As a small business, do you need SEO? Is it worth the cost?
Absolutely. Google is responsible for more than 90% of search volume according to data assembled by SEO expert Rand Fishkin. He notes that this volume is 4 times that of YouTube. It dwarfs Facebook as well.
Ranking well on Google for selected keywords is critical to your success. Two types of tools are available to help you do that: SEO software tools and keyword research tools.
As with all new things, there’s a learning curve involved when you’re teaching yourself SEO. However, these tools provide step-by-step instructions for use.
Find What You’re Looking For
10 Top SEO and Keyword Research Tools
Below you’ll find tools that will analyze your website’s performance, ranking, and backlinks; and make recommendations for improvement.
Some tools also provide insights on your competitors, including how much they’re spending monthly on Google Ads, what keywords they’re advertising for, and which ones you have a shot at winning.
The best SEO tool for you depends on your needs. We hope that our reviews below will speed up your selection process.
SEMrush is an “all-in-one marketing toolkit” that features a myriad of SEO-related features. While SEMrush is powerful, the product assumes some knowledge of SEO.
However, if you’re new to SEO, you can get teach yourself by using the company’s online Academy, knowledge base, and how-to guides.
Start with an initial audit of your website that provides you with the information you need to prepare your SEO improvement plan.
Then, you can find ideas for increasing your site’s traffic, competitive intelligence, additional monitoring and analytics features to track your changes.
All of the data you need is in one dashboard.
SEMrush also includes ancillary tools that are helpful for improving your search engine rankings, even though they’re not directly related to SEO.
These include keyword research, planning for paid ads, social media management, and market research.
Ahrefs is a tool for competitive analysis and improvement. It will show you how you can outrank competitors and increase your site traffic.
In addition to helping with competitive analysis, Ahrefs comes with features for keyword research, rank tracking, and web monitoring, as well as backlink and content research.
For example, you can:
- Get traffic estimates for ranking in the top 10 for particular keywords.
- Get the ranking history of any of your website pages for any keyword.
- Discover content gaps that need to be prioritized
Moz is designed to help you raise your search engine rankings and visibility in search results to increase website traffic.
Site audits and continuous monitoring show you exactly what actions you need to take.
Moz also tracks your website’s rankings across multiple search engines, performs backlink analysis, and compares these to your competition.
It also helps you with in-depth keyword research (e.g., computing keyword difficulty scores, researching competitors, and analyzing SERP).
There are multiple versions of Moz available:
- Pro: an all-in-one solution
- Local: great for local business listings and getting registered with data aggregators
- STAT: tracks SERPs.
Business Listings and Local SEO
Small business owners with brick-and-mortar locations will benefit from Moz Local. This tool automates most of the work involved in acquiring “business listings” — listings of your business in online directories.
Obtaining listings in quality directories and ensuring your contact information is accurate can have a profound effect on your search engine ranking.
SpyFu is a simple, easy-to-use PPC research tool that reveals your competitors’ advertising history, up to the past 13 years. You can then use this information to drive changes in your own SEO and ad strategy.
How it works: You provide the domain name of your competitor, and SpyFu returns information like:
- Where they show up in Google’s rankings
- Keywords they’ve bought on Adwords
- Organic rankings
- Ad variations
You’ll also find information about all of your competitors’ PPC ad efforts.
For example, you can discover your competitors’ most profitable keywords they’re using in search ads, as we show in this image:
SpyFu also comes with helpful features like smart recommendations on what your terms SEO or Adwords campaigns should feature, tracking for your paid keywords and SEO Rankings, and facilitating connections to help build partnerships and generate leads.
Google Ads aren’t SEO, strictly speaking, but we can’t leave it off the list. Google Ads enable you to buy ads that appear in search engine results for specific keywords.
What do Google Ads look like? In the example below, a search for “project management tools” displays 4 Google Ads at the top of the results.
Some ads appear at the bottom of search results pages. There are a variety of ad formats available.
You pick the keywords you want to be associated with your website, and whenever someone clicks on your ad after searching for that term, you pay. Each keyword has a cost associated with it. Typically, the more competition there is for a keyword, the higher the cost.
While Google Ads is a simple program, you need to make sure that you’re choosing optimal words. Use the Google Ads Keyword Planner or another keyword research tool.
You’ll be able to find both related keywords and long-tail keywords (that is, three to four-word phrases that are relevant to your purpose).
Ravel Tools provides an all-in-one platform for SEO and white-labeled SEO reports.
Their Site Auditor analyzes your website to find all SEO-related issues that might be preventing you from rising higher in rankings.
From there, you can create a report that contains all of the discovered information, which is helpful if you seek outside assistance with your SEO projects, or if you’re a marketer creating a baseline for a client.
Raven Tools integrates with multiple third-party platforms, so if you are using any for SEO purposes, Ravel Tools can pull in the information they’ve collected.
Raven Tool’s SEO tools include:
- Website audits
- Backlink tools
- Rank tracking
- Marketing reports
- Competitor research
- Link building manager
- Keyword rank checker.
Clearscope uses AI (artificial intelligence) to help marketers ensure that the content they produce is highly correlated to user intent.
In other words, the searcher is trying to find answers to a question. They type in a query. How well your content answers that query (and therefore satisfies the searcher) will impact the search engine ranking of that content.
Run a Clearscope report on a keyword and you’ll get an AI-powered view of the scope of subject matter that your content needs to cover in order to be competitive and rank higher.
