SEO is a lot more complex than most people give it credit for. Many regard it as something akin to voodoo or alchemy. But SEO can be incredibly powerful and lucrative if you have the right tools for the job. That doesn’t mean you have to splurge on every piece of software you come across. Having prowled through the interwebs, trial and premium tested a number of tools out there, I have come up with this selection of MUST HAVE Paid SEO tools you should grab your wallets to purchase when the need arises.
1 – SEM Rush Pro
for advanced keyword research – from $79.95/month
The heart of Search Engine Optimisation is and always has been keyword research. There are free tools available online such as Google’s External Keyword Tool, but those programs aren’t always entirely accurate and are often lacking in features. In SEO, every possible advantage counts and can add up big time in the long run. You want the best information available when it comes to keywords, even if you have to pay for it. SEM Rush is the best way to locate lucrative niches and the keywords that will give you control over them.
SEM Rush provides query information for 40 million keywords, delivering results from at least 20 million domain names. You can easily rank specific keywords and phrases based on how high the competition is for any give term, or by any number of different criteria. Employing sophisticated algorithms to deliver up-to-date information on any keyword, SEM Rush is arguably the best keyword tool on the market today. While they offer a stripped-down free version, the paid version is well worth the extra cost. Recent improvements include a new database with suggestions for users in the UK, focused specifically on UK English.
2 – SEOMoz Pro
for on-page SEO analysis & SEO campaign management – from $99/month
In the “everything but the kitchen sink” department, SEOMoz Pro is the ultimate all-inclusive website performance analysis machine. SEOMoz Pro is an on-page Optimisation powerhouse, giving users data on practically every aspect of their chosen websites. One great feature is Crawl Diagnostics, which serves up automatic reports on server errors, client errors, and redirect errors. It also delivers traffic statistics, relevant bounce and click-through rates, and link analysis. SEOMoz is one of the best ways to gather information on relative and absolute website health and performance without having to rely on a grab bag of separate tools.
Once you’ve gotten used to using SEOMoz Pro’s My PRO Dashboard, which can be a bit intimidating, you’ll be able to compile performance reports quicker than you thought. The extensive graphical presentation capabilities of SEOMoz Pro allow you to fire up charts and visual representations of information on the fly for quick comparisons. SEOMoz Pro has more features than you can shake a stick at, or fully describe in a paragraph or two. Fortunately, they offer a 30 day free trial so that you can experience everything it has to offer before deciding whether or not it’s overkill for your needs.
3 – Majestic SEO
for advanced link development & competitor link research – from £29.99/month
Alongside keyword research, link building is another one of the obvious cornerstones of proper SEO. Majestic SEO brands itself as a “link intelligence tool”, otherwise known as an analytics program. But it would be a mistake to label Majestic as just another web analytics software tool. Majestic has a number of handy features that make it a worthy addition to your marketing war chest. Capable of tracking referrals, analysing the click-through rates of differing anchor text, and organising data on backlink effectiveness, Majestic puts you on the right track towards maximising your conversion rate.
Majestic is particularly well suited to tracking referrals from specific websites, giving you more pertinent information on who is giving you link karma. Once you’ve added a page to track to their servers, Majestic will crawl it every few hours to give you the most up-to-date information on how well-connected your website is at the moment. In addition to its many backlink analysis capabilities, Majestic offers a number of convenient ways to export your data for further study. One such feature is a handy export-to-CSV function that makes creating spreadsheets and charts a snap. When it comes to tracking backlinks, Majestic SEO one of the best options available.
4 – Advanced Web Rankings (enterprise edition)
for ranking monitoring & reporting – purchase price $399
Like it or not, the Search Engine Results Pages still play a huge part in how successful your SEO efforts are. Much as Facebook would love to supplant Google with its own “social search”, most people still hit up search engines for information rather than relying on the likes and dislikes of strangers. Advanced Web Rankings uses proxy servers to gauge the relative strength of your websites, delivering results in real time. More specifically, AWR allows you to see how well your sites rank for hundreds if not thousands of specific keywords and search terms.
