Okay, so I’m a geek. Not your trendy oh-look-at-me-wearing-ironic-glasses kind of chic-geek. I’m one of those wrote-a-program-on-a-Commodore-64-at-8-years-old, and knows-more-about-comics-than-sports kind of geeks. I embrace my inner geek and there are two things I really geek out about – digital marketing and superheroes.
My favorite hero archetypes have always been those guys with no special powers granted by alien birth, toxic exposure, or freak science experiment gone horribly wrong (or awesomely right?!). Heroes like Batman, Green Arrow, Black Widow, Moon Knight, Oracle, Iron Man and other fairly ordinary men/women who had to rely on their keen wits, vigilant training and a fair number of technical toys to achieve extraordinary things.
Whether you’re working on social media for your own small business or SEO for a stable of client websites, it takes a pretty extraordinary person to tackle the daunting task of digital marketing. I’ll assume that, like me, you don’t special x-ray vision to make sense of a Google algorithm. You’re just an ordinary human intent on giving your website the best possible chance of ranking. In order to become an extraordinary digital marketing superhero, you’ll have to rely on your keen wit, constant training and your own arsenal of specialized tools.
Below are some of the many of the tools I have in my personal arsenal that help make the day-to-day grind of being a digital marketing superhero a little easier.
Digital Marketing Tools
Full Featured Digital Marketing Suites
Looking for an all-in-one, go-to toolkit already curated and managed in a single location? These full featured digital marketing dashboards & tool sets are industry leading powerhouses.
Moz Pro ($99/$149/$249/$599 per mo)
A fully featured web marketing dashboard & toolkit, Moz Pro is loaded with great analytics, analysis & tools to help you ‘measure and improve search, social and content marketing’.
The search panel adds a layer of analysis on top of your Google Analytics, helps highlight & performance strengths & weaknesses, assess page optimization and identify crawl issues. There’s a ranking tracker that keeps a weekly snapshot of your website’s ranking for targeted keywords. space is limited so you’ll have to track keywords sparingly.
A social tab offers at-a-glance status of your social platforms laid out in a beautiful set of graphs & charts. Track your social profiles and get insights on what content & channels are getting the most engagement.
Track your authority development over time with detailed link authority graphs including competitor tracking. Find new potential link placements with the Link Opportunities pane which finds mentions of your brand where there’s no link.
Moz has one of the best all-in-one digital marketing tool sets in the industry. My only holdout is the relatively small number of keywords and accounts you can manage for the money.
Raven Tools ($99/$249 per mo)
The ‘other’ fully featured online marketing dashboard & tool set, Raven is the only competitor that’s really in Moz Pro’s league. However, where Moz Pro is stingy with its keyword & account allowances, Raven provides unlimited campaigns & keywords – a major differentiator.
On the SEO side of things Raven also has a great site auditor that scours your site looking for technical issues and opportunities to improve your site’s crawlability. Ranking reports are powered by Google Webmaster Tools data giving you the average rank position for your targeted phrases. Lastly there’s a great link building tool that allows you to target & track new link placements in addition to monitoring your existing linkscape.
There are social tools for monitoring your social profiles, identifying high performing engagements and new engagement opportunities – and tools for monitoring & managing PPC, and organizing & executing content marketing efforts.
In my experience you get more for your money out of Raven Tools but either are great additions to your digital marketing toolkit.
Spiders & Technical SEO Tools
Our approach to website optimization begins with ensuring the site has a sound technical foundation free of costly technical issues that rob the site of rankings potential. That process includes testing the website’s structure & markup for common issues. It helps to have a few wonderful little tools to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider (Freemium – Free/£99 ~$168)
Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a freemium desktop application that allows you to quickly crawl an entire website (500 URLs free, unlimited in licensed edition). The spider fetches key onsite elements including page titles, descriptions, canonical tags, header content, links, images, CSS/script files, 404 errors, 302 redirects, duplicate elements/pages and the list just goes on & on.
This easy to use tool allows you to find and resolve common SEO technical issues, and spot new opportunities. The Screaming Frog spider has become a staple element in our initial technical site reviews. Highly recommended.
