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SEO Marketing

The 38 Best SEO Tools, According to SEO Experts (Including 22 Free Ones!)

July 15, 2021
September 30, 2021
Kelsey Donk

Doing SEO well takes more than the right technical skillset, it takes specialized tools. Read our unbiased recommendations about which SEO tools to consider.

Table of Contents

Google’s search algorithm changes so often, people once thought it got overhauled twice in two months.

First, in June of 2021, Google updated how its algorithm measured on-page experience.

Then, in July, SEO marketers noticed that Google had started rewriting title tags in search results, and started spinning about a potentially unannounced second algorithm update. 

It turned out not to be a false alarm — Google had just slightly tweaked how it pulls titles

But the false alarm was rooted in reality: Keeping abreast of Google’s algorithm, and how to optimize web pages for it, is a full-time job.

It can have huge upsides. Smart search engine optimization can 100X blog traffic YoY — for multiple years. 

But doing SEO well takes more than the right technical skillset and a taste for Google documentation. It takes specialized tools. 

For this story we asked Justin Emig, a technical SEO consultant and the director of e-commerce at York Wallcoverings, and 20+ other SEO experts in MarketerHire’s network what tools they value most.

Let’s dive in!

What are SEO tools?

If SEO is a science, SEO tools run the lab tests the whole field is based on. They help marketers optimize websites to appeal to search algorithms and measure SEO performance.

SEO tools fall into six main categories: 

  • Technical SEO tools crawl your pages and point to technical errors the human eye would probably miss — like a surprise dip in site health. Most SEOs can’t live without these.
  • Keyword research tools help SEOs plan their content. They monitor what people are searching for on search engines, and how often; they also monitor how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword or related keywords.
  • Content optimization tools pull data on content length, keyword usage and tone from top-ranking sites, making it simpler to write content that competes in organic search results. 
  • Backlink-tracking tools monitor which websites, and how many of them, currently link back to your content — a metric search engines use to measure trust. 
  • Link-building tools facilitate outreach to other websites and publications that could link back to your content. 
  • Rank-tracking tools measure your content’s rank across a variety of keywords, and can help you discover keywords you’re ranking for unintentionally.


Some all-in-one SEO tools bundle all of the above features — but for best results, you’ll need a variety of tools in your toolbox.

“Personally, I’ve never found one [tool] that does it all the way it should,” Emig said. 

“Personally, I’ve never found one [tool] that does it all the way it should."

The SEO experts in MarketerHire’s network agree. Most of them ranked multiple types of tools as “important” or “very important” to their SEO work. 

Source: MarketerHire

Not all tools fall neatly into just one category.  For instance, SEOquake, which we’ll get to below, is both a rank-tracking tool and a technical SEO auditing tool. For the sake of simplicity, though, we’ve divided tools up mostly by what they do best — only listing a few multi-purpose tools, like Ahrefs and SEMrush, in multiple sections.

Below, the 34 best SEO tools on the market, according to SEO experts. 

Best overall SEO tools

As Emig said, most SEO tools can’t do everything — but the following three tools come close. They provide a great SEO gut check, helping users optimize their sites and spot a variety of front- and backend problems. 

Ahrefs.

Source: Ahrefs

Price: from $99 per month

Ideal use case: You want a multipurpose SEO platform and are interested in using a proprietary algorithm with the Internet’s second most active “good” web crawler. (The most active? Google’s.)

What it does: Ahrefs calls itself an “all-in-one SEO toolset.” Its backlink database is what the tool is best known for, but its many other features include site auditing, competitor analysis, keyword research, content analysis, and rank tracking.

SEMrush.

Source: SEMrush

Price: from around $120 per month

Ideal use case: You want a solid “weekly check-in” tool. That’s how Emig uses SEMrush, and he said that in a quick glance, it shows him everything he needs to know about his sites’ performance. 

