The Last SEO Tool on Earth: 23 Experts Weigh In

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The Last SEO Tool on Earth: 23 Experts Weigh In | SEJ

Being effective in SEO means you have to use the right tools. But, having access to tons of great SEO tools isn’t helpful when you’re crunched for time. You need to know what the absolute best tools are so you can focus on a couple of them, master them, and actually get results.

I interviewed some of the top SEO experts and asked them one simple question:

If you were only allowed to have one SEO tool, what would you pick?

My goal was to imagine a world where all of your SEO growth had to come from one tool. The best way to do that was to figure out which tools are absolute must-haves for the people who live and breathe SEO.

Google Search Console

Webmaster Tools Google Search

Google Webmaster Tools (now called Google Search Console): g.co/SearchConsole

Expert Vote: Aleyda Solis, an International SEO Consultant with Orainti and Dennis Goedegebuure, the VP of Growth & SEO at Fanatics

What it Does: You can use it to submit your sitemaps, learn how Google crawls and indexes your site, keep tabs on your click-through rates (CTR) for important keywords, check your mobile optimization (according to Google), keep track of links pointing to your domain, and so much more. Dennis even went on to explain why he loved Google Webmaster Tools – “you get so much freaking information on how Google is seeing your website and drives the traffic”.

Cost: Free

MozBar

Expert Vote: Cyrus Shepard, Director of Audience Development, Moz

What it Does: It let’s you see SEO data while you’re browsing the web. You can see links, domain authority, and more next to each SERP in Google, validate the schema.org, and even use the Page Overlay feature to analyze your onpage SEO.

Cost: Free (but you get a lot more data if you pay for a MozPro subscription)

DeepCrawl 

Expert Vote: Gianluca Fiorelli, Owner, iloveSEO.net and John Doherty, Sr Growth Manager, Trulia.

What it Does: As its name would suggest, it’s a crawler on steroids. You can get into the real technical aspects of your website to figure out which areas are hurting your SEO and fix them. It’s a great way to find out if you have any orphaned pages as well as figure out which links are actually receiving traffic.

Cost: $80+/month

SEMrush 

Expert Vote: Brett Curry, Lead Strategist, Classy Llama; Brian Honigman, Content Marketing Consultant and CEO of Honigman Media; and Nikhil Jain, VP of Marketing, Ziondia.com

What it Does: It’s the perfect tool to figure out what keywords you’re already ranking for but have room for growth. It also lets you get great insight into your competition’s organic keywords, their PPC keywords, and even their PLAs (Product Listing Ads).

Cost: $69.95+/month

WordPress 

Expert Vote: Lars Lofgren, Director of Growth, larslofgren.com

What it Does: It’s a CMS (Content Management System) that allows you to quickly build a blog that you can use to start producing great articles. It has thousands upon thousands of plugins that you can use to build almost any type of website you can imagine.

Maybe you don’t consider WordPress to be an SEO tool, but this is what Lars had to say about it, which I thought was really insightful.

“Yes, this isn’t technically an SEO tool but hear me out.

I’ve worked on multiple sites with more than 1 million visitors per month (like kissmetrics.com). When you’re driving that kind of volume with the majority of it coming from Google, you need a top-tier content strategy.

All the typical SEO tools are great but you can still be dangerous without them. The one tool I can’t live without is a rock-solid CMS that allows me to ship a ton of great content. This is the core piece to many organic traffic engines and it’s why I can’t live without WordPress.”

Cost: Free (Premium themes and plugins will cost you money though)

Ahrefs

Expert Vote: Luiz Centenaro, E-Commerce Consultant, luizcentenaro.com

What it Does: They have a bunch of tools that help you understand the quality of your backlinks, the anchor text that was used for the link, what your top content is and even who your top referrer is.

Cost: $79+/month

TalkWalker 

Expert Vote: Debra Mastaler, Owner, Alliance-Link

What it Does: From social listening, to social media analytics and reports, to social intelligence – they do it all, and well. It’s hard to be data driven with all the disparate sources of social data giving conflicting metrics. If you can get all that data to line up in one streamlined solution, you can feel confident in the decisions you and your team make.

Cost: $700+/year

Term Explorer 

Expert Vote: Nick Eubanks, Owner, The SEO Blog

What it Does: It’s an automated keyword discovery tool that allows you to export all your keyword data including link volume and link strength.

Cost: $34+/month

Google Keyword Planner 

Expert Vote: Matt Greener, Owner, mattgreener.com

What it Does: It’s hard to think of every single keyword someone might be using to find your website. The Keyword Planner helps by suggesting similar keywords. You can type in a keyword you think people are using, then let the Keyword Planner suggest keyword groups, other ideas, and even tell you what the volume and competitiveness looks like.

