SEO Software: Is It Worth the Money?

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When I search for “SEO software,” Google comes back with 40,000,000 results. Even if only 1% of those results are unique SEO software product pages, that leaves me with 400,000 SEO software options to choose from! Some of those options can be downright expensive too. A while back, I had been considering giving an SEO software like SEOMoz or Link-Assistant a try, but I always found myself unable to pull the trigger and actually make the final purchase. I just couldn’t justify the cost of SEO software for my company.

As an SEO Professional—

Let’s take a step back for a second and lay the ground rules for what constitutes an SEO professional. I’m going to cast a wide net and just say it applies to anyone who calls themselves an SEO expert/guru/mogul/maven/consultant/freelancer/etc. It will also apply to those that work in SEO firms/agencies/companies/business/corporation/etc but don’t get a fancy New Age title.

I have had the opportunity to test and review some really great SEO software tools over the course of my 12 years in the industry—I’ve also come across some pretty bad ones. Most of them make running a link audit or ranking report or a competitive analysis (one of the favorite tasks of any SEO professional) a breeze. I just drop in whatever URLs I need data on; let the software chug and POOF, out comes a shiny report for my client that looks very impressive. I know the data is reliable, which helps guide my decisions for the SEO campaign. Whenever I need an update on what is going on with that particular client’s site, I just boot up the software and wait for the finished report to download. The software does the heavy lifting, the client is pleased and I look good—what more could an SEO professional want?

Here is where you have to get into cost-benefit analysis. I run a small SEO agency. We have a good amount of long term clients and I’m hustling as best as I can to drum up new business, but I’m not pulling in 3 new clients every week. And as much as I would like to see growth like that, I doubt that’ll happen any time soon. So those big time consuming projects that SEO software is great for aren’t cluttering up my calendar. I might have to run a link audit or two every month, but do those two link audit justify the price tag that comes with a good SEO software tool?

If I owned a larger SEO company that had hundreds of clients and dozens of account managers I might be singing a different tune. With so many reports to crank out every month, SEO software tools must seem like a God send. It helps account managers automate some of the easy, yet time consuming tasks associated with SEO and lets them focus on link building, content marketing and social media marketing for their clients. Whatever it costs each month is well worth the price.

I would love to hear from other SEO professionals about their experiences with SEO software. Was it worth the cost?

As a marketing professional—

Again, let’s take a step back and define “marketing professional.” This can be the marketing manager/director/assistant/etc. of any sized company in any industry. They might work in PR, advertising, brand management or any other form of marketing that isn’t SEO. They could be a one man marketing team for a small company or the head of a 5 person (minus SEO) marketing team. Is SEO software worth the cost to them?

I can see the pro-software argument. SEO software is great for DIY marketers, it keep SEO in-house without having to hire another full-time employee, it might be cheaper than hiring an agency and so forth. Yet a common problem I’ve run into with many consulting clients over the years is that they mistake an SEO tool, like software, for actual SEO knowledge. Microsoft Word is a tool, but it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t know how to write. I feel that SEO software works the same way. The SEO software might come up with a list of 10 on-site SEO recommendations, but if a marketing professional doesn’t have the knowledge as to how to actually implement those changes what good are the recommendations? Even if they do implement the changes, if they don’t understand why it’s important for SEO they are missing important information.

Marketing professionals also have to account for the learning curve when using SEO software. Even the most user-friendly interface ever created takes a little getting used to. Do you as the marketing manager of a mid-sized company have the time to spend an hour a day learning how to fully utilize this new software? I think about how confused some site owners are with Google Analytics and all the ways data can be interpreted there. SEO software is going to spit out the same data in a different format, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically know what it means and what to do with it. If you are unable to fully leverage what the SEO software can do for you, is it worth the cost?

I would also love to hear from marketing professionals about their experiences with SEO software. Was it worth the cost?

