Two of the most important factors in any SEO campaign are competitor research and benchmarking, as they help to understand what is required in order to gain competitive advantage or consolidate positioning. In order to do this research, I use a number of great SEO tools, all of which provide different types of insight into key metrics.
The following tools are the ones that I use the most, consider to be the best at what they do and ultimately, cannot work without.
Majestic SEO is a very effective SEO resource that provides in-depth insight into competitor backlink profiles. Majestic SEO deserves its place within this list for it's historic link data alone, helping users to monitor the speed at which competitors are building links.
Majestic SEO also provides more data, feeding back on a larger number of links than the alternatives.
Earlier this week I was distraught to hear that Yahoo Site Explorer will be shutting down in the near future. When I worked as an in-house SEO, before joining GPMD, I didn't have access to all of the fancy tools that I do now, and used Yahoo Site Explorer for benchmarking and monitoring progress.
Yahoo Site Explorer (for now anyway) provides a basic insight into the domains linking to a website, but does so in a quick and digestible way. Yahoo Site Explorer is also updated frequently, however it can be slightly volatile at times and can be inconsistent.
Raven Tools is a versatile suite of SEO tools that is widely considered to be a great all-in-one solution. I have used Raven Tools for around two months now and am very impressed with some of the features, including the great reporting options, event tracking and the historic ranking offering.
On the downside, I think that Raven Tools could improve their link monitoring provisions by returning links found across an entire domain, as opposed to the user having to include the URL of the exact page that the link is found on.
I have also had a number of instances where the ranking reports have been highly inaccurate, although I have heard from multiple sources that they will soon be sourcing ranking data from a different provider.
I am still very impressed with Raven Tools, I just think that there are a few areas that they could improve on to make the software a real game-changer.
BuzzStream is a link-building CRM solution that has significantly improved my time efficiency. BuzzStream is one of the best SEO tools that I have ever used and features a number of fantastic capabilities.
The BuzzMarker is a great resource for SEO's, allowing the user to pull in comprehensive contact details, page quality information and extensive link data at the push of a button. This data is then automatically imported into the intuitive CRM system, which offers a vast range of filtering options. Once you've logged into the CRM system, you can also generate attractive reports that detail the links and prospects that you have worked on within a set period of time.
I would recommend using BuzzStream to any SEO as it saves a lot of time in link-building, link monitoring, link prospecting and also reporting, all of which are very important.
SEOmoz is almost universally considered to be the best SEO resource on the market, providing a tool for just about anything.
The SEOmoz Pro membership features a huge range of industry-renowned tools that can used for most aspects of SEO. The SEOmoz Pro suite includes Linkscape, Open Site Explorer and full access to the community, which holds a lot of value for industry professionals.
Out of all of the SEO tools that I use, I use SEOmoz and BuzzStream the most, and they would always be the first ones that I would recommend.