A few months ago I attended a Guardian Master Class on Data Visualisation hosted by Tobias Sturt, Head of creative at Guardian Digital Agency and Adam Frost, Data Visualisation Manager at Guardian Digital Agency. Both were incredibly friendly, down-to-earth and made the class very enjoyable. I highly recommend checking them (and their work) out. Data ...
As a result of moving jobs recently to come and join theMediaFlow I've had to re-audit the tools that I use on a regular basis as well as moving all my bookmarks across. I was incredibly grateful for the Google Chrome Syncing functionality.
In my last role we had a number of internal tools that I've had to find replacements for or just stop using the equivalent. As a result it's made me think closely about the tools that I needed to bring across, look for some more modern variants in some cases, as well as making sure I find some new ones to help with the day to day role.
Some of these are SEO specific and others are more general useful tools to aid productivity, but I thought that this would be a decent topic to write my first blog for theMediaFlow on. I hope you find some of them useful and be prepared for a fairly long list!
SEO/Search Marketing Tools:
This tool has changed my working life immeasurably for the better. I first started talking to the Screaming Frog tool about this whilst it was in development well over a year ago now, as I was looking for a tool that could help me check with the implementation of the canonical tag across a website.
From an on-site audit perspective nothing beats this for me. You can evaluate titles, descriptions, keywords, headings, canonical tags, and internal link patterns. You can review specific inlinks and anchor texts to specific pages, review broken links and links passing through internal redirects. I'm sure that there are plenty of elements that I am still not getting the full benefits from, but this is a tool I love and recommend incredibly strongly that you try it if you haven't already.
Google Keyword Tool - I've used lots of keyword analysis tools over the years and found most of them fatally flawed by the data sets supplying the information. Who knows, they may have gotten better over the years but I have my doubts (let me know in the comments if there are any worth having a look at).
I don't exactly trust the data that this tool gives as the potential traffic levels available on terms are rarely anything like what the exact match data suggests is possible. However, I do find that in terms of comparative volumes between phrases this is a useful indicator of how a keyword might perform in terms of traffic potential.
Excel - I definitely need to get better with spreadsheets as I've been known to tear my hair out at times, but where would I be without Excel? 2012 is the year where I am really going to get my head around better spreadsheet usage.
I know a large number of the SEOs are talking about learning to code this year, but for me maximizing and improving my Excel usage is a considerably higher priority.
Already though, I wouldn't be without it and its an essential part of the Search Marketers tool kit.
Raven Tools - in particular this is replacing the internal tools that I have previously used.
I have a long way to go before I get to grips with everything that its possible to do with Raven - I've mostly, thus far, been using it for the rank checking & competitive intelligence elements for campaigns that I am working on a the moment, and I am planning on spending a lot more time getting to grips with all the extra features over the coming weeks and months.
Header Status Checkers - I now mostly use check your server result codes.
GSiteCrawler - this has been mostly superseded for me now with the additional features being added to the Screaming Frog tool but this is one that I've historically had a lot of use from. I used to use it to create XML sitemaps (now a task for the Screaming Frog Spider), spotting duplicate content issues (now a task for the Screaming Frog Spider) and... okay, maybe I don't really need to be using this one anymore - if you don't have a paid subscription for the SF SEO Spider then it could be useful for creating fairly big XML sitemaps.
Google URL Builder - A handy tool for tagging links up for campaigns.
Google Analytics Configuration Tool - This is a newly released tool from the Raven Tools team to help configure Google Analytics in the way that you need for your website. It has options for helping you to set up Google Analytics accounts for websites with multiple subdomains, track multiple domains in one account as well as configuring site search and 404 tracking. It also helps you to setup Goals for the website, using event tracking methods, helps you to track Facebook page traffic and has a URL Builder.
I've actually not used this yet beyond a couple of tests but can see plenty of uses for this in the future and can definitely see how simple this could make configuring some of these options.
Piwik - This is a new one to me but I've been starting to have a look at this open source analytics package since starting at theMediaFlow. It seems to broadly collect the same sort of information as I am used to seeing in Google Analytics, without Google having access to that data specifically.
MajesticSEO - The link analysis tool that I am most familiar with, I regularly use this one. Useful for identifying potential problems in your backlink profiles, performing competitor intelligence and comparisons. So much data available that looking at it can be a little daunting at first, but once you get your head around what's on offer it's a valuable resource.
OpenSiteExplorer - Since the demise of the Yahoo Site Explorer this has been my go-to for quick link spot checks. It also does some good comparisons and visualisations of the data.
Link Research Tools - I've historically only really used free tools and MajesticSEO for backlink analysis and have enjoyed having access to these Link Research Tools to review that data from a slightly different source
Cognitive SEO Tools - this is a fairly new tool and one that is certainly new to me. However, I've started to play around with the data that this is collecting for a few clients of late and have really liked the data visualisation that you can produce from it. I suspect that as I start to use this a bit more in the future I will be finding plenty of additional uses for it as it seems to have a lot of additional features beyond the link analysis elements that I've been using it for mostly so far.
