The definitive list of the 51 best free & paid SEO tools (according to me)

The definitive list of the 51 best free & paid SEO tools (according to me)

As part of an SEO’s day-to-day job, we may be required to perform many functions across a variety of different strategic areas. Like any profession, success or failure may often hinge on having and using the right tools.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are like 18 billion tools out there for the picking. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of my go-to SEO analysis tools, discuss some of my favorite aspects of each, offer insights on where they might be lacking, as well as showcase some cool tools that I’ve not yet tried out (and would love to get my hands on)!

Enterprise-level SEO tools

These enterprise-level tools are some of the top SEO tools on the market today! For the most part, these tools can truly do it all, and in do a great job of taking guess-work out of the equation and have made the job of pinpointing strategic wins and opportunities so much easier.

1. BrightEdge
BrightEdge SEO tools
This is arguably the best enterprise SEO tool on the market, and it does not disappoint. The tool is incredibly robust when it comes to deep dive rank tracking (both at keyword and page-level), competitive analysis, local/universal search, share of voice, opportunity forecasting, and more. There is also some pretty strong workflow management incorporated right into the tool.

My favorite innovation is by far their BrightEdge Data Cube product, which allows you to analyze their robust index of pages/content on an ad hoc basis to truly understand the entire search ecosystem – and not just what you track against.

Additionally, the added benefit is that can integrate most analytics tools right into the platform – which can give you real ROI data on the spot.

Although it does most things adequately enough, this tool could still improve upon link analysis, influencer identification, content marketing strategy, and social analysis.

2. Moz Pro
Moz Pro SEO tools
This tool has all the bells and whistles as well, and again does most things really well. In fact, from a brand-recognition standpoint, it’s arguably more popular than BrighEdge is. The user-interface is top-notch, maybe even best in the industry.

You get the benefit of all of Moz’s great SEO tools, plus the ability to run campaigns. Aside from the basic keyword tracking, you get really great technical site crawl diagnostics and on-site recommendations, social analysis, as well as link analysis.

All that said, I still personally prefer BrightEdge and think it brings more to the table overall, but Moz Pro is a close second.

3. Linkdex
Linkdex SEO tools
This is another very strong and comprehensive tool. Like the others, it does pretty much everything and most of it well. While the keyword analysis is adequate, it doesn’t go as in depth as BrightEdge, nor does it allow you to track universal results such as local.

However, this tool is probably the best among the close competitors when it comes to identifying influencers and developing your content strategy. They also have some nice workflow management as well as link analysis capabilities. All in all, a great tool!

4. Raven Tools
Raven SEO tools
Like Moz and BrightEdge, this tool is respected industry-wide and is very strong as an enterprise SEO solution. While they give you similar basics to the rest, they are very strong when it comes to automating/producing great reporting dashboards, performing competitive research, along with really strong technical audit capabilities. Like Moz, they also have some good social analysis capabilities.

From a preference standpoint, I like the three tools above more, but this tool is definitely a powerful one and offers quite a bit!

5. WebCEO
WebCEO SEO tools
An oldie but a goodie. I used this tool quite a bit in the beginning of my career (not so much lately), and I know they’ve made a lot of great advances since that time.

While I won’t go so far as to say it’s better than any of the rest of the enterprise tools on the list, it’s still a pretty decent tool.

Keyword research tools

A collection of my favorite tools to use when it’s time to get down-and-dirty with keyword-level data and some competitive insights.

6. Google Adwords Keyword Tool
Keyword data straight from the horse’s mouth. I use this tool early and often as I work through my day-to-day SEO activities, and I must admit – I love getting my hands dirty digging into search volume trends.

I prioritize this tool over all others as I tend to feel as if it’s coming directly from the source – therefore, is likely the most reliable. I also love the way they allow you to find new ideas and break things down by month – which can be really powerful depending on what site/brand you’re working with.

7. SEMRush
Another great tool for competitive research and analysis. Great for pulling competitive keyword and ranking trends, link analysis, keyword research, and more.

Additionally, they have some social media, keyword rank tracking, and site auditing capabilities, though it’s in my opinion not as good as some of the other tools on this list.

8. SpyFu
Though I still like Google the best, this is a good tool nonetheless when it comes to gathering site and keyword-level competitive intelligence and also offers some ability to sync with Adwords.

It also does a good job of visualizing the data and gives a nice breakdown of organic versus paid traffic. No pun intended, but it also gives you the ability to spy on the competition when it comes to overall ranking trends – powerful intelligence in the right hands.

