We all use tools and access resources to keep us reacting quickly and professionally in this ever changing industry. On top of that, every day I get requests from people to test or review new resources, think up ideas to build internal tools and many more get developed that I may or may not even be aware of. So how is one to sort through everything out there, separate the good from the bad, the expensive from the inexpensive and figure out how to tell when the price difference is worth it?
As one who both loves testing new ways of looking at data and also being a business owner who enjoys finding the best possible ROI on hardware and software alike I thought I'd put together my 78 favorite resources based on what they yield and what they procude from a dollar-in-dollar-out perspective.
I've divided these resources into nine sections. They are:
Link building tools
Social media tools
News & blogs
Please note, there's no specific order to this list, they're all worth looking at. And please, in the comments below include your feedback on these tools or suggestions for additional tools to look at that fit the "free or affordable" theme of this article.
Also, be warned that I'm a hug fan of Firefox and so some of these tools are Firefox extensions though many are also available on Chrome.
FREE – Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool: A great resource for exploring keyword possibilities. Make sure to understand the different between broad match and exact match and also consider that this is a PPC tool. The number of estimated searches are those conducted for a phrase, not estimated unique searchers.
FREE – SEO Quake: A great free extension for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. Gives quick access to key factors such as PageRank, position, age, etc. for the site appearing on a search results page. When on a site, more information is available such as quick links to diagnose issues, a link through all nofollow links for quick recognition, etc.
$99/month – SEOmoz: A whole slough of professional-grade tools make this worth the price of admission. Tools cover everything from links to onsite to social media.
FREE – Copyscape: The free version lets you check a page on your site to see how often it's been copied (and if you rank wellà it probably has been). Also good for testing upcoming copy for potential issues.
$99/month – RavenTools: A full suite of SEO, link building, social media and advertising tools. It doesn't quite match the SEOmoz suite for pure function but the reporting abilities have some advantages.
FREE – SEO For Firefox: A free Firefox extension from SEO Book. Along the lines of SEO Quake but different data sources.
Overlap – SEOmoz and RavenTools are listed under SEO tools but much of their suites are dedicated to link building.
~$50/month(there is free access but it's not overly useful) - Majestic SEO: Offers some very useful tools for tearing apart your competitor backlinks. From comparing multiple competitors to finding niche link hubs to break down individual domains into very thorough data, this is one of my go-to tools when I'm researching competitor backlinks.
FREE – Blekko: We were all sad when Yahoo! retired their link counts. Blekko is a solid backup with the classic link: command.
FREE – Web Developer Toolbar: This Firefox extension give you quick access to a number of useful functions such as turning on an off aspects of a page (images, scripts, etc.) Quick access to website verification tools, ability to outline elements on a page such as table cells and much, much more.
FREE – Webmaster Tools: Find errors on your site, broken links (both internal and external) and so much more.
FREE – Firebug: This Firefox extension allows you to look at any page on the web as usual or select specific elements and see what code (including lines in style sheets) is responsible for the appearance of that element. As you select different areas on the web page, Firebug changes the code displayed. Great for isolating issues and reviewing competitor's code.
FREE – CSS Validator: A free W3C tool that validated your CSS for compliance.
FREE - WAI (Accesssibility) Validator: Easily the most difficult of the validations this tools helps make sure your site complies with accessibility standards. If nothing else, you'll end up with virtually perfect code if you can pull this off.
FREE – Xenu: Run a crawler over your site and find all your broken links.
FREE – Redirect Checker: Check the status of a redirect and make sure it's delivering the right response.
FREE – Page Speed Test: Test the speed of your page and get suggestions on how to improve it. You can also compare the results with another site.
FREE – Google Analytics: It's not possible to get into all the details and features here save to say, it's worth reading up on all that it can do and poke around and test all the functionality. Every time I do, I find fun new ways to look at visitor data.
$59/10 heatmaps – Attention Wizard: Gives an algorithm-generated heatmap of your page. Good as a first stop when you're looking at a redesign or A/B testing.