The free version is perfect for smaller sites, although it has a few limitations like being capped at 500 URLs and having fewer customization & filtering features. The licensed version is £99 (roughly $168 at time of publication)
Essentially the IIS tool kit is a fully featured web crawler, not unlike Screaming Frog, that scours whatever site you point it at collecting and analyzing data outputting a detailed report on the good, the bad & the ugly.
Everything from Robot.txt details to XML sitemap error, page title length issues to duplicate descriptions. Search Engine Journal has a great write up from a few years back detailing how to use the IIS toolkit– worth a read if you’re going to add this to your cache of tech toys.
The IIS SEO Toolkit is entirely free, with no restrictions on features making this a favorite among the Do-It-Yourselfer SEO superhero crowd.
Xenu’s Link Sleuth (Free)
The grand-daddy of all other SEO crawler tools, Xenu has been a staple in the SEO industry from before we called it “SEO” and it’s definitely showing it’s age. It’s ugly. A no frills, all technical, link mulching machine.
Like its progeny, Xenu is a web crawler. However, unlike most crawlers today which are fully featured, this O.G. had one central purpose – finding broken links.Super crafty SEOs have gotten a lot of use out of this simple tool. Ann Smarty found 7 things to do with Xenu – also worth the read if this tool finds its way into your cache.
Xenu remains both cost free and frills free today as it has always been. It may not be your go-to utility of choice, but having it in your toolkit does add a little O.G. SEO street cred.
Google PageSpeed Insights (Free)
Since being introduced in Q1 2011 page speed has been an important part of every good marketers technical assessment. A poor page load speed could mean a decline in organic search performance. Resolving technical glitches and optimizing page load time has become an important part of the organic optimization process.
Luckily Google also equipped us with a great tool for measuring our site’s page load time, and even provides us with suggestions on what to fix, and how to fix issues it finds. The PageSpeed insights tool has been updated several times since its launch and now includes clear, top level scoring, detailed issues and resolutions for both desktop & mobile, and even a user experience scoring mechanism for mobile results.
Speed Test bookmarklet
This simple little bookmarklet opens the Google PageSpeed Insights Tool from whatever page you’re currently visiting automatically filling in the URL from that page & running the test.
Pingdom Website Speed Test (Free)
Another great tool for gaining insight into your website’s load time, Pingdom provides a wealth of information giving an even more detailed look at your site’s technical page load hurdles.
Pingdom’s output includes a waterfall report indicating each server request, what was requested and details the timing of each part of the request took (DNS, connect,send,wait,receive) allowing you to troubleshoot problematic requests that may be hanging up your page loading time.
It also includes a performance grader which scores your site’s performance across a variety of page load characteristics providing detailed outlines of individual files or setting that can be altered for improved scores/load times.
Lastly there is a page analysis report which details the overall time expended on each file type, each stage of the request, each domain that is requested, and server response codes for all requests.
Pingdom is a must have resource for any brave soul tackling page load speed problems.
Pingdom Speed Test bookmarklet
This simple little bookmarklet opens the Pingdom Website Speed Test from whatever page you’re currently visiting automatically filling in the URL from that page & running the test.
WooRank Website Review (Freemium – Free,$49,$149 per mo)
The fairly exhaustive analysis provided by this browser extension is as impressive technically as it is visually. Stunning at-a-glance display of critical site elements collected, analyzed and presented in a clean, informative report.
The analysis includes dozens of data points from page titles to domain age, keyword frequency to image alt text, text/HTML ratio to indexation and tons in between.
This is one of our first stops when reviewing a competitor or prospect site. It provides very useful insight on the fly & definitely belongs in your tool belt.
Structured Data Tools
Schema & Microdata have become a pretty critical part of digital marketing over the past few years and it seems like it’ll be an integral part of search engine results for some time to come. Luckily, we have tools to help create & test the markup you need on your website.
With search engines paying more and more attention to Schema & microdata it’s great that Google provides an official tool to test your markup. Simply drop in the URL of the page you want to test and Google displays the Schema/microdata content it finds including a sample preview of the expected result snippet.
