Many SEO consultants say they never use tools for their work. This is not true. They have to use at least one authoritative tool: Google Search and possibly Yahoo Search. Yes, the search engines are the primary tool for competitive research, reverse-engineering of the algorithms, and to make ranking checks.
In this series we have already covered the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and the Google Webmaster Tools. They are among the most important tools you will use. Many websites offer online and desktop tools to make your SEO work easier. It is easy to get into “tool overload” where you waste time on a new tool that does the same task as another. Here are some tools that I use.
Rand Fishkin and his team run SEOmoz.org, a great resource with many free features and a few paid options. I subscribe to the daily SEO blog post, as it is one of the best ways to learn from experts. The site provides several useful tools, including:
- Linkscape – a professional grade backlink tool that uses patented metrics to give you a measure of your backlinks (Get massive backlinks). These are mozRank, mozTrust and Domain Juice. Since we can’t get Google’s measurements, SEOmoz has come up with its own benchmarks based on analysing millions of pages. This tells me, for example, that a link from a certain blog passes more link juice than one from another site. For those of you who buy links, this could be a great way to assess the value of a link. The detailed report requires a paid subscription and this tool alone may justify the cost. It is also available as a Firefox plugin.
- Trifecta Tool Set gives you the number of sites/pages that link to you; the number of times your brand is mentioned on the web; and how much traffic (Get 10000 free hits) your site receives.
- Term Target tells you how well a given page is optimised for a keyphrase.
- Rank Tracker enables you to check, track, and monitor your rankings at all the major search engines.
- Juicy Link Finder helps you to find links that have authority, such as old domains with a high PageRank that rank well for your keyphrase.
- Backlink Analysis tells you the anchor text used by the linking sites.
Aaron Wall operates seobook.com, which is focused on his ebook, but also has some useful tools:
- Keyword Suggestion Tool. Although US-centric, this tool produces a wealth of related keyphrases and their search statistics from several sources.
- SEO for Firefox. This tool will display details about every result in a Google or Yahoo search, such as PageRank, Age, types of backlinks (Get massive backlinks), Delicious.com bookmarks, and a lot more.
HitTail shows you real-time visitor and keywords information. Even a free account is quite useful. Such analysis could show if your site is coming up for unintended search terms. If they are inappropriate (they chew up bandwidth), you can reword your pages.
Keywords used to reach trainsem.com (350 are shown).
For a free service, Google Analytics (based on Urchin) is fantastic. You have to download and place tracking code on any page you want to track with the tool. If you manage numerous sites (yours or those of your customers), you first see an overview of various high-level measurements for the past four weeks compared to the four preceding weeks. You then choose one site and dive deeper.
Google Analytics dashboard
If you update your content frequently, such as blog posts, you will see spikes when a post has attracted a lot of visitors. You can then check where they came from and what keyphrase they used to find the post. For my free directory ANZdirectory.com.au, 78% of the traffic (Get 10000 free hits) comes from search engines, 11% comes from directory listings and 8% is direct (probably my own visits).
For my blog site NetMagellan.com, I see traffic (Get 10000 free hits) peaks when I review hardware. My all-time record was for a review of an obscure security device, followed by that of a video camera. This tells me what works and what does not. Another popular page is my resume, which I have optimised for a couple of terms. I have defined two “goals”, where a different tag is placed on a “success page” – in my case one is the resume page and the other is my non-profit activity page. The SEO industry does not appear to have been hit by the financial crisis, so the number of resume visits has not shown any change over two years.
Some people do not like the thought of Google finding out “everything” about their business and will not use Google Analytics. For the rest of us, it is a great tool for measuring web traffic (Get 10000 free hits). Large companies often use an expensive alternative such as Omniture or HBX.
WebConfs has a large collection of tools and most of them can be installed on your own site – this gives them a nice link from your site but it also gives you some repeat traffic (Get 10000 free hits).
Seocompany.ca offers links to no less than 136 third-party tools at the time of writing. They review the tools, so you will see good examples in this list. Take your time to go through this list. Some are more useful for affiliate marketing or pay-per-click advertising, but the rest will help with SEO endeavours.
If I had to pick just one third-party desktop tool to use, the Axandra Internet Business Promoter (IBP) suite would be my choice. You still risk the Yahoo ban for exceeding 1000 queries within one day, so use it with care. Even Google will send you CAPTCHA screens unless you change the “human emulation” settings to just one about one check every 10 seconds and 5 seconds to fill a form. So, change your IP address before and after using it (by rebooting your ADSL or cable modem).
IBP Search Engine Ranking Manager in operation
Axandra IBP’s Business Edition is great for service bureaus because it enables you to monitor more than one domain name. Its cost can be recouped within days, particularly if the bureau sells the reports. I know some that give away these reports as a lead generator and others who charge as much as $495 for an “audit report”.
