Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

2014 was so last year, so I thought I’d create a new post on tools to use in 2015. Of course, preferred tools change all the time and tools that I used last year, I may no longer use anymore. Last year, I created a list of 14 of the best SEO tools to use in 2014 and now I look back at some of them, and think, are they still relevant or as important as they were last year? I’ve also changed jobs and have gone from agency to in-house, so the dynamic has changed in that respect. I’ve gone from doing ‘agency SEO’ to ‘in-house SEO’, which are vastly different in my opinion, but that’s another subject for another time.

Introducing a twist to this article: I’ve included real life examples/scenarios of where I’ve used each of these tools. Click on the drop down bars below each section to view more information.

Now, let’s get on with the list of the best SEO tools so far in 2015:

1. URL Profiler

Website: URL Profiler

URL Profiler is by far one of the most useful tools that I’ve come across in 2015. Its features are almost similar to another tool called Netpeak (free). I was introduced to that tool back in 2014, and was impressed with Netpeak, but I’m even more impressed with URL Profiler. It does come with a cost, but it’s well worth the cost with regard to the technical abilities you gain out of using this tool. This is a definite MUST for agencies and anyone working in-house. Its useful for analysing websites you work on and competitor websites. At £9.95 per month for a solo license, this tool is affordable for anyone doing serious SEO work on a website. The next biggest packages come at a cost of £12.95, £19.95, and £29.95. The various packages allow you to use the software on more than one machine, increased connections speeds, and allow for larger URL imports.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

I used URL Profiler to do competitor analysis on Compare The Market and their new ‘2 for 1 cinema deals.’ I basically wanted to find out, as a result of their new marketing giveaway, how many websites and what websites were linking to CTM. Ahrefs & Majestic were only showing 21 referring domains to a certain section of their site where the 2 for 1 deal exists as a landing page. However, I knew that they’d seen far greater exposure.

So I used a Chrome Plugin called OS Scraper to scrape relevant search results about CTM’s new campaign. I scraped Google’s search results with queries that I believed that would show only results of people speaking about CTM’s new deal. It got national coverage. I scraped around 1,000 websites from the SERPs, and ran those sites through URL Profiler’s link audit tool, to see if they were linking to CTM. All these sites were of course talking about CTM’s new deal, but were they linking to CTM?

That’s what I needed to find out. Enterprise tools such as Ahrefs and Majestic were not giving me the full picture or even a big enough picture.

I found that out of 1,000 of these sites that I scraped from the SERPs, 73 were linking to CTM. Of course, it’s not about quantity, but quality. And the majority of the sites linking to CTM were of a very high quality and standard. We’re talking about links from tonnes of official cinema websites, MoneySavingExpert, ITV, Gizmodo – to name a few. It’s important to know what’s caused an increase in SEO visibility for a site if you’re to compete on the same level. The Meerkat Movies campaign has been probably the best marketing campaign that has been conducted so far in 2015 from a general marketing perspective, as well as an SEO only perspective. Knowing why is important.

Favourite Features in URL Profiler

  • Google Insights … from Google’s PageSpeed API and Mobile Friendly Tool
    • Mobile-Friendly Checker (only tool that has the capability to check your website, page by page, on scale)
    • Mobile PageSpeed
    • Desktop PageSpeed
  • Custom Scraper (XPATH, CSS, REGEX patterns)
  • Social Shares
  • Backlink checker (using APIs from Moz, Ahrefs, & MajesticSEO)

2. Bing Webmaster Tools

Website: Bing Webmaster Tools

Bing. You’re thinking of the search engine that no one uses. Although, according to recent figures, Bing has a global reach of around 10% versus its competitors such as Google which has a massive 70% reach globally. This doesn’t detract from the fact that Bing has their own version of Google Webmaster Tools (I will forever call it GWT) called Bing Webmaster Tools. It’s quite awesome. It’s features are more in depth than what you’d get with Google Webmaster Tools. See the drop down below for more information.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

