Business owners and marketers don’t necessarily need to become SEO experts, but they do need to equip themselves with enough knowledge, data and access to simple SEO tools to allow them to understand how and why one site ranks higher over another, what’s holding a site back and the most important ways to quickly analyze any page they land on.
Below is a list of the tools many SEO pros turn to when they want to initially size a site up. By familiarizing yourself with and using these tools you can turn yourself into a much more informed consumer of paid SEO services as well as enable yourself to quickly spot competitive opportunities for your business.
In addition, you may find these tools helpful when sizing up the online presence of a prospect, vendor or potential strategic partner. None of these tools are 100% accurate or foolproof, but the next time a company pitches you on their awesome SEO services you’ll have the skills to snap a picture of how good they are at their own SEO.
Google Search Shortcuts – Google has a list of operators that you can use to do customer searches that will turn up lots of information on sites you are analyzing. You simply adds these search shortcuts in Google and you can slice and dice a website up in hundreds of useful ways. I wrote an article that gives more detail on my top 10 Google shortcuts
Google Search Console – This suite of tools are mainly for spying on your own site in a way, but you need to get familiar with them. This is where you can get reports on the pages Google is crawling, where you might have broken links, the status of your site maps and any issues Google might be encountering with your site. https://search.google.com (Check out our how-to for this tool)
SpyFu – As the name implies this tool aims at helping you understand what a site is doing related to PPC advertising and specifically AdWords. I shows the keywords they are bidding and shows a list of competitors for the same words. This tools helps you find competitors you didn’t even know you had in some cases because they are buying all their traffic and may not be showing up in organic search. http://www.spyfu.com/
SEMRush – Tool that offers some overlap with SpyFu, but I really like the amount of keyword data that you can dig up for keywords and phrases and quickly find out who ranks well for those phrases. http://www.semrush.com/
Ahrefs – Audit your website, explore competitors, research keywords & backlinks – all in one place. Powered by seriously big data & trusted by top SEOs. https://ahrefs.com
Wayback Machine – This tool, run as part of Alexa’s offerings is both fun and informative. The Wayback Machine allows you to look at what any site in their archive looked like going back as far as ten years in some cases. I don’t know how much practical intelligence you pick up here, but you might see a pattern in how a particular business has grown and evolved in design, offerings, and message. http://archive.org
7 Chrome Extensions Every Marketing Consultant Needs – The following seven plugins I keep at the ready for quick analysis. Some have overlapping features to be sure, but I like that as it gives me more depth and several looks at the same thing. More here
There you have it, put these tools to work and you’ll soon know more about every site your visit almost instantly.