Everybody loves tools! For search marketers working on any level—a 10 page site or a 10 million page site—tools are essential. They save us time, they help us diagnose issues, and they give us a peek into what our competitors are doing. They can even give us a peek into what the search engines are doing (more on that in a future article).
This article will outline a selection of tools I feel are most useful for enterprise-level SEOs working on large, complex websites. These are the tools we use every day, and the tools we recommend to our clients. This is not an exhaustive list; I’ve tried to include a selection of the most useful tools for enterprise-level search work, but there are many more.
Today we’ll focus on SEO tools for the browser. In follow-up articles we’ll cover web-based tools and client-side applications, respectively.
Sidenote: SMX Advanced is in less than a month, and it is certainly one of the premiere search conferences of the year. In addition to attending lots of informative sessions, I’ll be speaking on the panel, Build it Better: Site Architecture for the Advanced SEO with Vanessa Fox, Maile Ohye, Lori Ulloa and Brian Ussery. Some of these tools and techniques will be covered in the session, so I hope to see you there!
Chromium SEO tools
Our main browser of choice for SEO is Firefox, because of the wealth of plugin options available. However, Google’s Chrome is an excellent and very fast browser and the only reason I don’t use it more is the lack of plugins available that are already on Firefox. This will change, however, and I’m already using a couple of excellent tools on Chromium, the open source version, which has some nice extensions available. Of special interest are META SEO Inspector, which features a small overlay with a few different data points, and SEO SERP, which shows where domains rank based on a keyword.
META SEO for Chromium
SEO SERP for Chromium
In addition to these, there are several more extensions available specifically for SEO.
Update: Ann Smarty (the queen of SEO tools) over on SearchEngineJournal pointed out SEO Site Tools, and it looks excellent. Check it out!
Firefox SEO tools
Chrome is fantastic and will keep getting better, but for now it’s all about Firefox for SEO tool plugins. The best plugins on Firefox for large site SEO include the following:
- SEO Book toolbar
- SEOmoz toolbar
- SEO for Firefox
- Web Developer toolbar
- SEO Quake
- Firebug with yslow and page speed
SEO Book’s toolbar is a handy one-stop reference point for looking at overall strength of a website, with easy access to key metrics such as inbound links (which it breaks up by type including .mil, .gov, and .edu), cache dates, indexed pages, key directory listings and other basic stuff. To be honest, its metrics aren’t the greatest, but it offers one of the quickest snapshots of a site’s authority and power to rank. Its real strength, however, lies in the data pulled in through other tools. With just a click, you can view the organic and paid search traffic data SEMrush and Compete have on hand, and pull in unique referring domain information from Majestic.
Its other strong point is the ability to compare SEO metrics of up to 5 sites at once. This is a very handy way to gauge the strength of competitors in SERPs, to locate high-value link opportunities, and to benchmark sites before undergoing extensive SEO work.
SEO for Firefox is another excellent tool by Aaron Wall that, among other things, allows you to display various SEO metrics on-demand (or automatically, if you’re not as nice a person to APIs and search engines) directly in the SERPs. Even cooler, SEO for Firefox has an export to CSV option available. This is extremely handy when you’re doing specific
site: searches and need to export the search results into a file for further analysis. Set the search results to 100 and export. Important note: you’ll need to use the older version of Google’s homepage for this to work, as Google’s new look isn’t compatible with the plugin.
Other plugins of note for Firefox include the WAVE toolbar, which shows the semantic structure of pages in a very simple way. While the Web Developer toolbar also has a way to check header structure, I sometimes prefer WAVE because it’s very easy to toggle views and it works quickly. It also shows a very clear view of h(x) tags on a page. These show a “before and after” using the WAVE toolbar to quickly check a page’s semantic structure:
The Web Developer toolbar has been written about many times in the past so I won’t bother to cover it here, but rest assured it can do pretty much anything and everything you need for development debugging (and that’s often part of SEO work). Another such tool is Firebug, which is absolutely essential but beyond the scope of this article. Just get it, and start using it, especially the Yslow (Yahoo!) and Page Speed (Google) add-ons. They do give different information, and personally I’ve been preferring Google’s Page Speed of late as it seems to be more accurate. It also happens to be based on the developer kit present in Apple’s Safari browser.
The Yslow plugin showing site performance
The Resources tab of Page Speed contains useful information
SEO Quake is another essential toolbar for Firefox that does, in a word, everything. It makes good use of external data much like the SEO Book toolbar does, including SEMrush PPC data and other so-called “spy tools” for competitive insights.
One note on browser performance: running all of these toolbars at the same time will make Firefox very, very slow. It’s best to toggle them on and off when you need to do specific things, but leave them off otherwise. There is also some overlap between the tools, for example SEO for Firefox, SEO Book toolbar, SEOmoz toolbar and SEO Quake can all highlight nofollow links on the page. Pick one for that, when you need it.
Safari SEO tools
Safari isn’t a browser you’d normally associate with SEO diagnostics, but it does have some fantastic developer tools built-in. They need to be turned on via options, which opens up a bunch of new functions. Especially useful is the Web Inspector and its associated site performance feature. The graphs are by far the most attractive in any browser, and quite accurate when using a non-primed and disabled cache.
Then there’s Quix. This is a very interesting tool that is browser agnostic. It’s an open framework that will eventually allow SEOs to add in features for anything and everything. For now, there are several useful functions in Quix, that include SEO. It works in a similar manner to a terminal—a dialogue pops up that accepts enter various supported commands.
There isn’t a ton of useful functionality for SEO—yet—but the framework is here for this to be an excellent SEO tool. The
can command in Quix, for example, is a recent offering by Nick Gerner and a nice time saver to solve canonicalization issues. Here’s a look at the current list of SEO commands:
Last but not least, the Lynx browser (or Lynxlet on the Mac) is something every SEO should have in her toolkit. It renders web pages very much the same way a search engine crawler does, without styles, images, flash, or anything else superfluous and simply shows text and HTML. It can be quite useful for diagnosing potential crawling issues and inspecting navigation and page elements.
Up next: Web-based SEO tools
I would love to hear what browser tools you’re using right now—please comment below!
Stay tuned for the next article in this series where I’ll cover online SEO tools, and there are many excellent ones available. In the meantime, happy SEO tooling, and I’ll see you in the SERPs!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.