Tools for SEO Optimization

Colorful text overlay reading Tools for SEO Optimization against a backdrop of keyword cloud.

Tools for SEO optimization are one piece of the complex digital marketing puzzle. Use them wisely to gain higher rankings, boost visibility, and dominate your industry. 

With so many tools out there, we know firsthand that finding the right ones can be confusing. We curated this ultimate guide to share what we’ve learned with you. Discover two paid and three free SEO tools, their pros and cons, and the real-world problems they solve. 

If you’re in a hurry, check out our quick guides: 

Table of free SEO tools including Google Search Console and Google Business Profile, highlighting their strengths and use cases.
Comparison chart of paid SEO tools like SurferSEO and Ahrefs detailing features, pricing, and ideal users.

Free SEO Optimization Tools

Google Search Console 

Best for website troubleshooting and performance tracking

Intro to the tool

Search Console is your first step toward mastering search engine optimization. It helps anyone with a website get a grasp on the basics, and it’s a must-have tool for pros. Search Analytics shows you the terms people punch into Google Search to find your site, helping you refine content. Plus, tools like sitemap submissions and the Index Coverage Report simplifies how Google categorizes and ranks your pages. 

Google Search Console interface showing total clicks and impressions over a three-month period.

Pros and cons 

Pros of Search Console:

  • Content strategy: Get vital intel on how users find your site on Google, what they click on, and how your pages rank. 
  • Troubleshooting in your hands: Search Console alerts you to things like 404 errors and other issues that prevent your site from ranking higher. Fixing small errors makes a big difference, so never ignore an alert.
  • Specialty reports: Dig into Google’s specialized reports to understand and improve your site’s mobile usability and links. 

Cons of Search Console:

  • Data overload: If you’re new to SEO, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming. But don’t let it put you off. Learn how to use it step by step, tool by tool.
  • Manual labor: Fixes aren’t automatic, so you need some technical knowledge to take action on Search Console’s insights. 
  • Delayed info: It doesn’t provide real-time data, but you can use it to focus on trends and issues over time. 

Special features

Search Console is a direct line of communication between you and Google Search. It provides actionable data about how Google indexes your site, alerts you to critical issues and tells you which search terms you’re ranking for.   


Google Search Console is available at no cost.

What we’ve heard

Tom Demers, cofounder of Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content, outlines Google Search Console’s functions:

Demers says he “likes that Google Search Console monitors, debugs, and optimizes your website — and you don’t need to know how to code to benefit from this tool.”

What are Google Search Console’s use cases?

Here are some examples of how different users might incorporate Search Console into their SEO strategy:

  • Technical SEO: Monitor Core Web Vitals to identify and troubleshoot website speed and user experience issues. This helps maintain high engagement and reduce bounce rates.
  • E-commerce site owner: Track indexing issues for product pages and make sure Google is discovering new products. This drives your site’s visibility and sales since you can quickly address indexing failures through instant alerts.
  • Recipe blog: Identify high-potential keywords with low competition through Search Analytics. Use these insights to tweak your content to improve rankings for those terms.
  • Restaurant: Measure clicks from Google Maps results and queries such as “restaurants near me” or “best contemporary American cuisine in New York.” This refines your SEO strategies to target local customers more effectively.
  • SaaS website: Catch crawl errors, troubleshoot broken pages, and check that you’ve implemented structured data — think product schema — correctly. 
  • Web developer: Use the Fetch as Google feature to test how Googlebot renders pages and diagnoses rendering issues that might be invisible to users but prevent Google from understanding your pages.

Google Business Profile 

Best for boosting local businesses’ visibility on Google  

Intro to the tool

Google Business Profile is your online storefront, only better. Use it to tell customers about your hours, contact info, photos, directions, and reviews. Google displays this info prominently on local Google Maps and Search results. Optimize it and collect enough glowing reviews, and you’ll be at the top of the deck when web users search for your industry in your location. 

Performance chart from Google Business Profile showing trends in calls, messages, and website clicks.