The interface is simple and easy to use for your team — including writers, editors, SEOs, and content strategists.
Be aware: there’s no such thing as an AI tool that does all of your SEO work for you. You’ll still need to make decisions based on the tool. And your results will depend on how well you wield Clearscope.
That said, there are no special skills required for using the tool. To make the most of these tools however, you should have SEO fundamentals down pat. And you should have a solid understanding of how to write for the web effectively.
MarketMuse — a competitor to Clearscope — is an AI-based content intelligence and strategy platform that helps you improve the performance of your content so that you can outrank the competition.
MarketMuse helps you optimize your existing content by identifying coverage gaps. It will analyze thousands of competing articles and present a prioritized list of improvements, centered around “topics.”
The topics are weighted, showing you which to prioritize. (Note: Topics are not the same as keywords.)
MarketMuse identifies opportunities for improvements that will increase audience engagement.
This software strives to be an all-in-one content solution by providing writing and editing tools and space to share your research notes, draft outlines, and briefs.
Majestic is a map-making tool that finds link-related data including who links to your website. The company states that they have the largest database of link indexes.
This SEO tool focused almost exclusively on backlinks with little attention to other SEO-related items.
Nevertheless, we think that it would work well in your SEO toolkit and allow you to know how your website fits in with other relevant sites on the internet.
KeywordTool.io is a keyword research and planner tool. It is useful for determining the best keywords for your PPC (pay-per-click) search ad campaigns.
Enter a keyword and Keyword Tool returns with a list of 750+ related keywords, including long-tail keywords. You can opt into the paid plan to get more keywords per search.
The technology behind Keyword Tool uses Google Autocomplete to help generate the data that is returned to you.
Many people find it’s easier and faster to use than the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool.
Comparison Table: SEO and Keyword Tools
There are all kinds of SEO and keyword tools to choose from. That’s why we’ve tried to narrow them down to the very best.
Below we’ve compared pricing on these tools. Note: we’ve listed the lowest available price, which typically requires that you pay for a year upfront.
Some tools allow you to pay month-to-month for a higher fee.
A number of these keyword tools have distinct specialties, so refer to our reviews above to find the one that best suits your needs.
|Tool||Lowest-priced plan||Trial period?||Notes|
|SEMrush||$99.95/mo for 1 user. $70/mo for each |
|7-day free trial||Traffic Analytics is a $70/mo add-on.|
|Ahrefs||$99/mo for 1 user.||7-day trial for $7.||Want more than 1 user?
Choose the Advanced Plan ($399/mo)
|Moz||Moz Pro: $79/mo when paid yearly. |
Moz Local: $129/yr*
|30-day free trial||Plan allows for 2 users.
1 plan required per business location.
|SpyFu||$33/mo for 1 user, billed annually||30-day money-back guarantee.||Can opt to pay monthly ($39/mo)|
|Google Ads||Software is free to use. You pay only for ads.||Software is free||Average CPC** in the search network is $1-$2.|
|RavenTools||$79/mo paid annually. For 4 users.||2-week free trial||Option to may monthly or annually.|
|Clearscope||$350/mo for 3 users||Demo available - contact Clearscope.||Covers 50 reports.|
|MarketMuse||Contact company for pricing||You can request a free report for one URL||Contact company for
|Majestic||$49.99/mo for 1 user. (Monthly payments)||Free interactive online demo. ||7-day money-back guarantee|
|Keyword Tool||$69/mo for 1 user |
|Free interactive online demo. ||There's a basic free
* Moz pricing: Must bump up to the Plus plan ($199) to get the aggregator submission feature.
** CPC data via WordStream research.
Here are answers to some common questions we receive from our readers. Have a different question? Feel free to ask it in the comments section below this article. We’ll answer it!
Which is the best free SEO tool?
We don’t know of any free SEO tool that will give a small business everything it needs to succeed. However, many of the top SEO software tools — like Moz and Spyfu — have free trial periods: you can try the software out before buying it.
That said, Keyword Tool offers a free plan, but it’s limited to keyword research.
How can I teach myself SEO?
Some SEO software tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush offer online “academies.” Using their training, you can start out as a complete novice and teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed at SEO.
How long does it take for SEO to work?
There isn’t any set time for SEO to start showing results. That’s because there are many different types of SEO strategies you can implement, and you could take either minor action or massive action on those strategies. So SEO work can gain results in a variety of time frames.
For example, if you just launched a website redesign and there were some 301 redirects that were not set up, fixing those could generate results very quickly. For most SEO you should expect to wait 4-6 months or more before you start seeing results.
How much should I pay for SEO services?
There isn’t a set price range we can recommend for SEO services. That’s because there’s a huge variety of SEO work that can be proposed.
Quality content marketing for a small business will likely cost you 4 figures per article. Getting basic business listings may cost 3 figures. We know one marketing agency that charges a minimum of $1,500 for adding missing title tags and meta descriptions to a website.
Before hiring an SEO professional, consider teaching yourself basic SEO. Why? You’ll be better able to separate the charlatans from skilled marketers and that can save you a lot of money. And you can handle basic SEO tasks yourself.
How well you do at SEO is going to directly impact your website traffic volume, engagement rates, and conversion rates.
Whether you’re a rookie, a freelancing marketer, or an agency, these tools will equip you for search engine ranking success.
Let us know which tool you picked. And share any questions you may have about small business SEO in the comments below this article. We’d be delighted to have one of our own professional marketers answer your questions!