Search engine optimization is a complex topic involving many different disciplines. No wonder we have written extensively on this topic before, for example here, here, here and here.
Especially website owners who take care of SEO themselves can use all the help they can get and do well using all the tools at their disposal.
Last year we already looked at the best SEO tools and WordPress plugins for 2015 and now it’s time for an update. For that reason, below we will have a look at some of the most useful SEO utilities 2016 that will help you make the best out of your site.
If you are looking for improved search rankings, increased traffic and overall better SEO performance of your site, this article is a great place to start.
The Best SEO Tools and WordPress SEO Plugins for 2016
In order to make things a little easier, we have divided the tools below into different categories.
You will find SEO tools and plugins for keyword research, rank tracking, content optimization, on-page SEO, technical SEO, link building and link removal. The list also includes a mix of free and paid WordPress SEO plugins.
Let’s get started with keyword research, shall we?
Keyword research forms the basis for any SEO efforts. It often determines the domain of a site, article topics, site structure as well as the keywords inside content.
Since it directly influences traffic, any site’s success greatly hinges on doing proper keyword research. So much so that we wrote an entire article on this topic. Use the following tools to make this process even easier.
- Google Keyword Planner (free) — Though it has become less accurate over time, Google’s keyword research tool should still be part of every SEO’s toolbox. It allows you to find groups of keywords and related search terms, estimate monthly search volumes, gage the competition and find other important information.
- Google Trends (free) — Another Google tool that allows you to check whether a interest into keywords is increasing or decreasing. Trends can also show you regional interest in your topic, related topics and related search queries. Highly recommended!
- Ubersuggest (free) — A very useful keyword suggestion tool. Type in any seed keyword and it will mine different sources for proposed search terms. The service also lets you save and download your personal keyword list, however, it doesn’t provide any data on traffic or else. A simpler tool that also creates huge amounts of long-tail keywords is Keyword Shitter.
- Keywordtool.io (freemium) — Similar to Ubersuggest, Keywordtool.io is a great tool to create large lists of (long-tail) keywords. Type in a starter search term and the SEO tool will mine Google’s autocomplete function for recommendations (including commonly asked questions). It also works for YouTube, Bing, Amazon and the App Store. The Pro version provides additional keyword ideas and has valuable data like average monthly searches and a lot more.
- AnswerThePublic (free) — Speaking of questions that get typed into search engines, this tool generates exactly that. Put in a keyword and will show you all the questions people pose about it to Google. Great source of information and also good to have a giggle every now and then.
- SEMrush (freemium) — A very comprehensive tool that offers much more than keyword suggestions. SEMrush allows you to see what keywords competitors rank for as well as their landing pages, keyword positions and a whole lot more.
You know how they say that “only what gets measured gets managed”. Knowing where you rank for what keyword is really important for your success. Tracking allows you to understand whether your strategy is working or not, discover additional keyword opportunities and overall stops you from flying blind. These tools will help you do so:
- Google Search Console (free) — Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console helps you monitor the performance of your site. Under Search Traffic > Search Analytics you can see what keywords your site is ranking for and the number of impressions, average search position and click throughs. It’s also a great source of additional search terms.
- AuthorityLabs (paid) — AuthorityLabs is a real heavyweight when it comes to rank tracking. You may track by country, city or postal code. You can also track competitors, get weekly or monthly reports and see your site’s development in the form of graphs. However, quality has its price. Plans start at $99.
- Wincher Rank Tracker (freemium) — This is the only rank tracker WordPress plugin I could find with decent support and good ratings. It belongs to Wincher and allows you to track your rankings from inside the WordPress dashboard. Comes with a free trial, after that you need to choose one of their affordable plans.
Content is always at the heart of SEO. These day, almost nobody is ranking high in search engines without creating decent content.
However, coming up with content ideas isn’t always easy and yo need to do a lot of content optimization once it’s done. It’s the reason why we an entire article on WordPress on-page SEO but the tools below will also help.
- Buzzsumo (freemium) — A very handy tool to find content that is already performing well in a particular niche or on particular site. Makes it very easy to understand what your audience likes and come up with content that will perform equally well. Put in a keyword and filter the results by time frame, language, country, content type and more. Super useful, however, offers only a limited data set unless you purchase the Pro version.
