Best SEO software of 2020
Ranking the best SEO software and tools
SEO software provides you with a set of tools for search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. With better SEO, your website will rank higher in relevant web searches, which will in turn drive more traffic to your website and more business to your company.
SEO software doesn’t just help you generate web traffic—it helps you make sure that the web traffic you get is high quality traffic, coming from inbound users who have problems that your company can solve.
Moreover, you can even leverage SEO software to help guide your content and your services to deliver exactly what your customers need.
Why use SEO software?
For many businesses, inbound marketing from web traffic generated via organic searches is the single biggest driver of business.
While digital marketing avenues like web ads, email marketing, and social media campaigns are making increasingly large contributions to the inbound traffic to many business’s websites, searches still rule supreme. Search traffic has the distinct advantage of presenting you with a customer who is already interested in what your company does.
However, for search traffic to work, web searches need to connect prospective customers with your website, and they need to do it in a way that’s efficient. It’s no use ending up near the top of web searches that are irrelevant for your business: a home daycare business, for example, doesn't want to end up highly ranked in searches for home health care.
So, there are two potential problems you could be having with web traffic: either you don’t get enough of it, or the web traffic you do get isn’t from people who are actually interested in what your business offers. SEO software can help you solve both of these problems.
SEO software helps you drive more traffic by identifying weak point in your web content that could limit people’s ability to find your website if they are looking for relevant topics. In our daycare example from above, SEO software could help you flag issues like using “home day care” in your content, when more people search for “home daycare.”
SEO software can also flag subtle issues that will hurt your website’s traffic, like page URLs that aren’t relevant to the topic discussed on that page, long blocks of uninterrupted text that could use paragraph breaks and images, or a lack of sufficient internal links to help retain users once they find your website.
SEO software also helps you check to see whether your web traffic is actually coming from the kind of users who you’re looking for. You can see what search terms led users to your website, and which specific pages they landed on.
You can also compare these terms for the most popular search terms in your market niche, which will help you in creating new content that appeals to potential customers.
This way, you can direct your business and your content towards the most popular and most lucrative search terms in your niche. This information can even help inform your marketing and CRM tactics: with better ad targeting and lead scoring, you’ll be able to more effectively funnel leads into purchases, increasing revenue.
Who uses SEO software?
SEO software is one of the primary responsibilities of your web content team. Getting your content writers and your web content team leads trained in on your SEO software should be your top priority to leverage your SEO software’s capabilities.
In sum, anyone who is directly involved with either generating or maintaining content on your website definitely needs to be using SEO software to do their job effectively.
Beyond just the people who create and maintain your web content, you should also get your marketing team involved with the search analytics data from your SEO software.
Data on what search terms are used to find your website, and what type of market demographics these might reflect, can be critical to mounting more effective marketing campaigns and targeted advertisements.
The best companies cultivate a synergistic relationship between their search engine optimization and their digital marketing: you can market to specific customer interests you’ve identified from your SEO software, and in turn, you can generate more web traffic in areas of interest that you’re underperforming in by changing your digital marketing strategy.
From a broader perspective, you may want to keep your company’s product managers updated on current trends in search traffic and customer interest.
While your product management and product development team is not likely to need day to day information you’ve gleaned from your SEO software, they will want to know about long-term trends and shifts in the distribution of search terms that users are looking for, and how well-positioned your services or product offerings are to suit those interests.
These sorts of insights can help your team design longer term strategies to increase sales and capture a wider range of potential customers.
One of the prime features you’ll find in SEO software is rank tracking. Your search engine rank is where your website sits on a ranking of the websites that come back for a particular search.
Many SEO experts use search ranking for sets of keywords as a barometer of their web site’s search engine optimization performance. One common misconception is that search engine rank is one unified number for your website. This isn’t accurate, though: search engine rank is only defined for a particular keyword, set of keywords, or search phrases.
So, your search engine ranking might be great for one search term, but very poor for another. You can use rank tracking in your SEO software to track how your search engine rank changes over time, but to do so, you’ll need to define some lists of search terms you want to track.
SEO software can help with this, too. As a rule, SEO search terms you try to optimize over should be common searches, and they should be relevant to your business. The intersection of these properties is where you want to focus your efforts when it comes to search engine ranking.
