Considering an SEO Tool for Your Business? These Are 10 Metrics You’ll Want to Look for

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No matter what some marketers may say, SEO is NOT dead. It’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, though the algorithms do undergo major changes. It’s up to site owners to optimize their site according to the latest keyword practices. In an increasingly dog-eat-dog business world, an SEO tool levels the playing field, especially if you’re a small business in an industry full of big-box competitors. Not any SEO tool, though, will suffice. Do your due diligence and be sure your chosen SEO tool satisfies these 10 must-consider metrics.

1. Rank Tracker

An SEO tool should be able to show you exactly how your web page ranks for specific keywords and its standing against competitor sites using the same keywords. 

As the CEO & SEO Strategist of agency EWR Digital, Matt Bertram explains why rank tracking is such an integral feature in an SEO tool.

“I need to see my client’s standing for lucrative keywords and how that ranking shifts on a week-to-week basis. Obviously, there are some bigger known companies in the industry whose rankings are difficult to surpass. But against competitors on a more equal footing, I need to assess their in relation to competitors. If they’re ahead or behind for a specific keyword phrase, how many placements is it by?”

By knowing the search engine ranking of your site and your competitors, you can assess the appropriate course of action. If you’re behind by a placement or two, then you can really hone in on the keyword phrase to get ahead. If you’re farther behind, perhaps even appearing on the next search page, then maybe it’s better to cut your losses and set your resources on a new keyword phrase.

2. Easy-to-Follow Steps for Individual Page Optimization

The SEO tool should lay out a course of action for individual page optimization.

“I’m in the business of selling CBD oil; I’m not exactly an SEO wiz.” Says Ian Kelly, COO of NuLeaf Naturals. “I want the SEO tool to take me by the hand and lay out exactly what I need to do step-by-step. I want my SEO tool to treat me like a layman because that’s exactly what I am when it comes to all things SEO.”

This sentiment is echoed by many SEO tool users, many of whom aren’t exactly versed in digital marketing practices. Why would they be? They’re too busy refining their own industry-specific products and services. The same can be said of their employees if they’re tasked with SEO and content creation duties. Unless the employees were specifically hired as SEO/marketing specialists, chances are they have a very rudimentary knowledge of SEO.

The SEO tool should specify current keyword density and suggestions for improvement, such as including a keyword in the H2 and meta title/description, and the inclusion of inbound and outbound links. This should all be presented in an easy-to-read report with graphs and other visuals.

3. Built-in Keyword Search Tool

A keyword search tool does far more than just show the monthly searches for longtail keywords. It also gives suggestions on similar phrases and their respective search volumes. There should be advance features, such as a more detailed breakdown of searches by search engines. Yes, a substantial chunk of Internet surfers uses Google as their preferred search engine, but some people use alternatives like Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Can the keyword tool give a breakdown of search volume by search engine? How about search engines popular outside of North America, such as Russia’s Yandex, or China’s Baidu? These kinds of features matter if you serve an overseas demographic.

Other advanced features to consider:

  • Search autocomplete – discover new potential phrases with auto-suggestions – just from entering a seed keyword
  • Search suggestions based on misspelled words
  • Keyword comparison – compare two keyword phrases side-by-side with a chart showing their respective search volumes over a specified time period.
  • Keyword gap analysis – a function that looks at keywords that competitor websites are benefitting from that your site isn’t.
  • Keyword difficulty score – a numerical score that ranks the difficulty of a keyword to rank for (more on this later).

We can go on and on about the advanced search features. If you’re using a free search tool like the one that comes with a Google Ads account, you’re only getting basic search features. This will only suffice for so long before you need more precise analytics for getting ahead of the competition.

4. Backlink Analysis Tool

How is your backlinking game? How many backlinks are you building on a month-by-month basis? What anchor texts are you using and how are the quality of those backlinks? In other words, you need to know the domain ranking of those sites. Prioritize quality over quantity. Aside from analyzing your own backlinks, you need to assess those of your competitors. 

