SEO for SMBs: a Breakdown of Tools and Platforms
Published: September 8, 2015
Author: David Portney
Looking to get your head wrapped around SEO? Do you manage marketing or content for a small business? There are a number of SEO tools that are a great fit for smaller organizations when it comes to feature sets and price points.
First and foremost is Moz (formerly SEOmoz); their $99/month “standard plan” is certainly very affordable and includes up to five “campaigns” (web properties to track) and would definitely fit the bill for most small businesses that have a single website, or a small number of web properties. The Moz customer service is very good, and the tool is fairly feature-rich, including rank tracking, web property diagnostics, and the ability to discover opportunities via competitor analysis, and web property reporting with SEO recommendations. The tool integrates with Google Analytics and some Social Networking accounts. Moz also offers “Moz Local,” which is geared toward businesses that serve a definite geographic area (for example, brick-and-mortar retail, food service, and professional services businesses).
Another terrific SEO tool that’s perfect for small businesses is SEMrush; their least-expensive plan is $69.95/month and offers rank tracking, diagnostic reports, and much more for up to five web properties. Their customer services is also very good and the tool set is definitely feature-rich, allowing for competitive analysis, researching paid and organic efforts. They’re also adding new features fairly frequently.
Other SEO tools worth mentioning are Ahrefs, which starts at $79 per month, and Majestic (formerly Majestic SEO), which starts at $49 or $79 per month. Their tool sets are also excellent and were originally geared more for SEO link building and link analyzing, but they have been evolving to provide more features for the SMB owner looking for an SEO tool. For example, Ahrefs recently added a “content analysis” feature so a business can analyze their content marketing efforts, or the efforts of their competitors.
There are many more similar tools as well as smaller tools that focus only on a particular task such as rank tracking, site diagnosis, link building, content strategy, or user testing. These tools include Advanced Web Ranking, Optimizely, KISSmetrics, Rival IQ, Screaming Frog, Crazy Egg, and Authority Labs. Many of these tools offer “Freemium” and paid versions, which in many cases can more than meet the needs of small businesses depending on what specifically they’re trying to accomplish and what kind of insights they’re looking to obtain.
When it comes to Analytics tools, you can’t beat Google Analytics for small businesses because it’s free and extremely feature-rich. Most businesses we see, including SMB and large enterprises, use it over more-expensive and (often more complicated) analytics platforms such as Adobe Analytics (formerly Omniture/SiteCatalyst), Webtrends, or IBM/Coremetrics. Another free analytics platform and alternative to Google Analytics is Piwik. The major downside to Google Analytics (or any analytics tool) is that proper deployment will require careful work and attention to detail. For most businesses, there will be development and other resources needed to adequately and properly deploy, configure, and customize Google Analytics so that data is as accurate as possible, and so that important metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) the small business cares about most are effectively surfaced.
The downside of all the tools: it takes time to learn your way around them and not all features will be completely obvious or intuitive. That downside is countered by the fact that most have training videos, help articles, and in most cases the ability to reach out to customer service or a forum for help.
Another “downside” is that as powerful and feature-rich as some SEO and analytics tools are, an experienced brain is still required. Blindly implementing SEO recommendations from any tool is not recommended without understanding the underlying reasons and ramifications of making recommended changes. And, gleaning actionable insights from any analytics tool can be a daunting challenge for the uninitiated. No SEO or analytics tool by itself can or should be expected to provide organizations (small or large) with actionable insights without an experienced SEO and/or analytics person, either on staff or outsourced, to interpret the data and help guide decision-making.