Evaluating which self-service SEO tools are best suited to your business incorporates a number of factors, features, and SEO metrics. Ultimately, though, when we talk about "optimizing," it all comes down to how easy the tool makes it to get, understand, and take action on the SEO data you need. Particularly when it comes to ad hoc keyword investigation, it's about the ease with which you can zero in on the ground where you can make the most progress. In business terms, that means making sure you're targeting the most opportune and effective keywords available in your industry or space—the words for which your customers are searching.

The caveat in all of this is that, in one way or another, most of the data and the rules governing what ranks and what doesn't (often on a week-to-week basis) comes from Google. If you know where to find and how to use the free and freemium tools Google provides under the surface—AdWords, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console being the big three—you can do all of this manually. Much of the data that the ongoing position monitoring, keyword research, and crawler tools provide is extracted in one form or another from Google itself. Doing it yourself is a disjointed, meticulous process, but you can piece together all the SEO data you need to come up with an optimization strategy should you be so inclined.
The terms SEO experts often start with are page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA). DA, a concept in fact coined by Moz, is a 100-point scale that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. PA is the modern umbrella term for what started as Google's original PageRank algorithm, developed by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google still uses PageRank internally but has gradually stopped supporting the increasingly irrelevant metric, which it now rarely updates. PA is the custom metric each SEO vendor now calculates independently to gauge and rate (again, on a scale of 100) the link structure and authoritative strength of an individual page on any given domain. There is an SEO industry debate as to the validity of PA and DA, and how much influence the PageRank algorithm still holds in Google results (more on that in a bit), but outside of Google's own analytics, they're the most widely accepted metrics out there.
There are three types of crawling, all of which provide useful data. Internet-wide crawlers are for large-scale link indexing. It's a complicated and often expensive process but, as with social listening, the goal is for SEO experts, business analysts, and entrepreneurs to be able to map how websites link to one another and extrapolate larger SEO trends and growth opportunities. Crawling tools generally do this with automated bots continuously scanning the web. As is the case with most of these SEO tools, many businesses use internal reporting features in tandem with integrated business intelligence (BI) tools to identify even deeper data insights. Ahrefs and Majestic are the two clear leaders in this type of crawling. They have invested more than a decade's worth of time and resources, compiling and indexing millions and billions, respectively, of crawled domains and pages.
Google recommends that all websites use https:// when possible. The hostname is where your website is hosted, commonly using the same domain name that you'd use for email. Google differentiates between the "www" and "non-www" version (for example, "www.example.com" or just "example.com"). When adding your website to Search Console, we recommend adding both http:// and https:// versions, as well as the "www" and "non-www" versions.
The SEO tools in this roundup provide tremendous digital marketing value for businesses, but it's important not to forget that we're living in Google's world under Google's constantly evolving rules. Oh and don't forget to check the tracking data on Bing now and again, either. Google's the king with over 90 percent of worldwide internet search, according to StatCounter, but the latest ComScore numbers have Bing market share sitting at 23 percent. Navigable news and more useful results pages make Bing a viable choice in the search space as well.
The emphasis on tools, meaning plural, is important because there's no one magical way to plop your website atop every single search results page, at least not organically, though there are best practices to do so. If you want to buy a paid search ad spot, then Google AdWords will happily take your money. This will certainly put your website at the top of Google's search results but always with an indicator that yours is a paid position. To win the more valuable and customer-trusted organic search spots (meaning those spots that start below all of those marked with an "Ad" icon), you must have a balanced and comprehensive SEO strategy in place.
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective, such as paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the practice of designing, running and optimizing search engine ad campaigns.[56] Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search.[57] A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate.[58] In November 2015, Google released a full 160 page version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to the public,[59] which revealed a shift in their focus towards "usefulness" and mobile search. In recent years the mobile market has exploded, overtaking the use of desktops, as shown in by StatCounter in October 2016 where they analyzed 2.5 million websites and found that 51.3% of the pages were loaded by a mobile device [60]. Google has been one of the companies that are utilizing the popularity of mobile usage by encouraging websites to use their Google Search Console, the Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows companies to measure up their website to the search engine results and how user-friendly it is.
Link text is the visible text inside a link. This text tells users and Google something about the page you're linking to. Links on your page may be internal—pointing to other pages on your site—or external—leading to content on other sites. In either of these cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you're linking to is about.

When it comes to finally choosing the SEO tools that suit your organization's needs, the decision comes back to that concept of gaining tangible ground. It's about discerning which tools provide the most effective combination of keyword-driven SEO investigation capabilities, and then on top of that, the added keyword organization, analysis, recommendations, and other useful functionality to take action on the SEO insights you uncover. If a product is telling you what optimizations need to be made to your website, does it then provide technology to help you make those improvements?


An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines[18][19][52] are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility,[53] although the two are not identical.
Searching Google.com in an incognito window will bring up that all-familiar list of autofill options, many of which can help guide your keyword research. The incognito ensures that any customized search data Google stores when you’re signed in gets left out. Incognito may also be helpful to see where you truly rank on a results page for a certain term.
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