It has been a while since we last talked about our favourite SEO tools so we wanted to update this old post with some new information and some new ideas for the best SEO tools you can use to improve your organic performance. Some of these are free SEO tools and others have a paid subscription element – we have detailed the costs where they are known below to help you to determine which of these tools you might need to help to monitor and improve your overall performance on Google.
It should also be noted that one of the reasons many businesses choose to work with an SEO agency is the insights that they can provide by effectively using these tools to analyse your website’s performance and make appropriate changes off the back of those recommendations. Having access to these tools and knowing how to get the most out of them are two different things and that’s where the skill and expertise of SEO specialists working in agencies (or in-house) can maximise the return on any investment you make, either in the tools or in an agency to manage your SEO.
Whilst this post is all about our five favourite SEO tools, we just wanted to put it out there that we use way more than five SEO tools on a day-to-day basis. There are also some really comprehensive lists out there that will tell you about ALL of the SEO tools out there and do a really good job of reviewing them all – this is not that kind of post.
You can find a really helpful list of resources at the end of this post but we mainly want to focus on the 5 SEO tools that we find to be the MOST useful. Our go-to list.
So, let’s get into it and take a look at our 5 favourite SEO tools.
This has quickly become our favourite tool and for good reason. We moved to the paid version around five years ago and we have never looked back. The free version is actually really good, however, the additional features of the paid version are worth every penny.
Within SEMrush, there is a whole suite of SEO tools – to be honest, it ticks a lot of the boxes for everything an SEO needs – from keyword research to technical auditing to link outreach. We tend to use a mixture of tools for carrying out all of those tasks, however, if you can only afford to pay for one SEO tool, then SEMrush would probably offer the best value.
The key features that we use on a regular basis include:
SEO Content Template – this links in with Google Docs and allows you to see how well your content is optimised for the keywords you are targeting, comparing your content to the content ranking in the top ten for those target keywords. Absolutely awesome.
Keyword Magic Tool – enter a target keyword and SEMrush will come back with a list of thousands of related keywords – perfect for identifying cluster keywords.
Keyword Gap Tool – the Keyword Gap tool allows you to plug in your own domain and four competitors. It then compares those domains and looks at the keywords all those sites rank for. You can then view individual tabs that show the keywords you have in common, the ones your competitors rank for but you don’t and the ones where you are weak. This allows you to put in place a content plan to tackle the important keywords you identify where you either don’t rank at all or don’t rank very well.
We don’t subscribe to the fanciest of all the packages offered by SEMrush, however, they do continue to innovate and recently introduced new features including Market Explorer and EyeOn which allow you to monitor trends within a particular sector.
SEMrush gets used on a daily basis by our team for a variety of tasks and would probably be our number one tool when it comes to overall use.
Cost: SEMrush offers a free version for small businesses that offers limited use of their primary tools. Packages start from $119.95 for the Pro version all the way up to $449.95 for the Business version depending on the size of your organisation and how many people will need access to SEMrush on a daily basis.
2. Screaming Frog
This has been a staple for the Digital Hothouse team since its launch. The ability to crawl any website and identify technical issues is an essential part of the work we carry out for clients as well as during the client prospecting process.
Screaming Frog crawls your site using a Google-like crawler (you can change the user agent to use Google’s crawlbot if you like). It then generates a report full of potential issues which are all neatly tabbed. From here, you can export any of those tabbed reports and analyse the data.
Screaming Frog just announced the release of Version 12.0 which has added some really awesome new features including:
- PageSpeed Insights Integration
- Database storage crawl auto-saving and rapid opening
- Resume previously lost or crashed crawls
- Configurable tabs (a neat new feature so you can prioritise the tabs you most commonly use)
- Redirect chain report improvements
Screaming Frog is another tool that is used on a near-daily basis by the team at Digital Hothouse, either for site auditing or general ongoing maintenance of our client’s websites. The ability to use the PageSpeed Insights API to get page speed data for every URL on a website saves a lot of time and the fact that this also includes Core Web Vital data has also been a big bonus for the team.
Screaming Frog is a big part of our ongoing maintenance programme for our client’s websites and we carry out monthly crawls of all our client’s sites (along with Lumar crawls – formerly DeepCrawl) to give us a full picture of the overall health of our client’s sites.
Cost: Like SEMrush, there is a free version of Screaming Frog that will crawl up to 500 URLs. The free version does not include a number of key features, however, so we would highly recommend splashing the £149 annual licensing fee – it will be well worth it.