$9/month – Crazy Egg: Produces a heatmap of your pages based on user behavior such as clicks, scrolling, etc. and can break it down by traffic source.
$99/month – ClickTale: Record visitors and watch how they interact with your site.
$39/visitor – User Testing: Send visitors through your site and listen to them interact. Visitors will record their visits following your directions and provide feedback on what they like and don't like. A great tool during a redesign.
FREE – Wirify: A fun tool that turns any web page into a wireframe. For $6 more you can buy a credit that makes the wireframe editable.
FREE – Five Second Test: Visitors land at a snapshot of your site, view it for 5 seconds and then answer questions. With the free version you'll have to earn tests by viewing the pages of others. They have paid services from $20/mth.
FREE – FireFTP: It's an FTP client built into the Firefox browser. Effective and very convenient.
$99/year – Advanced Web Ranking: A highly customizable ranking report generating software. I've tried many, this is my favorite.
FREE – Search Status: Gives access to PageRank on the fly but also, with the click of a button gives fast access to Google caches, Trends, related links and more.
$12.95/month – MetroFax: There are many Internet-based fax providers out there, I'm just listing the one I use. Far better than the typical fax scenario.
FREE – Domain Tools - Quick and easy access to domain information including registration, server details and location and some basic SEO information.
FREE – Character Count: When you're crafting titles and descriptions you need to stick to the right lengths. I generally write them directly into the tool so I know as I go how many characters I have to "play with".
FREE – Archive.org: View old copies of the web. Ever wonder what Google looked like back in 1998? Click hereand wonder no more.
FREE – Fireform: Firefox form filler. Saves a ton of time.
$78.66/year – HMA: Not the perfect proxy solution but an extremely good one at the price. Great for seeing exactly how rankings appear from different locations on the fly or running systems as though they're from another IP address in a different location.
FREE (single project) – Basecamp: A client management, communication and productivity tool. It's one thing to do all the work, it's another to report that you've done it and know that anyone from your company (or your clients) can find that information easily.
Social Media Tools
FREE – Tweet Deck: A good piece of software for organizing your Twitter profiles.
FREE – Twellow: A directory of Twitter users to help you find people in related niches faster.
FREE – Twitter Feed: Used right, this service allows you to automate things like Tweeting and Facebooking your blog or other useful resources.
FREE – Hootsuite: Allows you to manage multiple social profiles quickly and easily.
SEO Chat: Always lots of folks around to help though it's rankings in the SERPs, also add a lot of new people who may be less experience but still hazard a guess.
High Rankings: A great forum and Jill (Whalen) tends to hang out there a lot to weed out the crud.
Black Hat World: I'm not suggesting you join the dark side but these folks know a few tricks that you should probably know about too. Being aware of what others may use against you can be extremely valuable. They do also chat traditional, Google-santioned strategy as well.
Digital Point: This forum has been around for ages and has almost 50,000 active members. As always, you have to watch who you listen to but if you've got question, ask here and you'll get answers.
Web Pro World: An active user base and large array of subjects being discussed.
Adobe: While this isn't an SEO forum, pretty much all of us use one Adobe product or another. Questions get answered quickly here.
News and Blogs
Search Engine Watch: I'm not an employee of Search Engine Watch but I am a biased author. That said, it's my first go-to when I'm looking to find out what's going on in the search world.
Google's Blog: The official blog of Google. Get news from the horse's mouth.
Bing Blogs: Believe it or not, Google doesn't have 100 percent market share. Bing's blogs are a good read too.
Webmaster Radio: Too busy to read? Webmaster Radio plays live radio geared to webmasters and Internet marketers and the podcasts can be downloaded for convenient later listening.
Matt Cutts: The personal blog of Google's Matt Cutts. While his opinions are rightfully tainted with a Googley spin, there's always wisdom in them; even if you have to read between the lines.
SEO By The Sea: The search world from a more technical perspective. From patent analysis to viewing "what may be", Bill Slawski does a bang-up job of summarizing the areas many of us get glassy-eyed thinking about.
Note: I'm including only Twitter and Google+ so you can follow them without those included beinging inundated with Facebook "friend" requests.