1. Link Explorer: this is a tool which is comparable to expensive backlink checking tools like Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, and Open Site Explorer. But it’s completely free. You basically get to access Bing’s link index, which is very likely larger than that of the aforementioned premium tools. They are a search engine that uses links in order rank sites, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that they are able to give you most, if not all, of the backlinks to specific pages on your site or even on the domain level. Only feature that this is missing is that it doesn’t have a date column from when it first found the backlink to the webpages that you check. A note of warning: this tool doesn’t show links that are nofollowed. I asked Duane Forrest, Sr. Product Manager – Webmaster Outreach at Bing, if whether Link Explorer shows nofollowed links:

2. Crawl Control: This is something that not even Google offers. Essentially with crawl control… well, it allows you to control the crawl rates at individual times during the day that you’d like Bingbot to crawl your website. So if you make updates to your website more frequently during certain times of the day, then Bing will crawl  your website at a higher rate during those points in the day. That’s a neat and powerful feature that not even Google offers.

3. Find more information about Bing Webmaster Tools with Search Engine Land’s article on the ‘Ultimate Guide to Bing Webmaster Tools‘. 

3. Ayima Pulse & Redirect Path

Website: Ayima Pulse & Ayima Redirect Path  for Chrome

I’m quite a big fan of Ayima and almost applied for a job in their London office as an SEO consultant. I like the fact that they are pretty serious when it comes to search. They’ve developed tools to help themselves and have also made these tools publicly available. I’ve been using the Ayima Redirect Path Chrome extension for a number of years now. It’s one of the tools that I’d say is essential if you work in SEO. It’s really easy to use and understand. I’ve been through site migrations for some very big websites and often I had found that 302 or 307 redirects had been used – even after we had checked the redirect paths through Screaming Frog – the status code had been changed at a later date for some reason or the other. Download it.

ayima 150x150 Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015Ayima Pulse is a new tool that they have developed, which I think is brilliant. For those that don’t know, it’s a SERPs volatility checker. There are loads out there like MozCast, Algoroo, and SERPS.com. What, however, sets Ayima Pulse apart from those tools is the fact they have built in the option to check US and UK SERP volatility and you get to check if certain niches have seen any volatility or changes. You can also see if there have been changes for the top 100 websites in those niches. It also looks fucking amazing. Well done on the UX side of things. Only problem is that they seem to only show you the past 30 days, which is where Algoroo trumps Pulse.

4. Screaming Frog

Website: ScreamingFrog.co.uk

I listed Screaming Frog in last year’s post. However, it’ll likely be listed in my best SEO tools posts in the future. It’s constantly updated and new features are introduced all the time. It’s also really cheap at £99 per annum. In house, this is vital if you want a view of your site without having to download each URL manually. You also get relevant SEO related data such as title tags, meta descriptions, status codes, and much more. What’s more, you can use Screaming Frog data in URL Profiler to obtain more data on the page level. It’s worth it.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

I used Screaming Frog to run a site-wide crawl on a website that has over 20,000 pages. This allowed me to identify issues with the site in scalable way. I was looking for specific things on the site.

I used the ‘Custom’ filter option to search through the source code of all those pages to look at whether a particular site was being linked to that we should remove. I identified 700 external links across various pages that had different site navigation (legacy issues). Once I had identified these links, it was pretty damn easy to request a removal for these links.

I’ve also used Screaming Frog when doing outreach. Webmasters will tend to be more willing to engage with you if you tell them that something is wrong with their website. You can find issues with their website on Screaming Frog (i.e. broken links on their site). This gives you an edge when reaching out to webmasters and puts your email above other emails. That at least warrants some sort of response, which is what you’re looking for.

5. Google Search Console / Webmaster Tools

Website: Google Search Console

Search Console, or more commonly named, Webmaster Tools, is an official Google tool that has been around for a long time. It’s a powerful tool that many more SEOs should use. The agency I used to work at weren’t regular users of Webmaster Tools from what I could see. But it’s an absolute must-have for website owners, in-house and agency SEOs. It’s become even more useful with Google releasing new iterations and even renaming the tool altogether. New features such as Search Analytics make this tool powerful, especially because we now live in the world of ‘not provided’. Additionally, I’ve found Search Console’s ‘Index Status‘ exceptionally useful for diagnosing problems with websites. It’s also really simple to link Search Console to your website, so why not?

