By Mihaela Lica

The SEO Tool that Could Make SEO Software Unnecessary

By Mihaela Lica

SEO legend Aaron Wall’s new SEO Toolbar could replace expensive software for many web developers. Well, not for seasoned SEO professionals, no! But for the DIY webmaster unable to afford professional SEO, or the webmaster who does employ an SEO and simply wants to proof what he’s being sold, definitely.

In the life of every website owner there comes a time when site optimization for the search engines, SEO competitive analysis and the use of SEO software become imperative. Without SEO many sites are condemned to “Google hell” – a place in the darkest corners of the Google SERPs where no search engine user can ever find them. Without SEO software the SEO competitive analysis becomes ineffective because it is time consuming and unstructured. Without a competitive analysis, SEO is just a guessing game.

Competitive analysis looks at competitor sites determining:

  • their strengths – the SEO factors that make them rank on the first page in Google
  • their weaknesses – the SEO factors that were not properly exploited by these competitors that could push the challenger site higher in the SERPs

To determine these strengths and weaknesses the following SEO aspects of the competitor sites need investigating:

  • The basic content analysis: meta tags (title, description, keywords), site menu and text body: which keywords are targeted, and is the density of these keywords too high, etc?
  • Links: how many and how good are the links pointing back to a site. How many reputable directory listings (usually DMOZ, Yahoo! Directory and Best of the Web) do the competitor sites have?
  • Site pages: how many pages belonging to the same site are listed in Yahoo! and Google?
  • Site popularity: where does the competitor site rank in Alexa and Compete.com and what is the traffic value for this site?
  • Last but not least, because we live in the social media age, how many pages of the competitor site are indexed in the main social hubs including digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter and del.icio.us?

To determine some of these factors quickly many SEOs use software like Axandra’s iBusinessPromoter. The problem with such software is that, instead of offering basic SEO competitive analysis data “at a glance”, it generates a wordy report, which is difficult to read on your PC (too many pages). The software is also expensive – not many webmasters can afford to pay, say more than 500 USD for a business edition.

There are, of course, free alternatives: free online tools that analyze each of the SEO factors listed above. Their processes are however time consuming and tedious.

Aaron Wall had the intelligence to pull together a series of tools that make SEO competitive analysis easier for those who need fast answers. The most recent tool is the SEO Toolbar, which is a Firefox plugin that pulls in a series of SEO and SMO data points – giving the user a holistic view of the competitive analysis data that determines the search position of a site.

This toolbar is extremely easy to use. The built in SEO Xray tool allows you to perform the first SEO competitive analysis task: identify the onsite strengths of the analyzed site (meta data, page headings, internal and external links).

SitePoint Xray with SEO Toolbar. Click to enlarge.

SitePoint Xray with SEO Toolbar. Click to enlarge.

The feature I like the most however is the Advanced Information Button that enables the user to export valuable data metrics including site background information, site links, page links, directory listings, traffic estimates and social media information.

SitePoint Advanced Info pulled in by the SEO Toolbar.

SitePoint Advanced Info pulled in by the SEO Toolbar.

The SEO Toolbar can compare up to five sites at once and provide the above metrics for all of them:

5 SEO sites compared with the SEO Toolbar.

5 SEO sites compared with the SEO Toolbar.

In Conclusion

Not every webmaster or site owner has the time and/or resources for in depth SEO. Even those that do would be well advised to employ Wall’s new toolbar for spot checks, SEO quality control, keyword research and of course, speed ranking checks. For in depth SEO, we cannot dismiss much needed expertise, but free tools of such quality are always a welcome addition to the SEO arsenal.

  • Chris Baskind

    How cool is this? Once again, Aaron Wall is da man.

  • Excellent explanation of SEOToolbar, something I installed recently but haven’t used to its full capabilities as of yet. Even in its most basic form, I like the information that it gives me, “at a glance” details about the age of a site, links, PageRank, and more. A jewel of a tool…I highly recommend it.

  • As a social media guy who happens to know a little about SEO, I’m a big fan of some of these “at a glance” free SEO FireFox extensions. Like you said, they give great overview information without burying me with too much info. I’ve found that I get better performance when I keep them deactivated most of the time and just turn them on when I’m doing research.

    Do you find the SEO Toolbar slows down your browser at all during normal surfing?

  • Good question, Chris- No, it doesn’t slow down the browser :) but I do have a very fast PC and fast Internet connection. The only tool that’s really bothering me is the SEO for firefox that highlights in red all nofollow links on a page. It makes the pages look ugly… but it is very useful to identify nofollow links without having to “view page source”

  • SearchStatus seems to slow FF down less for me than SEO for FF does. I have both installed but I leave only SearchStatus on all the time for quick reference. Of course I don’t run it with the nofollow highlighting on so I don’t know if that would slow things down any. I’m on a Mac with a high end DSL. Not as fast as cable, I know, but still fairly sporty.