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO firm. With nearly 13 years of experience in the Internet Marketing industry, Nick Stamoulis shares his B2B SEO knowledge by contributing to the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis

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  • Geoff Hoesch

    I run a small internet marketing firm and am constantly asking the same question: are the costs of SEO software worth it for my company? Having tested dozens of programs, I’ve almost always come to the conclusion that no, they are not. While many of them can be nice for creating client-ready reports, as you mention, the most valuable tools these programs offer can almost always be found for free (Google Adwords Keywords Tool, Link Diagnosis, Google Analytics, etc.) I have yet to find a program that justifies its cost. So far I’ve found that anything these programs can do I can do with a free program and an Excel spreadsheet. I do, however, see the benefit of having all your information in one place, which, as far as I can see, is the one benefit these programs offer; however, I am not willing to pay $100 a month for this convenience.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Thanks Geoff for sharing your thoughts…I really appreciate it! 🙂

    • Geoff Hoesch

      I should mention that I do use paid software, but I’m very selective about what I use and feel that most all-in-one SEO software programs just provide services you can get for free if you know where to look.

  • Roger Dixon

    I also run an SEO Agency and SEO Software is vital to the day to day operation of my business. I find it very useful for running an initial detailed analysis for prospects and for accountability to existing clients. In my opinion a modern SEO company really cannot do without SEO software.

  • Fred Williams-FWSEOGuy

    For me, paying for a few good SEO tools is worth the cost. Not only do they help me to work more efficiently, but they also help me to find and implement new strategies rather quickly. I have a small budget that I set aside specifically for my tools. While it is true that I may be able to get some of the same information for free that I get from my tools, it would also take more of my time. Like you mentioned in your article, that is time that I can be using creating content or doing some actual link building.

  • Brent Copstead

    Nick, I could do the work without the popular SEO tools out there, but these tools are hands down worth the monthly investment. Especially when I begin the initial process with a client starting out with an SEO Audit. Or say you have a client with thousands of keywords. Without a tool, it would be a pain to track all of these rankings. I agree there are tons of tools out there, so the secret is finding the ones that you will actually use and help you in your SEO position.

  • Ammon Johns

    I have had my doubts about your credentails as an SEO in the past – especially when you did that post about not calling yourself an SEO expert on the page headed by your own picture proudly calling yourself an SEO expert…

    But this time you’ve really shocked me.

    Nick Stamoulis wrote: “I just drop in whatever URLs I need data on; let the software chug and POOF, out comes a shiny report for my client that looks very impressive.”

    Are you serious? Do your clients know that instead of paying you they could just run the software themselves and get the exact same ‘expertise’?

    There is absolutely no software I have ever found that I can use as a stand-alone product. Other than a browser, of course. If I found that a piece of software could prepare the level of report that I do, I’d be seriously thinking it was time to consider getting out of the business.

    My own reports look at many different factors, from SERPs to keyword choices, from expected Ad spends to content quality, and from conversion rate estimates through to estimating how many SEO hours the competitors are using each month, and whether it is an agency, or an in-house team.

    What software are you using that even comes close to that? Somehow, I think your reports are rather lacking, and if you can’t find a way to add some true value, get out of the business and let the clients buy software that can obviously replace you.

    • NIck Stamoulis

      Hi Ammon,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave this lengthy comment and share your thoughts.

      Take Care,

    • Dennis van der Heijden

      Hi Ammon,

      Good that you feel comfortable writing the comment and I think Nick is excellent in holding back on the reply. But I think its just is very naive to think that Nick is presenting these reports as his own work and second that these reports are all he delivers.

      Your making a lot of assumptions from one line of text and I wish your comments would be just as well written and researched as your reports are.


  • David

    What exactly is the point of your commentary? Anyway, let’s do some simple math here to make sense of this SEO software issue. For example, SEOMoz Pro is under $1K for a year. With the Pro software you can perform every critical task an SEO must perform (keyword research, competitive analysis, social, etc.) with a few clicks and a few button pushes.

    On average, this will save you 15-20 hours per week because everything is aggregated and automated. With the average hourly rate for an SEO being about $50 per hour, by using the software you create $750 to $1K worth of value per week. In other words, you can take those 15-20 hours per week building your business and hustling to get new clients.

    In a 2 weeks SEOMoz Pro pays for itself. You save $750 worth of time per week. And with the time you have to build your business, if you bring in 2 new clients per month, and each client is worth $1K per month, you’re saving/making $5K per month.

  • Dan

    Sure, you could do without SEO software, but why? There are so many positives they bring to the table.

    I do some things manually, but when it comes to having everything aggregated in one place, especially reporting, it’s worth the monthly investment.


  • Duane McLennan

    I agree with David on this, but with some reservations about software an reporting. I work exclusively with small (micro) local businesses who have limited resources and require probably the most help with SEO as compared with any larger company out there. 2000 duplicate title tags – really? But, how are they to know.