What it does: Like Ahrefs, SEMrush is an all-in-one tool. It’s known for its content optimization and link-building features.

Google Analytics.

Source: Google

Price: free

Ideal use case: You’re working on SEO, period. (Emig said Google Analytics should be the most-used tool in any SEO’s tech stack.)

What it does: While the other tools on this list are “sprinkles on the cake,” Google Analytics is the cake, Emig said. This insights and analysis tool has all the background on-site data an SEO needs to do their job. It tracks how users get to your website, the path they follow through the site and where they convert. It also provides metrics on user quantity and demographics.  

Best technical SEO tools

While most SEOs know some level of HTML, the most technical aspects of SEO are almost impossible to manage without specialized tools. Technical SEO tools assess all the SEO factors invisible to the user, like site mapping and pagespeed insights. Sometimes called “crawling tools,” they crawl your webpages just like a search engine would and flag issues.

“Technical SEO would be nearly impossible to keep track of without a tool,” said Eric Doty, global marketing manager at Summa Linguae Technologies. “Even the most experienced SEOs need help.”

“Technical SEO would be nearly impossible to keep track of without a tool."

Google Search Console.

Source: Google

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want to track site performance and search results using Google’s proprietary data.  

What it does: Search Console helps you understand how Google reads your page, and highlights issues that are keeping a site from performing in Google Search. It uses Google’s proprietary data to help site owners optimize performance — but Google isn’t quite as transparent with its information as, say, Bing Webmaster Tools. (More on that below.) Most SEOs use supplemental tools to fill in what Google Search Console leaves out.

Screaming Frog.

Source: Screaming Frog

Price: free, or £149.00 per year for a full license

Ideal use case: You want to uncover duplicate content, generate sitemaps and find broken links that can impact search rankings. 

What it does: Screaming Frog crawls and audits websites for common SEO issues. Its main advantage: Screaming Frog is a hybrid search engine tool, so it uncovers problems across different search platforms — not just Google. It’s possible to schedule crawls at regular intervals and have data automatically exported to a Google Sheet, so you can track historical data easily.

DeepCrawl.

Source: DeepCrawl

Price: available upon request

Ideal use case: You’re working on a site that has over 100,000 pages. 

What it does: DeepCrawl crawls your website much like Screaming Frog does, but stores data in the cloud, so it can run through massive websites faster; According to DeepCrawl, this tool can handle millions of URLs and billions of links. DeepCrawl also offers a task management tool, so users assign SEO fixes to teams and track their progress.

Lighthouse.

Source: Lighthouse

Price: free 

Ideal use case: You can see in another technical audit tool that your load time is too slow, or you’re hearing from users that it’s frustrating to wait to interact with your site. 

What it does: Lighthouse’s audit tests your page and then shows a report across six performance metrics. When Lighthouse encounters slower-than-optimal performance, its reference documents offer tips on how to improve speed.

Siteliner.

Source: Siteliner

Price: free up to 250 pages, then $0.01 per additional page 

Ideal use case: You're concerned that duplicate content might be harming your site’s rank. 

What it does: Siteliner crawls your website and provides a report on your site’s top duplication issues, and how they compare to other site’s duplication issues. The report also includes drilldown information on the word count, matching words, and update times of your most prominent pages.

Ryte.

Source: Ryte

Price: from $100 per month

Ideal use case: You need a Robots.txt file generator, or you’d like more analysis than Google Search Console can provide. 

What it does: Ryte analyzes data you import directly from Google Search Console, Google Ads and Google Keyword Planner, suggesting solutions for SEO problems like drops in traffic or new algorithm updates. Ryte is able to give you a heads up when your Google Search Console data indicates an anomaly in CTR, impressions, clicks and rankings. It can also store your site’s history and help you compare performance year-over-year.

SEMrush.

Source: SEMrush

Price: from around $120 per month

Ideal use case: You want a solid “weekly check-in” tool for technical SEO in between your regularly scheduled crawls, or you want a visualization tool with charts you can report out to key stakeholders.  

