with relatively thin and poor-quality content so long as they had pulled enough other SEO tricks, this is definitely no longer the case. Search engines have got far better at sniffing out poor quality websites and identifying the type of content that people want to read.

There is no shortcut or way to cheat at this objective. Websites that want good quality content are going to have to sit down and take the time to write it. What SEO tools can help with however is what articles will generate the greatest return on investment for a particular website.

This is done through a feature known as competitor analysis which scans a list of other websites provided by the user and recommends the types of content and keywords that will help the user to outrank those websites and push their own site to the top of the search results.

These tools will generally produce reports that can either be handed to a copywriter or used by the marketer themselves to create relevant and high-quality content. An SEO tool can’t write the content by itself but it can certainly offer guidance on the type of content that will get the best result.

Slow loading speeds and poor user experience

Nobody likes websites that take a long time to load or which are difficult to navigate. In recent years, search engines have started to notice this and now examine the websites that they are crawling to check how easy they are to use.

Websites that take a long time to load or offer a poor experience on mobile devices are now penalized and will appear lower down the search engine rankings. This means that it’s really worth taking the time to optimize images when they are uploaded and ensure that the mobile user experience of a website is as good as it possibly can be.

Companies that don’t bother to take these simple steps risk leaving money on the table and slamming their door in the face of visitors. Many SEO tools offer a site audit feature that can crawl a website and flag some of the issues that are likely to be causing a problem with rankings.

Many of them then offer tips on what improvements will fix the issue and help to recover the ranking. The best way to avoid technical penalties from search engines is, however, to always follow best practices when content is being created and uploaded to a website.

This means ensuring that any images are as well optimized as possible, any new pages or site sections are easy to view and navigate on any size of the screen and that menus and other interactive elements of the site are as easy to use as possible.

While it can be tempting to fill a website with flashy visual elements that make it stand out, it’s worth remembering that these will generally slow down the website and make it more difficult for people to use, especially on mobile devices and other smaller screens.

As a general rule, it is important to remember not to put any barriers in the way of people achieving what they came to your website to do.

Keywords

Around 10 years ago, keywords were the be-all and end-all of SEO and most websites tended to drop them into their articles as much as possible, even at the cost of the article not making much sense to any human reading it.

The major search engines eventually decided that this technique, known as ‘keyword stuffing’ was detrimental to the user experience of many websites and began to implement technology that could detect it and reduce the rankings of the sites that were using these techniques most blatantly.

While this brought an end to the practice of seeding articles with as many keywords in possible, it does not mean that the importance of keywords has totally disappeared.

Instead, keyword monitoring tools can give website owners an idea of what people are actually searching for and the type of content that they should be looking to produce.

Most industries tend to end up with a fairly warped idea of the types of words that people actually use when they are looking for their products and services thanks to an over-reliance on internal jargon and simply being too close to the coalface.

A good keyword research tool will be able to identify the things that people are searching for. Some will even scan existing content on a website and suggest places where keywords could be inserted.

Suggestions like this should be treated with care as it can be all too easy to start dropping keywords into blocks of text where they really don’t belong, but they can be a useful starting point for those who are new to the world of keywords.

Content Quality

Alongside the issue of keywords comes content quality. Search engines have got a lot better at spotting content that is easy to. Read and actually passes over useful information that comes from an authoritative source.

For certain types of articles that involve important decisions about topics such as finance or health, the quality of information that is being shared is now more important than ever. This is why many SEO tools now have features that check for the quality and readability of content that is being shared.

These checks can involve any number of things to the length of the article and how easy it is to read

Performing the initial audit

Once a company has decided what areas it wants to focus on, the next step is to perform an audit of its website or websites and see what improvements can quickly be made. There are many SEO tools that can help with these tasks and some will even keep track of the improvements and other changes as they are made and even check if they have actually been implemented.

A key thing that differentiates SEO from other parts of the online marketing mix such as paid media is that companies need to be patient about results. There is no guarantee that results will arrive at a certain time or that following best practices will push a particular page to the very top of the search engine rankings.

None of the major search engines are entirely transparent about how they rank one site over another (if they were, it would be far easier for people to game the system).

However, the companies behind some of the leading SEO tools have years of experience in helping their customers too make incremental improvements to their websites and lay the foundations for serious success in the future. For this reason, it’s well worth following the tips and advice that these tools give when it comes to making improvements to a website.

If a major change, for example, a rewrite of content or a change in focus keywords is required across the website then it is generally best to start the work on one section. This makes it easier to be methodical about the process and actually identify what is working and delivering results.

Trying to do everything at once tends to lead to a very scattergun approach and makes it harder to identify which changes are actually working. If multiple types of change are required, apply different changes to different parts of the site and try to measure the results.

This makes it possible to identify which changes are having the most positive impact on the website and then work to roll those out to other parts of the website as quickly as possible.

Finally, make sure that any new sections that are being rolled out while the SEO audit and improvement work are going on following the best practice that the SEO tool is helping to identify. There is no point in fixing the existing content on a website if a new wave of content is simply going to reintroduce all the same issues back into the website at a later date.

Try and see the content that has been improved through the SEO audit process as an opportunity for a new start and a chance to run the website in an entirely new way. Getting these things right from the start saves a lot of work in the future.