This simple little bookmarklet opens the Structured Data Testing Tool from whatever page you’re currently visiting automatically filling in the URL from that page & running the test.
Schema Creator Tool (Free)
This free web-based tool is from Raven as is the WordPress plug-in version. Simply click the type of schema you’re looking to create (person, product, event etc) and fill in the fields provided, the code is generated for you to the right side of the form.
Local SEO Tools
Optimizing sites & pages for local search phrases has become a critical part of meeting modern, increasingly localized organic search demand. The rules & details are still in flux as search engines scramble to insure their offering is meeting the growing demand for accurate, useful localized search results.
Sometimes the best tool is knowledge, that’s where Local SEO Guide comes in. Sure it looks like Andrew’s site was crafted in the 90’s, but the information he shares there is GREAT. You’ll find more up-to-date, expert level thought leadership on localized search here than just about anywhere else on the web. He’s even created a nifty tool to use in local search efforts (see NAP Hunter in the Chrome extensions section)
Moz Local Submission (Freemium – Free DIY / Submission $49 yr per location)
The new and improved GetListed service (founded by David Mihm, acquired and revamped by Moz) is a fantastic two-fer. The Moz Local search part is free and allows you to see how a business location is currently listed, find errors, duplicates and incomplete listings and even links to the appropriate places to help fix those issues.
The Moz Local submission does all that and fixes the errors, incompletes & duplicates for you in a handy dashboard to show you detailed progress. Moz Local curates your location details across a wide array of data providers including Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom, Factual, Foursquare, Superpages, Best of the Web Local and eLocal.
The time savings and holistic coverage is easily worth the $49 submission fee. This has become the business listing tool of choice for our team.
Universal Business Listings ($79 – $399 yr per location)
Another decent business NAP listing management service, UBL has been around for a while now and has a decent reputation. I’ve used them for years for various agency clients. Their submission costs are much steeper, tiered depending on the level of service you chose, ranging from $79 yr per location to a whopping $399 yr per location.
Distribution varies by tier but the Professional Package has a fairly broad distribution including AboutUs, ChamberofCommerce.com, Citysquares, Local Database, OwnLocal, ShowMeLocal, Tyloon, USCity.net, nSphere, Verizon, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Superpages, Yellowpages.com, Yelp, AOL, Citysearch, 411 services, GPS services, OnStar.
Keyword Research Tools
While search has changed a great deal over the years, and optimization now relies less on individual keywords than it did in the past, keyword research remains essential to our day-to-day efforts. These tools help in determining which phrases to focus on, what themes to target.
While Keyword Planner is described by Google as ‘a free AdWords tool that helps you build campaigns by finding keyword ideas and estimating how they may perform.’ the tool is likely used as much if not more often for organic keyword research. There are likely a ton of great uses for this tool as a research device for paid campaigns, but my personal use is primarily for organic means so my comments will be largely focused in organic.
The Keyword Planner allows us to estimate the traffic potential around individual keywords by telling us how much interest there is around each phrase. Essentially helping us prioritize which keywords are worth targeting.
We can also determine the competitiveness of each phrase based on the tools data, giving us an idea of how crowded the field is and how much effort it will likely require to rank for that phrase organically – or how costly it will be to compete in paid results.
It also gives us the relative value of various keywords based on the spend estimations it calculates. By sharing how much you’re likely going to spend to rank well in paid search for a phrase we can estimate the relative value of that phrase versus another. Phrases with higher average cost-per-click are often driven up by competition because the phrases convert better or drive a larger amount of the right audience.
Lastly, by entering the URL of a page we gain some level of insight into Google’s perception of that page’s relevancy. This is a great way to spot check optimization before & after changes or one version of a page against another.
Wordtracker (Freemium – Free,$27,$69,$99 per mo)
Essentially Wordtracker is similar to Google’s Keyword Planner providing an approximated interest value for each keyword. Wordtracker’s numbers are directional, like Google’s, but in my experience are a little more accurate – Google’s numbers tend to seem a little inflated.