What it does: SEMrush has three technical SEO features: site audit, on-page SEO checker, and log file analyzer. The site audit feature checks for 130+ common technical SEO errors and delivers a report with problems divided into “error,” “warning,” and “notice” categories. The on-page SEO checker is a great place to look for optimization ideas. The log file analyzer tracks Googlebot activity so you can measure Google’s crawlers’ movements through your site.

Best keyword research tools

These tools help you assess trends in monthly search volume. For instance, do people search most often for “marketing tools,” “digital marketing tools,” or “SEO tools” or “small business SEO strategy”? 

Keyword research tools help you find out and speak users’ language. They also help you discover new keywords you could create content for. 

Once they use these tools, most SEOs run their keyword list through SEMrush or Ahrefs to check search volume and keyword difficulty. 

Juliann Rosales, founder and principal SEO consultant at Bella Rosa Group, said that keyword research tools — along with technical SEO tools — are the most valuable ones in an SEO professional’s tech stack. 

“If your business is not targeting the most relevant terms... all your other efforts will be in vain,” Rosales said.

“If your business is not targeting the most relevant terms... all your other efforts will be in vain."

SparkToro.

Source: SparkToro

Price: free with limited access, or around $40 per month for a basic plan

Ideal use case: You want to know more about who follows and engages with your brand and similar brands — their demographic information, behaviors, and favorite social media accounts — so you can produce content they’ll be searching for. 

What it does: SparkToro crawls platforms like Facebook and Caigslist and publishers like The New York Times, as well as companies like Home Depot and Walmart, to find out what audiences tend to post about and engage with. It’s primarily an audience research tool, but it can help generate keyword ideas.

UberSuggest.

Source: Ubersuggest

Price: free to register, then starts at $29 per month, or $290 for lifetime access

Ideal use case: You want to look for new keywords to target or you want to analyze your competitors’ content marketing strategies. 

What it does: Ubersuggest pulls keyword suggestions from Google’s autocomplete feature and AdWords, and its SERP analysis estimates social shares, page visits and domain scores (1-100) for sites that currently rank for the searched keyword. While Ubersuggest bills itself as an “all-in-one” SEO solution, it’s best for keyword research — its rank tracking and backlink tools fall behind SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz, according to our network.

Keyworddit.

Source: Keyworddit

Price: free 

Ideal use case: You know your audience is on Reddit and you want to know what they’re talking about in the subreddits so you can create content they’ll be interested in. Or, you simply want to find some potentially low-competition keywords to target. 

What it does: Enter the subreddit you want to search — not the keyword you think you might want to target — and Keyworddit pulls a maximum of 500 frequently-used keywords, listing search volumes from Grepwords for each one.

Google Trends.

Source: Google Trends

Price: free

Ideal use case: You’d like to see search volume for multiple keywords, broken down over time and by region.

What it does: Google Trends creates visualizations of up to 5 keywords’ relative search volume over time, using Google’s proprietary data. It doesn’t give hard search volume estimates like Ahrefs or SEMrush, but it can help SEOs spot regional search volume variations — and determine if one search term has more or less volume than another.

AlsoAsked.

Source: AlsoAsked

Price: free during beta period

Ideal use case: You’re trying to build an FAQ but aren’t sure what a natural flow of questions would be. You already used Google’s “People Also Asked” feature to get ideas, but you want more data. 

What it does: AlsoAsked reorganizes the questions found in the “People Also Asked” panel on Google search results. The difference between using AlsoAsked and just searching on Google — AlsoAsked groups questions by parent topic and shows People Also Asked results for slight variations, too. It also makes those questions easier to visualize, save to a PNG, and present to a team.

Answer the Public.

Source: Answer the Public

Price: free, or from $79 per month for more searches

Ideal use case: You want a “search listening tool” that can help you see auto-complete suggestions from Google by region or in a simple alphabetical order.