Cost: Free

Open Site Explorer by MOZ 

Expert Vote: Sujan Patel, VP of Marketing, When I Work and Ross Hudgens, Founder, Siege Media

What it Does: You can see what links are pointing to your domain, what the value of those links are, which ones were just discovered and even what the “spam” score is of those links – which is helpful if you have a nasty link profile that needs cleaned up. You can even see what anchor text was used and find other link opportunities quickly.

Cost: Free (but you get a lot more data if you pay for a MozPro subscription)

Market Samurai

Expert Vote: Jennifer Riggins, Owner, the eBranding.Ninja

What it Does: The main focus of Market Samurai is to find high profit markets that are experiencing high traffic and low competition. The goal is to help you figure out which keywords matter and get rid of the ones that don’t.

Cost: $149

Searchmetrics

Expert Vote: Kristopher B. Jones, Founder & Lead Investor, LSEO.com

What it Does: Not only do they provide analyses and recommendations for SEO and content marketing, they also provide incredible forecasting and reporting – which makes your job as an SEO a lot easier.

Cost: $69+/month

Microsoft Excel 

Expert Vote: John-Henry Scherck, Growth Marketer, jhtscherck.com

What it Does: “Everything. Seriously – my boss uses it beyond what anyone should use Excel for.”  From an SEO perspective though, John-Henry clarified his vote for Excel by explaining that, “Everything I want to do, I can do in Microsoft Excel on a PC. Excel allows you to group, sort, analyze, and chart data on the fly. You can also scale data collection with the awesome SEO Tools for Excel by Niels Bosma, and SEOgadget for Excel from Richard Baxter and team allows you to pull data from all the popular SEO APIs. I wouldn’t know what to do without it.”

Cost: $6.95/month

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Expert Vote: Dan Shure, Owner, Evolving SEO and Adam Melson, SEO Team Lead, Seer Interactive

What it Does: It’s a robust crawler that you can use to audit your site to analyze your onpage SEO. It makes checking your url, page title, meta description, headings, and everything else onpage so much faster and easier.

Dan points out that, “You can do most other SEO tasks like link prospecting, keyword research etc ‘by hand’. But crawling websites for data is really something you can’t and wouldn’t want to do manually”.

Cost: Free

Google

Expert Vote: Ann Smarty, Brand and Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

What it Does: It searches the world-wide web. In case you’re scratching your head trying to figure out how this is actually an SEO tool, Ann goes on to explain that, “Seriously, it’s the first tool I turn to when doing any initial SEO lookup: How is the site indexed. What Text-only cache looks like. What the navigational (brand) search results look like. These three are my initial commands I use to diagnose if anything is obviously wrong. Google is my top SEO tool!”

Cost: Free

Buzzsumo 

Expert Vote: Mark Casey, Director of Content at Skillset

What it Does: You can analyze what content does the best on a particular website (your own or even your competitor’s), find influencers for specific keywords, and get alerts for any new links pointing to your domain.

Mark explains, “BuzzSumo is a quick, clean, and simple tool for seeing the social reach and impact of your content (and your competition’s). Aggregated social reach is becoming the most important factor for SEM because it easily demonstrates the human reaction to your content, which is what the search engines are endlessly trying to emphasize. Knowing that can quickly guide you toward doing more of what works. Obviously, search engine rankings are a near-infinite universe of potential insight and exploration, but not all of it is going to help you. That’s why tools like BuzzSumo that intuitively show you what is important are so useful; and even better, it’s actionable. You can view backlinks, retweet, or share an article right from the app, which is rare even for SEO tools. Usually you need three different tools to discover, analyze, and act. BuzzSumo lets you do it all in just a few seconds.”

Cost: $79/month

Google Analytics 

Expert Vote: Larry Kim, Founder, WordStream, Inc.

What it Does: It analyzes absolutely everything. Without data to know if your tactics are working or not, you are simply shooting in the dark. Google analytics continues to improve and provides deeper insights into the keywords that are driving traffic to your site, the top referrers, the page load times, the bounce rate, which pages are most popular on your site, and so much more.

Cost: Free

Conclusion

This wasn’t an easy question for people to answer. The response that made me laugh the most, and probably summed up how the rest of the experts felt, came from Brett Curry, “This is so tough! Almost like asking to pick my favorite child (OK, not that tough).”

But phrasing the question this way helped cut out a lot of the less important tools, and hopefully helped us focus on the most important ones.

I think the takeaway here is that a good chunk of the most important SEO tools are completely free, so start there. Figure out how to use the robust suite of tools that Google offers for free – including search. Then, when you have a good grasp on that, pick one of two from the list above to start paying for and take your SEO game to the next level. The right tool can make all the difference, but not without the right game plan.

