Mar 11

High-End SEO on a Low-End Budget

There are a ton of great free tools out there, but there comes a point where you need to actually shell out a little money for tools if you’d like to accomplish some substantial results from an SEO standpoint.  If you’re an in-house SEO doing it all, you’ll  need tools for the six major pieces of SEO – Keyword Research, Architecture Analysis, Performance Tracking, Content Optimization, Linking Analysis, and (optionally) Monetization.  For Monetization, Google AdSense is pretty hard to beat, at least if you have under 500,000 page views, and the AdWords Keyword tool does a great job on the Keyword Research front, so in this posting we’ll focus on the other four areas.

The following tools are great values and add up to well under $100.00 a month (if you spread the cost of Electrum SortSite out over three years, since it’s a software purchase rather than a service), and they give you a good shot at competing with the big boys.

Architecture Analysis

PowerMapper SortSite

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PowerMapper SortSite Pro – $349

It’s the most expensive tool in this list but may be the most valuable one.  SortSite can spider your website and identify best practice violations, including ones that may be hurting your search engine rankings, or worse, keeping some pages from being indexed by search engine spiders.   Don’t be put off by the marketing talk about W3C standards and governmental standards – search engines could care less about those, they probably have EU and other government customers who like those features – but buried away in its 450 checks per page are a whole bunch of highly useful SEO best practice checks.  They have a demo version that will analyze 100 pages of your website – worth playing with, in that you might find some actionable items right off the bat without even spending any money.  SortSite will find problems that otherwise would have taken you forever to notice or figure out on your website by manually inspecting everything.

Demo link:  http://www.powermapper.com/products/sortsite/try.htm

Pricing link:  http://www.powermapper.com/buy/index.asp

Performance Tracking


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SheerSEO – $15/month for 400 keywords (also has plans as low as $7/month)

Although Raven SEO Tools has been making huge headway in the  market with a lot of marketing efforts, there are a number of other services that provide similar features worth considering.  If you just want to do keyword position tracking and backlink tracking, SheerSEO has a very reasonably priced service, and there are some useful bells and whistles such as Google Toolbar PageRank tracking, Tweet tracking, etc.  The user-interface is extremely easy to use and it allows you to group your keywords however you’d like which makes monitoring much easier.

If you’re an in-house SEO person, or you’re doing SEO for yourself, SheerSEO is great for tracking what’s going on.  If you’re doing SEO for others and need to create fancy PDF reports to show “evidence of industry”, then you may have to develop some Excel templates of your own that you could feed with SheerSEO’s output, or perhaps something like Raven would be a better fit for you.

Demo link:  http://www.sheerseo.com/seo/template.jsp?page=demo.jsp&demoUser=sheerseo

Pricing link:  http://www.sheerseo.com/seo-monitoring-tools/pricing.html

Content Optimization

Bruce Clay's Toolset

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Keyword Density Analyzer, part of the new Version 5 of Bruce Clay’s SEO Toolset – $9.95/month for one website.

Bruce Clay’s SEO Toolset includes a Keyword Density Analyzer that can compare your target page to top-ranking pages for a particular keyword and tell you the keyword densities of those pages, your keyword density, and then you can figure out how much more content you should write, and how many times should you say the target keyword and where.  If you’re just getting started, I would recommend you first take care of your architecture problems and get your keyword research ducks in a row, then you can worry about this sort of hand-to-hand combat at the individual page level.

Demo link: http://www.seotoolset.com/tools/trial.html

Pricing link:  https://tools.seotoolset.com/SignUp.aspx

Link Analysis


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Majestic-SEO – 9.99 pounds/month (about $16-$17 U.S. dollars as of the writing of this posting.  Note – Majestic-SEO accepts Paypal which automatically does the currency conversion for you.

Majestic, similar to SEOMoz, has spidered the entire web and recorded all the linking interrelationships, to allow SEOs to download linking data through various reports.  It’s an extremely powerful tool and a great value.  Majestic-SEO doesn’t calculate a PageRank value for you for each page, but it does provide its proprietary ACRank calculation (roughly, the number of unique referring domains, adjusted by exponents of 2 rather than by logarithms as PageRank is calculated).  I think the SEO market has improperly misperceived not providing a PageRank calculation as a disadvantage, but SEOMoz has previously shown there is a pretty high correlation between the number of unique referring domains and PageRank, so this is not an unreasonable metric to be using.  Between ACRank and the ability to sort and filter in Excel by downloading backlinks, it’s fairly straightforward to sift through a competitor’s backlinks for instance and find some good Linking campaign targets.  They have an extremely inexpensive introductory price, and if you’re doing Link building part-time the introductory level will be plenty to fuel your efforts.

Demo link:  http://blog.majesticseo.com/how-to-videos/

Pricing link:  https://www.majesticseo.com/plans-pricing


SheerSEO and Bruce Clay’s SEO Toolset do have some overlap in terms of keyword position tracking and backlink tracking – that said, I have to say I really like SheerSEO based on my own personal use of it.  I don’t have as much experience with Bruce’s product yet, but I will be spending more time delving deeper into it in a future posting.  Either way, they’re both very inexpensive, trying both out for yourself won’t damage your budget much at all.

With some combination of the tools above, you’ll be well-positioned to get some solid results from your SEO efforts, and won’t be in the position of taking a switchblade to a gun fight.


  1. Ahmad says:

    I was wondering if you could explain the difference between Low end SEO and High end SEO, Thanks!

  2. Ted Ives says:

    A really good question.

    These are just my definitions, but I would call them out this way:

    Low-End SEO:
    – Keyword research
    – Writing content based on the keywords
    – Making sure you use keywords in Title, H1, and Meta-Description
    – Trying to get a few links here and there

    High-End SEO:
    – Having an optimized site architecture
    – Analyzing the competition within a SERP
    – Optimizing and creating content to rank based on that analysis
    – Having and executing a linking strategy resulting in higher PageRank and more anchor text than the SERP competitors

    Low-End SEO is sort of what HubSpot enables for the in-house marketer – better than nothing, and it’s a start. High-End SEO is really executing an all-encompassing SEO effort.

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