What it does: Answer the Public captures real-time auto-complete suggestions from Google. All results include your selected keyword with additional words that people are searching for — so if you enter “hire marketer” you might see a map that includes “why hire a social media marketer” and “hire a freelance marketer vs. a full-time marketer.” You can also create visualizations of auto-complete suggestions that group like keywords together — for instance, keywords that include the word “why” or “vs.”

Moz.

Source: Moz

Price: from $99 per month

Ideal use case: You want keyword insights. 

What it does: Moz bills itself as an all-in-one SEO solution, but it’s a keyword research tool first and foremost. Moz has been in the SEO game since 2004, and the company says it can now predict keyword performance with 95% accuracy. Moz Pro also does rank tracking, site crawling, on-page optimization, link research, and custom reporting.

Ahrefs' Keyword Difficulty Checker.

Source: Ahrefs

Price: free

Ideal use case: You have a list of potential keywords you’d like to target, but you want to estimate the effort required to get into the top 10 Google SERP for each keyword. 

What it does: Ahrefs measures a keyword’s difficulty by the number of referring domains each of the top 10 ranking pages has. For instance, when a keyword has a difficulty score between 71 and 100, Ahrefs estimates your content will need backlinks from over 200 unique domains to rank in the top 10 results. SEOs find new keyword ideas with this tool by filtering for keywords with high search volumes and low keyword difficulty.

SEMrush's Keyword Magic Tool.

Source: SEMrush

Price: from around $120 per month

Ideal use case: You already use SEMrush, and you want to do keyword research without adding another platform to your tech stack. 

What it does: Enter a parent keyword, and SEMrush generates a list of related long-tail keywords, grouped by topic. At a glance, you can view an estimate of search volume over time,  keyword difficulty, and whether the SERP has a featured snippet. SEMrush’s tool measures keyword difficulty based on the top 20 results on Google — unlike Ahrefs, which just looks at the top 10. 

Best content optimization tools

These tools help you optimize your content so it appeals to Google’s bots. They can help with drafting, editing, writing meta-descriptions and adding tags so search engines can understand your content and deliver it to searchers. 

“For us, content optimization tools are the best in our belt,” said Rebekah Edwards, co-founder and CEO of Clara. “They’re what allows us to create content that … answers search intent and serves the end user, which is really what SEO is all about.”

"Content optimization tools are the best in our belt. They’re what allows us to create content that … answers search intent and serves the end user, which is really what SEO is all about."

Clearscope.

Source: Clearscope

Price: from $170 per month 

Ideal use case: You’re looking for a Google Docs plugin for optimizing content while you draft and collaborate with editors. 

What it does: Clearscope makes it possible to optimize your content while you draft it. Whether you use the Clearscope editor or the Google Docs add-on, Clearscope grades content according to wordcount, readability and commonly used keywords, giving you keyword-specific benchmarks you need to hit to rank. It also suggests keywords to use in content headers.

Yoast SEO for Wordpress.

Source: Yoast SEO

Price: free for some features, or $89 per year for Wordpress plugin 

Ideal use case: Your team uses Wordpress, and you’d like to have a final SEO check before publishing new content. 

What it does: Yoast’s plugin runs readability and keyword analysis on each draft post, and displays internal linking suggestions. The 404 error feature can automatically redirect links if you delete content or move it to a new URL.

SEO Writing Assistant by SEMrush.

Source: SEMrush

Price: included in the $230-per-month Guru plan

Ideal use case: You already use SEMrush and want to do your content optimization within SEMrush, instead of adding another tool to your tech stack. 

What it does: Fully integrated into the SEMRush platform, the Writing Assistant uses your top 10 competitors for each keyword as a reference, and grades your content on originality, tone of voice, SEO best practices and readability.  Use the Writing Assistant plugin on Google Docs or Wordpress to optimize content as you write. 

