Did you know that mastering SEO Tools doesn’t have to be complex?
To show you, we’ve interviewed three SEO Tools experts to give you their opinion and viewpoint on how to be successful with SEO Tools.
From scaling to fine tuning, we hope you enjoy this deep dive.
Subscribe to BoostSauce to learn even more marketing and sales knowledge, faster…
When it comes to SEO Tools, there are only a few people we turn to for amazing advice that works across the board for different goals.
Whether you’re in SaaS, eCommerce, or lead gen, you’ll be excited to learn that the recipes these experts will share will all help you hit your goals faster.
Including The Following Guests:
SEO consultant for companies (past and present) like WGBH (Boston’s NPR), PBS FRONTLINE, Harvard Business Review, ButcherBox, Zappos, Primal Kitchen, Sumo and more. Podcast Host and Producer of ‘Experts on the Wire’ (now over half a million downloads!), Musician, occasional Speaker (Social Media Marketing World, Content Marketing World, SMX, ContentJam, Agents of Change). My content has appeared on sites like Drift.com, Moz, The Next Web, Entrepreneurs on Fire and more!
Nuggets Dropped x63
“Many businesses and clients try to rank the wrong page for the wrong thing.”
Brian Dean has been called an “SEO genius” by Entrepreneur.com and a “brilliant entrepreneur” by Inc Magazine. Brian’s award-winning blog, Backlinko.com, was listed by Forbes as a top “blog to follow” in 2017. He is an SEO expert and the founder of the Backlinko blog and YouTube channel. Success Magazine has referred to Brian as “the world’s foremost expert on search engine optimization” due to the influence of his blog, which reaches over 2.5 million people every year.
Nuggets Dropped x40
“I can say with confidence that I’ve tried more SEO tools than anyone else out there.”
Rob is the founder and CEO of STAT Search Analytics. He’s been a developer and entrepreneur in the SEO space since 2005, and he especially loves tackling big-data challenges in data mining and analytics. When he isn’t doing that, you can usually find him falling down a ski hill, splashing in the ocean, or taking cookies out of the oven.
Nuggets Dropped x42
“We want clients to see what their customers see to give them the right data to base their strategies on”
SEO Tools With Dan Shure
Johnathan: All right Dan, can you hear us okay?
Dan: Yes I can.
Sean: Hi there.
You and I, Dan, we’ve done some stuff together in the past. And one thing that I was really, really curious about is how you go about research and what you basically do. So tell us about it. Where do you even wanna start?
Dan: Yeah, first I wanna paint the picture as to why this is so important. I think when we’re all doing SEO we want traffic. I’ve seen the topic choice be like the deal breaker in people getting traffic or not.
You’ve heard it all the time. There’s people out there blogging and they’re going, we’re blogging, we’ve been posting, we have 100 posts, we’ve been doing it for two years, but we’re not getting any traffic or results.
And then you look at their content and maybe the content’s even good, but they’re not talking about topics that people are interested in, or they’re overshooting what they can actually rank for. And so the way that I help all my clients grow their traffic is by identifying the right topics for them to begin with.
And because of years and years of doing this, thousands of topics later, I’ve developed a way to categorize content types that align with keyword types in a way that I haven’t heard many other people talk about before. And I use this to help brainstorm and help inform my research when it comes to researching topics for clients.
That’s kind of the backstory about why this is so important and how I’ve found it to be so powerful.
So let me give you an example. There’s this specific type of content that I’m sure you’ve seen all the time that I call an object or a thing list.That might be something like piano apps, or business podcasts, or marketing books.
There’s a noun in that keyword that is a thing that people are looking for a sort of, call it a listicle if you want, but it’s a ranked list of things that is the best of this thing.
It might be the best bagels in New York. Whatever that topic is that is a content type that you can begin your key research and think, okay, there’s these common things that exist.
Books, podcasts, conferences, posts, like whatever it is, and you can say okay, I’m gonna take my topic and just mash it together with all of these noun lists. And then I’m gonna start there.
Because I guarantee you, in almost any industry right now, there’s an opportunity probably to publish that podcast list. And even more specifically, the one I always see opportunity around is an Android app list.
We take any topic and do an Android app list and there’s probably opportunity there because, guess what, a lot of people are just creating app lists, for all app for all platforms, iTunes, Android, but not as many people are writing stuff for Android specifically. And they’ve still got good volume.