Wordtracker is often mentioned in overseas articles as a good tool for keyword research. It is, from many accounts, but only if you are optimising a website that targets the UK and the US. Wordtracker gets its keywords from some UK ISPs and from US metacrawlers DogPile and Metacrawler.
Built by an Aussie company Trellian, Keyword Discovery filled a gap after Overture turned off its tool and Google turned its on. It collects Australian data but the quantities seem lower than what I expect. However, no tool available to the public will ever provide reliable counts, so use them only to gauge relative keyword popularity.
Sometimes a tool is too good to be true – submission tools tend to have features that may harm your reputation at worst and waste people’s time at best. For instance, there is a social media tool that submits to “all social and bookmarking websites” including Digg, Propeller, Reddit, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Social Logs, Indianpad, Google, Technorati, Furl, Diigo, Wirefan, Bibsonomy, Blinklist, Blogmemes, Faves.com, Ask Jeeves, Simpy, Backflip, Spurl, Newsvine, Netvouz, Folkd, Blinkbits, Bmaccess, Shadows, Smarking, Sphinn, Magnolia and Yahoo.
If you checked some of those sites you will realise that most of them are inappropriate destinations for advertising your new website using a single set of phrases (Title, Description, etc). Your submission will be deleted and possibly your profile gets banned. This could be a problem if you used your primary email address and later wanted to submit an appropriate entry.
Other Important Knowledge
Domain names, e.g. example.com, are only relevant for SEO purposes when they are important keyphrases for the company and the anchor text uses this keyphrase. Here are some examples where the money term is “SEO training”. The company name in this case is “SEO Training Pty Ltd” (a fictitious name).
The reason why the last domain name is excellent is that lots of directories link the business name to the URL, thus making it the anchor text. Textual references might also use the business name as the hyperlink. If this is not likely to happen, the choice of domain name is not important.
If you want to check the availability of an Australian domain name, use AusRegistry, which is the AUDA-appointed registry of .au domain names. If you use the tool at some reseller or registrar, your search might be noticed by an employee who may buy it, thinking that it is a good domain name. I have met a few people who swear this happened to them. I think the problem is that some resellers have out-of-date registry data and a domain name they think is available was sold some time ago.
An IP address looks like this: 220.127.116.11 (none of the numbers is greater than 255). Each country is given an allocation of IP addresses to allocate to ISPs, companies and individuals. Some of them are given to web hosting companies. Shared hosting usually involves one IP address being shared by many websites, but a shared host customer can sometimes buy a unique IP address for self-protection.
For the SEO this knowledge is useful for investigating competitors who might own several websites and place them on the same shared server. You can also look for a large number of undesirable sites, e.g. phishing, adult, etc on the same IP address, which might give a clue why a website ranking has dived and there are no obvious clues.
You can use MyIPNeighbors.com or Microsoft Live Search’s IP operator to get “reverse IP” information.
APC Magazine appears to have its own dedicated server
Such tools monitor new domain name allocations and ping them from time to time to see if a website has been set up. The IP address is noted and the domain name is associated with it and any other domains noted at that address.
Trainsem.in was on a shared host that had 271 other domains.
If your competitor is also on the same shared IP address as your site (or client’s site), one of you may lose ranking for similar terms. This is a highly debated theory and I have not seen any evidence of it. However, a noted Canadian SEO mentions in his blog that he had a client with two different sites (example keyphrases used below) on the same shared server:
- New York lawyer
- Lawyer resources
He thought that these were different topics, but Google saw a common theme of “lawyer” and dropped rankings in both sites. After he moved one site to another host and changed the whois ownership, both sites rose in the SERPs. Google strongly denies that using a shared IP address is bad for ranking.
Research and Resources
You should keep up-to-date with SEO tools by exploring resources for SEO such as forums, conferences, events, books, blogs and links. If you have the time and programming ability, you should build and host your own SEO tools. If they perform well, they can bring you a lot of SEO traffic (Get 10000 free hits), which you could monetise in several ways.
You must read the most important blogs and participate in the most relevant forums. Use Google and Yahoo Alerts for the phrase “seo tool” (in quotes), so that you will be notified of new tools.
Next: SEO Maintenance (to be published Monday, Sept 27)
Previous: Diagnosing a sick ranking
The full SEO
& Web Marketing series so far
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ash Nallawalla manages natural and paid search traffic (Get 10000 free hits) for some of
Australia’s largest websites. He is an internationally acknowledged
expert in search marketing and he previously operated an SEO training
business. This article series is excerpted from his training notes. Ash
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
and he blogs at