Best link-building tools

When people link back to your site from other parts of the internet, search engines understand that you’re providing valuable, share-worthy information — and rank your content accordingly.

But who’s going to give you those backlinks? These tools help you figure that out.

Pitchbox.

Source: Pitchbox

Price: available upon request 

Ideal use case: You want to reach out to bloggers and influencers to build a stronger backlink profile. 

What it does: Pitchbox’s algorithm discovers link-building prospects for you by searching broken backlinks, product reviews and other methods you can choose manually. It then provides potential sources with their contact information, social profiles and demographic information, and ranks them according to what Pitchbook calls “Outreach Engagement Probability.” 

Pro tip: Pitchbox integrates with common SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Moz and Majestic. These integrations make it possible to analyze prospects’ backlink profiles from multiple angles before reaching out.

Wappalyzer.

Source: Wappalyzer

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want to build backlinks and do some analysis of competitors’ tech stacks and meta-data.

What it does: Using Wappalyzer is like peeking under the hood on other companies’ websites. Search a website or email address and find out what kind of technology and SEO software other companies are using.

Detailed.

Source: Detailed

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want a no frills tool that can give you backlink inspiration that’s specific to your industry. You’re wondering who’s linking to the top sites in your niche? 

What it does: Detailed provides a list of backlinks to your industry’s most popular websites by daily mentions, and updates the list every six weeks.

Hunter.

Source: Hunter.io

Price: free, then $49 per month for more searches and verifications

Ideal use case: You know who you want to reach, but you aren’t sure how to reach them. You need email addresses for your top backlink prospects. 

What it does: Enter a website you’d like to contact about backlink opportunities, and Hunter pulls email addresses associated with the domain — so you don’t have to Google around for a point of contact.

SEMrush's Link Building Tool.

Source: SEMrush

Price: from around $120 per month

Ideal use case: You want to find link-building prospects, build message templates and reach out to contacts all from one tool. 

What it does: SEMrush’s tool guides you through the whole link-building process from start to finish. To start, you enter up to 10 keywords you want to rank for and 10 competitors whose backlink profiles you admire. SEMrush then creates a list of backlink prospects for review — and you canstart pitching them right in SEMRush. 

Best backlink-tracking tools

If your traffic spikes, it might be because a reputable site linked to you. If your traffic falls, you may have lost some backlinks — or gotten some sketchy backlinks. 

Backlink trackers can help you figure out who’s talking about your site and, sometimes more importantly, when they stop talking about your site.

Majestic.

Source: Majestic

Price: from around $50 per month

Ideal use case: You want to know every possible detail about your backlinks (and those of your competitors). Think — how many backlinks do you have if you remove low-quality or toxic links? Or, how are your backlinking sites related to each other? 

What it does: Majestic started building its link map in 2004 as a crawler called Majestic-12, and it now has over 10 trillion URLs in its “historic” index. Enter your domain, and Majestic sorts your historical and “fresh” backlinks into topical categories, quality rankings and languages. The experts in our network referred to Majestic as a standard SEO tool — and some other tools in this roundup use Majestic’s link database as part of their datasets.

LinkMiner.

Source: LinkMiner

Price: from around $30 per month

Ideal use case: You want to track your competitors’ backlinks and reach out to domains that refer traffic to those competitors. 

What it does: When you search a domain in LinkMiner, the tool searches indexes crawled by Majestic. LinkMiner then rates your backlinks using five metrics, including quality and referral quantity. You can then save favorite backlinks for future outreach.

Sitechecker.

Source: Sitechecker

Price: from around $25 per month

Ideal use case: You want to download a list of the most valuable backlinks you have and get alerted when you lose a backlink. 

What it does: After importing backlinks from Google Search Console, Majestic, SEMrush, Ahrefs and other tools, Sitechecker tracks your backlink profile and notifies you when a backlink disappears. It also tracks backlink trends and changes over time, and can create an anchor text cloud.

