Since starting my own digital marketing agency in mid-2015, I’ve experimented with several SEO tools. I’ve tried them all — free, freemium, and paid.
In some cases, I had to subscribe to a tool just because my client believed it provided the most accurate information about their website.
Here’s the harsh truth: Not all SEO tools are created equal. A majority of them are not worth your time and investment.
So in this article, I thought I’d help other agency owners avoid the pitfall of investing in a mediocre tool by listing down 5 SEO tools that are worth investing in.
Before we get started, let’s set some ground rules.
This list will feature only all-purpose SEO tools, meaning tools that include all of the following five essential capabilities:
- Keyword research
- Competitive research
- Backlink analysis
- Technical SEO audit
- Position tracking
The list will not feature tools like BuzzSumo, Ninja Outreach, and Google’s very own Keyword Planner. While these tools are uniquely useful, they are not all-purpose SEO tools. For instance, Keyword Planner is just that — a keyword analysis tool within Google Ads. You can’t perform an SEO site audit with Keyword Planner. Similarly, BuzzSumo is an excellent content marketing and influencer outreach tool. You can’t use it for backlink audit or position tracking.
As such, the tools that are featured below perform all functions of SEO and provide actionable reports — from SEO site audit to competition analysis to rank tracking. By using any of these tools, you can improve the overall SEO of your clients’ websites and expect them to rank higher in search results.
If you’re able to find a tool within your current budget and one which can perform all the key SEO functionalities reasonably well, then you’d have arrived at your go-to SEO tool. I hope you’ll be able to find one such tool in the list below.
So without further ado, here are the 5 best SEO tools you can consider to scale your agency business.
Note: Before we proceed, I’d just like to iterate that we will be focusing on paid SEO tools. If you’d like to use free SEO tools, I’d urge you to check out 35+ Best Free SEO Tools to Instantly Boost Your Rankings.
Table of Contents
Top 5 SEO Tools for Digital Marketing Agencies
Use it if your top priority is keyword research, competition analysis, and site audit.
Price: Starts at $119.95/month (Click here for a free trial)
Let’s kick things off with my favorite SEO tool: Semrush. I’ve been using Semrush since the early days of my agency and it’s my go-to product for all things SEO.
Semrush is primarily known for its keyword research and competitive intelligence capabilities. If your client is relatively new in the market or operates in a space with lots of competitors, then it’s not going to be easy to rank for high volume, high competition keywords. In such cases, your best bet would be to start targeting low competition keywords with high traffic potential.
You can use Semrush’s Keyword Magic tool to identify the best keywords to focus on for your clients’ websites. You can find both head terms and long-tail keywords for your campaign, but if you’re targeting long-tail keywords with high traffic potential, look for keywords that have low-to-medium search volume, low competition, and low keyword difficulty.
The Semrush toolkit also features one of the most advanced SEO audit tools on the market. With the Semrush Site Audit tool, you’ll be able to quickly identify and fix all the critical errors on your clients’ websites.
- Semrush’s Site Audit tool does a thorough technical SEO site audit and helps you fix all the critical SEO errors on your site.
- The Organic Research report allows you to see your competitors’ best performing keywords, discover new organic competitors, and monitor position changes of domains.
- The Keyword Magic tool lets you find the best keywords to focus on for your SEO and PPC campaigns.
- With the Domain vs Domain tool, you can conduct side-by-side domain comparisons of up to five domains and see domains’ common and unique keywords.
Side note: If you’ve just subscribed to SEMrush or are an existing user, then I’d urge you to download our free eBook – “The Ultimate Semrush Playbook.” The eBook is an in-depth user guide to using Semrush for SEO, competitor research, and content marketing. Click here to download the eBook.
Use it if your top priority is backlink analysis.
Price: Starts at $99/mo
When it comes to backlink analysis, there’s no tool better than Ahrefs. It’s the preferred backlink analysis tool of leading experts in marketing and SEO because of its massive index size and the accuracy with which it presents the data.
Ahrefs boasts of having the world’s biggest index of live backlinks (16 trillion links) and its crawler processes up to 5 billion webpages a day. It also has a user-friendly interface which further bolsters its reputation as a top-notch SEO tool.
Over the last few years, Ahrefs has evolved into a complete marketing toolkit, offering separate tools for keyword research, site audit, and content. But Ahrefs continues to be known for Site Explorer — a backlink checker and organic research tool which offers an in-depth look at the organic search traffic and backlink profile of any website or URL.
With Site Explorer, you can see which websites link to your clients’ websites and their competitors’ sites and gauge the quality of their backlink profiles. You can also analyze the keywords the competitors are ranking for and see which pages bring the most search engine traffic.
Then there is Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker which is one of the most frequently used tools in SEO. With Rank Tracker, you can monitor your clients’ search rankings over time and chart their performance against that of their competitors’. You can also get scheduled reports delivered straight to your inbox.
- The Site Explorer tool provides an in-depth look at the backlink profile and search traffic of any website or URL.
- Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker lets you monitor your Google search rankings on desktop and mobile across 170 countries and chart your performance against your competitors’.
- With Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer 3.0, you can get thousands of relevant keyword ideas with accurate search volume, keyword difficulty score, and advanced metrics like clicks, return rate, and parent topic.
Side note: For a more in-depth comparison of features between SEMrush and Ahrefs, check out Semrush vs Ahrefs: Which SEO Tool is Better?