    Something changed between FF2 & FF3. I never had any problems with performance with FF2. But since I upgraded FF has slowed down enough that I probably spend about a third of my time in Safari. As a result I tend to be careful what add-ons I install in FF. Sounds like I should give the SEO Toolbar a closer look though.

  • Genesis

    This sounds great. I have the same problem as you, Mihaela, with SEO . . . all those red links are distracting!

    Love the fact that this toolbar examines social media and can compare sites. Very nice!

  • Nestor Rojas

    Very useful tool, Thanks. I will try it.

  • I actually noticed strange behavior in FF3 too, not slowing down as much as unexplainable crushes, Chris. I have SearchStatus too, and SEO Quake, and, and, and… I think there’s basically no SEO tool I haven’t tested. Not so much of an exciting life. LOL.

  • Simon

    Using this already, it’s an incredible tool. If only to have a look around and see things with another viewing angle.

  • True – the only thing that is missing – and now I am sorry I haven’t included this aspect in the article – is the Google search bar. If Aaron adds this, there will be no more reasons for me to use the actual Google toolbar.

  • I have the same problem as you, Mihaela, with SEO . . . all those red links are distracting!

    As Chris Cree said, you can turn that option off.

  • Lifecruiser

    Great article about an equally great tool. I think many blog owners like me, love those “fast answers” SEO tools. Love the export and comparison features. I’ve only been using the SearchStatus tool earlier, with the highlight no follow turned off.

    Me too are experiencing some performance problems and crashing of FF since the upgrade to FF3, especially at addons updates. I thought it were some of my addons making a fuss, not sure of which one though. (It might have gone away, haven’t had any this week… *crossing my fingers*)

  • Dazzy

    hai looks like a good SEO tool, it can make my life much easier love the feature in which you can compare sites

  • Having and using this SEO toolbar is a totally rad little operation. Long live Aaron Wall and his outstanding ideas!

    Also, thanks for sharing, Mig-^5!

  • Deborah

    I had used IBP when I was first getting into SEO for my business website. While I’d say it was an invaluable tool during my learning curve, I certainly wouldn’t pay $300+ for the annual accessibility to their software program.

    I haven’t used the toolbar myself, but it may be a good FREE tool based on what I’ve read here. The deterrent for me are the comments of FF crashes, which would frustrate me to no end.

    Great info, thanks Mig!

  • BentAnat

    There _IS_ a slight bug with .com.** domains, though. Something i’ve seen with a good couple of tools out there. the moment you run, for example hotwire.com.na through it, it’ll search for “.com.na” instead of the full domain (this is for msot stats the tool provides using the “compare sites” functions.

  • Sueblimely

    I installed this as soon as I heard about it, trusting it because of its creator, and was not disappointed. I have already made good use of it. By amalgamating so many features, that previously had to be accessed via individual tools, it puts valuable information in easy reach at any time.

    I have noticed no slow downs or strange behaviour but, having just reinstalled Firefox and only adding vital extensions, maybe this is because of no clashes.

  • koko

    How much did he pay you to post this article?

  • WebDude

    I applaud the title for it’s “readability” but a need for SEO software will continue to exist for folks who seriously want to track their link profile/web rankings. Now most sb owners don’t have time for this and usually outsource it but for SEO/SEM workers you still may want to use different tools for keyword research and competitive analytics. A variety of tools works best and I don’t believe there is a “single” tool out there that warrants the title of putting seo software to bed forever.

    Of course, SEO is a broad term covering many aspects.

  • @koko – I doubt Aaron Wall needs to pay to get news coverage, Koko. I also wonder what made you believe he paid me? Jealousy perhaps?

    @WebDude – the title says clearly: “could” – not “would” – I also happen to agree with you, and the conclusion of the article is clear in this regard too. However, the SEO toolbar remains a valuable tool for general SEO needs. I hope you will test the tool yourself and you will then see the value it adds and its potential. Aaron still has to work to refine it. As BentAnat said, there are still bugs – but they are too minor to mention.

  • @Deborah – I have not experienced any FF crashes since I installed the tool.

  • Great creation. It was as if I was looking for a Pretty Girl and I got Google Instead.
    Congrats Aaron and keep growing! It’s gonna help me satisfy my customers better for my SEO service in the future.

    I’ll recommend this tool to all my customers.

    Gurung Webmaster

  • arnek

    Very nice tool.
    I use this and sometimes in conjunction with SEOQuake.

  • I cannot find this seo toolbar listed at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/, which lists all official Firefox extensions. There are seo toolbars by other programmers listed there. Why is it not listed at the official site for Firefox extensions? My security standard is to only use official Firefox extensions.

    Also, how does this toolbar compare with those listed there? Specifically, how does it compare to RankQuest SEO Toolbar by Vincent brown which sounds similar?

  • I have to say that Aaron is one smart guy who knows his SEO. I’ve been using some of his extensions for awhile, but I think I like this one the best. Having all that useful data in one easy to find location makes a big difference.

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