When you work hard to provide great content to your audience and deliver something valuable, you want to make sure it’s gaining exposure and contributing to your website’s incoming traffic. Search engine optimization (SEO) enables you to acquire targeted, warm leads -- people who are actively searching for the content that you're providing.
Search engines want you to believe that ranking at the top of their search results is an easy process -- essentially, an "if you write it, they will come" scenario. Unfortunately, search engines don’t really work like that. When you launch a new website, it's highly likely that your content will sit stagnant in the search results and never reach the first page. Google ranks the best content at the top of the results, and if your website is new to the game, Google doesn't have any reason to believe that your content is worthy of ranking well. Trusted brands with existing authority have already been publishing great content for years, so they will continue to outrank you in search engine results.
SEO software can be a powerful tool to help you create content that will rank well in search engines, and ultimately drive traffic to your website.
What does SEO software do?
SEO software helps streamline the research process that one typically goes through when trying to understand how visitors discover your website through search engines. This includes streamlining tasks like tracking your rankings in search engines such as Google and Bing, conducting on-page auditing of your website, researching valuable keywords to target, and analyzing your competitors. Many SEO tools are even integrated with pay-per-click (PPC) features that allow you to run paid ads on search engines and get the most out of your campaigns. SEO software is a much-needed asset for website owners because they make all of these processes considerably easier.
How much does SEO software cost?
The most popular SEO software, such as SEMrush, ahrefs, and Moz offer various pricing tiers, based on the functionality that you need and the number of queries you'll be running. Basic packages typically start at $100/month per user. Though this may not sound like a lot, if you're serious about optimizing your website for SEO, then you may want to consider subscribing to several tools at once, since different tools can provide you different insights. If you end up subscribing to several tools, this price can add up.
Key features of SEO software
Using the right SEO software can help you surface more frequently, and higher, in search results. Once you've done everything possible to produce great content for your readers, you'll need a way to analyze the effectiveness of that content in the best possible way. Below, we will discuss the key features of SEO software, and how they can be used to drive traffic to your website.
Rank tracking is arguably the most important feature in an SEO tool. It's important to understand where your website stands in the search engine rankings, and for what keywords. Rank tracking gives you insight into things like:
- Have specific keywords for a specific page of your website increased in ranking?
- Have your rankings increased since your latest link building campaigns?
- Have your rankings increased since you last time you updated the on-page content?
- Are your on-page optimizations effective at increasing search engine rankings?
- Are certain pages of your website ranking better than others for their target keywords?
These are all questions that can be answered with a rank tracking tool – we recommend SEMrush or AccuRanker. They also give you valuable insights that can be analyzed and used to inform your ongoing SEO efforts. These questions are key to understanding your search engine rankings and making data-driven decisions going forward. If you’re actively building links or changing on-page content, you need to know if those efforts had the intended impact, or if they need to be adjusted.
When you want to optimize a page for a give keyword phrase, or a set of keyword phrases, you need to know what areas to optimize. You could search online for on-page optimization guides, but you might not need to change everything about a page to make sure it’s optimized. For instance, maybe your meta title is perfect, but your meta description isn’t. An on-page auditor will give you actionable insight into these key areas of your website, and suggest changes that you can make to better optimize it. This is a much more effective option than blindly making changes to every aspect of the page, even if all of those changes may not be necessary.
On-page auditing tools will help you explore areas such as:
- Are your "meta" titles and descriptions optimized?
- Are any of your "meta" details duplicated across your website?
- Are any of your pages missing "meta" details?
- Are the H1 and H2 tags for your pages optimized?
- Is there an image on each page with optimized image "alt" text provided?
- Is the keyword density of each page appropriate?
- Are you optimizing the way you categorize and tag blog posts?
- Does your on-page content fit into the preferred length for search engines?
