SEO Software Selection

What are the most important features to look for in an SEO software tool, and how can businesses evaluate different options to find the best fit for their needs?

It can be an overwhelming task for businesses looking to invest in an SEO software tool, as there are so many available on the market these days. 

Many tools offer a one-size fits all solution, with a blend of content research, keyword rank tracking and technical SEO auditing. Some tools specialise in particular areas of SEO such as technical SEO, with Screaming Frog and Sitebulb being well-known examples of this.

Your website size will also need to be taken into consideration, with some tools having limits on data storage in terms of how many URLs and keywords they can provide data for. Tools such as Lumar and Searchmetrics are often favourites of enterprise-level businesses who are looking for ongoing SEO analysis of their site on a large scale.

Ideally, your SEO software toolset (whether it’s just one tool or several) should cover all the key bases of SEO such as content marketing, keyword ranking tracking, technical auditing, link building and reporting.  

Evaluating a tool ultimately comes down to how adept the given tool is at these areas, whether they’re continuing to innovate in the market, have a responsive helpdesk, and allow features such as user sharing across subscriptions. 

Agree on a consensus with your SEO, content and marketing teams as to what the priorities are for your SEO programme as a business and then draw up a feature wishlist. Have our team run some research on the pros and cons of the tools on the market that offer these features, and compare price points. A good thing to help your team decide is to also ask for product demos and trial subscriptions of these tools before you buy.

How can businesses ensure that the SEO software they select integrates with their existing technology stack and workflow?

Before deciding on purchasing a particular SEO software, check if it has the ability to link up and sync with your existing reporting frameworks. Many third-party SEO tools will have the ability to pull in data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics and help you visualise that data alongside other metrics native to the tool in question.

If your analytics teams are using a central repository for your reporting needs, such as Looker Studio, then explore options as to whether you can integrate reporting metrics from prospective tools (such as keyword ranking data or technical SEO errors) alongside these. 

A common pain point for many businesses is no single source of truth or master repository when it comes to SEO reporting (often due to a different array of tools used in different locations) so consider investing in a tool that pulls in all your important top level revenue-centric metrics into one place. 

What are some common mistakes to avoid when selecting an SEO software tool, and how can businesses ensure that they are getting the most value for their investment?

As a business owner, a key consideration for purchasing the right SEO software tool is to make sure the subscription and payment model is suitable. Some tools operate on a credits basis, which is great if your team are using the tool ad hoc or for certain projects, though it may become expensive if you need to consistently top up payments if you’re using the tool often.

Flat monthly fees are another popular payment model, though may become expensive if your team isn’t utilising the tool and its full capabilities on a frequent basis. Tools also may upsell on a user seat basis, so if you have a variety of team members needing to jump in and out of the tool and work using their respective logins under one master subscription, make sure this is accounted for.   

Before you invest, make sure your team has a good idea as to the extent of data analysis in departments such as keyword rankings (number to track and in how many markets) and technical SEO auditing (number of URLs assessed) they require. Many tools will offer subscription plans based on number of keywords tracked and number of URLs crawled (for example), though you may be able to negotiate with the sales teams of the tools on these areas if you’re making a long term commitment.

How can businesses measure the effectiveness of their SEO software, and what metrics should they use to evaluate success?

Aside from monitoring metrics such as keyword rankings, organic traffic and conversions via these tools where possible, ultimately you will need to look for ways in which the use of your SEO tooling can be attributed to unlocking opportunities for business either via crucial reporting insights or from the discovery of new SEO opportunities. 

For example, some tools offer interesting insights on competitor content or content gap analysis that helps your team gain an edge in your content efforts that might not have been possible before.

SEO software tools, in the hands of experienced SEO and content teams, will also be great productivity enhancers, allowing you to manipulate the data represented in these tools and pick out useful insights quickly.  

In addition, and if you’re running a large enterprise business or ecommerce website, these tools can help your team in identifying potential preventative measures that may hinder your SEO visibility. Many of these tools have automated notifications that can flag up issues to your team such as broken links, 404s or pages that have taken a hit on keyword rankings, allowing your team to move quickly and remedy such situations.   

What are some best practices for using SEO software to track and monitor website performance, and how can businesses use this data to inform their SEO strategy?

The right SEO software will aid your business in setting clear goals and KPIs in your organic efforts. While improving conversions via the organic channel should always be in the front view mirror, SEO tools can help you understand certain KPIs that lead up to this, such as targeting particular rankings of commercial keywords or identifying quick wins on underperforming pages.

They will also help you gain a clearer picture when it comes to benchmarking against your competitors. This can be through the means of assessing keyword rankings of your competitors and how this compares to your business, and their overall visibility tallies up compared to yours.

A key aspect when it comes to utilising SEO tools to inform your business’ SEO strategy is to have access to a data pool (be it keyword research or competitor ranking data) that allows you to refine and pivot your strategy on an ongoing basis, allowing your team to be nimble and proactive in their strategies. 

