Tools and the Art of SEO

SMS Text

I sat down to decide what to feed to the natives here at SEJ and was carried along the logic trail to my pal Ann, the apparent Tool Queen of SEO. I admire her really, as I have no understanding of how she does it… I look at a ton of tools as an SEO blogger, it drives me nuts. But there is one thing that equally drives me whacky, how SEOs treat tools.

You see, my weary web warrior, in a past life as a self-defence obsessive… we knew that the weapon was only as dangerous as the warrior wielding it. Lay down the weapon and it becomes useless. It is only an extension of the practitioner that carries little value of it’s own without guided malice. My feelings about SEO tools are equally like-minded.

It’s the analyst, not the tools

In terms of SEO, all the data in the world won’t do much unless you know how to wield it. That is the essential understanding; it is the person analyzing the data. One cannot take a poorly trained SEO and expect them to come out with quality programming simply because they had a ‘better’ or more tools.

Much of how we use the data is based upon an individual skill-set and understanding of how search engines work. And there’s the kicker. How does decide what to track, research and which tools to use? You need a base to work from based upon a sound knowledgebase and ongoing testing. As combat training has theory, SEO has computer science… but that’s another story.

seo is more than tools

Search Warriors guide to SEO Tools

Quality – from swords to handguns, quality is a warriors friend. More data is not always better in SEO. Knowing what data you are looking for is the starting point as each campaign varies. Build out the data requirements, and then decide on the tool. Also cross reference data to ensure there is the least amount of noise and quality of actionable information is at a premium.

Comfort – some people were better with different weapons and working with tools one is comfortable with is smart as well. It could be that an interface that works for another may not for you. Frustration can lead to poor productivity, usability is always a consideration.

Efficient – a common theme in many martial arts is ‘economy of motion’. This is essentially the most effective attack in the least amount of effort. Any tool must not only have actionable data, but do it cost effectively. Time is money my friend, so be sure there is an equitable pay back.

Adaptable – each situation is unique, so our arsenal must be diverse. If we think not only of the differences each site presents, add in verticals such as video SEO and local and even some reputation management to the mix. As search evolves the numerous requirements exponentially expand as well. This means a wide variety of data points will be needed.

Expendable – at the end of the day you may have to resort to hand-to-hand combat. Once more, each situation is unique. Don’t fit the tools into the program, have the program dictate the data requirements. You may need to simply dig into a query space to find custom data or create new tools yourself. SEO programs should never be tied to the tools. Once in a while you’ll find yourself stuffing a round peg into a square hole.

seo tools

Have a battle plan

Did you notice a common theme in there? One needs to be asking the right questions if they have a hope of getting actionable answers. That is something that makes one a good SEO or a great one. This is why it is best to have a broad range of tools that are effective and can be leveraged as need be. Never be afraid to try new tools or abandon well entrenched ones. Be fluid and adaptive.

All fun and analogies aside, the greatest SEO tool will be your mind, your sprit and tenacity. If there’s one thing I whine about more than anything, is that search optimizers need to learn more about search engines. One way or another you’ll have to get knee deep and knowing where to look for those nuggets to SERP success need to come from somewhere. Tools will not do the job for you… it is a partnership.

David Harry in an SEO consultant that writes about technical SEO on the Fire Horse Trail . He is launching a private SEO community in May called; the SEO Dojo

David Harry
David Harry is an SEO and IR geek that runs Reliable SEO, blogs on the Fire Horse Trail and is the head geek at the... Read Full Bio
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Thanks for the post Senpai! You’re making me want to get back into Aikido again 🙂

  • The best point in your article is the mixing between competitive intelligence and SEO.
    Business understanding is the first step in SEO

  • @Loren – np brother Baker, I am real sorry on slacking, just been a busy year so far. I never formally studied Aikido, but had a few friends that studied it as well as Ninjitsu… was a major cross trainer. While I miss it occasionally, at 43, my body doesn’t (lots o full contact). I still enjoy Chi-Gong (kung) and will likely be training my little fella as he gets older.

    @Ahmad – agreed. Often SEOs get caught up in the data instead of the strategies. One needs to establish the plan before setting out on the road to data collection. Furthermore, without the knowledge to analyze the data, it’s a mute point. Tools are simply that… a tool. They don’t do the work for you. (thanks for taking the time to comment BTW – always appreciated)

  • i’ll be happy to get feed back!

  • So true! Tools won’t do all of our work for us. And hopefully, the tools we choose help us to better manage our work and get it done more quickly with some increased efficiency. They should allow us to be more productive! As David says, they are an extension of us and are useless without our hands and knowledge. Awesome post (and not just because you tied it to martial arts). (:

  • —stands up and makes loud noises by striking his hands together forcefully—

    Great article!

  • You got to fight for your right to ….SEO

  • Good Article and Excellent Points, David! 🙂

    Tools are Exactly that, just tools, Right?! 😉

    It is how you use the tools, and knowing when and how best to do so, that makes them valuable, Right?! 😉

    Thank You again for the Excellent Article, David! 🙂 and Everyone Have a Great Day! 🙂

  • Nice personality in the post I dig it. I think its more of a two way street. I can know alot theory and best practices, but without the tools I can manage the data or refine the data points to support my theories. Testing is always critical, it helps support innovation and out of the box approach. Without the right tools I cant test JACKKK… nice article but I love my tools. I believe I can freestyle something easily, i am that good 🙂 but my tools are my compass in the wilderness of billions of pages in the index.

  • @Eric – to me each site and each SEO program is unique. While there are tools I’d use on most projects, it will vary ultimately. And yea, without the knowledge to analyze the data, the tool becomes useless.

    @Steve – good to cya as always brother Steve… hope to have some fun training together in the Dojo

    @VCF – thanks for the kind words… glad you enjoyed it.

    @Gabe – it is most certainly a 2-way street. One needs the knowledge to understand what to test and needs quality tools to get the desired data. I too love my tools… just try to make sure I don’t have TOO many which can cloud the efforts.

  • :: Weapons don’t make warriors ::

    Very interesting and inspirational topic.

    Another great post. Useful for new bloggers.

    Thanks for the ( warrior style tips ) Hard to forget.

  • @Tikku – inspirational? lol… thanks, had no idea it would be that…. suhweet! The main thing to to hopefully have folks think more about tools in the sense that they contain no magic bullets – they simply give us data points to hopefully accomplish the task at hand. I’m glad u enjoyed it and I hope it makes folks think… cheers for dropping the kind words.

  • Great Post
    Thank you for share

  • AWESOME POST!!! Be honest, transparent and now your stuff!

  • we need more than common seo…..something amazing

  • A very nice take on SEO tools. I believe you are not saying we don’t need them (sorry for the double neg), but that they are only good if our mind is clear and focused. Great point.

  • The way you have written this post makes it more fun to read than just explaining in a straight forward way.

    All the relevant information is there and it is interesting to read others take on SEO tools. Excellent.

  • Thanks once more folks… as long as it made sense and the journey was enjoyed, I’m a happy camper. Focus on the data U need…. become a better analyst and choosing the tools will be easy…ya know?

    Cheers for taking the time to comment…