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

There are so many uses with Search Console that unlocks what other tools cannot possibly provide. It’s official data from the mouth that feeds us all – Google. Here’s a few ways I’ve used Search Console:

1. Index Status: I’ve used Search Console to diagnose issues with websites. The ‘Index Status’ has been useful in knowing if whether Google have decided to de-index pages or if there has suddenly been an increase in the amount of indexed pages. I was recently involved with working on a website that suffered after Google’s ‘Quality Update‘ and was tasked to find out why the site had seen a drop in organic search visibility. I found that the site had seen a 150% increase in the amount of pages. That’s not normal. You’d be wrong in thinking that an increase in the amount of pages would also see an increase in organic search visibility.

However, that increase correlated with when search visibility dropped for that particular site. It just so happened that an update that determined a site’s overall quality (in my opinion) was introduced by Google at the beginning of May (I’d dispute, and say at the end of April) I identified the problem and investigated like any good SEO. We removed those additional pages, which were all user generated, and now search visibility is returning to pre-quality update levels. That’s powerful right there.

2. Search Analytics: is by far the most useful aspect of Search Console that I’ve used in determining a website’s organic visibility from a keyword level. In the same task I mentioned above, I measured our loss in traffic and our fall in click-through rate as a result of dropping for highly lucrative terms. Once determining the loss, it made it easy to put a revenue figure on that. A revenue figure allows you to essentially do anything that’s worth the cost and surely, if you make an argument backed up by $$$$ then everyone is going to listen.

3. Everything else. Google has increasingly made this tool useful. With updates such as the change of address tool that now allows you to do a change of address from a sub-domain or vice versa, this opens up new levels of accessing features that should hopefully make site migrations with sub-domains seamless. This would have been absolutely useful last year for a big UK bank that I worked on, but the feature wasn’t there. The site suffered as a result of migrating to the sub-domain that it still sits on. It exists now, so whey hey. The search highlighter is also pretty useful if you intend to increase your visibility in the SERPs.

6. Ahrefs & Majestic SEO

Website: Ahrefs.com & Majestic.com

Competitor analysis is key in my job and knowing what competitors are up to is important.

I’ve found Moz’ Open Site Explorer to be totally useless because its index is so small in comparison to Ahrefs and Majestic. I also would say that Ahrefs and Majestic don’t provide full view pictures on successful campaigns as well, but can provide better indications than any other tool that I’ve used. Both these tools are the best indicators you’re going to get to on the market when identifying what links are being driven back to your site or to competitor websites.

Again, I have to stipulate, that they don’t always provide a wide enough view, and in the URL Profiler ‘real life scenario’, I had to scrape the SERPs and use URL Profiler to determine a site’s additional inbound links. Both these tools were reporting that this particular site had seen roughly 19-21 referring domains, even though through manually checking via URL Profiler, I found 73 referring domains from highly authoritative websites. Use it as an indicator and not something that’s going to be certain or correct all the time.

If I had to pick one, I’d go with Ahrefs because I’ve found its index is larger and it provides a better user interface. However, it’s good having both data sets that you can combine as both services will likely be crawling different parts of the web. You can always download data from Google Search Console and combine that data with Ahref and Majestic data.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

I used Ahrefs to determine the activity of competitor websites for over 5 different websites for a presentation that I had to give. I used the excellent graphs that Ahrefs provides for this very purpose. Here’s an example that shows Google.com’s backlink activity and whether there has been an increase over the current and past year:

referring pages Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

I gave a view like this for certain categories (via directory level) on competitor websites and compared our competitor activity to our own. I then dove deeper into the data to see who linked to the competitors and why. This helps to determine if whether the site you’re working on is not doing enough or if competitors are doing a lot more. This information is key for business stakeholders that determine budgets. Presenting this to them will give you an edge in terms of increased advertising spend.

