There are countless guides and articles you can read on this topic, and if you dig deeper, you will discover something quite irritating. SEO is not an exact science – different specialists can have different interpretations of the same concepts. Believe us when we say this: “We feel you,” and know how confusing things may seem.
So, to make things easier, we have created a base guide that will help you understand what site optimization is and why you can’t do it without the necessary tools.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article may also include some affiliated links.
1. What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
In simple words, SEO is the process of improving your website to make it rank better on the search engine results page (SERP) for particular keywords. Consequently, you will gain more visitors (website traffic) that you can convert into buyers and increase your profits.
You can work to improve your site in two directions:
- On-page SEO – optimizing each page of your website to rank higher on the SERP.
- Off-page SEO – the optimization actions you take outside of the site (link building) to obtain higher rankings.
Those are the two main types of SEO. Some experts may argue that Technical SEO is its own separate type due to its specifications. But following that logic, you can also say that Content Optimization has to be a separate type. The bottom line is:
There is only On-site and Off-site SEO, and each has its own components with different requirements and functionalities.
An SEO specialist can be proficient in only one – Link Building, for example, or in multiple components.
They go as follows:
1. On-page SEO
a) Keyword research
b) Backlink Analysis
c) Rank Tracking
d) Content Optimization
e) Technical SEO
2. Off-page SEO
a) Link Building
Each can be used by following the rules of three techniques – White Hat SEO, Grey Hat SEO, and Black Hat SEO. They are essential for creating your business strategy. We will look at them at the end.
To properly perform each component’s research and analysis process you need specialized SEO tools. So let’s see what they are and how they work.
2. What Are SEO Tools?
Every search engine has several factors by which it rates your site. For instance, currently, Google has 200+ ranking criteria. If you want to measure, monitor, and analyze your own performance and keep a watchful eye over your competition, you need to use specialized tools. They are specifically created software that works with large databases and use complicated algorithms. We call them SEO tools. These products can specialize in a single process, for example, keyword research, or deal with multiple ones. SEO tools work with the search engines’ ranking factors and calculate probabilities and trends.
Keep in mind that SEO tools are not exact, as this is impossible when working with such enormous amounts of data. However, the disparity is so insignificant that it is practically non-existent. For example, one tool can show you that the keyword difficulty of the term “SEO” is 90, while another estimates it at 93. In both cases, the conclusion you can draw for yourself is that it will be extremely hard to rank for this keyword.
3. Why Are SEO Tools Important?
There are three reasons why SEO tools are important when optimizing your website:
1) They help you influence and attract your targeted audience
SEO tools can provide you with hints and information about the most important question in the business world – “What does the customer want?”. Using the provided data you can:
- Understand how your customers think – see the way they phrase their queries. Using the gathered information you can successfully accomplish your primary business goal – increase your income.
- Understand what your customers need – check if they seek information, a brand, a service, etc.
2) They aid you in analyzing your competition.
SEO tools allow you to legally “spy” on your competition. You can analyze the way they attract clients and how they approach the targeted audience. Maybe the problem is not what you offer but how you do it.
3) They “understand” and follow the terms and conditions of search engines.
And finally, once you understand your competition and your potential customers, you can use SEO tools to shine on the search engine results page. Whether it is by obtaining more backlinks, doing guest posts, tweaking some of your site’s content, or adding a piece of code it all depends on you. The sources of the databases the SEO tools work with are the search engines. They collect information about everything – from the individual user behavior to the way your website meets the browser’s requirements. The one search engine you should be aiming to impress is Google. Currently, it is the biggest, most powerful, and most elaborate fully-automated search engine in the world.
4. What Tools Do I Need for SEO?
The tools you need depend on the type of SEO and the processes you wish to perform.
- For On-page SEO, you need tools to analyze and calculate data for Keyword Research, Backlink Analysis, Rank Tracking, Content Optimization, and Technical SEO.
- For Off-page SEO, you need reliable Link Building tools.
If you have to perform only one type of analysis, you can choose a tool with limited capabilities. For example, Market Muse is ideal for Content Optimization but not Link Building.
If you want to dive in and explore the data from multiple processes, you can rely on a multifunctional SEO tool like Semrush.
There are multiple types of tools that can be used on their own or in combination. It all depends on your SEO strategy and the technics you want to implement. So to understand how each type of software works, we first need to explain what each SEO process stands for.
5. What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of examining and analyzing what people type in the search bar when looking for something. These are the words and phrases you should place in your content. This way, you help Google to understand what your website is about. Once your content is deemed beneficial and trustworthy, it obtains higher positions on the search engine’s results pages. Hence, you can reach a larger audience. Knowing what and how people search on the internet is crucial to have a successful SEO strategy.
According to 2021 research made by Ahrefs, the majority of the words and phrases used in the search bar (more than 99%) are unique or not very popular. This means if you do your keyword research properly, you can find some very beneficial phrases you can use on your site.
