Image Cover for Article SEO Tools we use. The Good, Bad, and Messy truth from someone who has tested more tools than you should!

Want the truth? Here it is: No SEO tool is going to do everything you need in SEO, despite what some ‘experts’ claim. ❌


In a world where Google is deathly afraid of OpenAI and rapidly changing its algorithm some 4,000+ times a year, the right tooling is not going to do everything you need… but it will help you get ahead, off the wrong path, and prevent you from falling behind.  


As a former SaaS guy, I love Software as a Service tool, but the SEO sector is riddled with tools promising more than they could ever deliver or inventing stuff you don’t need (my favorite is SEMRush’s link toxicity 💩).


As with any vendor, what we do is simple. We test. 

Testing SEO Tools to Find Balance between Price and Performance


We test so much, that we will typically test 2-3 SEO tools a month 👀, looking for a balanced mix of price and performance. 


And, as *ahem* a frugal New Englander 🙊, I recognise the variety of fantastic tools out there, although I’m hesitant to say they’re worth the often hefty price tag. I would rather see you commit those funds to work dollars (Ads, more content, and a faster website) vs the overhead of another SEO tool, just because. 


The Good: SEO Tools we use daily 🏦

The Good SEO Tools.


Google Search Console – Free. Nothing beats getting SEO data directly from Google. We use it directly to export data, connect it via SEMRush, and use the API when we need more than the 1,000 rows of data that can get directly in the GSC UI. 


Google Analytics 4 – Free. GA4 has taken a lot of deserved criticism with the transition from universal analytics, but they continue to improve it, and you can’t beat free data directly from Google. 


Google Sheets – Free for personal use and paid at $18 per user for business. We use this every day to export and filter website data, and keywords, and communicate team priorities.  


Google Trends – Free. Is a keyword seasonal? Need to find new topic variations? Use Google Trends, it’s helpful macro-level data directly from Google. 


Google Adwords Planner – Free. Is that keyword worth going after? Get the CPC directly from Google and volume information. 


ChatGPT – Paid $20 a Month. Use it every day for research, and giving me alternative versions of meta descriptions,  titles, and lists. ProTip connects ChatGPT via the API  to Google Sheets, and it automates the day-to-day drudgery of repetitive SEO tasks!


AIPRM – Paid $29 a Month. Use it every day to save ChatGPT Scripts, templates, and different tones of voice to swap between brands. 


Screaming Frog – Free and Paid $259 a year. Use it weekly to do SEO audits and get tree graph visualizations of the structure of a website. – Paid $249 a year. Use it several times a week to understand what keywords we could rank quickly for. 


Keywords Everywhere – Paid $1.25 to $25 a month for the Chrome/Edge plugin. We use this for SEO and competitive research directly from a Google search results page. 


SEMRush – Paid starts at $129 a month but can get expensive as you add features. The best single tool for SEO. Has everything you need in a good UI and lots of deep features like clustering that are just easier to use than other tools. A great tool to support a marketing team of Ads, Content, and SEO.


Supermetrics – Paid starting at $69 a month. Use it to get data (Google My Business, GA4, GSC, Google Trends, Shopify) from many different sources into Google Sheets, Excel, Looker Studio, or a major database easily. 


ProRankTracker – Paid starting at $49 a month. It can get expensive to track every competitor in SEMrush, so I use ProRank to follow competitors and multiple geographic locations as well.


Grammarly – Free & Paid $12 a month. I’m dyslexic and this tool helps with spelling, grammar, and tone, which can be very useful in SEO content work. 


Rank Math – Free & Paid $5.75 a month. Working on SEO inside WordPress is made easier with RankMath. It has a ton of features and great value for the money. – Free. Google is a business, and you can make it easier for them to understand your content through Schema markup. 


The Messy Middle – Tools We Use Sparingly 🫣

The SEO Tools W


AnswerThePublic – Paid $99 lifetime. A visual tool to help understand content clusters and search intent. Is the data perfect no? Is it directionally helpful? Yes. The visual graphics are helpful to get a marketing team on the same page. 


SurferSEO  – Paid $139 a month. This is a tool that promises too much. Depending on your vertical, it can send you in the wrong direction as the data is aggregated, but we use it to speed content research and spot-check SEMrush on clustering. Would I use it for AI content writing hell no. Not when I have the ChatGPT API at .11 cents an article 😆


BuzzSumo – Paid starting at $199 a month. Advanced content research and content distribution tool. Helps you find which bloggers or journalists are writing about what topics. Has an API that can be useful. 


Moz – Free & Paid $179 and up. Moz is the OG that we used to love. SEMRush has it beat today, but there are verticals or clients that Moz covers better.


Google Lighthouse – Free. Google has an opinion on the speed of your website. I don’t care what your developers say there are proven benefits to resolving issues Google has with your website.


GTmetrix – Free & Paid. Want some more insight on Why your website is slow? Use GTmetrix it’s not perfect, but a good place to start. 


Cloudflare – Free to $200 a Month Paid. 15% of search traffic is for images. Speed matters having a CDN and Lossless Image compression will get you ahead in the rankings. – Free & Paid. Found a broken link and need an email address to offer up your content? With Hunter, you type in the domain, and they come back with an email address. It is very useful for SEO outreach and distribution. 


Bing Webmaster Tools – Free. Bing is often overlooked, but it still drives 3% of search traffic and can be important for specific verticals. If you are in a competitive vertical and need to test an SEO cluster, start with Bing. 


BrightLocal – Paid. If you do local SEO, this is a must-have tool to help you rank individual stores or locations. 


Woorank – Paid $199 a month. If you need to manage multiple websites and want regular audits that are actionable, this is a good tool. If you are a more experienced SEO, you will do much of this work yourself.


The Bad – Tools we no longer use or did not pass our tests

SEO Tools we use. The Good Bad and Messy truth from someone who has tested more tools than you should Graphic 4


Ahrefs – Paid ?. With their move to their credit-based system, we stopped using Ahrefs. It’s a good tool, but the value equation is no longer there as we work on large websites. – Paid Monthly $399. Slick UI but less accurate keyword tracking, and the reporting options and formatting were not for our team. 


UberSuggest – Free & Paid $99 a Month. It is low cost but slow and not accurate enough to use. I won’t link to them as well 🤨 


SerpStat – Paid Agency $479/Month. We tested this as a replacement for SEMrush, and while cheaper, our team did not find it as accurate or easy to use as SEMrush. 


Yoast – Free & Paid $99 a year. It has had several major security issues, and we can no longer recommend it. 


Yext – Paid starting at $499 a year. Too expensive for what you get, and the support is lacking


HARO – Paid starting at $19 a month. We have tried to make it work for years and several tests. The ROI is just not there for the amount of time it takes. I wish it were. Horrible UI, too, but they are moving to a new platform in 2024, so it will need a new test. 


Disclaimer: If you subscribe to all these SEO tools each month, you will be broke, confused (and probably no further ahead). 



What are your SEO goals? 

SEO Tools Roadmap


Pick 2-5 tools that support your SEO objectives


Crawl > Invest the time for the team to learn them. Drive weekly usage. 


Walk > Take the time to connect them together via Zapier, Google Sheets, or Looker so that you are looking at unified metrics and can have clear sprint plans on what the team is doing next. 


Run > Get Marketing Automation and APIs going to automate the workflow. Rescue costs and improve cycle time. 


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