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SEO Tools and Rank Trackers Buying Guide

By
Kayla Harrison
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jun 08, 2018
Home
> Marketing
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Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of ensuring your webpages are pushed to the top of relevant search results, but the process can be long and arduous if done manually. SEO tools help automate the process, whether it's determining which keywords are the best to strategically target, how many backlinks you've established on other websites, or even the SEO health of your competitors' pages.

SEO is crucial to any business that wants to draw in customers looking for its services on search engines like Google or Bing. Boosting your organic search is a great way to attract new customers, and SEO tools are central elements of achieving that goal. Here are some of the SEO tools to consider, as well as some tips on how to select the tools that best suit your business.

State of the Industry

As of May 2016, the SEO tool industry was worth $65 billion and growing. Projections have the industry burgeoning to $79 billion in total value by the year 2020. A 2016 survey entitled What Works in Online Marketing found that of 357 marketers, 94 percent planned to increase their SEO budgets or keep them flat through 2017. Those results portend continued growth into 2018, as do the trends of more users online, more user searches on search engines and the increased sophistication of SEO tools in general.

Some of the biggest names in SEO tools today are Moz, SEMrush and SpyFu. However, it's a crowded industry with a huge number of brands vying for supremacy. Many charge a fee, but there are also free SEO tools. Using a combination of paid and free tools to verify results is the generally accepted way of operating.

One worthy consideration is the differences between each SEO tool. Use two tools for the same thing and you'll likely get two different responses, sometimes wildly so. This is because each utilizes Google's specifications in its own way, meaning accuracy is a bit of a moving target. As Michael King wrote on Search Engine Land, "These are all just different tools storing the same data in different ways."

The absence of an industry technical standard means SEO practitioners have two major options: to take their tool's data at face value or use multiple tools and aggregate the data as best as possible.

Negotiation

When selecting an SEO tool, it's important to first understand what the software you're considering offers. Some tools cover the gamut of SEO – keyword research, web crawling, backlink analysis, etc. – while others focus on just one or two areas. Oftentimes, SEO requires the use of several tools in conjunction with one another, so don't be afraid to look into more specialized tools and then consider others to fill in the gaps. It all depends on your needs and budget. It's wise to get all these aspects down on paper before proceeding.

Once you're ready to move forward, gather a pool of suitable vendors and compare services and prices. Be sure to check the terms and conditions of any subscription or contract. It's also smart to seek out third-party user reviews, and if you know someone personally who can give you a recommendation, that's even better. Don't just take the vendor's word at face value.

Once you've gathered a pool of candidates and verified their offerings, you'll have a clearer picture of services and pricing that fit your circumstances. Only sign on with a vendor when you're sure it provides what you need, and always check that canceling is easy and doesn't incur substantial fees.

SEO Tool Features: What to Look For

When selecting an SEO tool, it's important to know how it collects and analyzes the data so you have a full picture of what your final numbers truly represent. Here are some features of SEO tools and how they can benefit your business.

Keyword Ranking

Some SEO tools, such as Moz, provide a keyword ranking feature that allows you to see how your keywords are functioning within search engine results pages (SERPs). The tool can also crawl your website and track the keywords you enter. This can show you your website's most popular pages, how the keywords compare to those of other websites, and suggestions for higher-ranking keywords to boost your site's user engagement.

Audience Demographics

Getting to know your users can help you to best plan out the content you display and the keywords and metatags you use. Most SEO tools allow you to see the gender, age and interests of your users. This information can also help you to determine the next best step to engage users. With predictive analysis, which Google Analytics provides, the tool can predict those next steps.

Website Auditor

A few SEO tools we've reviewed feature a website auditor, highlighting what's wrong with your website, such as viewing errors in videos, images and links. It also offers solutions to boost your website ranking. Raven Tools is one of the tools that provides this feature, along with keyword ranking, backlink data and reports.

Pricing

Pricing for SEO tools ranges from $30 to $300 per month for the average small business plan. Enterprise-level SEO tools will generally cost more and might even require a customized quote. Most tools also offer free versions with limited functionality.

Pricing can vary greatly depending on which services a tool offers. Some platforms are comprehensive SEO tools, while others only focus on one aspect of SEO strategy, such as keyword research.

Most SEO tools charge for a monthly subscription, though many can bill annually for a slight monthly discount. For example, SpyFu charges $79 per month for its professional plan, but when billed annually, the price comes out to $58 per month.

Editor's note: Looking for online marketing services? We can help you choose the one that’s right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have Business.com, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.