7. Microsoft Excel

Excel is by far the most useful tool you’ll ever come across as a digital marketer and is simply a no brainer. There’s so much you can do with Excel to make business cases, sort data, create graphs, insights and loads of other things. There are also SEO specific plugins that can be installed to make your job as an SEO that much easier. Here are my favourite Microsoft Excel plugins:

1. SEO Gadget

2. SEO Tools for Excel

3. Fuzzy LOOKUP

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

I’ve used the above addons for Excel extensively. I’ve had a few issues with getting them to work on Windows 8, but on my work computer (Windows 7), it appears to want to work for me. So, how have I used these?

1. SEO Gadget: Moz appears to be the standard when it comes to metrics such as Domain Authority and Page Authority. Whilst I think other metrics provided by Ahrefs and Majestic are more reliable, it’s an easy to understand metric. However, it’s unfortunate that Domain Rank by Ahrefs is not more popular. It’s essentially the same thing as Domain Authority, except that there is more data. I know it sounds like I’m hating at Moz right now, but it’s true, their index is very small. In fact, I’m looking to create a comparison table that pits Moz against Ahrefs and Majestic. A really old 2012 article on SEO Book already shows the lack of data that Moz is able to obtain versus its competitors. Anyways, whenever I’ve been sent an Excel spreadsheet by those doing outreach to obtain the Domain Authority for a list of websites, then I use SEO Gadget to get that data.

2. SEO Tools for Excel: I used SEO Tools for Excel often in the agency I used to work at, but I’ve not had to use it for a while as URL Profiler has sort of replaced it for me. However, SEO Tools for Excel is free and allows you to link up to the Majestic API. I worked on a major car manufacturer’s website and they migrated to a new CMS. One of the issues they had was that their old CMS pumped out a lot of unique session URLs over a 7 year time span, so they literally had thousands of links pointing to the same page via thousands of different URLs. We determined this by essentially downloading the 404 errors that were popping up in Google Webmaster Tools and redirected those URLs which had referring domains to the appropriate location.

3. Fuzzy LOOKUP: What is Fuzzy LOOKUP? Fuzzy LOOKUP is essentially a free add-in by Microsoft that takes VLOOKUP to another level. It’s a smarter way of joining data up together from the traditional VLOOKUP that joins data that has to be exactly the same or partially the same. Fuzzy LOOKUP can determine if what you’re looking up against has words that are in a different order in cells or if they have spelling mistakes (it’ll make it up to the closest comparison). This helps up match or join similar data that might be from two or more sources. There’s a great article on Search Engine Land that shows how it can be used to match up Google Analytics and Google Search Console data.

8. Link Risk

Website: LinkRisk.com

Link Risk is by far the most user-friendly and the most efficient way of getting out of a Google Penguin penalty. It’s setup is amazing. I remember working at an agency where a client that had recently been won had a Google penalty on its website. We went through the whole disavow process of removing links via Excel. It’s not the most efficient way of attempting to go through hundreds of thousands of links. We ended up getting the entire SEO team at my previous agency working on removing a penalty on this clients site via Excel. It could have been so much easier if we had just had access to Link Risk. It basically turns the whole link checking aspect into a game or into Stumble Upon where you view each site via an iframe and at the top of the page there is a bar where you can click certain buttons to classify websites (i.e. should it be listed in the disavow file or not). There are other uses too, which I’ll delve deeper into below.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

1. As mentioned above, the tool is most likely the best tool you’re going to get in the market if you want remove a Google external link penalty. Take a look at this:

Link Risk Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

This function within Link Risk is called ‘Investigate’. The above clearly illustrates how easy it is to classify websites. It takes away the mess of classifying websites by opening them up in Excel one at a time.

2. Link Risk assigns a score based upon the backlink data you feed it, whether that be from Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs or Search Console. Did you see a competitor move up or down? If they moved up, was it because they were only thinking short-term and built lots of dodgy links? The metric that Link Risk gives makes it easy to compare the risk of your backlink profile versus competitors, which in turn allows you to illustrate the importance of keeping your back link profile as risk free as possible to avoid issues in the long-term.

