If you’re in the search marketing industry you know that there is a bunker full of SEO gadgets, gizmos, and whatchamacallits to choose from. Whether you’re searching for keywords, checking backlinks, or scoping out the competition, everybody seems to have the next big tool to make your website a success. With that said, each SEO seems to have their own stash of favorite tools that help them in their SEO ventures.
Last week Milwaukee SEO Anthony Verre did a great post over at the HuoMah SEO Blog about 5 tools for SEO he can’t live without. Many of which are big players in my arsenal; the web developer toolbar, SEO for Firefox, and Link Diagnosis in particular, but I wouldn’t put those in my top five. So I decided to compile a list of tools that I use almost daily to help my SEO efforts be more efficient and effective.
Love it or hate it, I still find the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to be the most dependable for my keyword research. Sure there are paid services like Wordtracker, but why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Google does a great job at giving you statistical information to loosely base your research off of and paired with the Search-based Keyword Tool, you can often get even more precise terms that your site might benefit from.
When doing site audits one of the important things to look for are problematic 404’s that the search engines might encounter. LinkExaminer is a free desktop application that makes identifying and examining problem areas quick and easy. Not only will it scan an entire site and report errors, it will also identify all the pages on the site that are linking to the 404. If that weren’t enough it will also tell you basic SEO facts about a page (e.g. does it have a title, meta description, etc.). And if you need to pass the information on to a designer or an office manager LinkExaminer has a nice export feature which will allow you to export all of the findings to a text, CSV, HTML, or XML document.
One of the most recent tools I started using and also one of the biggest lifesavers is XMLEcho’s Google Sitemap Generator. In the past I used XML-Sitemaps.com, but unfortunately some of my clients have behemoth sites that exceeded the 500 page limit. The Google Sitemap Generator is a free online XML sitemap generator that isn’t bogged down by the typical page limitations and links being dumped in your sitemap that many free generators come with.
In fact the only two downfalls, if you even want to call them that, are that a) you have to create an account to use it and b) if by some freak chance they have a lot of sitemap generation requests at the time, you might wind up in a queue. However I have been using this tool for about 3 months now and I have only hit a queue once and it was a 6 hour wait. But don’t worry; even if you have to wait XML Echo won’t let you forget your sitemap. They’ll e-mail you when the sitemap is done so that you can return and retrieve it. Another nice aspect of the XML Echo sitemap generator is that it gives you a few different options for uploading your sitemap. They can do it directly through their service or you can download the sitemap in a zip and upload it yourself.
For those of you with a focus on local search, GetListed is a great tool to find listings that your client may have on Google, Yahoo, and Bing Local. My biggest tip for using this tool however is BE BROAD. I have found that if you are too specific in searching for a business or person you’re probably not going to find the listing you want. For example if you wanted to find your client John Doe, M.D., don’t type in John Doe, M.D., or even John Doe for that matter. Type in Doe and then the zip code associated with his business and go from there. I have been 99% more successful when trying to find my clients listings that way than trying to find them using specific names.
I put this one last because it is probably a more popular toolset as of late, but I’ll be honest it is the mother of all tools that I use at the moment. And I’m not just saying that because their mascot is a raven and I think the shirt I got from them is sexy either. With SERPs reporting, Link Tracking, analytics, and so much more Raven SEO Tools should be the hub of all of your SEO efforts. Jon Henshaw and the rest of the team at Raven have created one of the best SEO toolsets I have seen to date. If you’re not using it yet, you’re crazy.
The key to any SEO tool is all in how you use it. Like any weapon in an arsenal if used properly, and precisely it can help you to achieve a victory. If you come out guns blazing you’re sure to get lucky and hit a few of your targets, but you won’t be nearly as successful as someone who comes out knowing their objective and aiming directly for it.