Search engine optimization is probably one of the most misunderstood marketing practices today. According to Hootsuite’s resident SEO expert, Zak Ramdani, “Most marketers tend to think of SEO like they think of the ozone—they know it’s important but they don’t really understand it.”
So… what is SEO and why does it matter?
Ramdani, also known as The Great SEO Owl at Hootsuite, says SEO is about getting your content seen by the right people. It’s about making content discoverable so others will find it and share on social organically.
To make sure your content is being seen and shared, we consulted Ramdani on the best SEO tools out there.
The Best SEO tools according to an expert
Best backlinks analysis tool
Ahrefs is a backlink analysis tool—meaning it crawls the web looking for relationships between two websites. A backlink is a link from one website to another, and a credibility indicator to search engines. On the Hootsuite blog, we want to link to credible sources of information and vice versa.
Ramdani’s favorite thing about Ahrefs is that it’s comprehensive and is the world’s largest backlink database. Plug in any URL into Site Explorer and you’ll see all its backlinks along with some useful SEO metrics—like how hard it’d be to rank in the top Google search results for a specific keyword.
Best new tool
LSI Graph is an exciting new SEO tool which functions uniquely as a “latent semantic index”—also known as a keyword generator. LSI Graph brings up semantically relevant terms based on themes, related terms, and according to what’s been searched on Google along with those terms.
LSI Graph helps you discover popular and related queries, which comes in handy when you’re researching a niche topic or looking for something new to write about.
Ramdani tested out the platform with a search for “how to get more Instagram followers.” Results suggested “fast and free,” “hack,” “cheat,” and “instantly” as related terms.
This goes to show that people want a quick and easy way of gaining Instagram followers. At Hootsuite, we take these results and create content about why maybe it’s not the best idea to purchase Instagram followers—as we did in our post Want to Buy Instagram Followers? This is What Happens When You Do.
Best source code tool
NerdyData.com offers the technical makeup of sites. Instead of looking for words, NerdyData.com searches for source code. You can search for things like images URLs, plugins, title tags, meta descriptions, and any kind of pattern in web code.
How does this help SEO? Let’s say you’re looking for sites that mention your competitors but not you. With NerdyData.com, you can search for your competitor’s URL without mention of your own. Once you find all sites referencing your competitor, you could reach out and offer them your content so that they’ll include you in the future.
Like we mentioned on backlinks, by having these sites reference you, they’re giving you a vote of confidence that you’re a trustworthy source—which ultimately helps with your search ranking.
Best web crawler tool
The Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a crawler that analyzes the makeup of any website and checks for common SEO issues such as identifying page titles and meta data that are too long, too short, or duplicated on the site. This makes it a great SEO audit tool, as well as useful for checking the use of keywords on a website and competitive analysis.
Send Screaming Frog to any site and it will search for the keyword or file you’re looking for. For example, when Hootsuite reached 15 million users, our web team needed to change instances of 10 million to 15 million on every Hootsuite page. Instead of manually scanning each individual page, which would have taken weeks, the team ran a custom query on Screaming Frog. The web crawler was then able to produce each page referencing 10 million.
Best performance analysis tool
WebpageTest.org is a tool for evaluating website performance, specifically when it comes to response rate. The website runs a speed test from multiple locations worldwide, on different servers and various connection speeds. You can even control the device on which your website is queried. It then shows you the problems that are making your website load slowly and what you can do to fix them.
WebpageTest.org is especially helpful for SEO because page speed is one of the factors used by the Google algorithm to rank pages. Improving the response rate of your website—all around the world—will make your content that much more discoverable.
Best analytics tool
Google Analytics allows you to track every bit of traffic on your website, giving you a holistic view of your SEO—how people got to your website and what they’re doing after they get there.
You’ll see which terms people are using to land on your pages as well as your ranking for specific keywords, which is a leading indicator of performance. Use Google Analytics to get an overview of user behavior on your website and to gauge whether your SEO efforts are effective or not.
Using Google Keyword Planner is like “getting data from the horse’s mouth,” says Ramdani. One big advantage is that data is pulled straight from the Google search engine—where sites are competing for rank and visibility—so you can’t get any closer than that.
Enter a keyword or phrase into the tool, and Google will generate useful stats to guide your SEO strategy: monthly search volume, competition, and even suggested terms you maybe hadn’t thought of.
Using high-ranking terms in your content will make it discoverable. For example, for an article on Instagram captions, top words might include:
You’d want to have the terms being most searched for—“Instagram captions” and “caption”—and include it in your copy to make your article as SEO-friendly as possible.
Most versatile tool
According to Ramdani, SEMrush is the most well-rounded SEO platform. It does backlink analysis, position tracking, brand monitoring, generates SEO ideas, and more. It’s also significantly cheaper than some of its competitors.
To help you get started on the platform, SEMrush provides online tutorial videos.
One of its best features? Keyword tracking. You can use SEMrush to find keywords in any geographical location and on different devices—showing you local competition against your SEO.
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