Free Backlink Checker by Ahrefs.

Source: Ahrefs

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want the most accurate information possible about your backlinks (and your competitors’), but you don’t want to pay for the complete Ahrefs tool. 

What it does: Backlink tracking is what Ahrefs is known for. In this free tool, you can view the top 100 backlinks for each of your pages and get information about their anchor text, referring domains and referred traffic. More information and features are available through the paid version of Ahrefs.

SEMrush's Backlink Audit Tool.

Source: SEMrush

Price: free to try and included in paid plans from $99

Ideal use case: You use Google Search Console to monitor backlinks and site health, but you want an at-a-glance measure of how your backlinks might be impacting your rank on Google SERPs. 

What it does:  SEMrush uses machine learning technology to audit backlinks and measure their toxicity. You can then choose to reach out to website owners to remove toxic links or create a .txt file list of toxic links to send to Google’s Disavow Tool. 

Best rank-tracking tools

“The most important SEO tool [is one] that helps you gain insights on your SERP competitors,” said SEO strategist Grace Wilkins

All of these tools fit the bill. They help you track what keywords your site and your competitors’ sites rank for, and help you determine “what kind of content is winning for [your competitors], how many backlinks they've earned, and their overall strategy for gaining more organic traffic,” Wilkins said. 

Rank tracking tools can also help you know where you stand in the search results for relevant keywords, and match your most-visited pages to the keywords referring that traffic.

SEO Minion.

Source: SEO Minion

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want a Chrome extension toolbar for technical SEO and rank-tracking, so you can get insights on your pages and competitors’ pages at a glance. 

What it does: When activated on a web page, SEO Minion’s Chrome extension highlights links on the page and checks them for broken URLs. It also provides an outline-like list of headings and meta-tags, and estimates the page’s ranking for top keywords.

SEOquake.

Source: SEOquake

Price: free

Ideal use case: You want a Google Chrome extension that can conduct a quick SEO audit on competitors’ pages.

What it does: SEOquake can display the technical SEO metrics and index rank for each webpage you visit, based on real-time information from Alexa, Google, Bing, SEMrush and other sources.

Rank Ranger.

Source: Rank Ranger

Price: from around $80 per month

Ideal use case: You want to track SERP performance on multiple search engines — including YouTube, Baidu and Google for Jobs. 

What it does: Rank Ranger gathers ranking data from Google SERPs, but also from “specialty” search engines. It’s an insights platform, but it also has visualization tools for rank analysis.

Seobility.

Source: Seobility

Price: free for one domain, then more domains and functionality available from $50 per month

Ideal use case: You want to combine keyword rank monitoring with on-page optimization and analysis. 

What it does: Seobility combines rank tracking and content optimization. You’ll see monitored search terms and rank trends, and a list of ranked pages that aren’t as well-optimized as they could be. The platform flags when a keyword is used more or less than optimal.

Best YouTube SEO tools

YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine after its parent engine, Google. Or maybe that’s not true. But it is a big search engine! With its own tools.

Keyword Tool Pro for YouTube.

Source: Keyword Tool

Price: free, or from around $70 per month for the Pro tool

Ideal use case: You want to do keyword research without manually typing search terms into YouTube.

What it does: Enter a seed keyword, and Keyword Tool’s Pro version will generate a list of up to 20 keyword suggestions from YouTube’s auto-complete feature. (The free version provides up to 10 keywords.) The Pro tool also provides YouTube search volume estimates, historical trend data and CPC estimates.

Keywords Everywhere.

Source: Keywords Everywhere

Price: free browser extension, and more data available for paid credits

Ideal use case: You want a YouTube keyword research tool that works for other platforms, too — including Google search, pictured above.

What it does: The YouTube “search insights widget,” SERP metrics, and tag information are available on Keywords Everywhere’s free browser extension, but no volume data is included. The paid version has more SEO data available — including 12-month trends and CPC keyword data — and keyword data for websites like Amazon and Bing.