Link analysis tools

Link analysis and acquiring high-value links is a critical component of most advanced SEO programs, and will help in ensuring that you have a variety of tools to allow you to understand your own portfolio, look for competitive opportunities, and understand if any bad/spam links are affecting performance.

9. Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO is highly respected when it comes to link analysis. Quite simply, their index is probably the biggest and most frequently updated, and they surpass all challengers with their bulk analysis tool. I also like that Majestic reports on lost links, which is great to help you see the trends over time rather than at one single point.

That said, I actually tend to prefer Open Site Explorer’s (OSE) Domain and Page authority scores over the way that Majestic does their Trust flow and Citation flow scoring. However, Majestic does take those scores and break them down by topic, industry, region, etc. which is more than what OSE does.

10. Open Site Explorer (OSE)
In addition to Majestic, I like to use Moz’s tool to analyze backlinks. The tool is very strong when it comes to reporting on backlinks, has a fairly large index (though not updated as frequently), does a great job of reporting on social metrics, recently introduced spam scoring, and – like all Moz products – does a great job with the user interface.

I’d like to see the tool develop a little more when it comes to frequency of updates, seeing how the link portfolio trends over time, as well as understanding the influx of links or when links are removed (and become reclamation opportunities).

11. AHrefs
In my experience, AHrefs is relatively similar to Majestic, though maybe not as rich with features. When choosing between the two, it’s likely to come down to personal preference.

Update (11/18/15): Read my insider review of the AHrefs tool. This tool is far more powerful and comprehensive than I’d originally anticipated. In addition to link analysis capabilities which rival Majestic’s, it offers technical analysis, keyword rank tracking, content exploration capabilities, and many additional features that probably put it closer to an enterprise-level tool than just a simple link analysis tool.

12. Cognitive SEO
This one is very unique among link analysis tools in that the focus here is probably more on the negative side of links. They do a great job with unnatural link detection as is evidence by this case study, and offer really great competitive link analysis capabilities.

13. Link Detox
This one is also very unique among link analysis tools in that it focuses almost exclusively on negative links. The tool itself has the capability of analyzing bulk downloads of thousands of links in a relatively short amount of time, and it then takes those links and synthesizes it out into a nice dashboard and report.

They’ve created a nice proprietary report called the Link Detox risk report, which can be used to gather intelligence on which links are most at risk across a site’s entire portfolio. I’ve used it a few times and it is exceptional.

The biggest downside of this tool is that it’s a bit Ad Hoc in nature and requires importing a list of links into the system as opposed to keeping their own index like the other tools.

Technical SEO tools

These tools are critical when it comes to understanding your site’s core infrastructure and to uncover if anything happening that might be impeding your site’s ability to be indexed or to perform at it’s best in search engines.

14. Google Search Console
Although it’s by no means perfect, this is a table stakes tool and very important that you get your site verified here so you can begin to gather technical intelligence. GSC is very good at helping you uncover duplicate content, technical indexation issues, crawl errors, resource blocking, structured data, alternative language issues, mobile usability, and more. They’ve also upgraded their search analytics to allow you to break down your site’s traffic (though data is typically truncated) by almost any way you can imagine.

However, GSC is very weak when it comes to things like understanding page-level keyword targeting and optimization, as well as link analysis.

Additionally, they also send helpful (or sometimes no so much) messages regarding important issues affecting your site. On the flip side, they can sometimes send notoriously vague descriptions of potential issues and in some cases, penalties and manual actions that have been taken against a site. In most cases, the support for such issues is limited as well.

15. Bing Webmaster Tools
The lesser-used of the two major webmaster tools providers. While most folks only think about Google, as Bing does still hold a decent search market share, it’s still important to understand how they are regarding your site’s content and technical components.

Personally, I think their version of webmaster tools, though it gets less publicity than GSC might actually be better for SEO’s. It allows you to do most of what GSC can do – some things a little better, some a little worse. They are much stronger with respect to embracing some key SEO features including keyword research, site analysis, and even allow you to plug in specific pages so they can give you recommendations on how better to handle.

Unfortunately, the don’t give you anything alternative-language related, no structured data reporting, no mobile reporting, and lack in a few other areas. Other than that, pretty good tool.

16. Deep Crawl
This tool is one of the best tools I’ve worked with when it comes to technical audits. It truly automates the process of technical analysis and provides super deep and incredibly valuable insights on most key areas of technical optimization.

While I personally look at more than this tool does in my own manual technical audits, the tool makes up for it by still being fairly comprehensive and by completing things much more quickly than I could ever hope to.