Most good SEO software tools should provide an SEO audit, but you’ll need to use domain knowledge alongside SEO audit results to tailor your web content to your customers. SEO tools are programmed to automatically give your website an audit, or check-up, on the search engine optimization practices you’ve used and how you score on these metrics.
Some of them are simple and universal: Are your articles titled with the kinds of keywords that show up in the content? Does the URL have keywords in it? Is your site mobile-friendly? Do you have a sufficient number of internal links? These are some SEO audit metrics you should definitely pay attention to.
However, depending on the specific SEO software tools you are using, you might end up with some unhelpful or bogus recommendations as well. SEO tools are getting better, but they still can’t compare to domain knowledge and subject matter expertise (SME).
For example, if you run a website about medical supplies, you’ll be using a lot of long and uncommon medical terminology. An SEO audit might flag your content as “difficult to read”—but, as you’d know given your domain knowledge expertise, this advanced medical terminology is exactly what your readership is looking for.
SEO audits can be great, but make sure you pair them with subject matter expertise to inform any changes to your web content. At the end of the day, your instincts will tell you what’s best for your website.
Higher-end SEO software will give you detailed metrics on your bounce rates and user metrics like dwell time. Most basic SEO software will do a rudimentary SEO audit and provide some info on the keywords that potential customers are using to find your website.
Where the higher end software distinguishes itself from the competition is in its data on what users do after they get to your website. With data like bounce rates and dwell times, you can get a much better idea about whether the content your users are finding on your website is actually useful to them.
Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit your website only for a second or two, then “bounce” to another site (usually by going back to their search results and clicking a link to a different website).
Dwell time is closely related; it measures the average duration your users spend on a given page (assuming they don’t “bounce” elsewhere).
If your bounce rate is high, that means users who find your content realize it isn’t what they are looking for, and quickly leave. Dwell time can help you identify what types of content on your website are most engaging, and what kind of article or blog post length you should be aiming for.
Using keyword research resources available on your SEO software can help you plan your future content. SEO software can help you identify keywords on two fronts: the more obvious one is what keywords users are currently using to reach your website. These help you identify market demographics and specific areas of content that you already have that are succeeding.
However, doing background research on keywords in your market niche can be just as useful. Good SEO software will offer a variety of ways for you to explore keywords related to your business’s products or services. You can find out what the most common types of searches are, what specific keywords appear in these searches, and how hard it is to get ranked for each of these specific searches.
This information can help you make more informed decisions about new content, new products, and new services. You can target new market demographics, expand to an adjacent area of interest, or identify keywords that you’ve overlooked. Keyword research resources are an important touchstone for your long-term business strategy, so don’t forget to look for this feature when choosing SEO software.
Q: How does SEO software help small businesses?
A: Small businesses can struggle to compete with bigger businesses when it comes to web traffic, but SEO software can help you even the playing field. Small businesses excel at providing high quality products and services to “long-tail” markets whose needs aren’t matched by hulking corporate behemoths.
The most useful aspects of SEO software for a small business are keyword research tools and search term tools. These help you pinpoint exactly what market segments you are capturing, and what market segments you could expand your business to serve.
These tools also help you gauge how difficult it will be to compete against larger competitors: if some market segments are too tough, you can save your energy for another area that’s less competitive or that has a better upside.
Q: How does SEO software work?
A: All of the different tools in an SEO software suite are built around a combination of website performance metrics and an understanding of how search engines actually create their page rankings. The performance metrics are easy enough to understand, though the assumptions that SEO tools make about how search engines actually work are a little murky.
Companies like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are tight-lipped about how their search engines work, but SEO companies try to reverse-engineer the functionality of these search engines, using performance metrics like page rank and internal linking structure as a guide.
The upshot of all of this is that you should put the most faith in objective metrics like page rank and keyword popularity than measures that are less well-correlated with our best understanding of search engine mechanics, like readability scores or internal linking recommendations.
Q: What are the benefits of free versus paid SEO software?
A: With free SEO tools, like Google Analytics or Google Trends, you can usually get data on popular searches and search terms that lead people to your website. However, if you want access to more advanced data on related search terms, or on metrics like bounce rate and dwell time, you’ll often have to pay for these more advanced SEO tools.