    I’ve also seen the results of the grandiose reports that come out of some of the major SEO software providers. “WOW! For my $500-$1000 a month I’m getting this awesome report, just look at how great it is.” They sure must be doing a lot of stuff! Too much information, when all my clients want to know is that their hit rate and subsequently their conversion rate is increasing and making them money. And I’ve seen reports that are 100% off site, when if you made some minor changes on site you would be winning.

    SEO is not about rankings, it’s about $$$ and in my case about helping others to succeed with their online investment.

    SEO is also about analytics. Without analytics and elimination of personalized results, you may as well give it up. In the end, these tools are affordable and worth while, and I am a huge advocate of SEOmoz as a cost effective solution.

  • Bharati Ahuja

    This is a very logical question which every SEO has to confront the moment their company starts growing and have to cope up with the increasing reporting work.

    I have of course used some SEO tools in the past and there are surely some great tools available.

    But, Currently we focus only on the standard Reports which we have created for our clients for which we fetch the data readily from the Google WMT and Google Analytics and do not use any third part y tools.

    We give more importance in how we present the data to the client as just data which cannot be understood by the client has no meaning and is of no value to them. Hence we focus our efforts in explaining to them and educating them on how the site is coming up on the search engines , what is the progress and what are the points which need to be worked on and accordingly the next month action is planned.

    I believe when you dig for the data yourself you get to learn a lot in the bargain and there is an atmosphere of learning and discussion in the office. If you use ready tools and generate reports it becomes a routine kind of a job.

    If you plan and create reports keeping the client’s need and perspective in mind and then meet them for discussing them and also in the bargain to educate the client about certain SEO issues then it is a win win situation.

    As Matt Cutts mentioned at #Pubcon recently SEO = Coaching.

    This way you coach the client who starts understanding what you say about SEO better and also when you go deeper into the WMT data and the Analytics data self coaching is also assured which in SEO should be an on going process.

    But of course if very large companies have many domains to manage then using SEO tools may become essential keeping in mind the quantum of tasks to be done. But the only thing that needs to be taken care of that Reports should not become a routine task to be done and the learning curve should go on improving in the organization. There has to be a balance between the passion to learn more and more and the professionalism of saving time , effort and money so that you can grow more.

  • Sally Kavanagh

    I like Bharati’s comment. I use WMT, Google Analytics and MajesticSEO for backlink data and that’s it. Everything else I like to do by hand because that way I get a better feel for what is going on and also pick up little snippets of information that no automated tool could gather. Way back in the old days, there was a time when Web Position Gold did almost everything! Now SEO is too subtle and all the factors governing it too interconnected for software tools to be of great use. One proviso, I don’t work with large ecommerce sites targeting large numbers of keywords, I can believe that some automation is worthwhile and justified with these sort of sites.

  • adumpaul

    Nice information.Thank you.

  • Steve

    I work for a software company as a product manager, which is kind of a dream job as an SEO 🙂

    I would recommend that peoples situations are always different but we see a few common types of users:

    1. Manual SEO’s – guys who do everything manually, just use spreadsheets, browser plug ins etc.
    2. SEO’s on a budget – guys who mainly use free tools, you can do a lot with the free tools.
    3. SEO’s who love new tools / using software – some people I have met have over 10 licenses they use monthly!
    4. Dev SEO’s – who just build everything themselves.
    5. Larger Agencies – they need either an seo platform or to build their own with a dev team.

    I suppose its a bit of a jungle out there at the moment, I would definitely be careful which tools you use. I would always use a trial to assess seo software to make sure its right and look at your budget first.

    The newer generations of platforms that are breaking through (including ours) are pretty cool, although I think many SEO’s are used to working in a certain way (mainly lots of spreadsheets) and a lot of the community seem to be taking their time to get into working with the SaaS platforms.

    Its an amazing industry to work in and not for the faint hearted! SEO software is very difficult to develop and good software also has a complexity attached.

    I guess people need to use what works for them, but the platforms are really cool for allowing businesses to scale more elegantly. It will be really exciting to see how software evolves over the next few years!