If you don’t even have a game plan, you should check out the SEO “Food” Pyramid so you can figure out your personal growth strategy.  I’m sure you have other tools that you recommend too – and I would love to hear about them in the comments.

 

Disclaimer: I have personally worked with (and probably paid) almost everyone on this list at some point in time because they are geniuses. However, the opinions listed are their own.

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Your Design via Shutterstock
All screenshots taken May 2015

 

William Harris

William Harris

VP of Marketing & Growth at Dollar Hobbyz, LLC
William Harris is the VP of Marketing & Growth for Dollar Hobbyz - an eCommerce store that sells RC car parts and accessories. When he... Read Full Bio
William Harris
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  • Hi William

    Great post, But May I suggest another as well
    Cognitive seo
    I use it alot for backlink analysis and competitor research as well as part of my tool set for penalty removal

    • Awesome suggestion Paul! I just checked out the website and it looks nice. It really is hard to pick that ONE tool – the one tool you would choose over every other SEO tool.

    • Paul, no doubt about Cognitive!

  • Hi Larry

    Great article, found a couple of new tools. Thanks for sharing!

    In regards to the price on search metrics, I keep hearing another price a much steeper (from speaking to sales rep. in the company). Which suite does the price cover?

    Best regards
    Michael

  • Fantastic article William! Discovered some interesting new tools and was reminded about others I need to be using. Thanks for including my vote for AHREFs, it’s a pricey tool and I have no affiliation but for backlinks I haven’t used anything better.

    • Yeah ahrefs has been one of my personal favorites as well. Every year it seems to just get better and more robust too – which is a plus.

  • William, great post! I’m a little curious as to why WordPress is on this list. I would not qualify WordPress as an SEO tool. It’s a developers tool. I would go with SEO by Yoast or All in One SEO as relevant tools associated with WordPress. I’m a Mozbar user. I would also include, WooRank, Spyfu, Majestic SEO and RavenTools.

    • Those are all great tools Brian! And, as a big wordpress fan and user, I can say that those are definitely the ones I choose as well – however, to quote Lars – and this article 😉 – “All the typical SEO tools are great but you can still be dangerous without them. The one tool I can’t live without is a rock-solid CMS that allows me to ship a ton of great content. This is the core piece to many organic traffic engines and it’s why I can’t live without WordPress.”

      • Absolutely agreed – WordPress is a beast! In my evolution as a web developer/designer, I went from Dreamweaver without a CMS, to Joomla, to WordPress and haven’t looked back. I will definitely link to this article in my future pieces.

  • Awesome post! It was neat to hear how it forced people to think about that “one last tool”! Thought I could suggest a new one I started working with called CanIRank, it pretty much one-up’d the other keyword research tools I’ve ever used. It’ll be an up and comer for sure!

    • Sweet – I love finding new tools! I haven’t use that one before but I just checked it out and it looks nice. The thing I love about SEO is that it’s always changing. No one REALLY has it all figured out. By all of us choosing different tools, it ensures that we are all looking at things a little different and competing in slightly different ways – giving us all an edge over everyone else. If we all used the same tools, we would all see and think the same way – and would probably miss out on some pretty easy wins 🙂

  • i really prefered google webmaster tools instead of google search console. the old UI was way better and i still miss some functions in the new UI :(.

    • Ugh. Change is most certainly both positive and negative is it not? Overtime when one of my favorite tools “upgrades”, I love/hate the changes, then I adapt, and then I can’t live without the tool again 🙂 I’m such a sucker.

  • Interesting to see this list come together and some very solid tools recommended. Although it may seem difficult to choose just one tool, practically speaking, it eats a lot of time to use all kinds of tools so if you can get good with just a few, you’ll have the time and skills to make a big impact.

    • I agree Matt – at lean startups, you end up wearing a lot of hats and SEO is just one of the many things you are focusing on through the day. Being able to work well with a couple of key tools is the only way you can be effective – otherwise you will lose your mind just trying to figure out the basics of using each tool.

  • My favorite free SEO tool would be Google Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console)

    • Yeah – there is just so much to be said for all of the Google tools for SEO.

  • Brightedge and Spyfu (sorry, 2)

    • LOL – nooooo – that’s against the rules Jill! Just kidding – picking only one tool is so hard. Both great tools though 🙂

  • Roy

    Hi William,

    What about SimilarWeb? why it’s not part of this list?

    • William just listed what the experts told him, Roy. I’m sure many would consider SimilarWeb a great, useful tool!

