SEO software isn’t cheap. Register for SEMRush and Moz and you’ve just said goodbye to over $300 a month. If you’re doing your own SEO or you have a very small SEO business, that’s a huge portion of your profits that you just can’t afford to lose.
But there are better and cheaper alternatives to these expensive programs. I spent a large portion of my career looking for them and testing them. I wasn’t a cheapskate, I just wanted to make sure I was getting a good deal.
Google Analytics = Free
This is the standard program for a reason: it’s better than anything else out there. It isn’t always as complete as I would like and I have experimented with others because of this, but I keep coming back to GA because it’s the only one that works consistently for what I need.
However, it’s important to know its strengths and weaknesses. If you want to track the keywords coming into your site, GA is not the best tool. 99% of the traffic is listed as “Unknown Keyword” and there is no way of narrowing down that field. The best thing about GA is that it tells you who is using your site, where they are coming from and how long they are staying.
For that essential information, you can’t get much better.
StoryBase = $50
StoryBase is a keyword finder that works in a very unique way, emphasizing long tail keywords as opposed to single keywords. This means that it focuses on phrases and questions, which Google is placing more emphasis on in its latest changes.
I was skeptical when I first used it as there is no way to determine how “easy” the keywords are. Unlike SEMRush and other keyword finders, it won’t give you an estimation of how difficult or easy a certain keyword is and it won’t tell you how many searchers there are that use it. But that information is just an estimate anyway and if you dismiss it and focus on the keywords themselves you can get some very good data.
I used a few basic questions for a project I was working on about the prevalence of car accidents in the US, helping legal sites and stat sites. I took a few basic keyword questions, implemented them into both and was pleasantly surprised when I saw those articles shoot to the top of Google for several keyword variants.
I have since used it for many more sites with similar results.
Majestic = $50
This can be expensive, with options for an $100 a month subscription and a $400 per month one. But the “Lite” option is more than enough and it’ll cost you less than $50 a month. It’s still expensive when compared to some of the other options on this list, but it’s so useful.
The important thing to understand with backlinks and how good or bad they are is that no one really knows. Domain Authority and Majestic’s own Trust Flow are just educated guesses. However, because it focuses more on quality links and on relevant links, Majestic seems a much more accurate system than any of the others.
One of the best ways to use Majestic to gather links is to see what similar sites to yours are doing. Punch their URL in, see who is linking to them and then visit those sites. There’s a good chance they will link to you as well.
The Best Software Overall
I’ve used Moz and I’ve used SEMRush. I’ve also used many other programs in my time. Truth be told, I would never go back to most of these. I was lucky enough to work with a very talented SEO expert who gave me free access to many expensive programs, including SEMRush. I fell in love with it from the outset and eventually bought my own subscription to stop hogging his.
I had similar luck with Moz, but I would not go back. It is not as intuitive, expansive and helpful. I love the support staff, don’t get me wrong. Those guys are great and are nothing but helpful and professional. But the software itself pales in comparison to SEMRush. If you have the money, that’s where it needs to be spent, but make sure you get Majestic as well.