    • Tim Higgins

      I came to this page looking to see what software to buy – I am a one-man-band but doing well right now but need a management tool as even though I am a spreadsheet expert (been using them for 28 years), I have no real desire to spend a bunch of time making it all right. I still would have no rank checking etc. so I need a solution that is quick as I have a bunch of domains to manage. Still not sure what I need but I think your comments are spot on.

  • Eliseo V

    Interesting topic considering we just upgraded our edition of SEO software two days ago. We are a small SEO firm but we focus on creating added value for our customers through analysis and strategy. Our SEO tool does the heavylifting and leaves us to concentrate on providing the added value. I do agree that there are many free options spread around but having a centralised database and customising client reports on one unique platform works out fine for us.

  • Melissa Fach

    I personally could not live without the tools. I am a big fan of SEOmoz and Raven. Obviously WMT and analytics are used and a few others. I love getting a well-rounded look at the data.

  • Henry

    For a one time investment that is low, Market Samurai is an SEO tool that I have love and embrace.
    The support is good and the video tutorials and documentation are clear . And it doesn’t suck up too much of your computer resource.

  • Phil Webster

    I am new (18 months or so) to the SEO business, but not to new to the IT/Software business (35 years+). I spent a huge amount of time reading and learning, and trying to sort out the hype and bulls**t from the facts; my only conclusion to date is that there are no ‘facts’, just informed opinion!

    Anyway, to the question in hand; I have also looked at many tools, and cannot afford the commitment to a monthly subscription – I have ended up using Google’s keyword tool and a spreadsheet (with a number of functions to calculate rank, std deviation, average etc) for the initial filtering, and for the final analysis, Market Samurai and SEO Spyglass both prove useful and save time, and both are a quite reasonable one off payment.

  • Nancy Kapoor

    I would go for the paid SEO tools for well analysis and best results. I personally use SEOmoz tool. You can go for other options for Wordtracker, BuzzStream or Compete. It give advanced competitive data-driven reports and link-analysis structure.

  • Chris Adams

    Good SEO software should provide the heavy-lifting in terms of data aggregation, collection, post-processing and the generation of marketing friendly – ROI reporting. This will free up the SEO consultant or manager to provide what they are being paid for – coaching, added value advice and/or the actual web content production or changes.

    SEO Software data collection should include: ranking, web site analytics, blog analytics, press release analytics, social media metrics, social media signals, engagement, seo fundamentals and backlinks.

    I am sure that if a marketing professional wanted to collect data to provide his/her management team with a monthly view of their web presence, it would literally take them hours of valuable time. Not to mention the pain of logging into every social media site to copy and paste data. Let alone, trying to gain insight from comparing excel or word documents to visualize any month-to-month trends.

    Search engine optimization, social, and PR should be considered together and you need a piece of software to bring these together. Some call it SEO 3.0 – at gShift Labs, we call it Web Presence Optimization.

    Chris Adams
    Co-founder & CTO
    gShift Labs

    To learn more on web presence optimization –

  • Nick Prieve

    Wow, I was thinking about weighing in on this on my own blog but I think you have brought up both points pretty well. Here is my take on it, most of what I use is free , modified and really depends on the campaign. At it’s best, what I have seen in good software is usually an aggregation of tools I already use and a way to manage a lot of campaigns at once. SEOMoz would be my first choice for both the community hub and the relevancy of the tools. You can get a lot of the same tools in other places (or at least similar) but with lots of campaigns to manage it is nice to have a bit of a dashboard.

    It’s not a magic bullet nor is any software, we all know that research and creativity come with time but my thought has always been that if you can save the client time by simply centralizing some of your work and focusing on the parts that matter, it makes more sense for the client and let’s us do the heavy research, come up with ideas for targeting and crunch the data to track progress then it makes sense to invest a bit.

  • Not a Guru

    If the software can save you time and provide value to your clients and you have budget, get the software. It’s rather simple.

    Also, please stop using words like “guru” and “mogul” to describe professionals in the field. I’m surprised “ninja” wasn’t part of the list, or is “ninja” too much? This does nothing to promote the legitimacy of what real SEOs do.

  • Patricia

    Thanks for this interesting information. SEO tools can provide the best website analysis reports, but a person can also do seo changes to their site without buying the seo products, it all depends on how much knowneledge they have about it.

  • Baltimore Web

    It is depends on tool..Tools that automating linkbuilding with crappy articles? no..
    But tools that can save you time with keyword search, ranking tracking, competition analyzing and monitoring backlinks worth the money.