Conquering SEO is a difficult task, especially if you’re new to the world of search. Fortunately, however, there are hundreds of SEO tools that can make the job a little easier—but how do you know which tools actually work, and which are a total waste of money?
We’ve compiled 4 of the best SEO tools that we use at our full-service SEO agency. In this article, we’ll give you a brief introduction to each tool to help you determine which will be best for your needs.
Best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
1. SemRush: Best Overall Toolkit
Marketing itself as the “All-in-one Marketing Toolkit,” SemRush offers a robust suite of tools that help SEO professionals simplify their workflow.
Why we love it:
As far as features go, SemRush offers the most. With its “organic research” section, SemRush allows users to analyze search rankings either from a bird’s-eye view or in microscopic detail. SemRush also allows you to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for—an invaluable asset for keyword research.
Once you establish a “project” in SemRush (which takes less than five minutes), you’ll gain access to over 10 SEO tools that you can use to audit and track how your website is performing. Our favorite of these tools is the Site Audit, which scans your domain for on-page and technical SEO errors.
If you’re new to SemRush, you might find this platform a bit overwhelming. SemRush throws a lot of data at you and, for some, this will result in information overload. Luckily, SemRush has published a large collection of user manuals, and you’ll also have access to fast and helpful customer support.
As the saying goes, a tool is only as good as the hands that wield it. Once you get the hang of this mildly-complex tool and start using it to its full capacity, SemRush will become one of the most powerful instruments in your arsenal.
We love SemRush so much, that we have become an affiliate agency. If you’d like to get a 25% discount on the annual subscription, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
2. Sure Oak Platform: Best Keyword Tool
As the “new kid on the block,” Sure Oak’s SEO Platform aims to help users generate more organic traffic through step-by-step keyword guidance.
Why we love it:
By design, Sure Oak’s SEO Platform is super easy to learn, and even easier to use. Users will find value in Sure Oaks’ intuitive interface and helpful tools to identify new SEO keyword opportunities, along with a simplified workflow for leveraging them into their content strategy.
Beyond keyword research and content planning, you’ll also love using Sure Oak’s collection of free SEO tools to analyze and improve your SEO metrics. What makes Sure Oak’s platform truly unique is that it comes with expert SEO consulting hours, offering you a personal wingman (or wing-woman) who can help you navigate your SEO improvements.
Take it from us—when it comes to staying in control of your SEO, it doesn’t get much easier than this.
When using keyword research tools—whether they’re paid or free—it’s important to keep one thing in mind: you shouldn’t rely on search volume estimates too heavily.
Only Google knows exactly how many people use a search term in a given month and, unfortunately, Google doesn’t give that data away. This means that all keyword research tools (even Google’s own Keyword Planner) do a lot of guesswork—and sometimes, the tools guess wrong.
If you find yourself relying on volume estimates too much, you could potentially miss out on some huge keyword opportunities. This mistake could also lead to wasted time—and a wild goose chase for traffic that doesn’t actually exist. To remedy this issue (no matter what tool you’re using), we recommend that you treat search volume estimates as just that: an educated guess.
3. Ahrefs: Best Backlink Tool
Among top SEO experts, Ahrefs is by far the most popular SEO tool. Just like SemRush, Ahrefs is a full-featured toolkit that offers domain metrics, rank monitoring, and competitor comparison. However, the main reason some pros prefer Ahrefs is the superior backlink index.
Why we love it:
As you probably know, building high-quality links is an important search optimization tactic. Links are a signal to Google that your site is an authoritative and trustworthy source of information, and that’s why we place a lot of importance on them here at Sure Oak.
Ahrefs maintains the largest index of backlinks on the web, and its website crawler is second only to Google. By plugging any URL into Ahrefs’ backlink checker, we can see a comprehensive list of backlinks for the relevant page. Just with this feature alone, Ahrefs allows us to stay right on top of our competitors and helps us find new backlink opportunities for our clients.
We don’t just love Ahrefs for the backlinks, though: their content explorer is one of our favorite tools to explore top-performing content in any given niche.
As a keyword research tool, Ahrefs could use some improvement. Don’t get us wrong: Ahrefs can generate a lot of great keyword ideas, but it tends to spit out useless keywords, too. So if you’re primarily looking for a tool that can help you with keyword research, Ahrefs might not be right for you.
Additionally, Ahrefs doesn’t have the PPC features that you’ll find with SemRush. If you’re running Google Ad campaigns, this insufficiency might be big enough to warrant a pass on Ahrefs.
4. Google Search Console: Best Free Tool
As our top free pick, Google’s own Search Console tools are absolutely essential for anyone with a website. To get this tool, all you need to do is verify your website by adding a line of code to your header.
Why we love it:
Search Console is—hands down—the best tool to see how Google’s crawler views your website.
We check Google Search Console on a daily basis to track our clients’ performance in Google, and to check for technical errors that we can address. Because it’s offered directly by Google, Search Console allows us to control what pages get indexed and how our clients are represented in the search results. Search Console also offers a disavow tool, which we use frequently to reject spammy links.
If you’re serious about your SEO, Google Search Console will offer great insights into how Google views your site. However, this tool alone might not boost your performance as much as the other tools on this list.
For starters, Google doesn’t offer any tools for SEO keyword research. Though you can see what keywords you’re currently ranking for and optimize those pages, Search Console won’t help you find new keywords that you can use for further optimization.
Secondly, you’re limited to only seeing the data for your own website. If you want to research your competitors, Search Console can’t help you.
Regardless, Google Search Console is extremely powerful, especially for a free tool. You’ll find some features in this tool that the others just can’t offer, and that’s why it’s an absolute must for SEO.
With so many SEO tools out there, choosing the right one for you can be tough. We hope the guidance in this post helps you narrow your options.
If you’re on a budget, all of the tools on our list offer free features (or a trial) which you can use to gauge whether it will be right for your needs.
At the end of the day, though, no SEO tool will be enough to move the scales on its own. In order to see true results and improve your organic rankings, you’ll need a solid SEO strategy complete with engaging content, technical optimizations, and high-quality backlinks.
If organic search is important to your business, consider allocating an SEO budget and hiring professionals. We’re confident that we can help you generate more qualified organic traffic and improve your bottom line.
Curious to know how we can help you? Set up a free strategy call with us today!