Paid SEO software is also better able to support massive research efforts, like building out long lists of relevant keyword searches for all of your particular market niches. Paid SEO software is also more readily equipped with tools for automation and tends to be a bit easier to use out-of-the box.
On top of that, you can get personal technical support in case your website has any peculiarities that don’t play well with the SEO software’s toolkit. If you are using free SEO software, you’ll generally have to fix any problems yourself.
Q: What is the meaning of SEO?
A: SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” which refers to a family of strategies, techniques, and best practices to make your website easy to find on the internet, and to identify ways to improve your website’s traffic from search terms relevant to your business.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are the single biggest way that users will find your website: searches for keywords lead them to your website if the search engine thinks that your site will provide the answers they are looking for.
SEO means tailoring your website to provide these answers, and to make it easy for a search engine to connect your website’s content with the search terms. SEO strategies also identify keywords and market demographics that you can focus on to increase the exposure of your website to new visitors. These strategies help drive more traffic to your website, which ultimately translates into more sales for your business.
Q: Is SEO software easy to use for beginners?
A: Ease of use is often one of the distinguishing factors that separates free SEO software from paid SEO software. Free SEO software often has pretty good functionality, but it can be hard to use and difficult to get up to speed on.
Paid SEO software often presents the information you want up front, and (because it’s paid) tends to have better resources for training and for technical support.
Plenty of SEO experts rely in part on free tools, but if you are new to SEO, sometimes going with a paid option can be better from an ease of use perspective.
In any case, beginners can still get up and running with some SEO basics, like working on new content that’s related to the most popular search terms for their market niche, or improving internal links. It’s the more advanced features that take more experience and expertise to put to best use.
Q: What is SEO focused editing software?
A: SEO focused editing software is a particular subtype of SEO software that is specially focused on improving your content writing. SEO focused editing software provides feedback on readability, keyword usage, and formatting to improve the web search rankings of your content.
SEO focused editing software can be helpful if you don’t have a strong grasp on how to write good content, but it does have its limitations. SEO focused editing software can’t determine the overall quality of your content; that still relies on your own expertise.
Moreover, it won’t help solve other limits to SEO performance, like choosing what content to write about, choosing which keywords to focus on, or improving the URL structure of your website. So, while SEO focused editing software can be useful, it’s only one part of an overall SEO strategy.
Q: What do you get from premium SEO software?
A: Premium SEO software (which comes with a premium price tag) will get you much more powerful tools for analyzing keywords and for analyzing the performance of individual pages on your website.
Free tools can help you explore keyword popularity, but if you want detailed data on the actual payoff for certain keywords, a premium SEO software tool is the way to go.
Premium SEO software is also great if you want to know where users are spending their time on your website, and how you might be able to change your content to increase traffic and increase user retention.
With a premium SEO product, you also tend to get easier to use functionality, a greater number of search queries per day, and technical support if you have questions or problems, which can make the price tag worth it, especially if you have a big team that’s using your SEO software.
Smaller businesses who have relatively simple fixes to make to improve their SEO can often start out with a free tool before graduating to a premium SEO software once they’ve fixed the basics.
Q: How does SEO software know what you should change on your website?
A: In terms of direct feedback, SEO software applies some simple rules regarding vocabulary usage, article titles, URL structure, internal links, and content layout to make quick recommendations on things that are easy to fix.
Improving your usage of target search keywords, making your article titles better reflect the content of your articles, and putting in more line breaks and images to break up long blocks of text are easy to spot and easy to change, so SEO software is great at identifying these changes.
While SEO software isn’t smart enough to make more broad content recommendations, you can use SEO software tools to make informed decisions about what you should change about future content.
By looking at which of your website’s articles or posts are most popular, and which search terms in your market demographics are most popular, you can target future content to bring in more web traffic. This will ultimately lead to better brand awareness, more sales leads, and higher revenue.
SEO software is a great way to drive more high-quality traffic to your website. If you want better insights on how to reach interested customers, SEO software can provide it.
Better search engine optimization will directly generate more interest, awareness, and sales leads, while the insights from SEO software will help you guide your web content, marketing strategies, and product development to reach more customers and ultimately increase your revenue.