The tool covers most of the fundamental stuff well and even a few things you might not expect, but I think it has room for improvement when it comes to providing recommendations, helping webmasters improve site speed, and cross-device analysis.

17. Screaming Frog
My personal favorite when it comes to Ad Hoc site crawling. This tool is an industry-standard and is a table stakes technical analysis tool. Like Deep Crawl, it crawls quickly and goes deep into your site to uncover all kinds of great technical nuggets. You’ll be able to get a feel for most of the key tech issues impacting your site using this tool.

The downside to this tool is simply this – you kind of have to know what you’re looking for. Unlike deep crawl, the user interface is limited in terms of how they display and summarize data and tends to require a bit of tech savvy to understand what you’re looking at. Additionally, the tool involves a lot of exporting of reports rather than providing a comprehensive dashboard and doesn’t really allow for much automation.

All that said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a technical SEO who doesn’t regularly use this one.

18. Xenu Link Sleuth
Very similar to Screaming Frog though not quite as good. It will get you by in a pinch, but doesn’t have near the capabilities of SF or Deep Crawl.

Site speed tools

Site speed is in my opinion the most overlooked SEO enhancement, which is surprising given the obvious benefits to user experience, mobile experience, conversion, and even organic rankings.

As a result, I’ve grown quite accustomed to the ins-and-outs of what makes sites go fast, and below are some of my favorite tools – which I often use in combination with each other.

19. Google Page Speed Insights
This is probably the industry-standard tool, although it’s not my personal favorite. They use 0 to 100 scoring, and are the only tool that I’m aware of that provides grading for both mobile and desktop, as well as user experience (for mobile).

This tool is quick, does a nice job of breaking things down by priority (should fix, consider fixing, passed), and provides some specifics on how to fix – though not to the level of GT Metrix.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide load time, page size, number of server requests, etc., which is something that a few other tools provide. Without this, outside of improving the score, it makes it hard to correlate per-second improvements in performance to performance on the site.

20. WebPageTest.org
This is a standard tool and it is one of the only tools (Pingdom is the other) that provides load times, page size, number of server requests, etc. Additionally, it does a good job of breaking down initial load time and full-page load time – which is an important distinction. It is also Google-sanctioned.

While it does offer some scoring around certain components that may be negatively impacting speed, it doesn’t kick out recommendations and the other tools, isn’t as extensive in terms of the variety of components it reports on, and is not as user-friendly as other tools.

21. GT Metrix
This tool is by far my favorite! It uses a scoring system similar to Google Page Speed Insights, but offers much more in-depth analysis of a wider variety of features, and provides really great detail and information about each component. Additionally, it integrates YSlow scoring which gives you even more detail and offers a little differentiation in some of the things it looks at. It also gives you a load time, which isn’t something that other tools always give.

22. Varvy
This is one of my personal favorites and aside from having a scoring system similar to the other websites, it is the only tool that does the job of breaking the external files such as JavaScript, CSS, and images into actual counts for analysis. No other tool does that (that I’m aware of). Similar to the other tools, my gripe is the lack of an actual load time.

Additionally, the creator of the site Patrick Sexton, has done a great job explaining and simplifying almost all of the really difficult-to-learn complexities that go into how a site loads. I’m a big fan of the content he’s put together.

23. Pingdom
Pingdom is a great tool for guaging site load time. After WebPageTest.org, it is one of the only other tools that kicks out an actual load time, as well as page size, browser request waterfall, etc. It does an okay job of diagnosing some of the key issues, though the explanations are not quite as extensive as some of the other tools in terms of how to fix.

24. Compress JPG
A great lossless image compression tool. Allows you to upload multiple images at once, works quickly, shows percentage of file-size saved, and kicks out a nice quality image. This site also has PNG and PDF compression tools.

25. CloudFlare
A pretty good (and free) CDN. Though it requires some changing at the hosting level (e.g. CNAMES), I’ve yet to be disappointed with this service. It also has a plugin for WordPress sites (see below).

Relationship management & outreach tools

26. BuzzStream
This tool may be one of the best I’ve seen when it comes to end-to-end relationship management. Their tool get’s an A+ when it comes to identifying influencers within almost any niche, as well as assisting in the management and tracking of personalized outreach and helping to facilitate the development of key relationships.

In my experience, some of the relationships developed using this tool have ended up allowing us to work with influencers who have played a critical role in some of my client’s content strategies. The tool is one of the best in the industry at what it does and has been invaluable for our content marketing programs.

Local SEO tools

Local SEO can be a bit of a bear to get your arms around, and these tools can go a long way towards making that process much more efficient and palatable.

