It can be difficult to decide which search tools to use when it comes to your company or client’s paid and organic search campaigns. I have found a great selection of tools; some which are recommended often, with good reason, and others that shouldn’t be discounted. Many of these tools have similar features, but they usually have something unique that makes them useful in their own way.
Here are 14 of the best paid search and SEO tools, in no particular order. (On a budget? You should check out our complete list of SEO tools that are free.)
Disclaimer note: Some of these companies have done sponsorships with Search Engine Journal in the past, but these are genuinely tools I use on a regular basis or have been repeatedly recommended from other SEOs. All links are nofollowed.
Cost: Free and Paid Versions (£99.00 annually; currently about $160 USD)
This tool offers a free and paid license program that allows you to crawl any website’s images, code, and links with an SEO focus. Some of the data collected includes redirects, meta tags, headers, in and outlinks, anchor text, as well as which links are follow or no-follow. It also allows you to generate an XML sitemap. This tool is great because the free version is pretty robust and its basic design allows for a focus on the data.
Cost: Ranges from $99 to $999+ monthly
Founder Razvan Gavrilas is a SEJ writer, and gave me the lowest level account when I was looking for a keyword tracking solution for a client (I do warn against tracking keywords obsessively to track campaign success). Thankfully, cognitiveSEO has been immensely helpful in not only tracking keywords, but comparing SERP movement to their competitors. It is also really easy to generate PDF reports that can be branded with your own company logo so you can pass them on to clients. Their visual link explorer is really cool as well:
Cost: $79.95 to $149.95 monthly
I really enjoy SEMrush’s blog, which is what tipped me off to the tools they provide. SEMrush’s Director of Development, Kathleen Garvin, gave me a free upgrade to try SEMrush in exchange for a guest post and interview round-up I did for their blog. Their main focus is on competitor analysis, but they also provide position tracking (like cognitiveSEO), site audits, advertising insight, and other research tools for paid and organic campaigns (these are separated in the platform, which is useful because the strategy can be different).
One way that SEMrush stands out is that their overview report is ridiculously easy to read and you can research any domain:
They also tell you your competitors automatically (this probably varies depending on your size), based on organic keywords. This is a great way to research strategy and brainstorm content ideas through competitor insight. It can also be helpful to filter their data by country for international SEO research.
Cost: Ranges from about $1000 to $10,000+ monthly, depending on client needs
Linkdex focuses mainly on Enterprise SEO, which can be a different strategy from B2C, as I discussed in my recent interview with Ira Kates. One of Linkdex’s main unique assets is the ability to compare deep-level keywords or pages of your own company and your competitors’ through filters, which leads to more accurate analysis. Big data can be extremely useful when it comes to gathering research and insight, but Linkdex’s ability to narrow it down makes it much more useful.
Cost: A few free searches per day; paid version is part of Moz Pro, which ranges from $99 to $599 monthly
Open Site Explorer is one of the first free tools I use whenever I am investigating a new client or completing a site audit. OSE quickly gives you a list of inbound links, and allows you to filter by only external or only internal links, link type, as well as which pages to target (either the homepage or all pages on that domain).
You can export this data to a CSV, which is great for data analysis and sending to clients. Moz Pro’s other free and paid tools (as part of their monthly membership) are also worth checking out; especially Moz Local, previously GetListed.org.
Cost: By quote only
Searchmetrics is a robust search analytics suite, offering several different tools in one central dashboard. Many of the other tools I mentioned offer a complete solution, but Searchmetrics really is an easy way to do all your research, analytics reports, and ROI calculations all on one platform. You can track your competitors, work on goals based on KPIs, and do research based on specific regions, search engines, and domains.
Websites and Plugins
Besides doing research, creating reports, and analyzing competitors, I also use a plethora of free tools and WordPress plugins for my own sites and my various clients. Below is a section of tools that have helped me not only be better at SEO, but also when it comes to brainstorming content.
Free SEO Tools
- UberSuggest: Find keyword ideas based on one specific keyword you enter.
- Soovle: Put in a keyword and it automatically generates commonly used key phrases with that word in the auto-complete section of search engines like Google, Wikipedia, and Bing.
- Keyword Combiner: Combine up to three different columns of keywords for PPC campaigns.
- SEOQuake: Browser plugin the lets you see pagerank, Alexa rank, and other metrics of URLs in search results. Works for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari
- Portent’s Content Idea Generator: Need blog post inspiration? This tool is perfect for creating catchy titles. Often, their ideas spur a different title for me, but it’s a good way to get the juices flowing.
- Seer’s Seo Toolbox: This free Excel spreadsheet lets you put in your API keys for various platforms (like SEMRush) so you can see their data all at once.
WordPress Plugins (auto alt tag)
- LinkPatrol (one-time fee of $50-$200): I have to mention SEJ’s first-ever plugin, mainly because it was born out of a brainstorming amongst our staff about what we were missing from the available SEO WordPress plugins on the market. It allows you to search by domain or anchor text to find outbound links. This is perfect for cleaning up your links, especially if you used now-black/grey hat tactics in the past, like link exchanges.
- Yoast: This is the standard in SEO plugins for WordPress. I love how easy it is to set up sitemaps, Google Analytics (which is a separate plugin), and verifying your website with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. It also does a lot of things automatically, which is extremely helpful for clients that I’m not working with on a monthly basis.
- SEO Friendly Images: This plugin automatically adds alt tags and titles to your images to help with SEO.
While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to search tools, these can help you make it easier to gather data for search campaigns, while also giving you the ability to gauge their success. This is a must when reporting to upper management or clients.
What are some of your favorite free and paid search tools? Let me know in the comments!
All screenshots taken 10/22/2014. Featured image via Shutterstcok