What is SEO Software really?
SEO Software is simply a tool that can help you crunch the data of your website and spit out the results of its findings. Let us be clear, not specifically how the site is performing. Site performance can be gauged by the likes of Google Analytics where you can measure how many people are visiting your site, how many pages they are visiting, where they are coming from e.g. is it social media, organic or paid traffic.
No, SEO Software instead gives you a view of how your website is structured and built. Not just the site itself, but how other sites in the great world wide web are connecting to you, and you to them. In essence, SEO tools, if read and understood correctly, show you where there are possible kinks in your armor, and where there is strength, as well as opportunity.
There are a lot of tools out there, ranging from freemium to premium, different interfaces, and varying levels of detail. The trick is twofold, first, being able to truly understand the information you get back from the software (because the tool is certainly not going to tell you exactly what to do) and to figure out which SEO software is best for you.
For most SEO’s starting out, this is quite a journey.
Let us go fishing
This is where it gets interesting. When you try out your first SEO tool, you pop in your website’s URL into the software, and your expectation is that you will magically see a list of good versus bad action items. The kind of list that will just tell you what you need to go and do, tick that box, and move on. Because who has time to sit and work on one website for hours right? Wrong.
The reality is, that you have to methodically, and very meticulously trawl through a great deal of information, ranging from status codes, indexability, meta titles, H1’s and much, much more. The word “trawl” is used purposefully because it is a lot like fishing. You throw the net out, you drag it back, and you literally dig through your findings, trying to find what it is you are going to keep, and what it is you are going to throw back for a later stage.
Site maintenance when it comes to SEO, is extensive, and never ending. You need to be patient. However, there is an ongoing evolution taking place where some of these offerings are updating their interface, including help guides and generally trying to make it easier for users.
An example of one I particularly like, and appreciate all the ongoing updates and support, is an SEO Tool called Ahrefs. They are better at outlining which are the more important items you should fix first when completing a site audit, which are of medium importance, and when you have extra time on your hands, what are the least important items that you should probably address.
Along with their supporting blogs and videos, together with their info buttons on each screen built into the user experience, they can help walk almost anyone through what something means, and what needs to be done to fix it. Not all of it may make sense at first, but at least it leads you to start asking the right questions, especially to those who will make the fixes for you. What makes this even more user friendly, is their recognizable teacher Sam Oh, he uses great explanatory videos to help walk you through almost any challenge. Keep up the great work Sam!
Free versus paid
You get what you pay for. We have all heard that saying before, right? And most tend to agree. We all have that one item that we will always invest extra dollars into, because you just know that if you look to buy the cheaper version, you will be replacing it in no time. Like shoes for example. Always pay extra for a good pair of shoes. Other than protecting two of your most valued appendages, the comfort level is worth those extra dollars, as opposed to cheap discomfort.
The same applies with SEO tools. Usually on the free version, you will only receive half the information, or most painfully, half the page will be blurred out, almost teasing you to say that there is more, but you need to pop in those credit card details if you want the full picture. It is like being a kid in a candy store, the storekeeper gives you one delicious piece of candy from the jar, allows you a moment to savor the taste, but then quickly snaps the jar shut in front of you. The disappointment! Just like with some “free” SEO tools, you get a taste of it, leaving you despondent.
At this point, human nature may take you into two different directions. You either escalate into a more agitated state and even more determined to go and find something out there that will go easy on the pocket, or you cannot resist the temptation any further (or you just don’t have the energy to keep searching) and you cough up the dollars and you share your credit card details.
Try, try, and try again
Any SEO worth their weight will have walked a journey with tools. Trying, testing, trying again. Some free, and some paid. Arguably one of the better free versions (the only caveat is your site cannot have more than 100 pages) is the Screaming Frog. Other than an entirely memorable and noteworthy name, this tool born out of the United Kingdom, lays out your URLs for you in a format that allows you to in one snapshot, quickly identify if there are any broken links, missing H1’s, number of words on a page, and much more. There are other features, but this is always a great starting block when auditing your website.
If your site is not larger than 100 pages, then chances are this tool is more than sufficient. Many SEO’s may use a tool like this in conjunction with a full paid for version. This might sound strange, and like a bit of overkill, because why would you use two different tools to tell you the same thing?
Well, sometimes as a problem-solving SEO, and like with any challenge you have in life, you just need a different view or perspective of a current situation, to be able to see the fix, or better yet, the opportunity.
Pretty philosophical hey? And you thought SEO’s and web folk were all tech and no feel!
So, what is reality?
- There are many SEO software tools out there to choose from
- Some have free versions, some do not
- Free versions will have limitations
- User experiences are very different amongst them
- For the most part, they will not tell you what you need to do or how to do it
What should your expectations be?
- Expect to try a few of them out. There are several like Ahrefs, Moz, Screaming Frog, SEMRush and more. Just google it, you will find plenty to try out
- First find a tool that you like experience wise, many have free trimmed down versions for you to be able to do play around in and decide
- If your site is larger and more complex, be prepared to eventually must pay for the full experience
- You need some fundamentals in SEO to be able to truly understand and gain value from these tools. Sign up for a course or start researching online. There is a ton of great content out there to help you learn and understand.
Just remember, SEO and SEO Strategy is an ultra-marathon. With no real finish line. SEO Software tools are there to help navigate you through your journey. Be sure to choose the one that suits you, and your needs