27. Yext
This is probably the best tool when it comes to getting your locations listed in local search engines. Due to their vast network of relationships and access to API’s, they are probably the best source to ensure that your local listing information gets distributed across all the major search engines in an accurate and consistent way. As managing bulk feeds can be a bit of a hassle across multiple local engines, it’s nice to be able to pay someone to handle it all. Additionally, they can also help with suppression of local listings.

They also have a really nice product offering where they create local pages that are geared towards garnering visibility for your locations. When combined with the PowerListings product, it’s a pretty powerful combination that can really allow you to isolate and measure the impact of each product.

The biggest downside to their product would probably be contract terms – which are 12 months. In my experience, that’s been relatively non-negotiable. While their yearly pricing is fair, if your business is seasonal only (such as a Halloween store), then these terms may make Yext’s offerings cost-prohibitive.

28. AllLocal
This tool is essentially a lower-end version of Yext. They offer listing management services that are fairly similar. However, AllLocal does not offer as wide a variety of products as Yext.

29. Moz Local
This is another industry-standard local SEO tool. Similar to Yext and AllLocal, they allow you to submit your listings across their vast network of local search engines.

While they don’t offer pages or anything beyond the listing management, they do have a very nice Ad-Hoc local listing checker tool which does a relatively nice job of giving you a feel for how much needs improved on an individual location level. I’ve used it many times to look at location-specific information and have been pleased, though I wish they offered more advanced bulk auditing features – something which would be invaluable for businesses that have hundreds or thousands of locations.

WordPress-specific tools/plugins

Doing SEO on WordPress out-of-the-box is not super easy. These plugins work with WordPress’ unique platform to ensure that you have the same (or similar) SEO capabilities as a normal site.

30. Yoast SEO for WordPress
This is quite simply the best WordPress SEO plugin available on the market! The free version is incredibly robust, and the pro version brings even more to the table. There is almost nothing this tool can’t do.

Right out of the box, you can manage page/post-level optimization of titles/meta, concatenation schemas, XML sitemap generation, canonical tags, social tagging (Open Graph, etc.), page-level SEO scoring and suggestions, snippet previews, robots file management, breadcrumbs, and more.

The pro version also integrates video, local, and more.

31. All-in-One SEO Pack
A great alternative SEO plugin. Not as many features as Yoast, but still does a ton of great stuff out of the box.

It has all the standard stuff such as page/post-level optimization of titles/meta, concatenation schemas, XML sitemap generation, canonical tags, and more. What really sets it apart is the integration of Nonce Security.

The plugin lacks a bit when it comes to page-level optimization analysis, social considerations, webmaster integration, etc.

32. Google XML Sitemaps
If you have Yoast or All-in-One installed, you won’t need this plugin. However, if you don’t, this is an easy way to get an XML sitemap for your WordPress sites.

33. Speed Booster Pack
This plugin is my personal favorite when it comes to improving site speed. It really helps with fixing render-blocking CSS and JavaScript issues, can move JS to footer automatically, can load CSS asynchronously, helps with minification, and much more.

34. AutoOptimize
This plugin does a great job helping sites improve site speed primarily through minification of all HTML, CSS, and JS, along with a bit of caching capability.

35. WP Smush
This plugin should help with automatic image compression, which will reduce the payload of images being uploaded via WordPress, and thus site speed.

36. W3 Total Cache
A good caching plugin, which is compatible with MaxCDN (Paid CDN)

37. W3 Super Cache
This is another really strong caching plugin. Probably not as strong as W3 Total Cache, but not far off.

38. Google Web Font Optimizer
If you’re using Google Web Fonts (like I am), this plugin helps to optimize how the fonts are loaded to avoid render-blocking issues – which improves site speed.

39. WP-Optimize
This plugin allows you to extensively clean up your WordPress database and optimize it automatically so that old junk in that file doesn’t bog down performance and site speed.

40. CloudFlare
Another great speed plugin – this one will help you connect with the CDN service CloudFlare, which is a pretty good (and free) CDN (see above).

41. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
This plugin creates a profile of your WordPress site’s plugins’ performance by measuring their impact on your site’s load time.

Bonus: Tools I’d like to try

These are tools that I’d like to get my hands on, but just have not had the opportunity.

42. Conductor
43. SearchMetrics
44. BuzzSumo
45. Botify
46. SERPs.com
47. SEO-Browser.com
48. Whitespark
49. MaxCDN
50. Xone
51. Kerboo (formerly LinkRisk)

So you have experience with any of the SEO tools above? Any SEO tools you’ve enjoyed that didn’t make the list? Let’s discuss below in the comments section.

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