Ch. 8 – Your Tools – Critical Thinking

Your Tools


There are tons of tools available for KW research and analytics, many of them free, some a one-time purchase and others a monthly subscription. For those still learning, a free tool is probably the wisest choice, at first, in order to learn what can be accomplished with tools. Then, you’ll be better able to select the tool that best suits your needs.

Much depends on the nature of your work, too. For instance, some sites will require a very granular analysis of referrers while others might be more interested in less detailed data. Many tools do a great job in one area, and fall short of the mark in another.

That’s why many SEOs will have a number of different tools that they draw upon, depending upon what their immediate goals are. I know several that use a handful of tools on each site audit, in order to extract the information they want. Others may stick with nothing more than Google Search Console and an Excel spreadsheet to drill down to the necessary level.

Unfortunately, the majority of the tools out there have a lot in common. In fact, some are nothing more than copies of others, offering nothing new. Most of us will go through a long array of tools before we finally settle on a collection that we feel comfortable relying upon.

Those that are proficient coders will sometimes build their own tool, concentrating on the criteria that are important to them. The ability of a tool to focus upon only certain data can result in a tool that is faster or more granular than others, either of which can be a major benefit.

A good place to start, of course, is to talk to others, and hear which tools they’ve come to prefer after having gone through that selection process. Perhaps it’ll help you to hear what tools these members of our panel of contributors prefer.


We put this question to our contributors:


7. What tools, if any, do you regularly use in your work?


Alan Bleiweiss

My team.  Oh – sorry – they’re not really “tools” in the negative connotation.  They’re “tools” in the sense that each is someone who is becoming ever more skilled in certain aspects of our industry.  Content writing, social media, code, keyword research, project management…

Each therefore serves a purpose in helping me achieve my goals and our company’s goals.  And so yeah, from the regard of “we need to achieve a certain goal, we’ll need the following tools”, that’s my team nowadays J

If you’re looking for an answer regarding industry based automated solutions that help us do our work more efficiently?  Here’s my list of tools:

Google Keyword Tool  dashboard




Google Analytics

Google Webmaster Tools

Bing Webmaster Tools

In addition, more and more, I’m diving into using the internal Click2Rank app, a dashboard that initially came from the mind of Kris Roadruck, and that I’ve overseen the evolving of.  It’s replacing our use of Basecamp for project management, various and sundry rank checkers, and it even has a great fundamental ORM aid.

Andrea Scarpetta

Excel (doh)

Seomoz tools


Market Samurai (less and less, unfortunately has been nerfed)


Link assistant (the Rank tracker module)

Andrew Bleakley

I am not using any tools anymore. A couple of years ago they were a useful way to automate several processes, but as search results are becoming more localised, personalised and socially influenced the gaps between what an automated tool reports and what the customers and clients see is getting to great to try and shortcut. The tools will eventually catch up with how “real people” use search results but at the moment they are just not there.

Anthony Verre

Screaming Frog, Google Keyword Tool, Majestic SEO, SEOMoz’s Tool Suite

Barry Adams

I use different tools for different types of internet marketing. For SEO the tools I rely on the most are Screaming Frog’s SEO spider, SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer, MajesticSEO, and a lot of plugins for my browsers. I also make abundant use of Excel and the various tools that Google provides, such as Webmaster Tools.

Google Analytics is an absolutely vital tool for any internet marketer, as without the insights it can provide you’re just groping around in the dark. An internet marketer that isn’t perfectly comfortable with web analytics isn’t a good internet marketer.

But the most important tool of all is my brain, specifically my common sense. IM is a fast-moving industry that requires constant learning and improving, but it’s also rife with hype, and a good set of brains will pierce that hype and allow the marketer to focus on stuff that really works.

Dana Lookadoo

Gosh…this is tough. I’m going to “cheat” and give you the top 3:

  1. Brain
  2. Excel
  3. Browser – spend a lot of time looking at the SERPs

Other tools are too numerous to list and vary depending upon the aspect of the project. If you asked which one free tool could I not do without that’s not listed above?

IIS SEO Toolkit by Microsoft

Paid tools? SEOmoz and SEOBook are regularly-used tools sets, plus a few more.

Danny Sullivan

Twhirl. WordPresss. ChartBeat. CoTweet. Twitter apps on my iPhone and Android. Sea Monkey for off-line authoring.

Dean Cruddace

Domain Samurai, Google Keyword Tool, QUIX, URIM, CherryPicker, GeoSetter, SEOSpyglass, AWR, IIS SEO Toolkit, ScreamingFrog, Pixie, Irfanview, TOAD for MySQL and few of the other usual suspects like Google Analytics, Statcounter, Wordtracker make their way into my daily routines. All of them make my life as an SEO a little easier.

Debra Mastaler

I can’t live without my alert services, I have no less than four running at the same time, each with about 50 keywords phrases.  I also use DropBox,, with as much travelling as I do, it’s a convenient way to store and access information.

Eren McKay

I have a huge list of tools that I use, that I’ve collected over years. Most of them are totally free. There are too many to list them all here. I’ll soon be launching this list on my blog:  .

Gabriella Sannino

Google Webmaster Tools, WebCEO, Raven Tools, SEOmoz, Cavario, and anything else I can get my hands on.

Garrett French

I use my broken link building tool ( ), spreadsheets, Yahoo Site Explorer (and when it closes will switch to OSE), my SERP scraper tool for content promotion prospecting , email, a countdown timer so I don’t stay in research mode too long ( ), the link opener tool for opening LOTS of URLs at once ( ), Pandora for music, Google of course and lastly the unbelievably nifty Google Suggest Scraper ( .)