Wordtracker also provides an estimated competition score for each phrase and helps you discover new phrases by extending out from your initial keyword set to related phrases.
The free access is extremely limited, just a handful of searches a day. The bronze account is fairly inexpensive and provides a fairly robust experience, further expanded in the Silver & gold packages.
Link Building Tools
Link building is dead, long live link building. Links remain an essential element of organic ranking algorithms, and likely will continue to be valuable for some time to come. Proper, white hat acquisition of relevant authoritative inbound links is an SEO ninja skill. Avoiding spammy, unethical ‘tricks’ and schemes can net you valuable long term authority, but you’re going to need some help – fortunately we have some excellent tools.
BuzzStream ($19,$29,$99,$249 per mo)
Link building, done right, can be a VERY time consuming task, BuzzFeed helps take some of the time-sink out of the process. Quickly add link prospects to your dashboard straight from your browser toolbar, collect important valuation metrics on-the-fly, retrieve contact information automagically, and even dig into social influence all from a clean, intuitive dashboard.
BuzzStream doesn’t stop at helping you collect prospects. It has an in-depth relationship management feature that tracks your contacts and conversations allowing you to manage all communication directly from the dashboard.
Ahrefs (Freemium – Free,$79,$179,$499 per mo)
Backed by a massive index of links Ahrefs’ Site Explorer outputs a mountain of valuable backlink insights. Of course, there’s just a sliver of information available for free, the real juice is behind a subscription.
Not only can you get a detailed snapshot of your or your competitor site’s backlinks, but ahrefs tracks and stores data over time. You can see the progress you’ve made or the losses you’ve encountered graphed over past months.
Majestic SEO (Freemium – Free,$50,$150,$400,$800,$1600 per mo)
Another great, albeit aging, resource for scouring your linkscape for issues & opportunities, Majestic SEO also provides a historical view of your site’s linkscape over time.
Majestic SEO keeps it’s own massive link index (historic and fresh) providing users with a wealth of actionable data & insights into their site’s linking status. Majestic is also a great tool for prospecting new links. By examining competitor sites you can find the most influential sites to pursue.
Performance Measurement Tools
It’s essential to measure the performance of the website you’re optimizing, and allow that performance data to tailor your strategy. It’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of your efforts if you’re not adequately measuring the performance of your site before, during and after each effort.
Google Analytics (Free)
A favorite of many marketers Google Analytics is a free, easy to use and fully featured analytics platform. Large corporate users will possibly need to upgrade to Premium, but the free version can easily handle even very large sites with substantial traffic demands.
Every digital marketer knows that recording and analyzing performance metrics is critical to any marketing effort. GA provides a mountain of data about every visit that comes to your website. From the time and source of each visit, to the operating system and screen size of each visitor.
While some critical data is now lost to us (organic search keywords that drove traffic) there is still an incredible trove of juicy data to analyze.
More complex set ups allow you to expand your insights beyond mere traffic & revenue numbers to track clicks on mission critical page elements & completion of vital lead forms.
Is an analysis layer that sits on top of Google Analytics and help you make more sense out of the data coming out of GA. Their tagline “Google Analytics tells you what’s happening. KISSmetrics tells you who’s doing it” says a lot. Essentially KISSmetrics helps marketers get a better picture of the people behind the raw data.
KISS represents a pretty significant investment, for most small businesses, but can be the ‘game changing’ element in it’s online marketing efforts. By focusing on the people behind the clicks, purchases and bounces marketers can get a really clear picture of how visitors are engaging with the site and how to mold the experience for better engagement.
Crazy Egg (Starts at $9 mo)
This feature rich, visual click analysis tool lets you see where your visitors are clicking by producing a heatmap and other overlay features.
The heat map overlays your webpage showing you where visitors clicked more frequently – this can help guide you in making changes that influence clicks and conversions. The clicks can be segmented into referring sources so you can differentiate Paid search ad visits from social media visitors to see if those audiences behave differently on your site.
