You wouldn’t attempt to build a house with your bare hands, so why try to practice search engine optimization without the proper tools?

Fortunately, whether money is no object or free software is a must-have, there’s no shortage of SEO tools available to help. The trick is recognizing which ones are worth your time.

From content enrichment to technical analysis, the following are the premier tools of the trade for SEO heading into 2017.


Content is the backbone of SEO. Content marketing leaders achieve annual website traffic growth of nearly eight times others, according to Aberdeen. What’s more, the Content Marketing Institute reported that although it costs significantly less than outbound marketing efforts, content marketing generates more than three times the leads.

In short, content is an SEO priority.

Free: EpicBeat is a data-driven platform that highlights content trends. In addition to seeing how many shares a post receives, it spotlights the number of comments generated.

Paid: BuzzSumo’s cheapest pricing option, $99 per month, offers the opportunity to see what content is most shared on social media. As with EpicBeat, this provides insight into specific topics and angles to increase engagement. You can create outreach lists based on people discussing your brand or topics relevant to your industry. You can also track your content’s performance on social networks, seeing who shared your content and when.

Searchmetrics makes selecting the right keywords easy.


Quality of keywords has become more important than quantity, yet targeted words and phrases remain a valuable part of SEO strategy.

Free: Searchmetrics offers a free but limited version of its Essentials package that includes keyword research. This provides ranking and search volume information. You can also examine the demand and competition for specific keywords.

Paid: The paid version of SEMrush not only provides detailed analytics regarding the top keywords of your competitors, it also highlights which pages on competitor websites receive the most organic search engine traffic. In addition to packages ranging from $69.95 to $549.95, SEMrush offers custom plan creation.


Moz has singled out external links as the most important search engine ranking factor. Capture them with the right SEO tools.

Free: The free version of Majestic shows you which websites are linking back to you and your competitors. This can make it easier to identify link-building opportunities, as well as ensure previously established external links are still functioning.

Paid: Starting at $24 a month, BuzzStream lets you research link-building possibilities, analyzing publisher and influencer metrics. You can also send outreach messages and manage ongoing link-building projects.

“External links have been singled out as the most important search engine ranking factor.”


SEO is all about increasing the likelihood of your website ranking high on search engine results pages. Whether utilizing free SEO tools or paid options, it’s vital to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Free: Google Search Console provides numerous free tools intended to help you measure the performance of your website. While keyword data is limited, you can easily see what words and phrases you’re currently ranking for.

Paid: Ranging from $41 monthly plans to custom pricing based on enterprise needs, you can analyze keyword strength based on domain, location and device with SERPs. You can also test SEO changes to your website to see how they affect ranking, informing you of any specific effect.


Website audits are routine to support SEO. It’s essential to analyze your site’s various components, from content to technical functionality.

Free: Screamingfrog’s free iteration offers up fast website audits that analyze everything from links to images similar to a web crawler. However, the crawl limit is set at 500 URLs.

Paid: Raven Tools provides both SEO technical analysis and online marketing tools starting at $27 a month. Its site auditor functionality shows precisely what SEO issues are interfering with ranking higher and attracting organic traffic. Additionally, its marketing platform allows for automating, scheduling and sending comprehensive marketing reports.

Eric Wendt is a writer and editor at Brafton. He discovered his love of words after realizing he was terrible at math. If he's not updating his Tumblr with poetry he's too embarrassed to share, there's a good chance he's out in search of the perfect pale ale.