8 Types Of SEO Tools & What They’re For (With Examples)

If you're new to the world of SEO & SEO software, the different types available can be quite overwhelming. There's a ton of tools out there, and a lot of them do similar things. Here's a short guide to the most common types, and what they're for.

1. All-in-one SEO platforms

What is an all-in-one SEO platform?

An all-in-one SEO platform is exactly what it sounds. It's a suite of software tools packaged together to give you everything (or, almost everything) you need to do successful SEO work.

Naturally, they tend to come at a higher price compared to smaller tools which focus on one specific use case.

Typically, they will include features covering most of the other categories you're about to see in this list.

Features & what to look out for

The exact feature set varies across tools, but generally, in one of these platforms you'll find tools for:

  • Keyword research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Backlink monitoring
  • Site auditing
  • Rank tracking
  • White label tools for agencies

Some platforms like Semrush have all of this plus a lot more, while others such as Mangools have a fewer features (no site auditing, for example), but a lower price.

If you're buying such a tool, you could look out for:

  • Are there any features not included, which would mean extra costs for another tool?
  • How are the team collaboration features? Can multiple users/seats be added?
  • How do pricing limits work? When/why might you need to upgrade to a higher tier?
  • Do you need any integrations for your other tools? Are they available?

Examples of all-in-one SEO platforms

Learn more: Ahrefs vs Mangools, Ahrefs vs Semrush, Ahrefs alternatives

2. Keyword research tools

What is a keyword research tool?

A keyword research tool helps you find out what people are typing into search engines. As well as discovery the keywords used, you'll also get useful information about how often they're searched per month, how difficulty they are to rank for, and more.

Features & what to look out for

The most common use case for a keyword research tool is to find search volumes. Before you start working hard on producing content, it's good practice to use a keyword research tool to ensure there's adequate search demand it, if search traffic is your goal.

In addition though, most keyword research tools will give you:

  • Keyword difficulty information. How easy or hard should that keyword be to rank for?
  • Trends data. Is search demand for this keyword increasing/decreasing? Is it seasonal?
  • Competition. Who is currently ranking in top positions for this keyword?

The majority of keyword research tools are bundled in with other features, for example with Ahrefs or Mangools. That said, there are dedicated keyword research tools such as LowFruits.io and KeywordChef which focus on uncovering low-competition keywords for SEO.

Examples of keyword research tools

3. SERP / Rank tracking tools

What is a rank tracking tool?

A rank tracking tool (and a SERP tracking tool) helps you to track keyword positions over time. There was a time where rank tracking tools didn't always include SERP data (such as competitors, and SERP features), but now the terms are interchangeable.

Features & what to look out for

The primary use for a rank tracking tool is to understand where your website ranks for any given keyword, and how that is trending over time. Almost all rank tracking tools will be able to:

  • Track positions on both desktop & mobile separately
  • Add tags & filters to let you analyze groups of pages/keywords
  • Schedule automated alerts & reports
  • Track competitor rankings

Some rank trackers will also be able to:

  • Track multiple search engines like Bing & Yahoo
  • Generate white label reports
  • Connect to Google Analytics, Data Studio and other data tooling
  • Display SERP history
  • Give on-demand updates to re-check rankings
  • … and more

Pricing generally works based on the number of keywords to be tracked.

Examples of rank tracking tools

See more tools for SERP tracking here.

4. Competitor analysis & tracking tools

What is a competitor analysis tool?

In SEO, competitor analysis or competitor tracking tools are for understanding which pages, keywords, and backlinks are driving competitor performance.

Features & what to look out for

With an SEO competitor analysis tool, one of the most valuable things you can learn is which pages drive the most organic traffic to competitor websites, and which keywords they rank for. That helps you to reverse engineer their success, and get ideas for new content.

In addition, a lot of tools, like Ahrefs Site Explorer, will help you to dig into competitor backlink profiles too. That helps you understand their link building strategies. Are they guest posting? If so, where? Are they publishing data-driven studies? If so, you'll find them, and also find who's linking to them (and why).

