November 26, 2020 Last updated November 26th, 2020 268 Reads share

A Guide To SEO Tools for SMBs and the Key Metrics You Can Pull From Them

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To be successful with search engine optimization (SEO), it’s important to have the right tools. As a small to medium business, knowing which the right tools are is not always straightforward. The market is saturated with tools to help with your SEO so how do you pick the ones that are most relevant to your business?

Another consideration is cost. Paying for a suite of tools to improve your SEO can quickly get expensive, however, it doesn’t have to.

There are free versions available of most of the leading SEO tools out there whether you are conducting keyword research, analyzing competitors, tracking rankings, identifying technical issues, or implementing an effective content marketing strategy. The key is to understand which are the most relevant to your business and focus on those.

In this post, we take a look at ten of the best SEO tools for SMBs and identify the key metrics you can pull from each of those tools, helping you to decide whether they are the best fit for your business.

10 SEO tools for SMBs and the key metrics (including 6 bonus Google tools)

Tools can be both a blessing and a curse. With so many tools to choose from, you can sometimes end up using none of them to their maximum potential. Check out our list of tools below (both free and paid options) and pick and choose the ones that work the best for you.

Google Suites

We started to include a number of Google tools within our list and quickly realized that we could almost fill our entire top ten with free Google tools so we have bracketed all Google SEO tools together and given a quick rundown of each of them.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful and completely free website analytics tool.  Once installed properly on your website, you’ll be able to report on which marketing tactics drive the most traffic, which marketing tactics drive the most leads and sales conversions, how visitors use your site, which content they prefer, and so much more. This is an absolute must-have for all businesses large and small and it’s worth investing some of your training time on learning how to get the most out of Google Analytics and you can really drive improvements across your site.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Website visitor data

Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is Google’s free SEO tool. Once set up, you’ll get alerts if Google finds errors on your website and you’ll be able to view key stats like keyword rankings, number of clicks per keyword, number of times your website showed up in the search results per keyword, and your click through rate when your website showed up in the search results.

Plus, you can link the Search Console to Analytics to unlock even more reporting tools in your Analytics account.  For example, once you’ve linked these two tools, then in Analytics you’ll be able to review keyword rankings, click-through rates, impressions, and the landing pages that are ranking in Google.

Utilizing these two free Google tools together will really help you to unlock key insights when it comes to the performance of your website.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Keyword data, technical issues, coverage, sitemaps, mobile usability, schema, core web vitals

Google My Business

Local SEO has become an important factor for many businesses large and small. With the increase in local searches and the changing search results to incorporate more local map pack listings, local SEO has never been as important to SMBs.

A well-maintained and optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing can help small businesses to compete with larger brands in the local map pack space. Not only does it help your business to rank higher, but it also provides easy contact information, location information integrated with Google Maps, and testimonials from Google as well as other listing sites.

Prospective customers can easily contact you, find directions to your business, click to visit your website, or leave a review, all from one simple and free platform.

In short, it’s a free and indispensable tool for every local business.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Website visits, impressions, direction requests, calls

Google Page Speed Insights

Back as early as 2010, Google’s search team announced that page speed would be a ranking factor for desktop searches, and from July 2018, it was announced that page speed would also be a ranking factor for mobile searches as well.

Thankfully, Google also released Google Page Speed Insights – a free tool which not only provides you with an easy to understand score for your pages on both mobile and desktop, but it also lists all the issues (if you have any) that are causing your pages not to load as quickly as they could.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Page speed score, technical issues

Google Trends

If you’re looking for new industries to enter or you work in a large industry with many sub-niches, Google Trends can be a seriously useful tool. It takes all the search data that Google has and uses it to create intuitive graphs that show you the popularity of a topic or phrase.

This is extremely useful for SEOs as it can help us to spot potential trends, understand more about traffic spikes and drops due to seasonality and even spot potential keyword gaps before the volumes are picked up by keyword tools.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Trend data for topics and phrases

Google Keyword Planner

An absolutely staple for many SEOs when conducting keyword research is Google’s Keyword Planner. Whilst the tool was initially set up to help digital marketers to understand search volumes and potential click-through rates and costs per click data, it was quickly adopted by SEOs as a way of carrying out in-depth keyword research.