Keyword analysis includes multiple steps, and we strongly advise you to check our detailed guide on how to conduct keyword research to understand the process in detail.
5.1 What Are Keyword Research Tools?
Keyword research tools help you discover the right words resonating with the user intent and attracting the attention of the search engines. It is sophisticated software that examines, analyses and rates large amounts of data. Based on some primary factors like keyword difficulty, page and domain authority, search volume, and so on, keyword research tools provide you with keyword suggestions. It is up to you to decide whether or not to apply those phrases to your content.
One of the most versatile and easy-to-work-with software is Semrush. Its keyword research module is proficient in analyzing multiple databases. The user-friendly interface and the in-built free guides make it ideal for both newbies and experienced marketers. For this reason, Semrush has been at the top of our keyword research tools list.
6. What Is Link Building?
Link building is the process of getting backlinks from other websites to your own. It is necessary to show the search engine your content is trusted and promoted by other companies and professionals that have already established themselves as trustworthy and knowledgeable source of information. That is why you should always ensure you get backlinks from high-quality websites and avoid dodgy directories and public blog networks (PBNs).
6.1 What Are Link Building Tools?
Link Building tools help you find new ways of creating external links. Depending on your SEO strategy, the software can examine any given domain and provide different solutions – for example, a list of broken URLs that you can claim or show you unlinked brand mentions.
Link Building has many aspects – from searching for broken links to outreach and connecting with journalists. And the latter can be a tedious and time-consuming task, especially if you don’t know where to start. Thankfully, there is a simple solution – JustReachOut. It is a remarkable Link Building tool that you should definitely try out. You simply have to type your keywords in, and the software will provide you with a list of journalists that cover your topics. In addition, the tool can find broken links, and you can even send your pitches via its platform. You don’t have to be a technical genius to use this software, and even if you run into something you don’t understand, you can always consult their extensive user guides. JustReachOut is a powerful Link Building tool that can help you immensely with the creation of your website’s strong backlink profile.
7. What Is Backlink Analysis?
Backlink analysis is the process of analyzing your and your competitors’ backlinks to establish which are worth building and where you should focus your efforts. During this extensive examination, you can determine the overall site performance, the number of backlinks, online authority, and any other domain and page-level metrics, but most importantly – the backlinks gap. This means finding where your competitors have gotten the good backlinks you are missing.
7.1 What Are Backlink Analysis Tools?
Backlink analysis tools examine all of the backlinks your domain and pages have. The software can give you information about when each link was obtained, the domain and page authority, the text of the anchor, and much more. One of their most widely used functions is for finding malicious links. These are unintentionally-acquired backlinks from domains and pages with low metrics that could harm the overall performance of your website. If we piqued your interest, you could learn more about these types of tools in the best paid and free backlink checkers comparison we have compiled.
There are multiple backlink analysis tools on the market, but the one that catches our eye is offered by Serpstat. The software is easy to work with and can offer a lot of additional functionalities. You can examine thousands of rows of backlinks from multiple databases. Serpstat provides a detailed overview of your backlink profile, including an SDR distribution, Distribution by type of backlinks, TOP anchor backlinks by popularity, and more.
8. What Is Rank Tracking?
Rank Tracking is the process of checking what organic position in the SERP your and your competitors’ websites rank for a particular keyword. It helps you trace the history and evolution of the organic traffic from your audience, determine how your site is performing and where you could improve your SEO even further.
8.1 What Are Rank Tracking Tools?
Rank tracking tools show you where your website ranks on the SERP. They can provide you with similar information about your competitors as well. The software can track specific keywords over time and provide valuable intel about the trends and overall usage of said word or phrase. This can help you determine whether your SEO strategy needs adjustments and what you need to change to maintain or better your SERP positions.
The software you should definitely look into is SE Ranking. This rank tracking tool will allow you to see the real-time ranking positions of your site’s keywords across multiple search engines on a country, region, or city level. The software can analyze mobile and desktop searches to give you more precise intel. SE Ranking is a suitable fit for every company regardless of its size and field of work.
9. What Is Content Optimization?
Content optimization is the process of researching, writing, formatting, and publishing content in a way that will ensure it will reach its targeted audience. You do that by including the appropriate keywords and phrases, adding meta titles and descriptions, properly utilizing the H-tags, etc. When writing the copy, the number one rule you need to follow is to create insightful and beneficial texts that will help your potential readers. The proper optimization will provide the search engines with the necessary data to deem your content worth spreading and show it in the SERP.
9.1 What Are Content Optimization Tools?
Content optimization tools help you better your copy to make it more desirable and attractive to users and search engines. The software can analyze your website or a specific piece of content and provide you with valuable insight into the keywords and the structure of your text. Content optimization tools are essential for the creation of an engaging copy.
We have tested and worked with many, but the one that we always come back to is Market Muse. This SEO tool is exceptional in finding words and phrases that can enrich your content and make it more understandable. One of our favorite features is the Research option. It will not only generate keywords but will also propose synonyms and give you advice on how many times you should use any given phrase in your copy. Market Muse can save you a lot of time when creating the outlines of your feature blog and article posts. Its intuitive design makes it easy to use regardless of your level of experience.