- Yoast SEO (free) — The #1 WordPress SEO plugin out there and for good reason. Yoast works out of the box and has an awesome feature list, especially its content analyzer tool. This feature tells you exactly what you need to do to improve the SEO of your content. Check our in-depth tutorial for Yoast SEO. There is also a pro version that lets you optimize for several keywords and has additional features.
- All-in-One SEO Pack (free) — The second big name in the WordPress SEO plugin sphere. All-in-One SEO Pack is similar to Yoast SEO but without the content analysis module. At the same time, however, it comes with its own unique features like auto-generated description tags and a bad-bot blocker. For more differences read our comparison article of the two plugins.
- siegemedia Embed Code Generator (free) — Visual content is super important for SEO and user engagement. This handy tool helps you create embed codes for images (especially infographics hosted on other sites) including source and target URL, dimensions, ALT tags and other features. It’s free to use, too.
- WP Smush (free) — As we will learn further below, page loading time is an important element of technical SEO. Since images often make up the bulk web pages, it’s important to make them as small as possible. WP Smush strips images of non-needed information to reduce their size without compromising quality. It can do so for automatically for images you upload to your site and also in bulk for existing ones. An alternative plugin is EWWW Image Optimizer.
- Keys4Up (free) — Google uses a thesaurus. That means, it doesn’t just take into account exact keywords but also synonyms and related terms. Thankfully, this handy little SEO tool helps you create a list of of related keywords to use in your content. Check it out and also its alternative LSIGraph.
Technical SEO is the basis of any website turning up in search results at all. It is responsible for enabling search engines to understand what the site is about and includes elements like site structure, loading speed, mobile friendliness and more.
In fact, we have written an entire article on technical SEO for WordPress sites as a primer. In addition to that, the plugins and tools below will help you get the most out of your site.
- Google Analytics (Free) — Of course, Google’s free analytics suite should not be missing from a list of technical SEO tools. It provides detailed information about your audience, traffic and other important markers and is also completely free. Plus, there are plugin to import your analytics data to your WordPress dashboard such as Google Analytics by MonsterInsights or Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
- WooRank SEO & Website Analysis (free) — The WooRank SEO and website analysis extension scans your site for technical optimization and provides tips and checklists for improvements. Among others, it checks mobile load time, the robots.txt, on-page SEO markers, security, usability. There is also a Firefox version.
- Screaming Frog (freemium) — A downloadable program that scrapes your site to check links, status codes, page titles, meta descriptions and other markers of technical SEO and puts them in a spreadsheet for further analysis.
- DeepCrawl (paid) — Similar to Screaming Frog but more beginner friendly. Instead of a spreadsheet you get charts and graphs that tell you where your site falls short. That way, you know exactly what to change to make your site more search engine friendly. The comfort has its price though.
- Pingdom (freemium) — Site speed testing tool. Type in a URL, pick a test server location and go. Pingdom will give you valuable information about how your site is performing and also tips on improving its loading speed. You can also use Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.
- Google Mobile-Friendy Test (free) — If you are wondering whether or not your site is mobile friendly (and thus will show up in mobile search requests), Google’s tool will give you a simple yes/no answer.
- Google XML Sitemaps (free) — A free plugin to create an XML sitemap for your site. Sitemaps be submitted to search engines as a road map for your website and will also tell search engines when you add new content. The aforementioned Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO Pack both come with this feature, so you don’t need an extra plugin if you are already using either of them.
- Siteliner (free) — A small and free online tool that checks your site for duplicate content and broken links. Simply input your URL, hit enter and you are good to go. The tool displays your percentage of duplicate content and the exact URLs of pages where it can be found. Very helpful to avoid penalties. Alternatives are Online Broken Link Check or the Broken Link Checker WordPress plugin.
- Redirection (free) — Redirection is one of the most important WordPress SEO plugins as it allows you to set up 301 redirects. These let search engines know where content has migrated to so you don’t lose its link juice. The plugin also monitors visitors that come to your site with faulty links so you can send them to the right place in the future instead of a 404 error page.