Over time, the data has become more restrictive due to the amount of data you can access, it’s still a great free tool for carrying out initial keyword research. We have found that over time, we cross-reference data from Google Keyword Planner with the data from our other keyword tools to verify the data is accurate.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Keyword volume, cost per click, impressions, and click-through rate

AnswerThePublic

This excellent keyword research tool has become a staple for most SEOs and the free version continues to offer good options for small and medium-sized businesses.

AnswerThePublic listens into autocomplete data from search engines like Google then quickly cranks out every useful phrase and question people are asking around your keyword.

It’s a goldmine of consumer insight you can use to create fresh, ultra-useful content, products, and services. The kind your customers really want.

According to leading Content Marketing expert Ann Handley,” It’s a fantastic, beautiful way to explore questions and problems that your prospects or customers actually have.”

Cost: Free and paid options available

Metrics: Keyword suggestions including questions, prepositions, and comparisons

KeywordTool.io

Sticking with keyword research, KeywordTool.io is one of the most popular keyword tools and this is most likely down to the simple user interface and easy to interpret data.

Similar to AnswerThePublic, KeywordTool.io presents a list of keywords that is broken into suggestions, questions, and prepositions. In the free version, you can access all the suggested keywords but without any of the supporting metrics. Upgrading to a paid account will give you access to search volume, trends, cost per click information, and competition data.

KeywordTool.io also lets you search other platforms, not just Google. So, if you’re interested in creating content for YouTube, or Amazon, or Twitter, you can carry out specific research on those platforms. In the paid version there are other great add-ons like a competitor research tool which can be super handy if you have the budget.

SEMrush

SEMrush describes itself as an ‘all-in-one marketing tool’ for digital marketing professionals. This is the one tool that we probably spend the most time in because it does allow us to do most of what we need to do in one place which makes it an appealing option for SMBs. There is a free version of the tool, however, this is very limiting in terms of what you can do but it does still provide some value, especially for small businesses.

SEMRush gives you access to backlink, traffic, and rankings data for almost any website on the internet, and the ability to set up projects that you can actively monitor for your own brand and your competitors make SEMrush a very powerful tool.

Cost: Free and paid options available

Metrics: Domain analysis, traffic, keyword, backlinks, technical issues, content marketing tools, social media poster and tracker, competitor auditing, ad tracking and analysis

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is the ultimate web crawling and spider tool available to consumers. It has such a massive range of uses but for SEO’s the most likely use is to crawl your website to check for errors and to scrape any on-page SEO related data.

In just a couple of minutes, you will see a detailed audit of all your webpages. From meta tags to error status codes, you can spot problems without taking the time to manually audit every one of your website’s pages.

The free version allows you up to 500 URLs for each crawl you make so for a lot of SMBs, this will tick the boxes. If not, the paid version is extremely good value for the powerful insights you can pull from Screaming Frog.

Cost: Free and paid options available

Metrics: Find broken links, errors, and redirects, analyze page titles and meta descriptions, review meta robots and directives, discover duplicate pages, audit hreflang attributes

SEOquake

This is a really nifty free browser extension for Chrome which packs a punch when it comes to SEO reporting.  Perform a thorough SEO analysis of any webpage with nothing but your browser at hand. All it takes is one click and one second. No cumbersome interface involved — adjust SEOquake to only display what you need when you need it.

The cool thing is that you can audit your own website or competitor sites in real-time. Their cool diagnosis features help you identify and fix various optimization issues that occur with modern search engines.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Technical auditing, keyword density, internal and external links, compare URLs and domains

WebPageTest

When we carry out a site speed audit, we like to use a number of tools and not just Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. This gives us a more rounded view of the overall health of a page/site when it comes to how quickly the pages load and the causes of potential issues.

One of the tools we use alongside Page Speed Insights is WebPageTest – a free tool that provides a detailed breakdown of the key metrics that impact page speed including multi-step transactions, video capture, content blocking, and much more. Your results will provide rich diagnostic information including resource loading waterfall charts, page speed optimization checks, and suggestions for improvements.