9. Search Metrics & BrightEdge  (Keyword Tracking)

Websites: SearchMetrics.com & BrightEdge.com

I used BrightEdge extensively in the last agency that I worked at and thought BrightEdge was absolutely going in the right direction. I think even more highly of BrightEdge now because of the current archaic tool that I have to put up with called Linkdex, which has been nothing but a nightmare. Its Share of Voice feature that allows you to view the market place as a whole, without having to add competitors, as it finds the actual competitors for you, and determines a Share of Voice score for each of those competitors – is what truly makes this tool powerful. Its other features such as BrightEdge Data Cube and very recently its powerful mobile ranking features make it even more useful.

Search Metrics on the other hand does a very good job at determining a sites overall visibility, for all keywords that a website is ranking for. It’s a great indicator as to what has gone wrong and essentially what may have gone in your website’s favour. It’s ‘SEO Visibility’ or Organic Performance Index (OPI) metric has become an industry standard at determining if whether a site’s visibility has increased by a certain % or has gone down by a %. An example of it being used by Search Engine Land can be found here. Additionally, I wrote an article about how Aunt Bessie’s lost SEO visibility due to a re-design on their website that didn’t take into account SEO. I wouldn’t have known about it in the first place if I didn’t have access to Search Metrics. Once you find out that there is something wrong, then you can start investigating to see what has gone wrong.

More info on this tool (BrightEdge)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

1. BrightEdge: As mentioned above, Share of Voice is a refined feature in BrightEdge to monitor your performance in Google and other search engines. At the agency I worked at, we’d do keyword research on a channel by channel basis. For example, with a major UK bank, we’d create keyword groups like ‘Current Accounts’, ‘Mortgages’, ‘Loans’, ‘Credit Cards’ et cetera. This is where the Share of Voice calculation becomes really useful. You can basically monitor your performance for these channels in an aggregated way based upon the keywords you’ve placed in each of the keyword groups you’ve created for each channel. In my last job we’d export the figures and put them into an Excel spreadsheet and try to match them up with organic search traffic. Here’s an example of that:

Share of Voice Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

You don’t have to do this and I know other teams that I used work with would purely use the dashboards provided by BrightEdge. They are pretty decent looking dashboards that look like this:

BrightEdge Dashboard Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

The Share of Voice metric by itself isn’t useful if you can’t see what keywords have dropped. With BrightEdge, it’s filtering options are quite advanced. So you can do filtering within the platform and won’t need to export keyword rankings into Excel as you can do all of that within the platform.

I also have to say this again, but I like the fact that BrightEdge automatically picks up the competitors for your defined set of keywords, so that you don’t have to manually insert competitors that you think are the most prominent for those keywords. It does it for you. It was not always that way and I remember they had a section where you had to enter competitors that you wanted to track against. They then advanced their platform by automatically picking up the competitors without you even having to do anything.

More info on this tool (Search Metrics)

2. SearchMetrics: I like the SEO visibility tool, however, I’ve heard complaints by others that the visibility tool isn’t accurate when it comes to ranking for terms that are not at all commercially relevant or if there are potential branded terms that you rank for and are seeing a SEO visibility bump up – even though clicks from the SERPs will be focused on the brand itself and not yours. Whilst that’s true, Search Metrics attempts to give you a true reflection of your visibility in the SERPs and isn’t perfect. But like ALL keyword tracking tools, they should be used as indications and then the next process is identifying problems or successes with those indications. Besides, you don’t just have to rely on the ‘SEO Visibility’ score for all keywords in SM, as you can create keyword groups, similar to BrightEdge, that give you visibility (Share of Market/Voice) for a defined set of keywords. I’ve used SM a lot less than BrightEdge, but it’s definitely a tool I’d recommend. I’ve used it in cases before for website re-designs and it’s graphs are awesome at telling you if there has been visibility drops/increases for a website:Aunt Bessies SEO Visibility1 Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015What’s even better with Search Metrics is that they have historic data extending back to 2012, so you can see how a website was performing historically in organic search. It has other features such as monitoring PPC visibility as well. I also like the ‘Winners & Losers’ feature in this platform.