How to use an SEO tool on an ongoing basis

Once the SEO audit has been completed and the initial improvements have been made, it can be tempting to believe that the job is complete and that there is no need to continue using the SEO tool. However, in most cases, doing this would be a serious mistake.

Getting a website to a place where the SEO is good is a huge task and many webmasters let the improvements that they have made slip through their fingers without even noticing. A way to avoid this problem is to keep using an SEO tool (possibly a more basic SEO tool than was required for the initial audit).

This tool can keep an eye on things like keyword volumes, rankings, and search impressions which will inevitably change over time. To take one example where ongoing use of an SEO tool is important, a major event may significantly change the market for a product or service that a company offers.

This could also change the way that people think about or search for that particular product or service. A good SEO tool will quickly pick up on this change, the traffic that it is generating, and any changes that competitor organizations are making to their websites to compensate for that change.

Without this type of tool, it may take company weeks or even months to realize that their market has suddenly changed, and they are at risk of losing a significant part of their customer base. It’s also a good way of ensuring that any new people who join a team stick to the rules and produce good content that does not risk damaging all of the hard SEO work that has already taken place.

By ensuring that all new pieces of content are run through an SEO check before they are put live on the site (and that all images going onto the site have been optimized), a company is at far less risk of producing the type of poor quality content that will undo all of the hard work that they have already done.

A good SEO tool can be an incredibly important part of a company’s ongoing marketing efforts and deciding not to use one can do serious damage to a business and its brand over the long-term.

SEO is a hugely important part of online business and while SEO strategies have changed a little over the years, the overall importance of a site appearing at the top of the search engine rankings has certainly not diminished.

It is the change in strategies and approach that makes having an SEO strategy and using some of the best SEO tools so important. Businesses who neglect this part of the online marketing mix may find that they don’t suffer any adverse consequences for a period of time as the losses caused by these types of mistakes tend to be invisible for a while.

Unfortunately, by the time they appear they can often require Herculean efforts to resolve that can suck the energy out of a marketing team for months on end. Getting SEO right from the start and monitoring it on an ongoing basis frees up a marketing team to do the type of creative and enjoyable work that brings people into the world of marketing in the first place.

If possible, don’t see an SEO tool as yet another cost for the business but see it as a tool that frees up the marketing team and everybody else who is involved in making the company’s website the best it can be to do their very best work.

Practical considerations

As well as all of the obvious questions around feature sets and what the SEO tool does, it is also important that businesses consider how the tool will be used by their team. This is especially important for premium SEO tools that may charge an extra subscription for every user that is added to an account.

While it is sometimes possible to get away with sharing one username and password between multiple people in a team, this tends to quickly become impractical and may result in users being logged out in the middle of an important piece of work if someone else logs in to the SEO tool.

For this reason, it’s important to consider the number of people who will require accounts for any SEO tool as part of the evaluation process as this will have a significant impact on the final price that is paid.

Consider the subscription cost

Almost even major SEO tool on the market these days works on a subscription model rather than a one-off purchase. The reason for this is that in order for a tool to remain useful over time, the databases which it uses have to be constantly updated with new information from the major search engines.

An SEO tool that wasn’t refreshing its ranking information or keyword data on a regular basis would quickly become useless to the people that were using it. For that reason, it is important for companies to consider the cost of an ongoing subscription when they are choosing which SEO tool is right for them.

If there are plans for additional people to join the team in the near future who will require access to the SEO tool, it’s also important to factor in the cost of buying them a license.

SEO tools can quickly become expensive when multiple licenses have to be useful and while the vast majority will pay for themselves easily through improved site performance, visitors and conversions, it’s important for businesses to be aware of exactly what they are signing up for.

Many SEO tools offer substantial discounts to customers who are willing to pay for a year or more of service upfront.

While this can be an excellent deal for people who already know the service well and are sure that it is going to be a long-term part of their SEO toolkit, newcomers may prefer to subscribe on a month-to-month basis for a while first so that they can evaluate the tool and make sure that it is right for them.

Once they are sure of this, they can upgrade to the annual payment plan and start enjoying the savings. This eliminates the risk of being locked into an SEO tool that is not right for a long period of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no single part of SEO that is most important. The key thing is that no part of the SEO strategy is neglected or left to chance. SEO should be a key part of the process whenever new content is being created. The best way to make sure that this happens is to create a clear process that every new page or piece of content has to be run through before it is published on the website. While this may feel somewhat time-consuming, it tends to save a lot of time at the end and means that new parts of the website have a far higher chance of hitting their SEO objectives fairly quickly.
In terms of changes that can quickly have a positive impact on a site's SEO, fixing issues with slow loading speeds and poor mobile experiences tends to be a good place to start. This is because any changes that are made to these areas tend to impact the entire site rather than a single part of it. Other changes can be very positive but often involve rewriting huge amounts of content, something that can be very time-consuming.
It is possible to implement a successful SEO strategy without an SEO tool but it tends to take a lot longer and be a lot more complex. Not using a tool for SEO is like doing taxes without an accountant. It's technically possible but tends to take a lot longer and produce inferior results. A good SEO tool is like having a search engine marketing professional as part of the team.