Heather Lloyd-Martin

I love Wordstream. 🙂

Hugo Gill

Xenu Link Sleuth, Screaming Frog SEO Spider, SeoBook’s SEO Toolbar, Link Diagnosis and various Keyword Research Tools.

Ian Lurie

Google Spreadsheets. I use it for calculation and analysis, and as a scraper/dashboard for clients.

Jahnelle Pittman

Anything I can get my hands on! For the most part, I use a mix of old-fashioned, by-hand-through-the-SERPs research and Excel. As tools get more powerful, I’ve started using programs like RavenTools and WebCEO as a starting point for research, and Google Analytics or other analytics program for monitoring/tracking.

Jey Pandian

I use search and primarily keyword research tools such as SEO Book’s

Keyword Research Tool and SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer

Joe Hall

Raven’s SEO Tools, WordPress, and many self built ones.

Joshua Titsworth

I’m a big fan of SEOmoz and Raven Tools. SEOmoz has an awesome set of tools that cut a lot of the work time in half. Raven is great for tracking data and comparing current site behaviour to that of past behaviour. Awesome tools everyone should be using.

Justin Parks

A pretty wide range of things. I use all the available Google tools when I’m doing my work. Google Keywords, Analytics, Trends and webmaster tools to cite just a few.

I don’t tend to go for third party products except maybe Majestic and Raven tools as I find most of them limited, due to the data sets they can process or because they don’t provide the right type of information I need for European-based research.

So many have neglected or simply don’t address data from this side of the pond that you have to be cautious about the information you analyse.

Lyena Solomon

I use many tools for different purposes.  For SEO projects I use SEOmoz tools (Open Site Explorer, toolbar, keyword difficulty tool, dashboard, labs, etc.), Raven Tools, Market Samurai, SEM Rush, Majestic SEO, Xenu, IIS SEO Toolkit, WhiteSpark, and others.  For Analytics, I use Google Analytics, WASP plugin for Firefox, NextAnalytics plugin for Excel.  My favourite usability tool for websites is CrazyEgg.  I have also used FeedbackArmy, 4Q and Usabilla.

Michelle Robbins

There are 2 tools I’ve used regularly since I began doing this in the mid 90s – TextPad (every day) and Xenu (multiple times per week at least).

M.J. Taylor

My brain and my instinct – oh, and my computer;  Google Analytics, WT, Adwords – I use PPC campaigns to test keywords.

Rand Fishkin

I have a whole presentation I just did on this topic!

Rebekah May

I take advantage of a number of tools in my daily work.  To start off with, I have Pro Membership with SEOMoz, which offers some really great tools – my favorite being Linkscape which is an absolutely wonderful tool for link building, auditing and more.

I also use a variety of toolbars.  I have the SEOMoz toolbar, web developer Toolbar and also use Firebug and SEOQuake.

As far as Keyword tools go, depending on my needs I will use SEOMoz’s tool, Keyword Spy, SEMRush, or Wordstream.

I will also use tools like Whitespark to research citations around the web which is useful for both my own sites and my clients sites when I am working on local SEO campaigns.

S. Emerson

Google Webmaster Tools to observe how the sites are doing, find pages that need some internal link loving and assess any other information Google cares to share with me. Improve Internal Linking Using Google Webmaster Tools. Verify Site Ownership – Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools Overview.  Create Account at Google. Google Analytics to get my weekly report for each site.  Results in the reports are up and down each week but use this as a general guide of how the sites are doing.

Yahoo! Site Explorer to check backlinks but they are doing away with that tool so I will have to find a replacement.

A header checker to double check my 301 redirects have been done correctly.

Google Adwords Keyword tool to check the viability of keyword phrases I am considering using then check each major search engine for the results when the keyword phrase is searched for.

Services provided by W3C such as the W3C HTML Validator  to check my coding for errors and W3C CSS Validator to check for CSS errors.  I use the validators to make sure coding is not an issue when checking for cross-browser issues.  The search engines have to be able to decipher poor coding but my philosophy is that if your site works in all browsers and is accessible then the visitors are going to stay (reduced bounce rate) and spread the word for you via word of mouth, social bookmarking and social networking (free incoming links).

W3C Link Checker  for broken links.  Sites close down or move their pages around without using 301 redirects so as a benefit to my readers I make sure the outgoing links are up to date.  There is nothing more annoying than an article having a broken link to a suggested resource. Find Broken Links.

For download speed I use Google Site Speed and Yahoo! Slow plugins in Firefox to check how slow or quick the sites are downloading.  Not only has Google included this in their factors, you are going to have a high bounce rate if the site is slow to download.  People are very impatient (me included) when pages do not download quickly enough. Test Web Page Download Speed.

Quirk SearchStatus plugin is installed in Firefox to check client sites for nofollow attributes that are damaging their internal linking.

The NoScript Firefox plugin I use to check for content that is script driven and the search engine bots will not be able to see.

Thomas Fjordside

Market Samurai,, Screaming Frog SEO Spider. And some tools developed for our sites.

Tim Nash

Most of the tools I use are custom built. When we do use third party tools, it’s because we need something outside our core competencies; for example, Capsule CRM is invaluable for maintaining contact, link building leads and blogger outreach, the same for MailChimp which we use for newsletters, mail shots and autoresponders. For engagement with users on our sites, we use Olark which is an instant messaging client that uses Jabber on the backend so members of staff can engage with our site visitors via their usual chat plugin. For twitter I use the chrome version of Tweetdeck which hopefully Twitter will keep up and running without adverts for a while longer.

William Slawski

I try to keep the tools I use to a minimum, but do regularly use Xenu Link Sleuth, the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Excel, and the search engines themselves (I like to look at a lot of search operator and query results).

Analytics and log file tools, and Google Webmaster Tools are also pretty helpful in finding possible opportunities to make positive changes.


You can begin with Chapter One of Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO here.