10. What Is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is a branch of on-page SEO focused on improving the technical characteristics of your website by making it easy for search engine bots to crawl and index your site pages. Some of the many factors it tackles are site speed, URL formatting, canonicalization, pagination, etc. Technical SEO is not for everybody as it requires a bit of coding or programming knowledge.
10.1 What Are Technical SEO Tools?
Technical SEO tools are more sophisticated than the other kinds, as they examine the way your website is built. This software checks every piece of code on your site and reports back its findings. You can use it to detect meta descriptions and titles with incorrect light or duplicate content, faulty schema markups, low site speed, and code and server errors. Technical SEO tools are usually used during website audits.
Surprisingly enough, the best technical SEO tool we have used is a product that can be freely downloaded on your device. We are talking about Screaming Frog. The software has a paid version, however, the free one can provide you with all of the basic functionalities and allows you to check up to 500 links. If you want to dig deeper into your site, you might consider purchasing the complete version of the program. In the beginning, the software interface can be a little confusing as the multiple windows and menus seem to pop everywhere, but it is worth researching it. The owners of this software product have even provided a couple of free guides and tutorials for its users.
11. What Are SEO Techniques?
The term SEO Techniques refers to the different methods of search engine optimization. There are a lot of things you can do with your website, but the end goal is always the same – appear in a higher position in the organic search results. This will subsequently increase your organic traffic and conversions. There are three main SEO techniques.
11.1 White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO refers to a set of methods approved by the search engines that can improve your SERP positions. Any trickery or paid advertisement does not influence them. Instead, they lean on the quality of the backlink profile, content, and overall usefulness of the website. All SEO tools work in accordance with the White Hat methods and strictly follow the terms and conditions published by major search engines like Google and Bing. That is why we strongly recommend you use white hat SEO. However, some people still use the other two techniques so we will take a look at what they are.
11.2 Grey Hat SEO
Grey Hat SEO lay somewhere in the middle between the White and Black Hat tactics. These methods combine well-established “good” practices with some of the more questionable shady ones. Altho not necessarily bad for your site, Grey Hat SEO could still cause irreparable damage that can result in a penalty or permanent ban for your website. Think of it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as some of the more obscure tactics include using expired domains, creating PBN links, and stealing and rewriting content from other better-performing sites. If you master the White Hat techniques with the help of some powerful SEO tools, you would never think of relying on such obscure methods.
11.3 Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is the “dark Sith lord” of the optimization universe. It represents a set of tactics that violate the terms and conditions of search engines to obtain high SERP positions, for example, having hidden text or links on your pages or buying large quantities of backlinks. These shady practices can indeed push ahead your website but are unbelievably unethical, and if caught, your website can get a manual penalty which sometimes can not be lifted. It’s best to familiarise yourself with Google’s Search Essentials and avoid the Black Hat SEO.
To help you embrace the white side, we have prepared a list of over 200 SEO tools that you can use and learn from. If you want to become a true White Hat Jedi, follow the link below and make the SEO world a better place.
Let’s look at some of the most frequently asked questions about SEO and SEO tools that didn’t fit into any of the previous categories.
12.1 What Are the Best Tools for SEO Analysis?
The ideal SEO tools for in-depth analysis are multifunctional ones. They can provide you with the complete SEO profile of your website, making it easier to spot where your weak points are.
12.2 Which Are the Best SEO Tools for Beginners?
Newbies tend to get easily flustered when working with complicated multifunctional tools due to their lack of experience and knowledge. That is why we advise all newbies to take it slow and start with a simple tool that is specialized in only one type of process. You can check our Мega Тool Тable by following the link above and seeing for yourself which product will best suit your needs.
12.3 What Are Video SEO Tools?
Video SEO is the way of On-page optimization focused on the videos on your site to make them more attractive and easy to crawl so they will rank higher in the SERP. So Video SEO tools assist you in analyzing, monitoring, and optimizing your video content. File format, video description, category, and desirable keywords are some of the elements you have to take into consideration during this process.
12.4 What Are Image SEO Tools?
Image SEO stands for the On-page practice of optimizing the image files on your website to make them more search engine and user-friendly. Image SEO tools assist you in reviewing all elements of the graphic as name, size, format, etc. It can help you make the necessary changes to increase your chances of your webpage appearing higher in the SERP or the picture – in the image search.
What do you think? Do you feel more comfortable when you understand the logic behind the different types of SEO tools? Every beginning is hard, especially when you have to tackle a lot of new concepts all at once. So to help you, even more, we have prepared a descriptive infographic of the SEO basics. You can consult with it every time you get confused about the different optimization and tool types.
Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask a question in the comment section below. The more you know, the better you will operate your business and become a valuable asset to the SEO community. And we are here to help you overcome the difficulties that may pop up along the way.