On some communities I am a part of, people keep asking about what I think the ‘best tools’ are and other audit elements. For starters, an audit is dependent on the needs of the site and the client. One really shouldn’t do cookie-cutter audits. A framework is great, but it needs to be tailored to the situation. As such, the tools that one uses to collect relevant data is going to vary depending on the situation. The needs drive the tools and data we’re collecting… not the other way around… the tools don’t drive the data.
Now, what next needs to be understood is that as with all things in SEO; ‘it depends’. What I mean by that is you need to be flexible and adapt. Each situation is unique and one has to approach it that way. From the size/age/authority of the site, to the market and type (informational V transactional). To the goals and more. Be flexible.
The Starting Point
Before I even get to the tools, there’s a bunch of things I look for with the client;
- Google Webmaster Tools (access)
- Google Analytics or related (access)
- Keyword strategy (core and stemming/modified terms)
- Page mapping of terms and target pages (if any)
- Historic rankings (if any)
- Geo-local targeting (if applicable)
- Past SEO work (if recorded)
- Past developer work logs (if available)
- List of other domains (if applicable)
- Competitive analysis (known query competitors)
This along with the on-boarding should get you headed in the right direction. Now.. let’s get into some of the goodies I use, depending on the situation.
These are “my” favs… if you have something awesome I may have missed, or should check out, be sure to leave ‘em in the comments.
The SEO Audit Toolbox
The first bunch are some of the more obvious ones that most of us know (and love?). These are the ones that a lot of folks use as-is for audit work. Also, I advocate using a few, if not all. Why? Because I never trust a single data point and the can each surface info that the other may not.
This is one of my fav crawlers for sites small to mid-sized (under 1 mil pages). The data is solid. The options and parameters are great and if you want, most of the graphical elements are good for reporting.
Screaming Frog –
One of the older and more trusted in the biz (under 1 mil pages). Lot’s of great config options and easy to find data. It’s not as graphically “pretty” as a lot of the others, but it’s a damned powerful tool once you get into it.
Deep Crawl –
My go-to crawler for any site, but I use it mostly on larger sites. The data is great. Config and options are awesome. Really, it’s a beast. That being said, it’s slightly more expensive.
SEM Rush –
While I do love the entire toolset (for ongoing projects etc), it’s not entirely as valuable as an audit tool for me. That being said, I will often run it anyway, to get supporting data.
Search Metrics –
While I wouldn’t use it as much for straight-up audit data, I do like to use it for initial analysis of a site during the onboarding process. That being said, much like SEMrush, there’s a bunch of other good data points for ongoing SEO endeavors and competitor analysis.
These tools are just some of the outlier data points that I might want to look at, depending on the situation. As always, the SEO audit is formatted based on the needs of the situation.
BrowSEO – A very simple tool that show’s some important info on a page. This is one I’d use on a more granular level when I am digging into a given page, or site structure. Small, but handy for sure.
UI Test – Test your website in more than 70 tools (web-based and free): Very Handy. Someone shared that with me this year, I can get lost in there. Has some good secondary data for deep-dives. Fun stuff… give it a try.
SEO Minion – Free SEO Tool for your daily SEO tasks (plugin). It’s kinda handy when doing active analysis on a site, SERP and more.
SEOlyzer – This one is a crawler & log analysis tool. I didn’t include this one in the crawlers section, because for me it’s more about the log file analysis. That is a handy thing to have, which a lot of tools don’t do these days.
Thru – Another good basic SERP/Page analysis tool. Again, not part of the ‘go-to’ collection, but there are times that I have to dig extra deep, so I bring all the toys to the yard.
Data – Analytics
Another area that’s important when doing an SEO audit is obviously; DATA. And when it comes to the real-world data, I tend to defer to Google. The only other important one is going to be work-logs of past efforts and to a lesser degree, ranking reports.
Google Analytics – Yea well DUH. When working through the audit process any and all data I can get from Google that’s historic, is going to help. So, this one def has to be on the list
Google Search Console – Again… doing an audit without GSC is just silly. If there’s already some issues that Google has identified with the site, then obviously it’s going into the fix-list along the way. Another must-have data set.
Google Data Studio – Great data dashboard builder for Search Console and Google Analytics. Now, that being said, this one really isn’t as much for an initial audit. It’s something I refer to when I come back for quarterly updates.
These days speed is certainly a thing. Between the fact Google’s been pushing it for more than a few years now, to the fact Google went to the “mobile first” index in 2018, to even the need for better usability (UX)… we want to keep an eye on this end of things. And really? You don’t need ALL of these, but I am just giving you lots of options.
Think With Google Mobile Speed Test – Obviously we’re always interested in what Google thinks. So, I tend to use this one along with Lighthouse a lot. Those two really should be in the toolbox, no matter what.
LightHouse – As with the “Think With Google” one, a good tool to really see what Google thinks of the site/page. I would def suggest that you always run this one on each site audit that you do.
GT Metrix – I personally like this one, but it’s far more use if you create an account. When you create an account there’s a lot more options you can use and even save tests. It rounds out my top 3.
Web Page Test – Well known tool that runs a speed test from multiple locations around the globe using real browsers (IE and Chrome) and at real consumer connection speeds.
- Varvy Page Speed Test – Not a well known one, but suggested by the SEO Dojo group…
- Speed Monitor – Track your website speed and performance data every day
- Batch Speed – Bulk speed test multiple urls using Google’s Page Speed checker
Forensic Recovery Audit Tools
Now, forensic recovery SEO is another beast. You can read more about my thoughts and approaches over here on SEJ. A lot of the tools we’ve listed can also be used to traffic loss/recovery work. These are just here as a list of things I would normally use;
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Panguin Tool
- Moz Algo update list –
- SEJ Google Updates List
- SEJ Google Updates list
- SER Google Updates List
And then of course your preferred crawler of choice and even the IU test tool I mentioned earlier.
Now, if I am doing a straight up technical on-site SEO audit, often times I won’t even be bothered with external factors. In fact, more often than not, I’ll be looking at links more in the forensic recovery type audits. But just for the sake of this list, here’s my go-to stuff
Majestic SEO – Yup, the original really. I’ve been working with the tool and known the folks over there, for many, many years. So, it’s in my comfort zone.
Ahrefs – These guys do a bunch of other stuff these days, their bread and butter is links. As I’ve mentioned a few times along the way, I prefer a variety of data sets.
Google Search Console – While some of the others are great, I still always prefer to go to the sort. As such the external links report from ol GSC is another go-to for most situations.
Buzz Stream – Extract Links from HTML –
Copy and Paste HTML and extract links with Anchor text into a CSV file. This one can also be handy in a few different situations.
And there we have it… that’s the toolbox for my world. Always remember, the best tool for SEO is your BRAIN. It’s about your methodology, your ability to make the data usable. The audit is only going to be as good as the person conducting it. Did I miss your fav SEO audit tool? Let me know in the comments.
Over the next while I am going to be doing some more on SEO technical audits.. be sure to follow me over on Facebook.