So it’s just less competition there. So when I go into new clients and I know that there’s these common types of content I can use that to inform my research and I’m usually gonna stumble upon something that has some kind of opportunity to it.
That’s one example, and we can go into a lot more. But that’s kind of the first picture I wanted to paint with a clear example of a content type.
Johnathan: Right, so for me being very, very juvenile in my SEO and content understanding is, I tell Sean, Sean I want more listicles and I want these keywords to go rank, for example. And then Sean magically makes it happen. But you’re saying there’s another way to go about that, especially if things are very, very competitive in that world that you’re trying to compete in.
Dan: Yeah, I mean, with all types of content if you can find a specific topic that no one has really answered a question around or written an article around and you can be the most relevant specific result, in many cases you’re gonna outrank something that might be higher authority, but less specific.
For example, today I was just doing research and I just tweeted about it. I found a very, kind of old piece of content on not a great website ranking for “string height Stratocaster.” That’s a guitar for anybody that isn’t familiar.
Johnathan: Oh, I was like, what?
Dan: Yeah, and this is a pretty decent volume search query. There’s other sites ranking that are super high demand authority. They’re even competing with Stratocaster, themselves.
Yet, this lower authority site ranks because just not many people have talked about that specific question. So relevance is a big thing that anybody can leverage, no matter what type of content it is.
The reason why I categorize content by the different content types is because it’s really important in SEO to match your document, or your content, with the intent of the keyword. I’ve seen many, many, many businesses and clients, I hear the chicken noise, thanks for that.
But many, many businesses and clients trying to rank the wrong page for the wrong thing. I think a real concrete example is, let’s say I wanna rank for shoes. I’m not gonna use an article to rank for a search like that because the search intent is likely to purchase shoes. So I’m gonna want a category or something with an e-commerce result. But that applies to content, as well.
Let’s take another type of content category, which might just be, what I call, a topic subject or concept. This is a broad word where there’s no intent specified.
So it might be something, like marketing, where it might be a topic I researched lately called privileged access management, or audiogram, this is all just a topic with no context behind the search query.
And the mistake many people make with those is they take something like marketing and they try to write something super specific, like business marketing strategies 2019, or whatever, and it’s way too specific and it totally misses the mark for satisfying a broad search query intent.
And so this entire approach is really important because if you start thinking about these different types of topics, you can match the right content when you execute against that topic.
I actually, the one I just talked about, the type that is just a subject or a concept like marketing, I often recommend my clients to avoid those types of keywords. Or if they go after them, to be much more strategic than just creating a simple blog post.
‘Cause when you’re dealing with something like privileged access management, it takes a lot more time and effort and nuance to figure out how should you structure that content to satisfy that search query. Because that’s a very vague intent.
We have no idea if the person’s looking for a definition, or they want some sort of process, or they want a how-to, or a history, or what they’re looking for. So I often recommend clients to approach those types of topics with care and with caution.
Johnathan: How do you figure that out, what the intent, then is of the examples that you just gave?
Dan: Yeah, so there’s some rules of thumb with the type of piece content like that so 9 times out of 10, you’re gonna start your content with a definition.
You’re gonna go, what is marketing? And answer that. That’s 99% of the time what’s gonna happen. Because most commonly, if you look at related searches, people are searching, what is marketing or marketing definition.
Then what you do is you use Google’s results to help inform your topics. So what you wanna do is look at the other sub-topics that is showing up in the other number one ranked pieces of content, and you also wanna look at Google’s suggested terms, either in Auto Suggest or down below the results.
And you can also use tools, like Keywords Everywhere. It’s a super popular free tool that is gonna give you keyword data in Google as you’re searching for stuff. And that tool is amazing. It’s really been the biggest game changing tool, for me, in the last two years doing SEO.
Sean: Yeah, we use it ourselves.
Johnathan: We’ll put that in the notes, too.
Dan: Yeah, it’s a really, really crazy, awesome tool. So you use SERP analysis, search engine result page analysis, and a combination of that and some tools. And then again, when you do this a lot, you start to see common threads.
Like if something might begin with a definition, then it might talk about why is it important, then it might talk about that topic versus another topic, then it might give a little bit of a how-to, so you start to see these common things.
But that’s what I like to do is use search analysis to help inform that, and I will say that a broad search, like this, could be a candidate to what I might call a hub or wiki section, and that is a bigger collection of pages to address a big topic.
