Do We Really Need All These SEO Tools?

It seems everyday another company is either launching, white labeling or revamping their set of SEO Tools. Just today I got an offer for a free SES Chicago pass if I signed up for SEOMoz Pro, and Search Engine Journal just announced SEJTools, which looks like a white label of Raven SEO. Off the top of my head I can think of the following toolsets:

Most of these tools tend to do similar things – find and manage your backlinks, print pretty reports, give some concept of trust on the web, etc. A lot of these tools are designed with the professional in mind – advertising on various search blogs, attending conferences, making connections.  I’m sure each maker of the tools above will email or post in the comments about the specific awesome features in their toolset, but that’s not the point.

Tools or Skills?

Most of the Tools are centered around managing your link building, monitoring your rankings and helping you discover new linking opportunities. To me, I have no problem with tools that will manage some of your efforts for you – specifically the contact management and acquisition part of link building.

But discovering new links and deciding what’s trust worthy on the web? A good SEO needs to be able to eyeball a site, look at some basic metrics and see if it makes sense to try and acquire a link. A really good SEO knows that there are very few links that by themselves make or break a ranking, so instead he looks for ways to scale his acquisition techniques.

Don’t get me started on Finding links – you need a tool to help you find links, outside of Yahoo and Majestic data sets? C’mon people: If you don’t know the primary sources in your niche, if you’re incapable of acquiring the basic links your competitors have (even if Debra says that is being mediocre), and if you can’t run a decent linkbait now and then, are you sure you’re in the right industry? Even without site explorer you should be able to do some basic link building, and if you need someone else to tell you whether a website passes trust and rankings, chances are you need more then just a toolset.

Data Security

Then of course there’s the data issue. John touched on this, but briefly, you’re taking some of your most valuable data – how you build links, how you find new places to get more links, your domains and your keywords, and you’re trusting it to a third party provider. Don’t forget, a lot of these toolsets are owned/produced by SEO companies. While I don’t doubt their good intentions, I’m sure it’s a huge temptation to take a peak at that data – just look what happened over at SnapNames. Beyond that, what happens if the data is hacked? If you can’t imagine a competitor surreptitiously hiring some eastern european to get all this data, you’re naive.

Develop Internally

The really good SEO Tools are the ones you don’t hear about – these are the tools that savvy SEOs are having developed in house to meet their needs. I’m not talking about blackhat type stuff (which strangely enough, you can pretty much get off the shelf these days anyway, go look at Syndk8). I’m talking about tools that perfectly fit whatever the very specific needs of a specific project or site require, so for example:

  • Automating big parts of the link acquisition process
  • Automatically optimizing on site for higher ROI and rankings
  • Generating content ideas optimized for  revenue and traffic (see the Wired article on Demand Media)

Even if you’re on a budget, you can still get most work done for a decent price. Sit down and spec what you want your tool to do, and if you’re very explicit and willing to stick to your requirements, then you can probably get someone on RentACoder or Odesk to do the dirty work for you.

Do you use any of the SEO Tools publicly available? I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether they meet your needs or it’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole.


  1. Agreed – probably not a good idea to be sending of all your ranking data & website URLs to SEO companies. I tend to be more cautious than most, and refuse to use Google Analytics or Adsense on any site that I want to rank. I’ve seen some interesting things w/ these 2 services and their effect on rankings (esp. for new, smaller sites that don’t meet Analytics traffic “benchmarks”).

  2. First, forgive my english. It’s not my native tongue.

    I belive that SEO is an information war. The more you know about your SEO market, the more you’re able to make good decisions to get your trafic more profitable.

    The problem with most of the SEO tools is they’re sold as some “magic stick”. 1,2,3 stages, you’re the king.
    Each SEO campaign need a particular strategy. Tools can provide you information and productivity, not skills.

  3. I’m blown away! Your blog has really made me sit back and ponder. I will write about this information.