It’s best for:

  • Brick-and-mortar businesses: Retailers, restaurants, tradespeople, service businesses, and any company with a physical location customers visit.
  • Businesses with a strong local customer base: A strong GBP presence is a must if your business serves a defined geographic area.

Pros and cons 

Pros of Google Business Profile:

  • Local SEO hero: GBP puts your business on the map — literally. It’s designed to connect your services with the needs of local customers effectively. 
  • Customer interaction hub: Use the platform to respond to messages, answer questions, and show off how responsive you are.
  • Full of insights: Track clicks, calls, site visits, and other hard data that helps you understand how customers and prospects interact with your brand. 

Cons of Google Business Profile:

  • Requires regular updates: You need to update your profile regularly to stay relevant and rank high in local searches.
  • Intensely competitive: Local SEO is a fierce battleground, especially in populated areas. Go all out to make your listing stand out.
  • Limited control: It’s your profile, but Google might make changes or add content you can’t amend. 

Special features

Optimizing your Google Business Profile is the best way to get discovered online locally. When you search for a service, Google shows you three results under a map. Make your way into the “local pack,” as it’s known, and watch footfall and site traffic soar. Add attributes, such as “women-owned” or “outdoor seating,” to show your target audience key details at a glance.   


Google Business Profile is available at no cost.

What we’ve heard

Digital marketing guru Neil Patel says:

“Keeping tabs on your Google Business Profile using Google Maps or Google Search allows you to step into your audience’s shoes and see what your business looks like online to them. Keeping your profile up to date is crucial to making sure you and your customers are on the same page.”

What are Google Business Profile’s use cases?

  • Small business owners: Ensure your listing is complete, accurate, and has a bunch of high-quality photos. A well-maintained profile can build trust and attract more customers. 
  • Multilocation brands: Use GBP’s bulk location management features to streamline updates across all your stores.
  • Service-based businesses: Proactively ask happy customers for reviews and manage them with care to build credibility.


Best for content ideation and keyword research using real user questions

Intro to the tool

Google’s 2024 deal with Reddit highlights a key trend: people are using conversational searches. QuestionDB mines questions asked by real people on real platforms such as Reddit and Quora, giving you actionable real-world data, such as long-tail keywords and emerging search trends. This free tool can help you drive serious, conversion-focused traffic. 

Interface of QuestionDB showing a list of popular questions related to electric cars with data on volume and difficulty.

Pros and cons 

Pros of QuestionDB:

  • Never assume again: See the questions people are genuinely asking instead of making assumptions.  
  • Audience insight goldmine: Dig deep and create detailed audience personas based on your target market’s questions. Learn about their pain points and desires to find new ideas, and watch new ones pop up daily.
  • Target SGE and conversational search: QuestionDB shows you how conversations translate into search behavior. Analyzing Reddit-sourced questions shows you what’s gaining traction before it hits the mainstream.  

Cons of QuestionDB:

  • Requires data analysis: You have to carefully sort through results and understand how to translate queries into search intent. Then, transform that knowledge into bottom-of-the-funnel content
  • Can get overwhelming: QuestionDB offers a ton of data, so focus your searches to avoid overload.
  • One small part of a solution: Without strong writing and strategic SEO, knowing which questions to ask won’t propel your content to the top of the SERPs.

Special features

QuestionDB is a uniquely useful tool for any brand, marketer, or freelancer looking to improve their ideation game. Find questions that people are asking in your niche and create content to satisfy their curiosity. 


The basic plan is free, and QuestionDB recommends trying it out before deciding if you require the paid plan. For more extensive features, consider the paid plan options: $15 per month for an individual and $50 for an agency.

What we’ve heard

Digital marketing influencer Matt Shirley sums up the benefits of using QuestionDB:

“Publishing high-quality content around questions that real people ask will not only help you rank higher on Google, your business will also gain more authority and establish topical expertise.”

What are QuestionDB’s use cases?

  • Content manager: Supercharge your editorial calendar with questions people are actually asking in your industry.
  • E-commerce business owner: Craft content that addresses your target audience’s pain points and search intent.
  • SEO strategist: Target the conversational keywords that offer a better chance of ranking high and addressing users at the decision-making stage of the buying process.