- Browseo (free) — Do you ever wonder what your site looks like to a search engine spider? This tool can tell you. Just enter your URL and go. Great stuff to understand more of the technical background and whether your site structure is understandable to search engines.
- Rel Nofollow Checkbox (free) — Links are the currency of the Internet and seen as endorsements by search engines. For that reason, you want to be careful who you give your virtual thumbs up to. Sometimes it’s necessary to set links to rel=”nofollow” to let Google know you are hesitant to endorse a particular site. This little plugin makes this really easy by adding a relevant checkbox to the WordPress link feature.
Another possibility to improve your technical SEO is the aforementioned Search Console where you can learn a lot about possible technical issues affecting your site
In SEO, a good amount of time and effort is spent trying to best the competition, to acquire more links, provide better content and such things. However, in order to do so, you first need to know what you are up against. That’s where the following tools for competitor analysis come in handy.
- Mozbar (free) – The Moz SEO Toolbar lets you see important SEO markers about any page or site you are on or directly in the Google search results. This includes PageRank, backlinks, domain authority and social metrics. It also comes with a page analysis tool and is available for Firefox as well.
- Majestic browser plugin (free) — Similar to Mozbar the tools from Majestic SEO allow you to see the number of links to a web page or domain, how strong and trustworthy those links are, a timeline chart of how they were acquired and more. It can be used in conjunction with Mozbar for a more complete picture and is available for both Chrome and Firefox.
- SEOquake SEO Toolbox (free) — Another free browser extension for on-the-fly SEO analysis. Check in- and outbound links, audit on-page optimization, compare parameters of several domains and URLs, get info inside Google search results and more. SEOQuake is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
- Ahrefs (paid) — One of the biggest names in link analysis out there. Ahrefs lets you check the backlink profile of any site, has loads of information to help you understand how well you are performing and comes with rank tracking, SEO analysis and many other features. However, this type of quality doesn’t come cheap.
The aforementioned SEMrush is another excellent option for competitor research.
Links remain the most important ranking factor for websites and link building is one of the most rewarding SEO tactics out there (as long as you don’t build a bunch of spammy links for which Google will punish you). To get into link building, check the tools below.
- LinkMiner (free) — This Chrome extension shows broken links on any web page you are viewing. That way, if you have relevant content to offer to make up for the missing resources, you can tell the webmaster about it and generate a new link.
- BuzzStream (paid) — Buzzstream is a real heavyweight for all things outreach management. It helps you find prospects and add them to a list, automatically finds contact details and lets you manage and track outreach campaigns to build relationships.
- Linkody (paid) — This tool can send you email alerts for new, removed or changed backlinks to your own or a competitor’s site. That way, you can make sure you don’t get hit by spammy backlinks and can stay on top of the competition. A similar tool is Linkstant!.
Yes, you read that right. Every now and then it will be necessary to remove links to your content or website.
Since the Penguin update, Google heavily penalizes websites whose backlink profile includes a lot of low-quality links. If your site has been hit by a penalty, the tools below can help you get back on track.
Of course, you can also use them to distance yourself from links that could hurt your site in the future or when someone is setting up spam links to do so.
- Google Disavow Tool (free) — Google’s own disavow tool is part of Search Console. Just highlight all the links you don’t want the search engine to take into account and it will take care of the rest.
- Cognitive SEO (paid) — This tool has many functions and detection of unnatural links and their disavowment is just one of them. It even offers a preview of sites before disavowing them and creates a file you can upload to Google. Easy as pie.
- Disavow.it (free) — A free alternative to Cognitive SEO that can also create a disavow file to upload in Google Search Console.
SEO isn’t always an easy topic and webmasters can use all the SEO tools and WordPress SEO plugins they can get to run successful SEO campaigns.
The above list will help you get things done and move the needle of your site towards SEO success. Whether it’s keyword research, on-page SEO, link building or whatever your needs are, we’ve got you covered.
Check out what works for you and what helps you in your efforts. In addition to that, if you have any other SEO tools you can recommend, we would be more than happy to hear about them.
What are your favorite SEO plugins and tools 2016? Let us know in the comment section below!
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