3. Google Analytics
Where would we be without GA? It would be like the blind leading the blind without the insights that can be pulled from GA. We recently signed up a new client who had no previous GA data and it was incredible to see how difficult it was to make recommendations and set goals with no previous data to analyse.
Google Analytics is the only real way to understand whether the work you are carrying out is actually paying off. Yes, you can use other tools to see if you are now ranking for the keywords you are targeting, however, does that tell you whether those keywords are actually driving traffic and ultimately converting? Nope.
GA provides organic insights that really help to shape the work we carry out for clients. Insights such as:
- Organic traffic
- Time on page
- Traffic sources
- Page Speed
All of these help us to understand the nature of the traffic coming to the sites we are optimising and create strategies to improve on the areas that are not performing well. It does of course provide us with way more than just organic insights so we can gather an overall picture of where the traffic is coming from and how it is performing.
As most people will be aware, the way Google Analytics works is changing in 2023 with the introduction and roll-out of GA4. Universal Analytics will be sunsetted in mid-2023 and sites will be forced to shift across to GA4. There are lots of great articles about the new features in GA4 and if you haven’t already, you should be setting up a GA4 profile so you can start monitoring the new data now, making year-on-year comparison easier once UA is no longer available. Here are some of the best resources for learning more about GA4:
Following some recent improvements, Ubersuggest is quickly becoming my go-to tool for keyword research. The fact that you can now link it in with Google Search Console means there is a wealth of data you can pull out of Ubersuggest.
There is a basic free version of this tool and you can see how Neil Patel is trying to rival SEMrush. The new Ubersuggest tool has other tools baked into it like Traffic Analyser and SEO Analyser – ways of auditing your website, identifying top pages and discovering backlinks to your site. Ubersuggest is also looking to the future with its new Labs section which features a Keyword Generator and an AI Writing tool.
One of my favourite features of Ubersuggest’s keyword research tool is the ability to filter the suggested keywords by type including:
Comparisons are really good if you are looking to create content that compares one thing with another e.g. content marketing vs traditional marketing.
Whilst it doesn’t offer quite as many features as SEMrush, if you are looking for an amazing SEO tool, then Ubersuggest has really upped its game.
Cost: There is a basic free version as well as the opportunity to take a seven-day free trial. After that, packages start from as low as $29 NZD per month, rising to $99 for the Enterprise package. If you chose to pay upfront, you can get an individual lifetime package for just $290 NZD.
5. Google Search Console
The final tool making it into our top 5 is another SEO tool that is used daily by the team here at Digital Hothouse. Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) has become an indispensable tool for SEOs and perhaps that’s why they moved away from calling it Webmaster Tools – it’s a tool that is as much for SEOs as it is for Webmasters.
GSC is an extremely feature-rich piece of SEO software. There is so much data you can pull from it and because it’s a Google tool, you can rely on the accuracy of the data you are being provided. The most commonly used features include:
- Performance data – including search queries that drive traffic to your website, top-performing pages, most popular countries and the most common devices used to access your website
- Coverage – the index coverage report is super-helpful at finding pages on your site that aren’t getting indexed. Within this tab, you can also discover a whole heap of potential issues and how to fix them
- Mobile Usability – obviously with most sites now moved over to mobile-first indexing, this one is an important one. Annoyingly we do get false notifications about issues with mobile usability, but overall, it’s a great feature
One of the best things about GSC is that it can be integrated with GA and you can then pull out even more insights including organic CTR and more cool stuff.
In the absence of keyword data in Google Analytics (oh those were the days), you can pull out some keyword data from GSC and map this to the landing pages report in GA to help you to determine which keywords are driving the most valuable traffic to your website. Whilst this will never be 100% accurate, it certainly provides a very good indication of where you are strong and some potential areas in which to improve.
Hopefully, this gives you an insight into the SEO tools that we use on a regular basis. There is obviously a whole range of tools we use in addition to these including:
- Advanced Web Ranking
- Answer the Public
- Google Trends
- PageSpeed Insights
- Structured Data Testing Tools
- Lumar (formerly Deepcrawl)
Make sure you check out some of the other posts below which go into more depth about some of these tools above and choose very carefully if you are on a limited budget in terms of the SEO tools you can invest in.
As we discussed at the start of this post, there are so many amazing posts already out there which provide comprehensive reviews of ALL the SEO tools out on the market, many with a particular focus on the free ones. Here are some of the best posts: