SEO tools are not cheap.
Unless you are an SEO agency or a really big company, which I’m guessing most of us are not, you really can’t afford to subscribe to the wrong one.
Good thing most of the SEO software developers are sensible people and have allowed us to try some of their tools before we make a commitment.
That is not to say that there are bad SEO tools out there and subscribing to them would be a terrible mistake.
No, it’s just that the market of SEO tools has reached that level of maturity where each of the big, seemingly similar players has developed subtle specialties and those specialties might be the best fit for certain SEO cases.
So the goal of a free trial is to find the tool that matches your current SEO goals.
Or, if there is no SEO budget whatsoever, the goal could be to exploit the free trial for as much free SEO as you possibly can and then bail.
That works, too.
Whatever the case, here are my top SEO tools you can try before you buy:
All-in-one SEO software with the largest backlink index on the market.
Ahrefs is one of the best SEO tools on the market.
It is packed choke-full of SEO features, enough to cover the entire cycle of website optimization.
It is also one of the few SEO tools relying on its own data to do website analysis.
Ahrefs uses its own SEO crawlers to scan the web.
It claims to have the biggest commercially available backlink database and one of the biggest keyword databases on the market.
While no SEO tool has a complete view of the web, Ahrefs is probably as close as one can get.
Over the years, Ahrefs kept adding more and more SEO features, to the point where it can be a little overwhelming for those just starting out with search optimization.
The tool is a much better fit for intermediate and advanced users, like SEO freelancers and SEO agencies.
Ahrefs does not offer a free SEO plan, but it offers a trial plan so cheap that it’s almost free.
For $7 you can try either the Lite or the Standard subscription plan for a week.
Credit card information is required, so beware of recurring payments.
Ahrefs offers four paid subscription plans: Lite, Standard, Advanced, and Agency, priced at $99, $179, $399, and $999 per month respectively.
A well-rounded SEO tool with an emphasis on smooth user experience.
SEMrush is a direct competitor of Ahrefs and the two tools are often used interchangeably or even in combination with each other.
But, if I had to pick a personal favorite, I’d give my vote to SEMrush as it strikes a better balance between comprehensiveness and user experience.
SEMrush is easier to navigate than Ahrefs and, in fact, than most SEO tools out there.
It’s got a lively color-coded interface, logical workflow and tab position, and professional-looking SEO reports with plenty of templates to choose from.
In that regard, if you have to share your results with a client or a teammate, then SEMrush will set you up with a nice presentation.
There also seems to be a consensus in the SEO community that SEMrush does a better job at keyword research.
So, if keyword research is your primary concern, then SEMrush might be a better way to go.
SEMrush offers 7-day free SEO plans on its Pro and Guru subscription plans, but no trial on its higher-end Business plan.
The plans are priced at $99, $199, and $399 per month respectively, but some features, like competitive analysis and additional users, will cost you extra, to the tune of $200 per month per additional user.
3. Moz Pro
Easy-to-learn software for entry-level SEO professionals.
Another all-rounder, Moz Pro offers some of the most popular website optimization features, from site audit to keyword research, to rank tracking.
Compared to other tools, Moz Pro is a little easier to navigate than either Ahrefs or SEMrush, but also a little lighter on SEO analytics.
One thing that really stands out about Moz Pro is its use of smart metrics.
When you do keyword research, for example, each keyword is analyzed for difficulty, opportunity, potential, and importance.
Using so many metrics is a bit of an overkill, but still, a fun thing to play with.
Another example of a smart feature is crawler alert prioritization.
With Moz Pro, you can run automatic website crawls and receive alerts prioritized based on page importance and issue type.
A 30-day free SEO plan is available for the Medium subscription plan only, but it’s got all the same features that other plans have, so it’s a fair way to assess whether you’d want to pay for any other subscriptions.
Moz Pro offers four subscription plans: Standard, Medium, Large, and Premium, priced at $99, $179, $249, and $599 per month respectively.
4. SE Ranking
Well-designed SEO tool with a knack for data visualization.
SE Ranking is another universal website analysis tool that wants to have it all, and thus offers the usual collection of website optimization features.
The way the features are stitched together feels a little haphazard, but the features themselves make a solid effort to visualize data – a real step-up from the usual spreadsheet-like format of other SEO tools on the market.
One thing I love most about SE Ranking is the layout of competitor research reports.
All you have to do to get a report is open the corresponding tool, state any domain, and get a full competitor profile within seconds.
The report is organized into over a dozen visual snapshots for such metrics as organic and paid traffic, ranking keywords, top pages, top competitors, and top PPC campaigns.
And with a click of a button, each snapshot turns into an in-depth report for any given metric.
SE Ranking offers a 14-day free SEO plan, but some of the features have limited functionality during the trial period.
Most tables containing data, for example, do not go beyond the first 10 rows – you can run some page by page audit, but nothing at scale.
SE Ranking has highly customizable subscription plans. The final price depends on:
- How often do you want your SERP rankings checked.
- How many keywords you want to track.
- How many search engines do you want to be used.
- And so forth.
The cheapest plan starts at just $18 per month, but, depending on your choice of features, it can go as high as $900 per month.
5. Raven Tools
An SEO tool that leverages the data from multiple sources.
Raven Tools cherry-picks its data sources, powering its SEO insights with the data from Moz, Majestic, as well as some free analytics tools.
One Raven Tools feature unanimously praised by its users is its white label reporting.
Pick a template, add your logo, drag and drop what seems like a hundred different widgets, and choose whether you want to publish, download, or email the report to your clients.
You can also schedule the reports to be updated and delivered automatically every day, week, month, or quarter.
Another convenience of Raven Tools is its multiple integrations with third-party apps.
You can connect Raven Tools to your social media accounts and have it pull key social metrics.
You can also use MailChimp and Campaign Monitor integrations to manage email automation.
A fully-functional version of Raven Tools is available for free for seven days, no credit card information is required.
Raven Tools comes in four paid subscription plans: Start, Grow, Thrive, and Lead, at $109, $199, $299, and $479 per month respectively.
An SEO tool that’s both smart and a joy to look at.
SpyFu is one of my favorite tools in terms of layout, workflow logic, and overall aesthetics.
Every feature is right where you expect it to be and each page is eye candy.
My only strife with SpyFu is that some of their reports are a little form-over-function – beautiful to look at, but hard to read and extract insights.
Historically, SpyFu has been more of a PPC tool rather than an SEO tool, but it has now added enough of SEO features to be both.
From a technical perspective, SpyFu delivers top-notch competitive research, with in-depth metrics and a list of organic keywords that the competitor ranked for in the last 10 years.
SpyFu does not offer a conventional free trial, but it does offer an unconditional 30-day money-back guarantee.
Pick any plan, pay the initial fee, use it for up to 30 days, and then cancel via your account, email, live chat, phone, Facebook, or even Twitter – no questions asked.
Beyond that, you can create a free account and use the tool with limited functionality indefinitely.
SpyFu comes in three paid subscription plans: Basic, Professional, and Team, at $39, $78, and $199 per month respectively.
7. Rank Tracker
Specialized SEO tool with a focus on keyword research and position tracking.
Rank Tracker (full disclosure: I’m the founder of the company behind Rank Tracker) is one of the four tools within the SEO PowerSuite toolbox — each focusing on a specific area of website optimization.
The idea behind having a suite of tools instead of a single all-inclusive tool is that you can install all of them as a package or you can pick just one best tool for the area of SEO you are currently working on.
It saves you money, naturally, but also the navigation is less of a mess.
Rank Tracker offers enough keyword research tools to set you up for life. You can:
- Pull ranking keywords from any given domain.
- Discover the keyword gap between you and your competitors.
- Use Google Search Console and Keyword Planner.
- Find long-tail keywords with a number of semantic discovery tools.
And if you end up with too many keywords to choose from, and you most likely will, then there are plenty of filtering and sorting options to help you identify the keywords with the promise of the most traffic.
Choose keywords by difficulty, organic traffic, cost per click, or use negative keywords to eliminate irrelevant results.
Rank Tracker offers a 7-day free trial of its paid plans when you launch the tool for the first time.
No credit card is required, and the trial reverts to a free plan once the week is out.
The free plan comes with limitations on storage and reporting, but the keyword research tool and the rank checking tool are on par with the paid plans.
Pro and Enterprise subscription plans are priced at a fraction of what is charged by larger SEO tools and will set you back $124 and $299 per year respectively.
Most tools on this list are comprehensive enough to cover a wide range of SEO use cases, and yet there are subtle differences that make each of them a slightly better fit for a particular SEO case.
Ultimately, there is no wrong choice, and it all comes down to your current SEO needs and, sometimes, your personal preference.
And if you are hopelessly undecided, then there is always that free trial period to help you make up your mind.
- A Guide to Essential SEO Tools for Agencies
- The Top 15 Free SEO Tools You Should Be Using
- 10 Awesome Paid SEO Tools That Are Worth the Money
Featured Image: Created by author, March 2020
All screenshots taken by author, March 2020