Schema Creator - I actually only found this tool today but I can see this being really useful for using Microdata as set out by schema.org to mark up People, Products, Events, Reviews and more. It gives you a preview and then the HTML to copy and paste where you want to use it.
Google Rich Snippet Testing Tool - Well, once you've implemented schema for your reviews (and recipes which I've used a fair bit too), you want to make sure that its possible for it to display with those 5 star reviews in the SERPs. Drop a URL into here and see how Google *might* display your rich snippets. It's also useful to find any problems that you might have with your code to help you get these working properly. Rich snippets are everywhere in search results at the moment and seem to have fewer barriers for entry at the moment, so now is the time to get them on your site!
Google SERP Snippet Optimiser - I've loved the SEOmofo SERP snippet optimization tool since I first stumbled across it. It lets you put your title, description and URL in and generate a preview of how that snippet might look when its live on a Google search.
WHOIS Domain Tools - Always useful to do a bit of snooping. Find out details on the Whois record, registration details and some hosting information on websites you want to know more about.
First Link Checker - I've used this tool for a number of years now. It lets you look at the links outgoing on a page and flags to you when you link multiple times to the same URL. It can be useful to identify when you might be over-linking internally to a page on your site - I particularly use this a lot on website home pages or specific pages that I want to investigate further.
SEO Browser - Another old one but I still find it useful to have a quick look at text only views of a page from time to time.
Hitwise Intelligence Dashboard - Whilst this isn't a tool as such I tend to find myself checking this data a couple of times a month. I find its search engine share statistics particularly valuable to check in on (it always amuses me as well that Google has the top 2 slots here, with .co.uk and .com engines).
Assorted Productivity & "Other" Tools:
Percentage Calculator - I used to get a lot of stick for this one being in my bookmarks, and yes, I can calculate percentages in excel. But this has been in my bookmarks forever and for a quick and easy percentage calculation that I don't want to attempt in my head, I always visit here.
Skype - to keep in touch with those around that I need to be able to communicate with at all times (it's mostly a smaller extension of my Twitter network).
ToodleDo - I resisted using this in my last place of work, but particularly now, where I am working in multiple locations, the importance of a to-do list that syncs everywhere I go has grown to be invaluable. Throw in the iphone and ipad app and I can access my to do list wherever I am in the world. Much better than the post it notes and scraps of paper that used to litter my desk space.
Evernote - Another app that I've started to use as a result of working more frequently in multiple locations (and the primary location that I have written this blog from), Evernote allows you to write notes and attach data to it, and have a central storage and access to that wherever you go, on all the devices that you own. In tandem with Dropbox and Toodledo, these are keeping me organised at the moment.
Dropbox - I've used dropbox every now and again over the years but not really with any seriousness. However, since starting here having an online storage space where I can access what I am working on everywhere that I am working has become more important. Again, using iphone and ipad apps has proved invaluable whilst out and about.
Google Chrome Extensions:
I made the switch to Google Chrome about 18 months ago for the most part, although of course keep other browsers to test differences in SERPs and the like. I regularly make use of the following Chrome Extensions to help make SEO'ing that little bit easier!
SEO Site Tools - A fantastic extension for Chrome, my main browser based tool. Contains a ton of offsite and onsite data about a wealth of factors. It lets you have a quick snapshot of a pages primarily important on page items. A must have for Google Chrome using SEOs.
Pinterest Right Click - Not a search marketing tool at all I guess but I have really enjoyed adding things to my Pinterest boards - particularly since I found this extension that allows you to right click on an image and pin it without any faff.
PageRank - Pretty simple extension - displays the PageRank of a page. Maybe I shouldn't be looking at it with any credibility, but hey, I still like to know.
XML Tree - I didn't like how Google Chrome displayed XML sitemaps when I looked at them and this makes them more usable and readable
Number Search Engine Results - Does what it says on the tin, and numbers search results for you - simple!
Google Global - an extension to let you see Google results in different regions. I often forget that I have this extension but it is handy for some quick research on how your results might appear in other locations when I do remember to use it!
Evernote Web Clipper - in conjunction with using Evernote I've been using this to clip articles to Evernote for later reading.
Spotify... ok, this isn't a search marketing tool at all. But everyone needs some background noise to help the day on its path. I've also been enjoying starting to build some playlists for sharing and will be tweeting about some more of these over the coming months. I am someone that isn't a complete iTunes hater and have previously run my music collection mostly through that, but similarly to some of the other things I'm using at the moment, the accessibility between multiple locations is growing in its importance for me these days.
For things like Twitter & Facebook, unlike many search marketers, I actually just use the web interfaces. I find that I can dip in and out of the activities on these platforms much more simply as a result of closing down the browser windows, rather than receiving a barrage of notifications when there have been new updates and getting distracted all the time. For the same reason I have notifications switched off for most things, particularly email.
Hopefully not all of these were completely the usual suspects for this sort of post, although I appreciate that a lot of these are popular tools and bookmarks. I'm always on the lookout to develop this toolset further though, so I'd love to hear if there are some obvious tools and bookmarks that I should be adding - please let me know in the comments.