If your website’s visibility has dropped you can see what keywords have dropped from the week previous on the ‘Winners & Losers’page:

Winners Losers Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

Winners Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015 Losers Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

You can also view the biggest winners and losers in terms of SEO visibility as a whole. You can dig into why these websites have either lost or increased in visibility and start adapting your campaigns or learn from what they’ve done wrong. This just makes you a much more informed SEO, as this is research you’re doing to identify why websites have seen drops/increases.

For example, Patient.co.uk seems to be the biggest loser this week (14/06/2015) so far, and has dropped for the term ‘BMI Calculator’ (500k avg monthly searches). They have also recently migrated from a .co.uk TLD to a .info gTLD. And if you wanted to, you could investigate further as to why this drop has occurred or if their .info is picking up the slack.

10. Google Keyword Planner & KeywordTool.io

Websites: AdWords Keyword Planner & KeywordTool.io

Google’s Keyword Planner is a good place to go if you want to do keyword research on a market or channel. However, it’s not the only tool to be using for keyword research. Why? Because the Keyword Planner is a tool for Google’s PPC customers, so they often will omit informational queries and give more prevalence to product queries, which will provide higher ROI for Google’s PPC customers. However, that’s not to say that you can’t access that ‘hidden data’, as it’ll require using variations of phrases more often in the tool. But if you don’t have the time to do that then KeywordTool.IO is the answer to your prayers of a faster way. It does come at a cost, with $48 per month being the cheapest package and $88 being the most expensive package.

More info on this tool (click to expand)

Real Life Scenario with Using this Tool

Grouping keywords up and then creating sub-categories within those groups is the proper way to do keyword research. You can create insights based on your research to determine how well your site performs in those groups and sub-categories. Getting the right keywords is key, but after you’ve obtained all those keywords, what can you do with them? You can combine that data with your keyword tracking rank data. This is the level of illustration you can achieve by doing this:

Keyword Research Graph Best SEO Tools & Resources for 2015

You can then make business cases for investing into these categories, as you can attach potential revenue figures to each of these categories and work out which is going to give you the highest ROI. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t also determine the level of difficulty in obtaining search share in each of these categories. However, if you want to compete in the more competitive areas, then it’s worth exploring the potential revenues that can be made by simply attempting to compete in these categories. I’m going to create a post on how keyword research like this can be done, so watch out for that in the future. 🙂

That’s all for now. This isn’t the most comprehensive list in the world, and there are other lists out there like this. However, this is just my own opinion on the tools that you should have based on my experience in working in-house and agency side. As I did with 2014’s best SEO tools article, I’ll keeping adding to this article for the rest of the year when I come across new tools that I’ve found useful. 🙂

Author: Jonathan Jones

I first first started creating websites back in 2005. This led me to creating a free web hosting business in 2007, which still exists today. I ventured into creating types of websites such as blogs and forums using Wordpress, vBulletin, Invision Power Board, Drupal and Joomla. I've since worked on some of the leading brands in the UK finance sector, in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) field, and now work for MoneySuperMarket, the #1 price comparison website in the UK. Social: Google+ and Twitter.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the List. Really a Much Needed List.

    Excel which is the most used one on my PC.

    Kind Regards

    John

  2. I like the example of what you did with URL Profiler. It shows that even the best backlink tools like Majestic and Ahrefs don’t have the capabilities to crawl as much as you would like it to. So actually going out and hunting those links down by scraping Google and then running it through this tool is pretty ingenious.

  3. I agree with you about OSE, that compare to Ahref and Majestic SEO its index is so small. I think I should change the tool i am using now.

    • Hi Jeric,

      I also recently added Bing Webmaster Tools. It has a feature called Link Explorer, which is really good for retrieving backlinks for specific pages/domains – even if they are competitors. Really good tool there and would recommend it if you can’t afford the likes of Ahrefs and MajesticSEO.

  4. Great post, i loved it. I am using all of them on regular basis but your using methods showed me different ways to use them.

    Thanks