So for example, a while ago, I worked with a company that dealt with hearing aids. And for three years, they ranked number one for hearing aids in Google at 201,000 searches a month, huge keywords, drove a lot of traffic, but that’s ’cause we built a 10 page section about the broad topic of hearing aids with sub-pages below that.
So when you have a big term like this, that’s why it’s really important to approach this with care, because you can’t just throw up some random page around hear aids or jot down 1,000 words and expect to make something happen with that. It’s another good reason to just be knowledgeable about these different topic types ’cause then you can strategically choose which ones to do.
Johnathan: So for the, quick question on that, so for the bigger, wide-rage of what the intent could be from the words or the topics that you wanna rank for, you mentioned the hub and spoke model, too. So you guys were creating the hub and then you had 10 sub-sections, the spokes of the hearing aids–
Dan: Yeah, and I should clarify, I’m actually not a huge advocate of the hub and spoke model or the topic cluster model through Hub Spot because they are hammers looking for nails. They are a templatized, blue printed, pre-planned out strategy. I like to let the keywords and the opportunity dictate what actually gets executed.
Johnathan: You sound like an artist. You sound like an SEO artist.
Sean: The keywords find me.
Dan: Yeah. No, I mean I like to look at the keyword’s landscape for what it is, it’s kind of like, be the keyword. Don’t judge it or come with some pre-decided plans.
So what we did with the hearing aids thing is literally, we went to Google, typed hearing aids and then all the suggest terms that came off of that, a lot of those ended up being sub-pages.
So hearing aid bluetooth, hearing aid costs, hearing aid Medicare, hearing aid equipment, all that stuff. If we followed the topic cluster model, we would have ended up with something very different that I think would not have worked in that case.
Johnathan: And can you tell what the topic cluster model is? Is that the same as hub and spoke?
Sean: That’s the hub and spoke, yeah.
Dan: Yeah, so topic cluster is a little bit more loosely based on, oh we’re gonna talk about hearing aids. Let’s just link to other pages that have to do with hearing aids. I know it’s a little bit more sophisticated than that, but the reason that doesn’t quite work, in many cases, is because it’s not looking at the keyword and the keyword information architecture.
So the way I planned this thing out with the hearing aids, and with other clients, is when you use the seed-term, hearing aids, then that becomes the sub-folder URL, /hearing aids. And then all the sub-topics become, /hearing aids/bluetooth.
And so the entire architecture of the whole section from the URLs to the internal linking to the navigation is all dictated by the keywords.
And so it’s a much more tightly connected group of content, rather than just, oh let’s have a main page about marketing. And then we’ll link to Instagram. That’s a bit more loose. That doesn’t always work.
Johnathan: So you’re saying, even though you might not be a believer in the hub and spoke, or the topic cluster model, it’s still a good, it’s a better option than just writing one blog post on marketing or one blog post on hearing aids, is that correct?
Dan: Yeah, yeah. One of the big beef I have with the Hub Spot article was it came out with the sub-text saying, Google now uses topics, not keywords. And they said this in 2015 or 16. And it’s like, they’ve always been using topics.
I don’t understand why this is a new thing, all of a sudden. And so, they came at it saying this whole topic thing is a new ranking factor, but it’s really just good site architecture. So yes, to answer your question, you’re better off thinking about good site architecture and good information architecture.
Johnathan: Love it, awesome.
Dan: So I should probably go through some other topic types, too.
Johnathan: Yeah, yeah go for it.
Dan: So we talked about a thing list, like piano apps, we talked about a broad topic like marketing, there’s also, what I call information or concept list. That might be like Facebook Ad Tips, or cyber security best practices, or preschool curriculum ideas, so you get the picture with that.
These are all more like, it’s not a concrete thing, but if somebody’s looking for, they’ve specified the intent of what they’re looking for. I love going after these terms because you know exactly what the user’s looking for. When they say, Facebook Ad Tips, you better give them Facebook ad tips.
Johnathan: Oh boy, we know.
Dan: Yeah, you know quite a lot about Facebook Ad tips. It’s what you do at KlientBoost. This type of topic is super easy to go, then, execute because then, literally, we’re talking about the content that is, the 12 best Facebook Ad tips of 2019.
And again, I can make it sound like a cheap listicle, but when executed well, these are very high quality valuable pieces of content, especially if you are in an industry where there’s a little less competition.
