1. Knowledge & Ability To Adapt
One of the most important aspects of a successful career in SEO is understanding that it’s always changing. Over a decade in the industry and I’m still learning all the time. The standards change, the competition changes, user behaviour changes, Search Engines change (Google rolls out hundreds of algorithm updates every single year). Of all the marketing channels, SEO is likely the most volatile and that requires the ability to understand that you can never know enough about SEO, you’ll always be learning, and you’ll need to adapt to changes on the fly to help push your clients to new heights of success. In SEO and all aspects of it, flexibility is key.
Moving on, here are the top tools I recommend for you when getting started in SEO.
2. Google Analytics
Fairly obvious right? You’d be surprised by the number of websites that don’t have analytics software installed on them. Without it, you’ll have no idea how users are landing on the website, the engagement levels, conversion rates, where they are coming from (social media, paid advertising, organic search, direct, referral, email etc) and a whole lot more data that can help shape your SEO campaigns as they progress. If you’re not sure where to start with Google Analytics, Google has a fantastic Academy of training courses that can take you right through the basics and onto more advanced ways to use the tool. You even get a certificate at the end!
3. Google Search Console
A long time ago, you were able to see the keywords driving organic traffic right inside Google analytics. Google pulled that feature and since then we’ve been relying on Google Search Console, previously known as Webmaster Tools. Search Console is very much the window between your website and how Google is perceiving it and sharing it within search results. It can give you data on your organic performance, rich results as a result of schema markup, indexing reports including issues Google might be having accessing your website, a multitude of error reports which can help diagnose issues with your website, and so much more. An absolute must-have tool in your kit as much like Analytics, Search Console helps you better understand the data to shape your SEO campaigns. The Microsoft Bing equivalent of this is called Bing Webmaster Tools and this is also worth setting up as another dataset. Bing doesn’t have nearly the level of the search market like Google, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.
4. Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is one of the best tools you can use when working with clients. Two pieces of code and you’re able to inject anything you need into the header of a website on any page. So often as SEOs, we come up against developers or clients who have staging processes and it delays the work we need to do to get results. Tag Manager can help with that. It also allows you to track almost anything as an event so you can use it for tracking. It’s easy to use, easy to learn, and something you’ll use almost every single day. From Google Analytics & Search Console codes to heat mapping software, to event tracking, large-scale schema markup rollouts and single page testing, Tag Manager allows you to do a lot and not have to rely on the client or developers who are busy working on other things. Like Google Analytics, Tag Manager has an academy course that you can do completed free and get to grips with the basics.
5. Screaming Frog
Honestly, my favourite tool because it never stops improving, and the pricing is absolutely unreal for the quality and value it provides. Screaming Frog will be your go to crawler for website analysis. Working in the same way as a Search Engine crawler, it follows the directives on a website and crawls through the pages, although you can also tell it to ignore any robots.txt or noindex requests etc. You can have the crawler pull out almost any data using custom extraction, or stick to what you need in the basic level of metadata etc. You can have it analyse crawls, review schema markup, connect it to the Analytics, Search Console, and Pagespeed APIs to gather even more information on your website performance. If you’re working with a website with less thn 500 URLs, you can use Screaming Frog completely free of charge, anything above that and you’ll need a license which costs just £129+VAT for an entire year and includes all updates.
6. Microsoft Clarity
Fairly new to the scene in comparison to the other tools noted on this list, but proving itself to be very valuable in its own right. Microsoft Clarity is heatmapping software, and also has the ability to record how users are navigating the website to identify pain points they may be having. It does all of this whilst preserving privacy by blocking out any identifying information. Unlike alternatives like HotJar, Clarity is completely free to use and unlimited. In our testing we’ve also found that it’s far more nimble to use in the sense of any additional load times software like this might have on a website. You can connect clarity to Tag Manager for auto code rollout, but also Google Analytics, and through some custom definitions, you can marry up the data in Clarity to different user types for even more granular analysis.
7. SEMRush/SERanking/Ahrefs & More.
I’m putting these together as ultimately they are very similar, the key difference between them being the datasets they use as they are collected by each tool individually. These are the common campaign management tools. You have projects within these and they can track keyword rankings, run automatic website audits for you, keep an eye on backlinks, support with competitor research, keyword research, opportunity research. Each of them has pros and cons but I always recommend you use multiple so you can compare datasets and build a more comprehensive picture of the market your client is operating in. Of the three, I’ve found SERanking to have the most accurate keyword tracking capabilities, and SEMRush to have the most external data for research purposes. They can get expensive though depending on the number of clients and keywords you want to track, so make sure whichever you use as the primary tool is giving you exactly what you need.
8. Answer The Public
When you’re working on creating content for SEO, contextuality is everything, and understanding what your audience is searching for outside of primary ‘service’ keywords, is key to maximising the return on your campaign. Answer The Public works in a way that let’s you put in a keyword, and then it goes off and finds the questions and search volumes related to that keyword. For example, SEO might return questions such as “Do I Need SEO?” or “How Can SEO Help My Business”. Answering those questions within your content allows you to attract your audience from different parts of the conversion funnel. Someone searching for SEO likely knows what they want, someone searching to whether they need it in the first place probably doesn’t. Your job is to attract all of the funnel and be there for searchers when they need you throughout that entire conversion journey.
9. RankMath Pro (For WordPress)
Historically, I would have recommended Yoast SEO as the best SEO plugin for WordPress but it’s fallen behind in recent years and RankMath has come a long way. It offers more features, especially in the pro version, and it’s more reasonably priced. You can do everything you would expect at scale including meta titles, descriptions, indexing directives, and additional features such as a 404 detector, redirect manager, bulk schema markup options, better internal linking suggestions, additional keyword analysis, and the business version comes in at $199 for 100 client websites, all features, and tracking for up to 10,000 keywords, all of which you can assign to pages in the backend of WordPress. The Pro license allows unlimited use on personal websites and tracking of up to 500 keywords for $59 per year. Whereas Yoast is charged per website, and then they have addons for video, local, news, and woocommerce, all charged at a per website rate in addition.
10. Google Trends
Quite possibly the most underutilised tool in SEO. Google Trends is less about overall keyword research and more about understanding how the search demand for a topic or specific keyword is changing over time. Google Trends allows you to demonstrate to a client in a simple way, how their audience behaviour is changing. Should you be focusing on keyword X if it’s been in decline for 5+ years? You want to focus on what your audience is searching for now and what is estimated for the future, not what they were searching for in the past.
This list could have easily been twice as long, and if you’re researching for the top SEO tools to use day to day, you’ll find that the lists vary because it’s all dependent on priority and needs. One person’s dust is another person’s gold. Let us know your favourite SEO tools on our social media channels! You can find links in the footer below.