There’s a ton of great conversion optimization data that can be gleaned from the super simple set up. There’s a 30 day free trial to check it out in detail before you commit to a nominal $9 mo subscription.
MySEOTool ($49,$99,$249,$499 per mo)
A personal favorite of ours, MySEOTool provides accurate daily ranking updates for Google & Bing, including a trend report showing progress globally, by keyword and by keyword tag (groups of kws) over time. Google’s estimated search volume numbers are pulled daily and displayed in the rankings report.
Connect your Google Analytics & Google Webmaster Tools accounts to include impression, click & traffic data for each keyword you’re tracking. Get a holistic perspective on how your marketing efforts are performing with just a few clicks.
MySEO goes above & beyond rank tracking allowing you to track social engagement, and backlinks as well. This simple tracking tool is quickly heading towards becoming a full featured SEO toolkit.
Social Media Marketing Tools
It’s important to engage your audience across all digital channels. Social media gives you access to a massive channel of potential customers, but can be daunting to tackle across multiple platforms. These tools help to minimize the effort and maximize the impact.
Hootsuite (Freemium – Free,$9 mo)
A great platform for managing your brand’s social media presence across all major platforms from a single dashboard including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more!
Access & control of the dashboard can be shared across an entire team of marketers & employees for collaboration. You can even give individual users different levels of access to various accounts.
Schedule tweets weeks, even months, in advance right from the dashboard, or on-the-fly while browsing the web or checking out a social feed. There’s even an auto schedule feature that finds the best time to publish your post for you.
Alternate: Buffer (Free/$10mo)
A dashboard for analyzing what content performs best for any topic, or any brand. Get social engagement counts from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google for the most popular pieces of content around a specific subject matter or from a particular website.
This is a great tool to assist in content strategy, helping you identify what type of content is most popular with a particular audience. Find social media influencers that helped your competitor’s content get popular and engagement them with your own content.
Competitor Research Tools
Another mission-critical element of digital marketing is digging up intel on what your competitors are up to. There are a number of really great tools for sniffing out your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to leverage their weaknesses and work around their strengths.
Similar Web (Freemium – Free,$99,$499,$4999 per mo)
A wealth of information about your competitors at the click of a mouse. This freemium tool gives a whole lot away, and has even more for those who pay. A peek behind the curtain of your competitions performance is a great way to measure their strengths & weaknesses.
Another way I like to use this tool is as another layer of valuation when vetting a potential content or linking partner. It’s a great way to get a feel for their site’s traffic, opportunities & vulnerabilities.
Compete (Free very limited peek, $199,$649 per mo)
Compete offers much of the same features, but has a solid reputation for data reliability. Compete is the de facto data source trusted by many industry leaders.
They don’t give much away for free. Just a small window into traffic data for a handful of domains per month and a little glimpse at competition data. You’re not going to get a lot of mileage out of the free version. This is a great investment for agencies or solo consultants working with major brands for which data driven recommendations can lead to a pretty steep price tag in execution. They’re going to want some pretty reliable data before digging too deep, Compete delivers.
Spy Fu ($79 per mo)
Another great sleuthing tool for checking up on your competition is Spy Fu. Having been around in the industry for years, this is one of the oldest tools of it’s type and is a staple for both SEO & SEM reconnaissance.
Spy Fu collects and analyzes data from hundreds of thousands of websites, Google ads, and SERP pages for millions of keywords. A subscription puts that data at your fingertips. Find out what phrases the competition is buying, what amount they are paying for their ads, how they rank in organic and paid for those phrases, the ad copy they’re using and more.
Access to this data alone might make the tool worth the subscription fee. If you’re managing both paid & organic channels there are efficiencies that can be gained and opportunities that can be leveraged just looking inward at your own paid & organic data.
SEMRush (Freemium – Free,$69,$149)
Another tool that has been around for a long time, SEMRush has had a number of iterations, but has remained an essential tool for SEOs & Paid search folks alike. Like Spy Fu, SEM Rush gives you a peek into your competitors paid & organic performance, and does an incredible job of it. Then it goes above and beyond providing a whole cache of other tools and insights.