On-page analysis tools crawl and analyze every page on your website to provide an in-depth look at the content. Sometimes SEO tools restrict the number of sites, or the number of pages, that can be analyzed in each month. It's best to find a tool that has on-page reporting as a built-in feature, so you won’t have to hire a freelancer or SEO expert every time you need to evaluate a new page. Two of our favorite tools in this category are DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog.
Keyword research tools
A high-quality keyword research tool is essential to uncovering target keywords that you can use to drive traffic organically in search engines. If your SEO software doesn’t include a keyword research tool, you will be forced to use an off-the-shelf solution, which comes at an extra cost. Keyword research tools help you uncover keywords that are related to your primary keyword. For instance, if you’re writing a blog post about "SEO Tools" you could use this as a seed keyword in your keyword research software. This would help you uncover related phrases such as "SEO Software" or "free SEO Tools".
With every keyword phrase, a good keyword research tool should also tell you:
- The monthly search volume of the keyword on Google
- The cost-per-click for the keyword on Google Adwords
- The SEO competition for the keyword in Google’s organic search engine rankings
Unless you’re paying for traffic through PPC, the last point is the most valuable data in terms of what keywords you focus on when creating new content. You will want to carefully assess the SEO competition for potential targeted keywords to determine whether or not you have a chance to rank for those keywords in search engines.
SEO tools that include comparison research can help you evaluate your competitors in organic search results. This is not just limited to the competition for your targeted keywords, but also some of the specifics that pertain to those competing websites.
One of the most powerful competition analysis tools is a backlink analyzer. Backlinks are one of the most important drivers of search engine rankings. Aside from on-page content, your backlinks that tell search engines if your webpage is popular, well-liked, and worthy of a first-page ranking.
Backlink analysis tools can help you analyze what your competitors' backlinks, and the quality of those links. You can use data like this to build a backlink profile of your own, by focusing on building links from the same websites your competitors have links from. Once you have similar backlink profiles, you can then focus on expanding your link-building efforts.
Does your website have a strong presence on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter? Do you know your exact number of shares, likes, retweets, etc.? Search engines factor your social media presence into their rankings and analyze how you stack up against your competitors. If you’re not already sharing your content on social media websites, you might want to integrate this into your strategy, by using a social media management platform like Hootsuite. Search engines like websites that have earned social traffic, because it indicates that your target audience is engaging with your content, and speaking positively about your brand.
There are a variety of metrics that can help you make quick comparisons to your competitors. Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are the most commonly known metrics, and are provided by Moz. Both metrics represent the authority of the website, with DA corresponding to the domain and PA corresponding to the specific page you are analyzing, such as the homepage.
Trust Flow and Citation Flow are provided by Majestic and are representative of the website’s backlinks. Trust Flow indicates the quality of the backlink profile, while Citation Flow is based on the quantity or number of backlinks a website has. You can consult these metrics to analyze and prioritize which websites you should prioritize when pursuing backlinks, based on their scores.
Pay-per-click (PPC) tools
You probably don’t want to pay for two separate tools when you could get them bundled in the same product, for a lower price. It's important to look for an SEO tool that also includes PPC capabilities if you plan to expand into pay-per-click traffic.
PPC tools help you compare your ad copy to competitors, uncover keywords your competitors are targeting, and help with you get more out of your landing pages with conversion optimization.
Selecting the right SEO software for your business
With so many options available on the market, choosing the best SEO software often boils down to the option that provides the most features with the fewest limitations. SEO tools will often limit the number of website pages you can audit, keywords you can research, and competitors you can analyze. It’s important to select an SEO tool that’s within your budget and doesn’t impose limitations that will hold you back from getting the most out of the software. If you choose an SEO tool that offers you as much functionality as you need, it should serve as a valuable asset to your business.
If you have the budget, you may also want to consider subscribing to several tools at once, since different tools can provide different insights, even if their functionality is similar. This guide to SEMrush competitors provides a helpful breakdown of top SEO tools by feature category.