Paid and Advanced SEO Tools


Best for AI-powered on-page optimization

Intro to the tool

SurferSEO gives you the blueprint to create content that ranks. Get keyword guidance and on-page optimization tools and see what’s working on Google. It provides data-driven guidelines for keyword density, related terms, optimal word count, and which headings to use. 

Curious about AI-generated content? SurferSEO has an AI-driven writing tool you can test drive. Such an advanced toolkit might initially intimidate beginners, but as soon as you have a firm grasp on SEO basics, this comprehensive platform can help your agency or brand rank higher on SERPs.

Screenshot of SurferSEO content editor with sections on essential marketing metrics and content score.

Pros and cons 

Pros of SurferSEO:

  • Handy blueprint: SurferSEO analyzes more than 500 signals across the top 10 articles currently ranking on Google. It uses this data to generate a blueprint to help you craft SEO-optimized content. 
  • AI-powered: SurferAI can create articles in minutes.
  • Audits and content gap analysis: Surfer performs thorough content audits and content gap analysis to help you level up your content strategy. 

Cons of SurferSEO:

  • AI hallucinations: Relying on AI-generated content for factual information, grammar, syntax, storytelling, and brand voice isn’t an option. AI content without human oversight comes across as low-effort to readers and search engines and could get flagged as spam by Google.  
  • Steep learning curve: Surfer offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools that are more useful for individuals and teams with SEO know-how. However, it’s expensive, so make sure you understand how to extract the maximum ROI before investing.
  • Critical oversight needed: Sometimes, Surfer suggests keywords that aren’t relevant to your content at all. It’s a tool, not a fix-all. Think critically and don’t over-rely on it. 

Special features

Some of SurferSEO’s unique features include:

  • SERP Analyzer: View a dashboard offering a detailed look at what’s currently ranking and see how your page stacks up.
  • Keyword Research: Strategize using topic clusters for a holistic SEO approach.
  • Integrations: Integrates with Jasper, WordPress, Google Docs, and Contentful. 


  • Essential: $89 per month — ideal for small business owners and freelancers
  • Scale: $129 per month — suited for for midsize agencies and marketing teams
  • Scale AI: $219 per month — designed for agencies and content teams looking to scale up with AI
  • Enterprise: $399 per month — best for large agencies and marketing teams

What we’ve heard

SEO sage Matthew Woodward says:

“I like it because it helps me with my SEO daily tasks in a way no other tool in that price range does. It has quickly become a key tool in my SEO process, and we are seeing more and more SurferSEO success stories by the day.”

What are SurferSEO’s use cases?

  • Lifestyle blog: Optimize existing articles on “healthy recipes” to improve their ranking potential by adding additional keywords found in the SERP analysis.
  • Digital marketing agency: Create detailed content briefs for clients that include keyword targets, content length, and structure recommendations based on SurferSEO’s competitor analysis.
  • Online course provider: Identify content gaps on competitors’ websites related to “learn [insert industry]” that you can fill to draw in qualified traffic.


Best link-building tool for big brands and agencies  

Intro to the tool

Ahrefs is your backlink analysis buddy. It’s a favorite tool among SEO experts because it helps uncover who’s linking to competitors, finds new link-building opportunities, and keeps tabs on your website’s backlink profile. Backlinks are one element of SEO success — think of them as endorsements from other sites. Ahrefs helps you get the backlinks that will make an impact on your SERP ranking.

Screenshot of Ahrefs SEO dashboard displaying various metrics such as Health Score, Domain Rating, and Organic Traffic.

Pros and cons 

Pros of Ahrefs:

  • Massive backlink database: Ahrefs  has an extensive, regularly updated backlink database, making it a go-to resource for SEO-boosting link-building efforts.
  • Robust toolkit: Ahrefs does more than analyze your backlinks. It offers solid features for keyword research, content analysis, and competitor tracking.
  • Data-driven directions: Ahrefs helps you interpret complex data like a pro and tells you how to turn those insights into an action plan.

