Without at least a few in-depth, data-mining, keyword tracking, research-handling superstars in your SEO kit, you may find it hard to compete in the content crowd.
That’s because research, planning, and strategy are located at the bottom of the content success ladder.
You can’t reach new heights without first climbing and conquering these basics.
With that out of the way, here are 10 awesome, dependable, so-worth-it, paid SEO tools I personally recommend.
The only way to ensure your website is SEO-ready across all its pages is to audit regularly. And, to be blunt, you can’t do that without a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider – especially if your site is sprawling in size.
Quite simply, Screaming Frog is a web crawler that scans your web pages for common errors like broken links, duplicate content, redirect chains and loops, and even meta descriptions and titles that are too short, too long, or missing altogether.
Cost: Download a free version with limited features, or spring for the licensed, full-featured version for about $181/year, per license.
Ahrefs is a fan favorite across content marketers, content writers, and SEO-ers alike – with good reason.
The company boasts some of the most comprehensive data collecting and storage out there so their tools are as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Plus, they’re easy to use and make analyzing all that SEO data simple.
When you buy a subscription, you get access to their entire range of SEO helpers, including:
Site Explorer: See the backlink profile and organic search traffic data for any website.
Keywords Explorer: Research keywords and data like search volume, keyword difficulty, and clicks.
Rank Tracker: Track your Google rankings and compare them to your competitors’.
Site Audit: Get a full visual of your site’s SEO health.
Cost: The Lite plan with Ahrefs (including access for one user) costs $99/month. They also offer a free trial for 7 days that costs $7.
If you want reams of SEO data at your fingertips or an all-in-one tool, SEMrush is the solution to buy.
Here’s a breakdown:
Track keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks.
Zero in on your competitors’ data and analyze how to do better.
Save your searches in lists, and have reports and updates sent to your email.
Do SEO site audits.
Get a LOT of insights and data at your fingertips.
Cost: A Pro plan with SEMrush costs $99.95/month. You can use it for free with an email sign-up, but results will be limited.
Moz Pro is a suite of SEO tools that deserves its inclusion on this list.
It’s another all-in-one solution that could potentially save some pennies in smaller brand budgets (keywords, links, site audits, rank tracking, and on-page optimization are all covered).
Plus, the combination of user-friendly tools and a large support community means this is a good starting suite for beginners to SEO.
Cost: The Standard plan with Moz Pro is $99/month, or $79/month if you pay annually.
KWFinder does exactly what it says, and does it well, to boot.
This is a tool I recommend over and over because of its ease-of-use, simple design, and great UX – not to mention the accurate keyword data.
If you just need to do keyword research, choose this SEO tool.
Cost: The Mangools Basic plan costs $29.90/month. This has limits, but unless you’re doing a researching frenzy, it should be good enough for a beginner or intermediate user.
Searchmetrics isn’t just an SEO tool, but also a valuable helper for your content strategy.
This suite does it all: ROI reporting, competitive analysis, site audits, mobile and desktop site optimization, content optimization, web visibility analysis, and more.
Cost: Searchmetrics offers three pricing plans: Suite Business, Suite Enterprise, and Suite Ultimate. All prices are only available on request.
Are you all about those backlinks? Majestic should be your tool.
It boasts the largest link index database on the planet.
See where your links are coming from, the anchor text other sites use to link to you, and how much weight each backlink has overall.
You can even compare the link profiles of up to five sites at a time.
Cost: Majestic plans start at $49.99/month for the Lite plan.
Yet another wholesale SEO solution for your consideration: cognitiveSEO.
This suite of tools includes all the basics you need to research, plan, and tweak your SEO strategy.
Research keywords, crawl and audit your site, compare and analyze backlinks, and take advantage of local, desktop, and mobile rank tracking.
Cost: The Starter plan for cognitiveSEO costs $129.99/month. Or, sign up for yearly billing and save 30%.
For comprehensive position tracking and rank monitoring, Advanced Web Ranking is a solid choice.
It offers local results tracking as well as tracking across search engines, including Amazon and YouTube.
Along with all that, there are plenty of ways to dig into your data and glean new insights, including customizable filtering.