Use it if your top priority is optimizing your clients’ conversion rates.
Price: Starts at $560/month
HubSpot provides a whole suite of SEO and content tools to build your search authority and skyrocket conversions.
HubSpot’s SEO tools are integrated with HubSpot’s content strategy tool, a tool which allows you to easily discover and rank for the topics that matter to you and your clients. This integration can be really helpful when you’re researching potential keywords in your clients’ niche to create content on.
Since HubSpot’s SEO tools are also paired with other Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) tools such as landing pages, A/B testing, conversational bots, and calls-to-action, you can really focus on maximizing the conversion rates for your clients, both macro conversions (visitors buying their product/service) and micro conversions (visitors signing up for their newsletter, watching a promotional video, etc.)
Now let’s talk about the main drawback with HubSpot’s SEO suite: the cost. In order to access HubSpot’s SEO tools, you’ll need to upgrade to HubSpot Marketing Hub’s Professional plan which is $560/month. That’s a steep price to pay for a marketing software. As such, I’d suggest you consider this option only if you’d like to use premium CRO tools and to access your entire marketing software suite in one place. In other words, if conversions are your main goal, then you should probably go for HubSpot.
Side note: HubSpot also boasts of an extensive SEO resource library and their free SEO courses are remarkable for marketers and business owners who’d like to hone their SEO stills. You can sign up for the following free courses below:
- HubSpot provides topic suggestions based on relevance, competition, and popularity, as well as access to monthly search data so you can estimate how ranking for specific topics will translate to organic traffic gains.
- You can get actionable on-page SEO advice in the same place you’re creating blog posts, landing pages, and site pages.
- You can easily monitor the performance of your content to identify the topics that are working the hardest for you — and the ones that aren’t.
- You’ll also get access to HubSpot’s Marketing Hub tools such as landing pages, chatbots, live chat, A/B testing, email marketing, and more.
Use it if you have a smaller budget, but would still like a reliable SEO tool.
Price: Starts at $69/mo
The problem with most SEO tools is that they cost almost $100 per month. That’s the standard pricing practice in this industry. Popular SEO tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz are all similarly priced, which is not ideal if you’re just starting out.
Serpstat breaks away from this standard pricing practice with its basic plan costing just $69/month, making it a great alternative to SEMrush and Ahrefs for small agencies.
Launched in 2013 as simply a keyword research tool, Serpstat has gradually evolved into a full-fledged SEO and PPC analysis platform.
With Serpstat, you can do keyword research, competitive analysis, technical site audits, backlink analysis, and much more. The data generated via this tool may not be as accurate or comprehensive as other tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs, but it’s still a reliable SEO tool. And considering the fact that Serpstat’s plans start at a modest $19/month, it’s well worth the investment.
- Serpstat’s advanced site audit tool allows you to uncover and eliminate all the critical SEO errors on your website.
- With the incredibly useful “Search Questions” function, you can research niche questions and find ideas for creating traffic-driving content.
- With the “Related Keywords” report, you can generate all the search queries that are semantically associated with your seed keyword.
Side note: If you’ve just started using Serpstat, then I’d recommend downloading our free eBook – “The Ultimate Serpstat Playbook.” This in-depth guide will help you get the best results out of your Serpstat subscription. Click here to download the eBook.
Use it for its phenomenal keyword research capabilities.
Price: Starts at $49
Last but not least, we have the Mangools suite of SEO tools. Launched in 2014, Mangools includes five SEO tools — KWFinder for keyword research, SERPChecker for SERP analysis, LinkMiner for backlink analysis, SERPWatcher for rank tracking, and SiteProfiler for website analysis.
Mangools is perhaps best known for its flagship tool KWFinder — a cloud-based keyword research tool that helps you generate the perfect keyword ideas that you can use on everything from blog posts, website content, landing pages, and copy on PPC ads. But the other SEO tools in the suite are just as useful and available at a fairly affordable price.
So if you’re operating on a shoestring budget, but would still like to invest in a tool that helps you with day-to-day SEO, Mangools is your best bet. It’s the most economical SEO tool on this list.
- KWFinder — Mangools’ keyword research tool — allows you to find keyword ideas with exact search volumes and it has one of the most accurate keyword difficulty metrics on the market.
- With LinkMiner, you can find and replicate the most powerful backlinks of your competitors.
- SiteProfiler — the website analysis tool — allows you to analyze your competitors’ traffic, most valuable content, and backlink profile.
So these are the five SEO tools I’d recommend to digital marketing agencies. Based on your top priority and budget, you can choose any of these 5 SEO tools:
- Semrush – Use it if your top priority is optimizing your clients’ conversion rates. Pricing starts at $119.95/mo.
- Ahrefs – Use it if your top priority is backlink analysis. Pricing starts at $99/mo.
- HubSpot – Use it if your top priority is optimizing your clients’ conversion rates. Pricing starts at $560/mo.
- Serpstat – Use it if you have a smaller budget, but would still like a reliable SEO tool. Pricing starts at $69/mo.
- Mangools – Use it for its phenomenal keyword research capabilities. Pricing starts at $49/mo.
You can also check out these free SEO tools to supplement your SEO efforts, but to get the best results for your clients’ SEO and PPC campaigns, you’ll need to invest in at least one of the above SEO tools.
If you found this article useful, please share it on Twitter using the link below:
Editor’s Note: This article was first published on October 3, 2019 and has been updated regularly since then for relevance and comprehensiveness.