Optimizing your website for search engines is a never-ending process that can, at times, feel overwhelming. It feels like every time you optimize your site, Google rolls out a new algorithm and you’re left with declining organic traffic and lost keyword positioning. So, what is a marketer to do? After all, Google doesn’t exactly hand over the playbook for how their almighty algorithm works.
Luckily, there are search engine optimization (SEO) tools, some free and some paid, that can help you audit and monitor your website based on how search engines like Google see it. These tools will help you perform four critical steps to an optimized website.
4 Critical Steps to an Organically Optimized Website
- Audit: Performing an SEO audit allows you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your website based on how search engines see it. Good SEO audit tools will crawl every page on your website and provide you with actionable recommendations for optimizations that should be made.
- Research: An audit will help you understand your website from a technical SEO perspective, but there is more to SEO success than fixing the technical issues. The research phase is equally important, as it will help you identify focus keywords through a proper understanding of the competitive organic landscape.
- Optimize: Armed with the actionable recommendations from an SEO audit, the next step is to implement these optimizations. Many marketers skip the audit step and begin trying to optimize a website without a clear plan. Regardless of the size of your website, this will be a very overwhelming approach to take.
- Monitor: After your optimizations have been implemented, you will want to make sure that you are consistently monitoring your website to identify any red flags. Through proper monitoring, you will be able to know when a fresh audit is required so you can begin the three-step cycle all over again.
Now, let’s dive into the top tools we use at Volume Nine to help our clients improve their organic positioning and ensure they remain on top once they get there.
10 Best SEO Tools for Auditing, Researching, and Monitoring
Google Search Console
The best way to understand how Google sees your website is to go straight to the source. Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your website. Created by Google, this is the easiest way to understand how the largest search engine in the world views your site.
Get real-time alerts when an error occurs, track the actual search queries driving traffic to your site, and much more. Setting up Google Search Console takes less than 10 minutes and is a tool that should be in every SEO arsenal.
Cost: $13.50/mo for Lite Version or $35.00/mo for Pro Version
Auditing your website is the first step to improving your search engine optimization. Sitebulb is one of the best SEO audit tools on the market. What makes Sitebulb such a great tool for performing an SEO audit is the actionable data it provides.
Not only will Sitebulb provide high-level scores based on both SEO and security, but it will also rank each issue found based on priority and the impact the fixes will have on your ranking. Prioritizing what you decide to optimize is often the most difficult part of any optimization project. Sitebulb makes it clear where you can get the best bang for your buck, so you can focus your time in the right areas.
Once you have made optimizations, you can easily re-audit your website to see the progress you have made and re-prioritize any additional optimizations that need to be made.
Google Analytics is another free tool from Google that every marketer should have. This robust tool can be as complex or simple as you want it to be. Track every aspect of your website in a single place, including Google Search Console data. To know where you need to go, you first need to understand where you are. Google Analytics will act as a single place of truth for all SEO related metrics.
Cost: $99.95/mo for Pro Version
SEMrush is one of the most used tools at Volume Nine, and for good reason. SEMrush is an elaborate tool that has the functionality to do nearly everything you would ever need to do during the SEO audit and research stage. A few of our favorite SEMrush capabilities are:
- Keyword Gap: Easily compare how your keyword portfolio compares to competitors. Ranked by weak, strong, and missing, you can easily identify focus keywords that will help you compete.
- Position Tracking: Track the movement of your focus keywords to quickly identify where to focus your time.
- Domain Overview: Enter any domain into SEMrush and it will provide you with every high-level metric you need to know. Click into any of the metrics to dig deeper.
Content optimization can be a daunting task. Clearscope is an amazing tool that makes writing optimized pages a breeze. Through analyzing the top search engine results for any topic, Clearscope can identify the keywords that are common among them all. Armed with this data, it will give your page a grade and then recommend not only the prioritized keywords you should consider including but also how many times you should include each keyword.
Especially for businesses with a large number of blog posts that need a refresh, Clearscope is invaluable. Simply load in all of the posts you want to improve and follow the prioritized recommendations. We have used this tool to greatly increase the ranking position for many of our clients and it often represents one of the lowest-hanging fruits in terms of quick results.
Yoast is a free plugin that makes it easier to set up important SEO metadata like page titles and meta descriptions. Embedded directly in your WordPress builder, Yoast will grade your page or post based on the focus keyword you hope to rank for. Actionable recommendations allow you to make optimizations before you hit publish, saving you countless hours in the future.
Yoast has long been considered the best WordPress SEO plugin, but recently there is a new contender in town. If Yoast does not fit your needs, check out Rank Math instead.
Cost: $149/mo for Most Popular Plan
Moz is a robust SEO tool that has the potential to be the only paid tool you need. This is because Moz offers solutions for all four critical steps mentioned earlier. Whether you need to track and crawl your website, research keywords, and competitors, optimize based on recommendations or generate reports to understand your progress, Moz has you covered. Moz also has training available for SEOs of all levels, so you can learn how to best leverage Moz directly from the source.
Bonus: Get the free Mozbar Plugin to seamlessly identify SEO elements on any page you visit.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog is a simple tool with one mission: crawl a website and provide all of the data an SEO would need. Documenting every URL on a website along with information such as indexability, page title, meta description, etc. can be a very time-consuming task. For larger websites, manually accomplishing this could take days or even weeks.
Screaming Frog simplifies this process and can crawl an entire website in a matter of minutes, allowing you to easily export any information you need.
Cost: $99/mo for Pro Version
At Volume Nine, we use Authority Labs to track keyword data for all of our clients. A key part of monitoring your website’s SEO is understanding how your focus keywords are performing. Simply upload a list of focus keywords you want to track and Authority Labs will create easy to understand reports so you can identify if the SEO strategy you are implementing is yielding the best results. While many SEO tools track portfolio-level keyword performance, Authority Labs help you dial in on the keywords that matter most.
SpyFu is a very unique tool, as it has one primary goal: to help you search for any domain and see every place they’ve shown up on Google. This tool finds every keyword they’ve bought on Adwords, every organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 14 years. It shows search engine results pages (SERP) as a competitive landscape and helps you understand how competitors are driving traffic to their website.
At Volume Nine we love to use SpyFu to understand our clients’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as to identify new opportunities they may have never considered.
Turning Up The Volume on Your SEO Strategy
Great SEO tools will take much of the confusion out of optimizing your website. While any SEO would tell you that the task is a never-ending battle, the right tools might make just make it more enjoyable. If performing an SEO audit, doing in-depth keyword research, and monitoring your website doesn’t sound like fun to you, contact the SEO experts at Volume Nine and we can help your business show up front and center when people search.