    • Yep – what Kelsey said. There were several tools that I was surprised didn’t make the list, and a few that I was surprised DID make the list. When push comes to shove, and you can only pick one tool – it’s interesting to see the trend that emerges though.

  • Thanks – I hadn’t heard of DeepCrawl – checking it out 🙂

    • Awesome Andy – glad I could point you in the direction of a new tool to try out! Feel free to share with us any thoughts you have after trying it out!

  • William: Truly outstanding article. I have used some of these but really very few of them. Loved that WordPress should be a part of this. I am definitely gonna Evernote this article and really use it as a reference tool and guide. Thanks.

    • I’m blushing Steve! Thanks for the very kind words and I’m glad you found it helpful.

  • Hi William, for the moment i am using “seoprofiler” for monitoring. Do you have any thoughts about about this one?

    Have a beautifull day!

    • I haven’t personally used it. There are so many great SEO tools that it’s impossible to really spend a lot of time with all of them. If it’s working great for you, then keep using it and figure out how to get the most out of it.

  • Great article, but somehow I do miss LRT. Those tools are great when it goes beyond, when you have to look closer to your back links and when it is about disavowing. For seo there are is no better tool in my opinion.

    • Yeah – I’ve actually been pretty impressed with Open Site Explorer for that recently too. Their “Spam Analysis” tools makes it pretty clear which links you should look into and possibly get rid of.

  • And RankWatch also…

    • Thanks for the reminder Vikas!

  • Nice Post. All are Great tools. Anybody know any best tool for long tail keyword research ?

    • Hey Sarah – someone here might suggest something better, but I have had some good results using the Adwords Keyword Tool, and even just using Google’s suggested searches (at the bottom of the SERPs it says, “Searches related to ‘whatever you searched for here'”.

  • Some Really nice tools listed here.
    I prefer GWT and the tools from Moz

    Kr

    • Yep – those are two of my favorites 🙂

  • Hi William

    Great list of tools. I like SEMrush. It has good features in it. Another tool which i tend to use a lot is Ahrefs. I never tried using DeepCrawl. Have to try it soon. Thanks.

    • Yep – sounds like you’re using the right ones. Keep up the great work Rahul!

  • The list is very much helpful for me, thank you for sharing this wonderful list of tools with us.
    This article is beneficial for us.

  • Vicky Choksi

    Hi William,

    You have introduced SEO tools very well. Thanks for sharing great info though considering site speed a ranking factor we can include Gtmetrix.com & Tools.pingdom.com to review site speed performance and get an idea to improve it.

    Thanks,
    Vicky Choksi

    • Thanks Vicky, great point. Google Analytics actually has some pretty good reporting on site speed with recommendations as well.

  • Hi William,

    Thank you for the best seo tool with expert vote. Also you deserve a thanks for awesome explanation of WordPress as an tools. I loved it.

    Semrush and Ahref is also my favourite seo tools. I am grateful to you for deepcrawl to inform us. Thanks for added them and for this awesome list.

    Kind Regards
    Yasin Rishad

    • Thanks for the awesome encouragement Yasin! Best of luck to you!

  • Kimb

    Awesome list here

    How about this tool – https://kwfinder.com/

    Thanks 🙂

    • Wow – great suggestion Kimb!! I literally just tried it and loved it!

  • Adrien

    Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

    • We will look into it! Thanks Adrien!

      • Milos

        The reply should be:
        Which IE version are you using and
        Can we have a screenshot 🙂

  • Milos

    Bravo Ann Smarty
    The basic SEO tool is the same platform you optimise for. If it’s only one you are allowed to have, this is the one. The closest to the whole universe of search, instead of any interpretation of it.

    • Great point Milos! I didn’t catch that, but you’re absolutely right.

  • Prince Walker

    Yes, this definitely isn’t the easiest question… I would have to agree that SEMRush is one of the best tools to have because it pulls data on both SEO &&& SEM. SEM is something that should be considered in any SEO campaign, especially eCommerce. My vote would be SEMRush because it just offers alot. However, it is understood that it doesn’t have the same index (and/or speed) as Ahrefs when it comes to link gathering- but nonetheless, it’s a fantastic tool that offers some deep insight.

    • Yeah Prince – SEMRush is great! I personally use it often as one of my top 5.

  • Nice tools list. But, in my viewpoint Ahrefs and Semrush is comprehensive tools. I think William you may also add keywordtool.io in this list.

    • Thanks Shahid – I agree – those are both great tools that come up a lot. I do like Keywordtool.io – I was turned on to them shortly after I wrote this article and they are great. They wouldn’t likely be picked as the ONLY keyword tool if you could only pick one – but they are a great ancillary tool that everyone should have.