Cost: AWR’s Starter plan is available for $49/month. Pay yearly and you get a 10% discount.
Yoast is a standard tool in most marketers’ line-ups because it’s so easy to use.
It helps you optimize all your content posts and pages in WordPress, including metas, titles, links, keywords, readability, and more.
If you’re an SEO newbie or need to provide SEO guidance for clients, this is a great tool for the job.
Cost: It’s $89 to add the Yoast plugin to one site. There’s a free version with limited features, too.
Your New Favorite SEO Tool Awaits
Each of the tools on this list is a bit of a monthly investment, but I guarantee it will pay off. Research is one of the best ways to improve your site experience, your content, and your strategy in the marketing game.
Invest, dig into the data, and come out the other side with invaluable insights that will boost your brand to new heights.
Yoast has released version 12.1 of its WordPress plugin; the update adds your custom favicon to the mobile snippet preview, matches Google’s font sizes on desktop search results and introduces new schema filters.
Why we should care
An accurate preview of your mobile and desktop listings enables you to get a better idea of what your customers see before they click through, which may help you optimize your snippets and encourage them to click on your results.
The new filters introduced in this update can also be used to control your schema output and provide searchers with pertinent information about your brand.
More on the announcement
Yoast 12.1 also adds the following filters for more granular control over schema output:
wpseo_schema_organization_social_profiles filters an entity’s social profiles. You can use it to customize social profiles within the Organization schema object.
wpseo_schema_company_name and wpseo_schema_company_logo_id filter your company’s name and logo from the theme options if it hasn’t been designated in Yoast SEO’s settings.
wpseo_enable_structured_data_blocks disables Yoast’s structured data block editor blocks.
For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation updates, check out our coverage on Yoast SEO 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (images and video structured data), 11.2 (custom schema), 11.3 (personal image and avatar structured data), 11.4 (FAQ structured data), 11.5 (mobile snippet preview) and 11.6 (updated How-to structured data block).
About The Author
George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.
Google announced an update to Reviews Rich Results. The goal is to improve the Reviews Rich Results for users and to “address” abusive implementation and impose limits to where rich results trigger. Additionally,the “name” property becomes required.
Reviews Rich Results
The reviews rich results are explained in Google’s Review Snippet developer page. Google takes your schema structured data related to reviews and show stars in the search results.
The rich snippets developer page states:
“Review snippets may appear in rich results or Google Knowledge Panels.”
It’s the guidelines on their appearance in the rich results that is affected.
Limits Imposed on When Rich Results Reviews are Shown
Google announced that the display of rich results reviews will be limited. This means that any reviews outside of those limits will no longer show review snippets.
These are the allowed schema types:
Self-serving Reviews Not Allowed
Self-serving reviews are reviews of oneself. Google will no longer display self-serving reviews in the featured snippets.
This is how Google explained it:
“We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. “
“name” Property is Now Required
In perhaps the biggest change to Reviews Rich Results is the mandatory requirement of the name property in the featured snippets.
Publishers who rely on schema structured data plugins, including Reviews WordPress Plugins, should check if their plugin is currently including the “name” property.
If the name property is not included with your plugin then look for an update to your plugin and update it. If there is no “name” update then it may be something your plugin maker has in a future update.
You may wish to contact your plugin maker to find out when this is coming because the “name” property is now important.
Will Rich Results Disappear if “name” Property Missing?
Google did not say if failure to have the “name” property in the structured data will result in a loss of the Reviews Rich Result. They only said it’s required.
“With this update, the name property is now required, so you’ll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that’s being reviewed.”
This is an important update for publishers who use reviews structured data. Make sure your structured data is properly updated in order to continue to show rich results for your structured data.
Google’s news Tuesday that it is treating the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for ranking rather than a directive to ignore a link, and the introduction of rel="sponsored"andrel="ugc" raised reactions and questions from SEOs about next steps and the impact of the change to a nearly 15-year-old link attribute.
Choices for choice sake?
It’s useful if you want a choice to be more granular. You didn’t have that before. Now you do. If you want it.
As Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan stated in a tweet Tuesday, the announcement expands the options for site owners and SEOs to specify the nature of a link beyond the singular nofollow attribute. The additional sponsored and ugc attributes are aimed at giving Google more granular signals about the nature of link content.
As a point of clarification, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that nofollow in meta robots will also be treated as a “hint,” but there are no ugc or sponsored robot meta tags. He also stated that he’ll be updating the official documentation to explicitly reflect this.
There is no real benefit for the sites that implement these new attributes instead of nofollow, other than organizational classification if it’s helpful. That has some viewing it through a lens of skepticism.
I want to believe this. It’s just that I don’t recall Google ever coming out with anything that did not have a direct benefit, or apparent hopeful benefit for Google’s own internal goals.
Drawing the focus back to that the key change that nofollow is now a ranking “hint,” not a directive, Sullivan tweeted, “As Gary says, that’s very helpful to our systems that impact *lots* of people. The new attributes are a minor aspect.”
That was in reference to Illyes earlier tweet that the treatment of nofollow could have a “massive impact on the end user.”
This has the potential to have a massive impact on the end user. While SEOs implement the nofollow, the outcomes of it trickle down to ranking, which directly affects end users.
It can be hard to reconcile hearing that the change could mean significant improvements in search results for users while also being told that most sites won’t see any ranking affect from the new nofollow treatment.
According to the announcement, these changes have already taken effect (save for nofollow being used as a crawling and indexing “hint,” which goes into effect in March 2020). “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links,” Sullivan and Illyes wrote in the announcement. “We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.”
Who benefits from the new attributes?
Implementing the more granular sponsored andugc attributes is optional, and Google clearly stated there is no need for SEOs to go back and update any existing nofollows. So will site owners adopt the new attributes if they don’t have to?
But if no one is clear on the incentive to implement….they won’t.
As Sullivan has stated, the purpose of them is to provide options to help it classify these kinds of links more clearly. The nuances Google looks at between nofollow,sponsoredand ugc attributes won’t have an impact on your own site and the new attributes are voluntary to implement. “If you do want to help us understand the web better, implement them. If you don’t want to, don’t,” tweeted Illyes.
Making the new attributes voluntary means you don’t have to bang down IT’s door, but it could also mean the change request may fall to the bottom of the priority list for a lot of companies and never get implemented. As consultant Kristine Schachinger expressed in the tweet below, even the slightest SEO change can be hard to get implemented.
Do you really think we are going to get dev teams to start doing this, or content teams? We can hardly get them to write a title or description? What happens if we just ignore this? Seriously asking since no one is going to do this.
Google seems very clearly fine with that. At this stage, the actual work involved should be minimal. If your dev teams can’t implement a code change to incorporate ugc or sponsored attributes for several more sprints, or quarters (and you’ve been implementing nofollow when appropriate), you don’t have to fret.
For WordPress sites, Yoast SEO plugin founder and Chief Product Officer Joost de Valk said Tuesday that support will be coming in the next release.
“It’s quite easy,” said de Valk. If other vendors follow suit, it could speed up adoption of the new attributes.
An opportunity for manipulation?
Now that nofollow is a “hint,” some are also concerned about spammers that might want to test out whether their tactics have a new lease on life.
I’m sure this is well tested and has prob been live for like a year now without anyone noticing. It’s one of those things you prob should of not announced though – it’s going to create a plague of comment spam for blog owners now because ‘hey, nofollow links might work’.
Google says this shouldn’t spur spammers because most links will still be ignored just as before, whether they use the nofollow, ugc or sponsored attributes. Further, given that one of the stated reasons Google made the change to consider nofollow a “hint” is to be able to better understand link schemes, this spam tactic could be more risky than before.
This change should not have you overhauling your nofollow strategy. If you publish sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, consider implementing the new attributes when you are able to make a code change. If you can’t or just don’t want to, there’s no harm in that either.
“On the surface, this only benefits Google,” Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, commented via Facebook. “But, if you read between the lines, ‘hints’ mean a passing of PageRank or equivalent values. They’re already using Nofollowed links in some cases. They just want it easier to choose between links to use now in more cases.”
About The Author
George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.