Max Harland, CEO of Dentaly, said it best. “As a dental service, I don’t have time for building backlinks; I outsource all of that nitty-gritty stuff to a third-party content provider” Regarding his SEO tool, “My backlink analyzer generates a report where I can view recently acquired backlinks and progresses made week to week. I can see which anchor texts are exceeding click rates and which ones are lagging behind. I can see the same data pertaining to my competitors.”

Being in the medical industry, a site like Dentaly also benefits immensely from backlinks to sites of authority, such as those with .edu and .gov domains. SEO tools with advanced backlink checkers can break down backlinks by domain, as well as identify acquired links that are no-follow, or if the link is from a text or image.

5. Negative SEO 

This is an extension of the previous point. Backlink checkers should also have the capability to alert you of probable spam backlink activity. Negative SEO is a real thing, and may be utilized by competitors to sabotage your site rank. 

Vinay Amin, CEO of the vitamin company Eu Natural, understands the consequences of negative SEO. “Being in a competitive industry can make you paranoid.” Says Amin. “You never know if a competitor may do the unethical and try to sabotage you by saturating low-quality sites with your links. I’m constantly on the lookout for backlinks that my team didn’t create. If it’s a low DR site, then I might need to do a little digging.”

It may also be your own doing if you’re sending out backlinks by the dozens to low-quality article directories, press release syndications, link farms, and profile spams. Another common issue is duplicate or plagiarized content published across multiple sites, each with your backlink. Google does detect and penalize these infractions, especially if they’re deemed to be black hat SEO.

The trained eye may be able to detect signs of negative SEO activity in their backlink report, but this is unlikely for the average site owner. Does the SEO tool contain advanced analytics that warn you when the high number of low-quality backlinks may be doing more harm than good? It should also lay out a complete course of remedial action, such as submitting a report to Google’s Disavow Link or contacting the site owner directly and requesting to have the links removed.

6. Keyword Topic Insights

What are keyword topic insights? Earlier, we briefly mentioned search auto-fill as a pivotal feature for discovering new keyword phrases. Keyword topic insights is this feature on steroids. It’s a resource that has become really handy not just for keyword research but also for coming up with new content topics.

Let’s say you’re in the fitness niche and are marketing running shoes. A keyword topic insight can come up with dozens to hundreds of keyword phrases from a single base keyword. For example, if entering “running shoes” into the system, you may get these results and their extended offshoots:

Running shoes for:

  • Running shoes for men
  • Running shoes for women
  • Running shoes for wide feet
  • Running shoes for shin splints

Are running shoes:

  • Are running shoes good for work?
  • Are running shoes good for walking?
  • Are running shoes slip resistant? 
  • Are running shoes good for hiking?

Which running shoes:

  • Which running shoes should I buy?
  • Which running shoes last the longest?
  • Which running shoes are made in the USA?
  • Which running shoes are best for flat feet?

Of course, you can acquire the same results from using any search engine’s auto-suggestion. However, with a keyword insight tool, you save time and receive suggestions you never thought of from just entering the single base keyword. 

7. Keyword Difficulty Score

We mentioned keyword difficulty score in a previous point, but this warrants a whole section of its own. With any keyword search tool, you can get an idea whether a keyword phrase is too hard to rank for just by looking at the search results volume. However, what’s the cut-off point? When is the volume too great for you to be competitive?

A keyword difficulty score is a simple numerical ranking ranging from 1-100. The lower the number the less competitive. A good SEO tool will give you a range, such as:

  • 1-20 – very easy to rank for
  • 21-40 – fairly easy
  • 41-60 – moderate
  • 61-80 – difficult but doable 
  • 81-100 – don’t waste your time

The range should continuously adjust based on factors like changing search trends in real-time, your domain and page authority, and site trust flow.

Lindsey Maxwell, Co-Founder of the home conversion site Where You Make It, emphasizes why it’s so important to factor in the keyword difficulty score:

“In the early days of my SEO campaign, I wasted hours trying to rank for keywords that I later found out were a lost cause because they were too darn competitive. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time because I only had a kindergarten-level understanding of SEO. With the keyword difficulty score, I now know whether to pursue a keyword phrase or not to touch it with a 10-feet pole.”