Cost: Free

Metrics: Security score, first-byte time, keep alive, compress transfer, compress images, cache static content, effective use of CDN

Majestic SEO

Majestic is a link database with indexed URLs from all over the internet. Majestic updates its database daily so you’re constantly looking at the most up-to-date data. It also prioritizes backlinked sites so you can get information on your own site as well as that of your competitors.

Linking continues to be one of the most important pillars of successful SEO strategies and Majestic provides info on where your links are coming from, how powerful each link is, a detailed anchor text profile of each link, and which content on your site is getting links.

If you’re a visual person, Majestic provides a range of charts and graphs which can help you to visualize your data and easily analyze the results.

Cost: Free and paid options available

Metrics: Link metrics including trust flow, citation flow, external backlinks, referring domains, outbound links, no follow attributes, keyword checker, and analysis

Ahrefs

Understanding and effectively using backlinks is critical for SEO, and Ahrefs gives you a full suite of backlink tools.

Use Ahrefs first to analyze your own site and make sure your backlinks are from legitimate websites. You can also use Ahrefs to analyze your competitors to see where they are getting their backlinks and identify new backlink opportunities for your own business.

Ahrefs is more than just a link analysis tool however and other tools within their suite include Site Explorer and Keyword Explorer. If you are considering an all-in-one tool then compare Ahrefs with SEMrush and determine which of the tools is likely to offer the most value in terms of the capacity of your team and the work you are most likely to carry out.

Cost: Free and paid options available

Metrics:  Technical audit data, keyword metrics, backlink metrics, keyword ranking data, content analysis metrics, position tracking

Moz Local

We’ve already touched on the importance of local SEO for SMBs and in addition to Google My Business, another local SEO tool is Moz Local. Whilst there are a number of other local SEO tools on the market including Whitespark and Bright Local, we have found Moz Local to be the best for SMBs thanks to its super-friendly user interface.

Moz Local allows you to input your business and track your local business listings across the web. The tool will then show you improvements that you can make to your local listing which will drive more customers to your business.

Citations are an important element of local SEO so ensuring you are not only listed in all the major (and relevant) directories but also ensuring consistency of NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information across all of these listings is crucial. Moz Local will help with that as well as measuring your performance, visibility, and reputation over time.

Cost: Moz Local is currently only available in the US, Canada, and the UK so if you are based outside of these markets, we recommend using Whitespark or Bright Local. Moz Local Lite starts from US $129/year

Metrics: Location data management, review management, profile management, automated duplicate deletion, listing info, performance, visibility, and reputation metrics

Summary

All the tools listed above are great for SMBs, however, you need to make sure you are going to really maximize your returns from using any of them. In our experience, it’s better to commit to using one of two tools really well rather than spreading yourself too thin across a wide variety of tools but not really using any of them effectively.

The Google suite of tools is a no-brainer when it comes to optimizing your site for Google. They are literally providing you with a suite of tools to help you rank better in their own search engine so take advantage of those as they are all free.

Outside of that, work out what is the most important thing for your business. If it’s local, maybe focus on a tool like Moz Local (or Whitespark/Bright Local). If your strategy is content-driven, then SEMrush may be a great option, as their content marketing suite of tools is really helpful and is complemented by a range of other SEO tools that can be used alongside the content marketing tools.

One other option you have is to contact an SEO agency. Here at Digital Hothouse, we have paid subscriptions to most of the tools listed above and by working with an agency, you not only get the benefit of a team of SEO experts, but you also get access to the tools that they pay for. Sometimes, this can be a lot more cost-effective than trying to do things yourself and can generate a much better return on investment.

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DigitalHothouse

DigitalHothouse

Paul Thornton is a Brit working abroad. He is the founder and CEO of one of Auckland’s leading digital marketing agencies,Digital Hothouse. Paul is an SEO and AdWords specialist with a strong focus on building long-term client relationships. After forming Digital Hothouse in 2010, Paul has grown the company into one of the most successful agencies in the country. Connect with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.

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