An important thing to remember with this category of tool as that traffic numbers aren't exact. Rather, they're estimates, based on keyword positions, search volume, and expected clickthrough rates.

Examples of competitor analysis tools

5. Backlink monitoring tools

What is a backlink monitoring tool?

A backlink monitoring tool crawls the web to find other websites that link to yours (and your competitors), and monitor their status over time.

Features & what to look out for

This type of tool is for understanding website backlink profiles, tracking when new links go live, and when links are lost (so you can work to reclaim them).

You can also learn a lot about the quality of links. There's a range of metrics which may assist with that, such as Domain Rating (Ahrefs) or Domain Authority (Moz), Trust Flow & Citation Flow (Majestic), various types of Spam Score, and more. They're designed to help you figure out how authoritative and valuable each link is likely to be.

In my experience, it isn't usually worth buying a dedicated tool for backlink monitoring. Big SEO platforms like Ahrefs, SE Ranking & Semrush have these features built-in. And even though the price is a little higher, you're usually going to need some of their other features too anyway. Also, their scale means that they have highly active crawlers which detect backlinks more quickly.

Examples of backlink monitoring tools

6. SEO monitoring tools

What is an SEO monitoring tool?

An SEO monitoring tool keeps track of the SEO-related changes to your website, and the state of your technical SEO.

Features & what to look out for

SEO monitoring tools can keep a log of all changes that occur on your site. That includes pages added, moved or redirected, as well as potentially critical errors like a robots.txt file or sitemap changing.

It's useful to have such a tool in place, especially when there's multiple people & teams working on a website. If you're in charge of the SEO, it can be tricky to quality-assure (from an SEO perspective) every single thing that gets launched. SEO monitoring lets you keep track of everything that's happening.

This is an emerging category still, with relatively few tools. At the time of writing, there's only one (ContentKing) which offers true 24/7 monitoring with almost instant alerts for when things go wrong.

Examples of SEO monitoring tools

See here for more SEO monitoring tools

7. Content optimization tools

What is a content optimization tool

A content optimization tool helps you write SEO-friendly content by analyzing the top ranking results, and generating recommendations.

Features & what to look out for

The main thing a content optimization tool does is give guidelines to you (or your writing team), and grade content.

The tools can analyze the content of the pages which currently rank in top positions, and tell you things like:

  • How long should your content be
  • Which keywords should be included (and how often)
  • Which questions to answer, and sub-topics to cover

This category of tool often includes additional features like an SEO content brief builder, and collaboration tools to help with working with writers, and AI-writers (either built-in like Frase, or through integrations like SurferSEO & Jarvis).

Examples of content optimization tools

See here for more content optimization tools: SurferSEO alternatives

8. Site auditing tools

What is a site auditing tool

An SEO site auditing tool crawls your website to deliver information about your technical SEO.

Features & what to look out for

This type of tool is for understanding the state of your website's technical SEO. That means getting information on things like:

  • Internal linking & orphan pages (pages with no internal links)
  • Pages where title tags or meta descriptions are missing
  • Pages that have duplicate h1s or other duplicant content
  • Errors with robots.txt or sitemaps
  • Redirect chains
  • and (lots) more

Almost all tools are cloud-based, but there are a few (Screaming Frog, SEO Powersuite) which are downloadable desktop apps.

With site audit tools, it's worth paying attention to:

  • Whether or not advice is given on what issues mean & how to fix them
  • How automation works — can you schedule recurring audits?
  • How reporting works — can you export & share data? Is white labelling available?
  • Is there a free version? For example, Screaming Frog allows up to 500 URLs crawled for free

Examples of site auditing tools

About the author

Ryan Prior

I'm Ryan, a SaaS SEO. Previously at Toggl (a B2B SaaS product) and Skale (a SaaS SEO agency), I'm now working on growth at Modash. I started this blog to share everything I'm learning in the world of SaaS SEO growth & marketing tools.

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