8. Link Decay Detection

Also known as link rot, link decay occurs when backlinks link to an error 404 page, becomes a no-follow, or the site page with the backlink is removed. The link may also become broken due to site restructuring or change in URL. Any of these issues means you lose the “link juice” originally obtained from the now-defunct backlink. Link decay can especially be a problem if your hard-earned backlink rots away at a high DR site. 

Ruggero Loda, CEO of Running Shoes Guru, is just one of many site owners adversely affected by the link decay pandemic.

Seeing my backlinks become an error 404 page or disappear altogether is like a punch to the gut. All of my SEO work is done in-house, through hours of submissions as guest bloggers and pitching to HARO queries. To see the effort now all for nil, I can’t help but think WTH?

If you think business owners like Loda is concerned over a nothingburger, think again. A 2013 Harvard research found that 49% of backlinks to the Supreme Court’s federal page were broken. Similarly, Wikipedia was found to have 130,000 links in its vast database to pages that no longer exist.

Does your SEO tool detect link decay? Detection means you may be able to salvage the link by contacting the site owner and requesting a link update. Some form of follow-up is highly recommended if the broken link is from a high DR site.

9. Site Speed Ranking 

Fun fact: humans have an average attention span of eight seconds, compared to nine seconds for goldfishes. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Why is this relevant at all? Because 53% of mobile users will click out of a site if loading to the next page takes more than three seconds. This is a major conversion killer for e-commerce sites

How does this pertain to SEO? As it turns out, a website that loads at a snail’s pace can also affect page rankings. Google has confirmed that the latest algorithms do penalize the slowest loading sites. This is actually nothing new. Speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010, and more recently for mobile searches in 2018.

An SEO tool should have a function similar to Google PageSpeed Insights, which diagnoses website speed and provides suggestions on how to increase loading times.

To boost load times, consider the following adjustments:

  • Host your media files on a content delivery network
  • Identify and fix broken links
  • Compress all photos and videos
  • Appropriately size all images. In other words, don’t upload a 7,000-pixel wide image displayed at 600 pixels.
  • Embed videos on a third-party hosting platform like Vimeo

The takeaway here? Don’t sacrifice page speed for the sake of diverse media. Don’t learn the lesson the hard way like Simple Life Insure CEO Ty Stewart. 

“I never realized how slow my website was until I put myself in my customers’ shoes.” say Stewart. “I was so caught up in making my site visually appealing with all these eye-catching pictures and videos and didn’t have the slightest clue it was eating up my bandwidth. I slap myself over the head wondering how many potential conversions were lost because I didn’t make the changes sooner.”

10. Local SEO

If you run a localized business, are you incorporating geo-based keywords, or more specifically, the city or adjoining cities of your location? If not, consider this: 50% of consumers who perform a local search on their smart device will visit the store on the same day.

A robust SEO tool can examine your SEO performance and break down the searches by location. Site owners tend to give a disproportionate attention to the city of their business, though that may be too competitive if you reside in a major city. It may be a better option to hone in on cities in the greater area. If your business resides in Seattle, for instance, then probable geo keyword alternatives include Bellevue, Kirkland, and Bothell. Follow your SEO tool’s report to determine cities that warrant your attention. A strong tool should also have syncing capabilities with your Yelp or Google My Business page to get those sites optimized.

Your local SEO campaign should include these implementations:

  • Creating content based on local industry related news. Local stories are a great way to incorporate geo keywords naturally.
  • Milk online business directories. Aside from Yelp, also consider MapQuest, YellowPages, and FourSquare.
  • Allot a whole page for each product/service. It’s intuitive to lump your offerings into a single page, but this inhibits the algorithm’s ability to recognize your authority in any single area, diminishing your local SEO juice.

Well, there you have it, 10 golden metrics that any SEO tool worth its salt should have, especially if it’s a paid subscription. Does the tool need to satisfy all 10 metrics? Probably not, but the more checkmark it ticks, the better it is for you in your never-ending quest for keyword domination!

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