TubeBuddy.

Source: TubeBuddy

Price: from around $7 per month

Ideal use case: You want an all-in-one video SEO tool that can recommend YouTube best practices, track YouTube rankings, suggest tags, run A/B tests and translate descriptions from other languages. 

What it does: TubeBuddy is a Google Chrome extension. When creating a YouTube video, its SEO Studio can suggest optimizations for meta text. A/B testing is available for titles, thumbnails, tags, and descriptions, and the Best Practice Audit can identify broken links in descriptions that might impact SERP position. 

Best freemium and free SEO tools

The best things in life may not be free, but some of the best SEO tools are. That’s so true that one SEO pro told us they’ve never paid for an SEO tool. 

Free SEO tools are competitive enough with paid ones that  all these have made the “Best of” categories above. If you want to see the 20 best free and freemium tools in one place, though — here they are. Read more about them by scrolling back up.  

Best free overall SEO tools.

  • Google Analytics

Best free technical SEO tools.

  • Google Search Console
  • Screaming Frog
  • Lighthouse
  • Siteliner

Best free keyword research tools.

  • SparkToro
  • Keyworddit
  • Google Trends
  • AlsoAsked
  • Answer the Public
  • Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty Checker

Best free content optimization tools.

  • Yoast SEO for Wordpress

Best free link-building tools.

  • Wappalyzer
  • Detailed
  • Hunter

Best free backlink tracking tools.

  • Free Backlink Checker by Ahrefs
  • SEMrush’s Backlink Audit Tool

Best free rank tracker tools.

  • SEO Minion
  • SEOquake
  • Seobility

Best free YouTube SEO tools.

  • Keyword Tool Pro for YouTube
  • Keywords Everywhere

Comparing the best SEO tools

There are so many SEO tools that no marketer can have them all — especially since you’ll probably need to upgrade the freemium ones to premium plans as you grow. 

So which all-in-one tool, search console, keyword research tool, and technical tool would our experts pick if they had to choose? Here’s how the best tools stack up against each other.

Best all-in-one SEO tool: Ahrefs vs. SEMrush.

These were the most popular tools among the SEO marketers we surveyed. We provided a list of 19 of the tools, and asked them to select a feeling from “love it” to “hate it” to “haven’t used it” or “haven’t even heard of it.” 

No marketers hated either of the tools, and while a select few hadn’t tried them, not one marketer hadn’t heard of them.

Source: MarketerHire survey

Emig has both tools, and recommends other SEO marketers follow suit. But what if you can only pick one? Here are some of the key differentiators. 

Feature comparison: SEMRush can pull keyword and rank tracking data a bit more quickly, Emig said, but Ahrefs lets you dig deeper, especially with its gap analysis — which highlights keywords your competitors are ranking for that you haven’t yet tackled — and backlink analysis tools. 

Cost comparison: SEMrush has a slightly higher starting cost, around $120 per month, than Ahrefs, which costs $99 per month for the basic plan. 

Winner: Ahrefs

Best platform-based tool: Google Search Console vs. Bing Webmaster.

In June 2021, Microsoft sites — including the Bing search engine — handled about 25% of search queries in the United States according to Comscore. (Other estimates put Microsoft sites like Bing a little lower.) Sites owned by Google, by contrast, handled around 60% of searches. 

Microsoft’s chunk of U.S. searches is nothing to scoff at. But is Bing Webmaster Tools really worth using? 

Feature comparison: “Bing has a better tool than [Google] Search Console,” Emig said. Because Bing’s search volumes are lower, its platform gives SEOs more detailed data on how exactly a Bing bot crawls your site. Google is cagier — but has much higher search volume.

“I wish that the data and features in Bing Webmaster could be in Google Search Console,” Emig said. “That would be a tremendous tool.” 