I mean, Facebook Ad tips posts are a dime a dozen, right now, but if you’re in a lesser competitive industry like preschool curriculum ideas, that was a topic I found for a client. And it’s super less covered than Facebook ad tips. So you can definitely add a lot of value, depending upon your industry that you’re in.
So I love that type of content because it can arrive at keywords easily ’cause you know you’re just gonna take topic and add strategies, or tips, or process, or ideas, any of these things that represent something specific.
And then you’re just gonna execute on that common structure of that content. There’s some others that are common that I’m sure people see all the time but you might not think about.
So, versus, so maybe like, silver bars versus coins, versus palio, VPN versus proxy, lists can go on and on.
But you could take any starting topic and go to Google or go to another tool I’m gonna mention, which is keywordkeg.com, this is made by the people that also make Keywords Everywhere and you can throw in VPN versus and it’ll spit back to you all of the other searches that have VPN versus proxy, versus etc.
Johnathan: Keyword Keg, like a beer keg?
Dan: Yeah, keywordkeg.com.
Sean: That sounds funny.
Johnathan: We like it.
Johnathan: No cluck.
Dan: Yeah, no cluck on that one. But yeah, there’s all kinds of ways you can get this, but that’s another common content type is to look for versus stuff.
Another one that a lot of people don’t think about ’cause on the surface level, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything to do here. But it’s a yes, no question.
So is FaceTime safe? Or is butter dairy? Or is piano hard to learn? These are all things I could answer with a yes/no question, in theory, but if you then think about following that up by expanding it on asking why.
So is FaceTime safe, yes. Okay, why, and then there’s your post ’cause then you’re gonna go and be answering the nuances to that question, the follow-up question of why. And I think a lot of people overlook this type of content because you just think it’s gonna be simple.
It’s yes/no, why do I need the whole piece content about that? You can, again, go to answer the public, go to Google with your Keywords Everywhere plugin, or Keyword Keg, or whatever, and you can put your topic and then put the cursor in front of the topic and type the word, is. And then you can find all of the long-tail off of that.
So is butter dairy, is one example I’m sure you could find. Is butter healthy, or whatever. So that’s a common content type that I often find there’s a lot of opportunity around, as well.
Johnathan: And do you do that when you go for the versus or the question type of content? Is that when things are very, very, let’s say, competitive, and nobody’s, the competitors that you’re trying to rank against them, that have a higher domain authority, are not taking advantage of the versus or the question topics? Or is it just, how do you prioritize that? Which one’s arrived first?
Dan: So competition is going to differ based on your verticals. So again, if we’re in marketing, it’s all gonna be competitive. If we’re in the one industry I reached with precious metals, it’s gonna be a little less competitive.
Johnathan: We need to get into precious metals.
Dan: So you have to know your industry. So for versus, there isn’t a stock answer. [static]
Johnathan: No, sorry.
Dan: Sorry, I missed you guys. What’d you say?
Johnathan: I didn’t say anything, I was just nodding and agreeing.
Dan: Oh, got it, okay. So yeah, I think for competition, what I look for is, is my connection still good?
Johnathan: Yes. Loud and clear.
Dan: Okay, what I look for for competition, no matter the vertical, is three basic things, which I’ll cover very quickly. Relevance, quality, and authority.
I wanna look to see, are there relevant results? If there’s little to no other relevant results answering that specific search query or question, then I know there’s an opportunity no matter the other two things, authority and quality.
The other thing that you do, very quickly, is just turn on your friendly MOZ bar overlay plugin in the Google search results, and look at the domain authorities the other site’s ranking.
I should caveat, ’cause there’s been discussion in the SEO world, lately, about how Google doesn’t use domain authority, which is true. They don’t have anything like domain authority. But I still find domain authority valuable to quickly gauge what’s the overall ranking power of this site that’s showing up. It’s still a useful metric.
So you can quickly scan the domain authorities. And if you find, what I call, the domain authority gap in the search results, you might be able to rank. So if your site is a DA50, but everything on page one for your term is DA40 and below, you could probably rank there, given other factors, of course. But that’s a really good opportunity showing up in terms of domain authority.
The other thing that takes a little more analysis and figuring out is quality. But even if you lower domain authority, and there’s other relevant results, maybe they’re old or maybe not written by an expert. Maybe they’re low quality, maybe the images are broken.
