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11+ Must Have SEO Agency Tools

Running an SEO Agency is one of the best types of marketing agencies to start from scratch.

Unlike paid media, an SEO agency requires very little capital for learning / training and can deliver very high value for clients and high-profit margins for you.

Unlike social media, PR, branding, video, or design, an SEO agency can deliver tangible financial results fairly quickly with lower costs, tools, and connections.

To run an SEO agency, you need very little other than your own skills & clients. However, to do your job effectively and over-deliver for clients, you do need a few must have tools.

There’s a whole universe of SEO software. And you can certainly spend a lot of money every month.

But based on my experience as a current SEO consultant, a former senior agency SEO specialist, and consultant to SEO agencies and SEO specialists – here’s my list of must-have tools to run an SEO agency effectively.

Meta SEO Tool – Google’s Tools

Google Search, Ads, Analytics, Google Search Console, and Trends are five Google tools* that you absolutely must know inside and out to start an SEO agency.

*also, Bing Webmaster Tools is an underestimated free SEO tool worth mentioning.

All the tools are free, but you need to know how to secure access for yourself and your clients before & during an engagement.

Search Console Settings Verification

Google Ads requires an active account to use Keyword Planner. Search Console requires verification. Analytics requires user permissions. Search requires some in-depth knowledge of search operators, and Trends requires an understanding of how Google works.

Recommended Options for Google’s Tools

  • Make Search Console & Analytics access a requirement for all client prospects.
  • Keep your Google Ads account active so that you can use Keyword Planner.
  • Learn to look at & judge Google’s SERPs – especially for keyword difficulty.

Crawl & Technical SEO Tool

Technical SEO is the foundation of search engine optimization. If you can’t understand how Googlebot is crawling & indexing a website, you can’t make informed SEO recommendations or deal with SEO issues – period. There’s a whole range of SEO issues like duplicate content, insecure content, crawl blocks, etc that are basic to SEO.

Screaming Frog Audit HTTPS Content

There are plenty of Site Audit tools in the SEO software universe that can make a technical SEO audit / diagnosis faster and easier. But they do not take the place of running a crawl and making a diagnosis yourself.

It’s the difference between using a Blue Apron meal and making a meal from scratch.

Sure, pre-packaged meals are great. But if you are going to be a professional, you better know what’s going on behind the scenes. You need a crawl & technical SEO tool.

Recommended Options for a Crawler / Technical SEO tool

  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider is *the* crawler for 90% of professional SEOs. Consider the annual license your most basic start-up expense to run an SEO agency.
  • DeepCrawl is like Screaming Frog but for Enterprise. If you are going to be pitching clients with 100,000+ page websites, you’ll need DeepCrawl as well.

Keyword Research Tool

A keyword research tool is critical for doing any on-page SEO work. You can get deep in the weeds with keyword research tools. There’s a lot of debate over data sources, data biases, database size, etc. But it’s important to remember that keyword research is an art – not a science.

The whole point of keyword research is to understand your target audience’s questions. It is *not* to simply get a list of words. However, you’ll still need plenty of keyword ideas to plan even a basic content marketing campaign.

9 SEMrush Keyord Research

A good SEO professional or SEO team can absolutely figure out keyword research for free with Google Suggest, Search Performance, Google Keyword Planner, and other unconventional or free sources (including looking at each search result yourself).

However, if you are going to be truly serving clients, giving them a competitive advantage, and bringing them customers – you will need a premium keyword research tool. It will pay for itself many times over. There is nothing quite like SEO software that can deliver a solid keyword suggestion.

Recommended Options for Keyword Research Tool

All come as part of a larger tool suite.

A link research tool is critical for doing any off-page SEO campaign, backlink analysis, or SEO strategy. Unlike keyword research tools, though, you can’t really fudge link research with free tools at all. Google does not share any of their link data, except for a small snapshot in Search Console.

10 SEMrush Backlink Report

If you are going to do any link building (like looking for broken links) or competitive research, you will need a link research tool.

Recommended Options for Link Research Tool

All come as part of a larger tool suite.

Site Research Tool

A site research tool is critical for doing competitive research for your clients and helping them create a content & off-page strategy.

Profiling websites from your clients’ direct and indirect competitors can show you what is working and what is not working. It can help you speed up success and find quick wins for both content and links.

You could technically do a lot of this work for free, but it would take a lot of time and many spreadsheet rows.

Plus, this tool almost always comes with a link research tool.

Recommended Options for Site Research Tool

All come as part of a larger tool suite.

