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.
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.
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.