Cons of Ahrefs:

  • Steep learning curve: Ahrefs is a professional tool that’s ideal for agencies, big businesses, and freelance SEO specialists. Those new to SEO might need time to fully realize its potential.
  • Pricey investment: Ahrefs is expensive.
  • Backlinks might not be as vital as they once were: Google is starting to prioritize user intent, E-E-A-T, brand mentions, UX, and comprehensive content just as much as links. If you’re on a budget, you can focus on these elements without spending a fortune on software.

Special features

  • Site Explorer: Take a deep dive into any website’s backlink profile. Find out who links to it and what the most valuable links are.
  • Rank Tracker: Keep tabs on your search rankings and see how they compare to competitors.
  • Site audits: Ahrefs crawls your site to generate a detailed report on technical SEO issues that could hamper your ranking potential.


  • Lite: $79 per month — ideal for small businesses and side projects
  • Standard: $159 per month — suitable for marketing consultants and SEO professionals
  • Advanced: $319 per month — designed for lean in-house teams
  • Enterprise: $799 per month — best for large agencies and major enterprises

What we’ve heard

Backlinko boss Brian Dean uses Ahrefs for broken link building. He says it’s “because I can EASILY find broken external and internal links in Ahrefs. In fact, this simple feature has saved me dozens of hours.”

What are Ahrefs use cases?

  • Digital marketing agency: Track clients’ backlink profiles, identify and act on link-building opportunities, and generate reports to show off your results.
  • E-commerce store selling outdoor gear: Discover where competitors get backlinks on camping blogs, hiking forums, and peer review sites. Then, target those same websites for your own products.
  • Recipe blog: Understand which recipes attract the most backlinks and prioritize creating similar content to improve your site’s appeal.
  • SaaS company: Identify review websites and industry blogs featuring your competitors. Pitch your product for inclusion on those same sites.

SEO Tools Are One Element of Your SEO Strategy

SEO tools are powerful, but they’re not crystal balls. A suggested keyword might be popular, but is it truly relevant to your business? Can your content deliver on what searchers expect? Remember, tools inform your strategy, but your expertise guides it.

While SEO is an essential piece of the digital marketing puzzle, it’s not the whole picture. Outstanding user experience, compelling content that genuinely addresses customer needs, and alignment with your brand voice are just as crucial for long-term success.

What’s the Best Tool for SEO?

There’s no single best tool for SEO optimization. The ones that work for you depend on your customers’ needs, business goals, and level of expertise.

Our CEO, Carlos Meza, sums it up:

“There are many SEO optimization tools available on the market. You need to pick the one that works best for your business type. For instance, there are tools that are better suited for enterprise, while there are others better suited for SMBs.

Also, you need to keep in mind that these tools only offer a blueprint, and some of their information isn’t 100% accurate. You should always exercise critical thinking and use data from the tools as one piece of information and not the ultimate answer. Combining Insights from the tools with your experience and critical thinking is the best formula.” 

For those ready to take their SEO strategy to the next level, our SEO Content Writing Services are here to help. Visit our SEO Content Writing Services page to learn more about how we can enhance your content’s SEO performance.

Posted in SEO
Rick Leach

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Rick Leach, the Vice President of Content Operations at Crowd Content, is a seasoned professional in orchestrating large-scale content initiatives. At the helm of a dynamic team of content managers, QA specialists, and production assistants, he oversees the team’s production of high-quality content for businesses around the globe. Rick's expertise extends beyond operations management to providing strategic insights on scaling and producing outstanding content, making him a respected voice in the content creation industry.

Rick's journey in the content industry is preceded by more than five years as an Advertising Sales Manager at The Tampa Tribune, where he refined his skills in media sales and advertising. And his entrepreneurial spirit is evident in his successful 17-year venture as the proprietor of an e-commerce business.

On a personal front, Rick's life is as fulfilling as his professional endeavors. A proud U.S. Navy veteran, he enjoys a blissful family life, married with four children and a grandchild. Originally from New England but now residing on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Rick is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.

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