How does SEO software fit into a broader digital marketing strategy, and what other tools and tactics should businesses consider when optimising their website for search engines?

SEO software and tooling should ultimately give you and your marketing team the ability to cut through and hone in on the data that matters in terms of your organic growth. 

Some SEO tooling will also be able to marry up SEO metrics with data on other areas of digital activation such as paid search and paid social, and allow you to spot additional insights. For example, if your paid search team are bidding on a keyword that has an expensive cost per click and you already rank in the top positions for it organically, there could be an argument to pull back on paid search spend and focus efforts elsewhere.  

A common issue for businesses with teams across various different digital ventures is that they can end up sitting in silos and not sharing insights to complement each other’s strategies. Top level insights from SEO tools (as well as overall web analytics) should be housed on a sharable, central platform across your business so all relevant teams are able to benefit and strategise together.  

What are some resources and tools available for businesses to stay up-to-date on SEO software trends and best practices?

Keep tabs on all the popular SEO news publications such as Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land. It’s also worth your team subscribing to a couple of popular SEO newsletters too, such as SEOFomo. 

To keep further in the know, the SEO industry also has a very active conference scene, both in person and online. Sending some of your team members to a conference like BrightonSEO (in the UK) or Mozcon (in the US) can be a worthwhile investment in terms of getting them up to speed on latest best practices and tooling. 

How can businesses ensure that their SEO software is secure and compliant with industry regulations and standards?

When prospecting potential suitors for SEO software suppliers, make sure they’re familiar and compliant with industry regulations relevant to where you’re based, such as GDPR in the case of the EU. 

Ask thorough questions over data sharing and encryption, as well as data control and access over certain user permissions. The biggest risk for your business when using third-party tooling is potential exposure of vital data and privacy issues, so make sure you examine this aspect of the potential tool’s credentials. 

Relationships may also come to an end after some time, so set clear boundaries on data handling and retention in the event you move on. Will the tool allow you to export all of your historical data and then delete it from their systems if you decide to move on?

If you’re not sure, shop around for testimonials from other businesses (and indeed other SEO practitioners or agencies) and see what is being said on the compliance front.

How can businesses use SEO software to automate repetitive tasks and save time, and what are some best practices for optimising workflows and processes?

Most areas of SEO auditing and data analysis can be potentially automated via the use of SEO software. This can range from scheduling regular technical SEO audits on a daily or weekly basis, auto-populating keyword ranking and traffic reports, summarising backlink opportunities as well as all-round SEO reporting in general.

These days, lots of repetitive SEO creation tasks that junior members of your SEO team may be assigned can be completed more efficiently with the use of some SEO tooling. This can include keyword research (with many tools bucketing in data by category automatically) or the creation of some of the more time consuming elements such as on-page SEO elements such as page titles and meta descriptions per URL at scale.

Outside of traditional SEO tooling, software such as Python and SQL can also be used to automate a variety of SEO tasks, and can save your team lots of time and allow them to focus on the bigger picture and strategic areas of growth.

How much should I be spending on SEO software each month?

SEO software, with the wide array of options at hand and ongoing need to involve more user seats and data storing and research capabilities, can easily become a costly endeavour. 

The size of the investment on SEO tooling will of course vary depending on business and website size. A small ecommerce site will likely only require a few hundred dollars a month on software that covers keyword research and technical SEO crawling and covers all key areas of the business. Conversely, a global business with multiple sites worldwide may require an enterprise suite that has features such as cloud data storage, multiregional performance reporting and the ability to crawl and assess hundreds of thousands of URLs on an ongoing basis. Software such as this can easily ascend into six figure spending per annum. 

Before you earmark a budget for SEO software, establish what your goals and KPIs are from them. If the tool is required for a one-off technical audit as part of a migration for example, then a few hundred dollars is a justifiable investment. If you’re looking more long term and want to consolidate a content marketing strategy to move the needle on a number of core commercial search terms while simultaneously creating new killer content, then larger ongoing investments may be required.

Many SEO tools / platforms now implement an overly complicated ‘credit’ and ‘user’ system which is why extra care is required when deciding on which platform to use.

Assuming you’re reinvesting 5% of your revenue on SEO, which includes headcount, then a fraction of this will need to be dedicated to software.  

What SEO tools are right for my business?

Of course many businesses will have different needs when it comes to SEO software, but there are some common factors that all businesses should be on the lookout for. 

Regardless of whether your website is only 30 pages or 30,000, technical SEO auditing features are a must. Enterprise sites with hundreds of thousands of URLs may require in-depth crawl analysis functions to ensure the right commercial product pages are being pinged by Google regularly.   

Your team will also require a content or keyword research feature so you can assess current performance and identify new content opportunities to drive revenue. Depending on particular scenarios, you may also require tools that offer A/B testing or specific guidance on schema optimisation.