SERP Analysis Tool

A SERP (search engine results page) analysis tool is critical for doing SEO work quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Whether your agency bills by the hour or by the project, finding useful data quickly is essential. A SERP analysis tool helps you do that.

You can absolutely do SERP analysis yourself for free. After you’ve judged several hundred thousand SERPs, you’ll undoubtedly have an eye for what you are looking for (result quality, ads, difficulty, related searches, People Also Ask, etc.).

Ahrefs Toolbar

The trouble with doing SERP analysis yourself is that it requires a bit of immersion. If you are switching between clients and topics, you are bound to make mistakes. A SERP analysis tool keeps you honest and complements your professional judgment.

Recommended Options for SERP Analysis Tool

Most can be downloaded without subscribing to a larger suite.

Rank Tracking Tool

In many ways, keyword ranking doesn’t matter anymore. In other ways, it matters more than ever…just under the new name of “organic visibility.”

Either way, clients expect keyword ranking reports. You can (and should) educate them away from ranking reports and towards other KPIs (key performance indicators), but ranking reports are still valuable for *you* the agency owner. Ranking reports are the canary in the coal mine for traffic drops.

You can delay purchasing ranking software, but you’ll eventually need to have one in your SEO agency software toolkit.

Recommended Options for Ranking Tracking Tool

All come as part of a larger tool suite.

SEO Reporting Tool

Good SEO reporting more than pays for itself and is critical for keeping clients happy. I’ve found that regular, well explained, transparent reporting allows me to keep clients happy during inevitable ups and downs.

SEMrush-Reports

However, it’s also important to spend as little time on creating an SEO report as possible, since it does not actually drive client results. That means automation or a good reporting tool.

Recommended Options for Reporting Tool

  • SEMrush Reporting is great for agencies with a variety of clients.
  • Google Data Studio is great for agencies with technical abilities. Integrate Analytics and Search Console with your rank tracking tool for beautiful automated reports.
  • Agency Analytics is great for rapidly growing agencies with a budget.

All come as part of a larger tool suite. I did a deeper dive with SEO reporting tools here.

Competitive Advantage Tool

A competitive advantage tool is a tool that you will use to provide your clients with unique & specialized insights.

The harsh truth is that nearly every SEO agency is using the same toolset. We are all looking at the same data. In some ways, it makes SEO incredibly democratic and meritocratic. I can look at the same data that the Director of SEO at Airbnb looks at.

It also means that you need something to stand out in addition to your creativity and professional skills – especially if you try to grow your agency beyond just yourself.

There’s no easy answer here, other to think about what problems your clients are trying to solve and what you are interested in and drill down from there.

Recommended Options for Competitive Advantage Tool

Project Management Tool

An SEO agency is still an agency. And agencies are responsible for creating specific deliverables on a defined timeline for clients.

No matter how good of an SEO you are, you *must* fulfill your job as an agency or have frustrated clients. And frustrated clients are clients who leave.

I made this mistake in my early days of freelancing. It was one of many reasons why my first go at running an agency failed. It wasn’t until I worked at an established agency that I learned the dull magic of project management.

In some ways, it doesn’t matter what tool you use, as long as you actually use the tool to document & manage your projects.

Recommended Options for Project Management

All come as part of a tool suite.

Estimate & Billing Tool

SEO might be something that we do for the love & the challenge, but the point of an agency is to make money.

Like project management software, you can technically patch together a free estimate & billing tool. But based on my own & industry colleagues’ experiences, you must get your estimate and billing process down as early as possible.

FreshBooks-Client

There’s no need to make it complicated or spend a lot of money on the tool. But you need to get a tool and use it to spend more time on what matters.

Recommended Options for Estimates & Billing

  • FreshBooks is billing & estimating software made for small agencies & freelancers. I use it – highly recommended.
  • PayPal has free invoicing software to start with.
  • Wave is up and coming invoicing software for entrepreneurs.

Next Steps

An SEO Agency (or even operating as a solo SEO expert) is an amazing business model. If you have the right skills, you can be successful. Tools and capital don’t determine your success.

But like a carpenter, it’s crucial to have good, reliable tools that you can use to do good, reliable work.

Read more about starting a digital marketing agency and about hiring an SEO agency and SEO reporting here.

Larry Ludwig

About Larry Ludwig

Larry Ludwig is an entrepreneur, financial expert, tech & marketing guru with over 25 years of industry experience.

In July 2018, Larry successfully sold Investor Junkie for $6 million.

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