“I wish that the data and features in Bing Webmaster could be in Google Search Console. That would be a tremendous tool.” 

Cost comparison: Both are free. 

Winner: Bing for detail, Google for volume.

Best keyword research tool: AlsoAsked vs. Answer the Public.

AlsoAsked and Answer the Public are compared so often that AlsoAsked even has an “Is AlsoAsked the same as Answer the Public?” question in its FAQ. The answer is… no. So how are the search listening and visualization tools different? 

Feature comparison: The tools basically work the same way, and even have a similar mapping feature, but their data comes from slightly different parts of Google. While Answer the Public uses “suggest” or “autocomplete” data, AlsoAsked uses “People Also Ask” data. So for a full picture of Google’s keyword suggestions, it can be worth using both. 

Cost comparison: Both have a free option. 

Winner: Answer the Public Its alphabetical list and multiple maps give the tool a slight edge, in our opinion.

Best technical SEO tool: Screaming Frog vs. DeepCrawl.

“You’re not an SEO if you don’t subscribe to Screaming Frog,” Emig said. 

You might find yourself looking for an alternative if you have a lot of pages on your site or you need more than one license — but the only other tool that compares is Deep Frog, Emig said.

Feature comparison: If you’re working on a website with over 100,000 pages, running a technical SEO analysis through Screaming Frog will “kill your computer,” Emig said. 

But DeepCrawl can do it. Unlike Screaming Frog, a download that runs locally on your device, DeepCrawl runs audits in the cloud, so it can analyze more pages without slowing you down. 

Cost comparison: Screaming Frog costs around $175 for a full year’s license. DeepCrawl is priced by the use, Emig said. (DeepCrawl’s pricing isn’t public, but available on request.) 

Winner: Screaming Frog. For most use cases, it’s the best fit. 

An SEO tech stack for under $500 per month

A truly expert SEO sticks out from the pack by having a whole suite of tools at their disposal. If you only have one, you won’t really be “dangerous,” Emig said. 

So what’s a reasonable price to spend on your tech stack? 

MarketerHire asked the SEOs in our network how much they’d pay for an individual SEO tool, and most put their target price between $100 and $400 per month.

As it happens, that’s what most people pay for SEMrush or Ahrefs.

Some marketers, however, said they’d pay as much as $3,500 for a single, enterprise-level tool. 

Those enterprise-level tools can be worth it to some for their white-label reporting and custom branding, but to most, enterprise-level tools have “diminishing value,” as Everett Whitehead from Digital Sapien Interactive told MarketerHire. They charge by the seat, and the number of keywords you can track for the price doesn’t make them worth it, he added. 

So instead, Emig recommended the following under-$500-per-month-total tech stack for freelancers and small SEO teams:

Source: Justin Emig / MarketerHire

You could easily add more free tools — like Answer the Public or AlsoAsked — to this tech stack. 

This template also leaves room for upgrades. The SEOs in MarketerHire’s network, for instance, said they like SEMrush’s Guru plan, which costs around $230 per month — upgrade SEMRush to that, cut Clearscope, and your total monthly bill is still under $500.

The future of SEO and its tools

 SEO carries a new weight right now, as Apple updates its privacy features and paid social becomes a less reliable piece the marketing funnel — at least temporarily.

Content marketers and SEOs became more popular in August 2021, according to MarketerHire’s hiring data, and that trend could continue.

But as SEO gains popularity, it will become harder for small sites to stand out. Content optimization alone won’t cut it anymore. SEOs will need a tech stack of the best tools to make it into the ranks. 

If you’re looking for a top-tier SEO marketer with the right tools to land you on Google’s page one, try MarketerHire.

Kelsey Donk
about the author

Kelsey Donk is a writer at MarketerHire. Before joining MarketerHire full-time, Kelsey was a freelance writer and loved working with small businesses to level up their content. When she isn't writing, Kelsey can be found gardening or walking her dogs all around Minneapolis.

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