Dig into a site’s backlinks, display advertising and organic rankings. SEM Rush has expanded beyond a simple competitor insights tool taking data mining to a whole other level. This is quickly becoming a fully featured digital marketing toolkit.
The free offering is limited to just a handful of searches per day making it perfect for a few competitor peeks here and there for the aspiring DIYer, but doesn’t give you much use as a consultant or agency. For Pro’s the $69 mo is an easy investment and will likely pay for itself over and over.
Chrome Extensions for Digital Marketers
Disclosure: Google’s Chrome browser is the go-to browser for our team. There are likely some great plug-ins for other browsers, but since we’re most familiar with Chrome we’ll keep our browser add-on recommendations limited to Chrome extensions.
Moz has a great browser tool set that’s free to everyone. It includes a couple of really useful items we consider critical to fast, efficient digital marketing. The toolbar gives you 1 click access to page elements (title, description, headers) including the content and character counts for each, canonical tag, meta robots, page load time, Google cache link, and markup review for sniffing out Schema, Microformats, authorship & OpenGraph markup.
You also have quick & easily accessible highlighting for dofollow/nofollow links, and key phrases on a page, and of course the tool gives you instant access to a page’s Page Authority, Domain Authority & MozRank data at a glance. Thanks Moz!
The Moz toolbar is one of the best browser add-ons a digital marketer could hope for, and definitely deserves to be part of your arsenal!
The Majestic SEO Backlink Analyzer extension brings all of the link sleuthing magic of Majestic straight to your browser’s toolbar. A single click of the extension’s icon displays a pane loaded with linking data for the page you’re currently visiting. For folks without a Majestic license there is a very helpful summary of link data. For licensed users the full array of backlink information is just a click away organized into intuitive tabs.
This simple extension brings the WooRank auditor just a quick click away. Click the icon and instantly process the current page through WooRanks incredibly informative site auditor. The audit runs in a overlay pane off to the left of the screen so you don’t even have to leave the page.
PageRank Status (now ‘Open SEO Stats’)
Despite it’s humble name, this is far more than a simple PageRank indicator. So much so, that the folks behind this extension should seriously consider a name change. As you might imagine it adds a PageRank indicator to the toolbar, but a simple click opens a pane with a treasure trove of useful data and links.
Everything from traffic information from Alexa & Compete to indexation numbers from over half a dozen search engines, WHOIS & social data and a whole lot more.
This add-on has been around for years – first as a Firefox add-on and then Chris Pederick, the developer, ported it to Chrome. It’s loaded with helpful tools for web developers and digital marketers.
A handy Chrome extension from Andrew Shotland’s team that makes the grueling work of finding instances of your businesses Name, Address & Phone Number much simpler. Just enter your NAP info into the appropriate fields and click ‘hunt’. The extension performs the searches, opens those results in separate tabs and then allows you to export the findings into a CSV for more thorough analysis
A relatively simple Chrome extension that collects & displays all of the schema content from a page. It’s great for a quick & easy sneak peak at the schema markup of a page on the fly.
This little extension allows you to mine great keyword opportunities from any site you visit prioritize them by search volume, relevancy & opportunity on the spot, or port them into Wordtracker for more in-depth analysis.
A simple, but powerful extension that extends your connection with Hootsuite beyond the dashboard allowing you to publish or schedule posts while browsing a website or from a social platform.
Clicking the Hootsuite icon produces a simple window allowing you to select which platforms you want to publish/schedule a post on, and providing you with options to post immediately, schedule a post or allow Hootsuite to automatically choose the best time to post it for you.
A tightly packed social data scavenging tool, Riffle gives you loads of valuable insights about individual Twitter accounts. Get at-a-glance access to nearly a dozen data points to help you evaluate a follower, fan, or potential engagement on the fly.
See Klout number, average daily tweets, tweet vs retweets ratio, favorites vs tweets ratio, popular time of day activity, platform usage data, popular hashtags, popular account mentions and more. Get tons of background on a twitter account with just a flick of the mouse.