Many modern day SEO softwares such as Ahrefs and SEMRush offer an all-in-one solution, with many of these covered. Larger enterprise level tools such as Botify and Lumar offer these solutions on a wider, cloud-based scale. There are also tools that excel in specific areas of SEO, with Screaming Frog and Sitebulb being leaders in technical SEO auditing, for example.

Your business will certainly need SEO software that covers all the essential SEO areas, though of course there may be a requirement for investment in specific features. Pool ideas from your SEO and product teams to get a list of these essential and desired features before you invest.       

Are Enterprise SEO tools worth the investment? 

Global businesses with large, complex departments that include SEO, content, development and of course C-level members could benefit from enterprise SEO for a variety of reasons. Aside from the SEO auditing and reporting capabilities many enterprise SEO tools offer large businesses, they can also serve as a hub for your global SEO programme and can improve areas such as productivity on SEO enhancement.

If for example your business is siloed in its understanding and progress on SEO by region or department, a centralised enterprise SEO tool with clear, standardised reporting and implementation workflows can help bring this together. From a costing perspective, centralising one master enterprise tool globally can save you money compared to individual regions and departments investing on their own toolsets.  

Are there any free SEO tools for my business?

Yes, there are many free SEO on the market that can offer top-level insights on your website or an individual page in question. Google for example has Google Search Console, Google Trends, Lighthouse and PageSpeed Insights, for example. There are also a variety of free and useful browser plugins that your team incorporates into their daily workflows, such as DevTools, Robots Exclusion Checker, and Schema Builder to name a few.

Many of the well-known SEO tools, such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, AlsoAsked and  Keyword Insights also have freemium versions where you can utilise various features of these tools on a limited use basis.   

Can you audit our current SEO tool suite?

As businesses grow and evolve and scenarios change in relation to SEO, it is always wise to reassess your businesses’ tool suite on a regular basis. Do you really need all the subscriptions you have? Is your team using the tool suite as much as they were previously now a certain phase of workflow has moved on? Are there any new developments in the industry where a more cutting-edge (and perhaps cheaper) tool does an area such as keyword research better than your current toolset?

These are all questions you should be posing to your SEO and marketing teams on perhaps a six-monthly or yearly basis.

If you’re considering assessing new suppliers, particularly for enterprise software solutions, then your marketing team undertakes a company-wide survey that involves all relevant stakeholders who touch SEO. Develop a scoring system against satisfaction geared towards your current tool suite, and mark this up against a list of essential and nice-to-have features. 

Everything needs to be geared towards revenue enhancement, and this includes the cost of the tool of itself. If your SEO programme that has been built in using your current toolsuite as a core guiding point isn’t reaping the desired ROI from SEO, then it is worth another look.    

What SEO software can I use to track SEO performance for my business?

Most SEO tools won’t report back on direct ROI on your SEO campaigns attributed to your spend on the tool itself. Many of them will instead report back on more top of funnel metrics such as keyword rankings, estimated traffic and top performing content, as well as numbers surrounding backlinks and technical SEO health. 

Bottom line business metrics attributed to SEO activity will need to be configured within your analytics set-ups, using carefully tailored website views that cover metrics such as traffic, engagement rates, bounce rates and conversions from the SEO channel.

A common approach is for your team to identify improvement trends on your tooling in relation to metrics such as improved and new keyword rankings, and how this marries up with accurate traffic and conversion metrics within your analytics suites.

SEO Software Selection Case Study

Ecommerce brands makes significant savings in auditing existing SEO software and assessing new suppliers. 

Problem: Using the same all-in-one SEO tool for some time, the brand found that its SEO daily team’s daily use of the tool became less frequent as their SEO offering matured. However, as the business grew in size, investment in this tool still increased due to a demand for additional user seats and data storage.  

Solution: After surveying the marketing team, the leadership found that there was a significant decline in daily use of this familiar tool, there was a pivot towards a more specific tool that offered a service more suited to the contemporary needs of the SEO team. This brought down liabilities on SEO software significantly, with the team discovering new and insightful workflows within the new tool that improved some areas of SEO workflows. 

SEO Software Selection Case Study Two

Enterprise ecommerce company rolls out global SEO programme to enhance SEO productivity, unity and performance. 

Problem: A large global ecommerce business with offices globally had ongoing SEO programmes in each market, but struggled with being somewhat fractured and siloed in its approach as one business. There was also a big variance in the understanding of the importance of SEO, SEO best practices and SEO knowledge across each market.  

Solution: Through the rollout of a global SEO tool that ticked all the boxes in terms of what metrics the business cared about, the business was able to onboard all relevant in-market stakeholders and achieve a sense of unity and common understanding of their SEO ventures. Reports and data were shared centrally, and the tool was used as a single source of truth for SEO analysis and reporting and had business-wide buy-in. 

The tool also nullified the need for additional third-party SEO tooling that was used in a scattergun manner across markets, which saved costs globally and improved productivity. 

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