Tracking the everyday changes of your standings in the results pages is a lot easier with Advanced Web Rankings, thanks to its intuitive user interface and manageable functionality. It features automatic alerts or “triggers”, decent graphing capabilities to make sense of your data, and a clean and simple layout. In other words, the learning curve with AWR is shallow enough for you to be up and running in under an hour. If you manage many websites, either for yourself or as an agency, it’s just the ticket and scales up to handle an almost unlimited volume of keywords.
5 – Raven SEO Tools
for end to end SEO campaign management and reporting – from $99/month
Any SEO consultant worth his or her salt uses a master management program to oversee their various campaigns. Juggling all of your promotional efforts without a dedicated SEO management suite is difficult at best. That’s why it makes sense to automate some of the more tedious tasks with something like Raven SEO Tools. Raven makes it easy to organise your campaigns and plan ahead, thanks to a bevy of helpful analytics and tracking tools. If there’s an equal to Majestic SEO in terms of overall power and bang for your buck, Raven SEO Tools might just be it.
Raven SEO Tools stands apart from the crowd with its Quality Analyser. The Quality Analyser allows you to enter a domain name and get a torrent of information relating to its overall performance based on a number of different metrics. It spits out Google PageRank, Alexa statistics, DMOZ standings, how many pages are indexed in Google and Yahoo, and more. In addition, Raven integrates Google’s Keyword Tool backend for keyword research and analysis. With its built-in Link Manager, Content Manager, and comprehensive analytics tools, Raven is the complete package in terms of SEO management.
6 – UserTesting.com
for usability testing & web design – from $29.99 per user
Split testing, also known as A/B testing or multivariate testing, is a surefire way to determine which of your web designs are working out. Even better than split testing is direct feedback from real people. Numerous studies have shown that usability is just as important as page load times when it comes to reducing bounce rates and increasing click-through rates – two rankings factors introduced with the Google Panda update. First impressions are important, so it helps to try out a few different landing page layouts to see which ones your visitors react to most favourably. That’s where UserTesting.com comes into the equation.
It’s a helpful online usability service that pays testers to interact with your website, rank it based on various usability parameters, and give feedback as to how you can improve your design. UserTesting.com is an effective way to field test various web layouts before you put them into production mode. You can log into your account and see people accessing your site in real time, read their reviews, and use their feedback to rejigger your designs to improve conversions. While their own user interface could use a little work, it’s one of the best ways to get constructive criticism on your web pages when you need the information most.
7 – Hootsuite
for Social Media Management - $5.99/month
Whether you like is or not, social media is now part of SEO. Even if social media platforms may have become a bit over-hyped in today’s 24 hour news cycle, they’re still highly effective ways to increase your audience and raise your profile. Managing your numerous social media profiles can become a seriously taxing endeavour. Compounding the confusion is the proliferation of third-party management tools for Twitter, Facebook, now Google+ and many other social media platforms. It makes more sense to have one unified tool to manage tweets, wall posts, and other forms of social media communication. Hootsuite can manage your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Myspace, and WordPress accounts from one location.
Hootsuite is a full-featured command centre that ingrates with Ping.fm, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and other services to streamline your social media interaction. You can pull in RSS feeds, post to your blog, and chat with others using a wide variety of services in real time. Better yet, Hootsuite has impressive tracking and analytics tools to keep abreast of the response your posts receive. While it offers a limited free version, their paid version is only $5.99 a month and allows you to add unlimited accounts and removes all sponsored advertisements. If social media is a big part of your SEO efforts, and it should be, Hootsuite is a wise investment.
It may sound cliché, but you often need to spend money to make money. There’s a difference between non-productive spending and investments, however. The above SEO tools are an investment in your future SEO success. If you want to make SEO work for you and boost your revenue, these programs produce immediate results.
Image Credits: Jody via Flickr