Low quality, in any sort of way, you could still do something better, bigger, newer, etc, and possibly outrank those other results. Even if there’s some higher authorities and relevant results, as well, on page one. So that’s how I assess competition, but there’s a lot more nuances. That’s kind of a quick minute crash-course.
Johnathan: Yeah, no it’s the fundamentals.
Dan: Yeah, one thing I’ll say is, I typically ignore keyword difficulty tools when doing this granular level of asking can I rank for something, where I will use a keyword difficulty score, like in SEMrush or MOZ, it’s just broadly.
If I wanna look at a set of keywords and just filter out everything that I know is gonna be too hard to rank for, in SEMrush, I’ll filter out everything that’s like 80 and above. I just wanna get rid of the stuff that’s gonna be super hard and then that way, I can dig into the lower stuff.
So I use it in a broad way. But I see some people obsess over, well this is a 65 and that’s a 70. The 65s easier to rank for. That is totally not true, it doesn’t work like that but it can be used as a broad way to analyze stuff.
Sean: Do you also, I mean you’ve talked a lot about the search intent and everything, I’ve just got one question. How do you balance certain keywords that you’re targeting, or topics that you’re targeting if you think they have a nice strong intent, in terms of lining up with the keyword and what you’re writing, but they have a low search volume?
Dan: Yeah, then you’re gonna get low traffic or you’ll find stuff with higher volume. There’s always a balance there, right. I think depending on your niche, some companies or websites have to be comfortable going top of funnel with their traffic acquisition.
I was just working with somebody who is going to be selling courses on how to repair guitars, or how to be your own guitar technician. There’s 90 searches a month for that. So he’s gonna write about stuff that is way more top of funnel, capture people on email, get them in a system, and then sell that way. It kind of is what it is.
You can’t make up volume for stuff that’s not there, so then you have to write about something that people are searching for. That’s how I deal with it, and then I try to educate clients on the value of that top of funnel content, which doesn’t always go super well, but the ones that are receptive, it definitely works.
Johnathan: Super cool.
Dan: The last content type I’ll mention that is super common is how to, or process, and I think it’s valuable to just mention this discreetly here, because the biggest mistake I make is that I see people taking something like marketing strategies, and then they write a how-to. And that’s not how to rank for marketing strategies because you’re not aligning the content with the intent.
Johnathan: So would that be a listicle? Like X amount of marketing strategies?
Dan: Yeah, that’s back to your list. Your topic list, your information list. But when you encounter something like, how to jump a car, or how to cook on the grill, or maybe even how to set up Facebook ads, then you’re structure of your content becomes a outline of steps.
Think wikiHow. Every single piece of content on wikiHow falls into a how-to or process. So it’s just good to know that because then you can go, you can also back-step into the keywords.
So sometimes I work with clients and they’ll go, well we don’t wanna do any how-to’s, or any teaching type of stuff. And then in my research, I’ll just take everything that would have been how-to off the table.
So sometimes it’s good to know the types of content you wanna do and then reverse that back into the keywords that MOZ line up with.
Johnathan: Do they change their minds sometimes when you take away the how-to and they’re like, oh, we can’t rank for all that now.
Dan: Yeah, sometimes, yeah it can be a little rude awakening to see what the opportunity actually is.
Johnathan: Cool, well Dan, this has been so amazing.
In regards to the different types of, not getting too technical either, ’cause I’m really, really liking with what you said, anybody listening to this can actually follow along and understand, and of course, the tools that you mentioned, we’re gonna obviously have in the notes, too, so people can use them.
Is there any last things that we need to keep in mind before we wrap up?
Dan: That’s a loaded question.
Johnathan: You can talk about anything, brownie recipes, doesn’t matter.
Dan: No, I would say, one thing I’ve been huge on, lately is your opening sentence, your opening paragraph on content.
I know it’s like I’m going super specific, here, but I see a lot of mindlessly written openings, and in the world of SEO and just good marketing, getting people to click is one thing, but getting them to stay on your content is really, and you deal with this all the time with KlientBoost, a lot of wasted clicks and traffic out there for content where people spend very little time on their first sentence or their opening.
So that could be a whole separate topic. I’ll give a quick little plug here. My next podcast episode coming out, Experts on the Wire, is gonna be with somebody that is a writer who is just incredible at this stuff, and we go into super deep on how to write a good opening sentence. So anybody interested could check that out.
Johnathan: Yeah, we’ll add that in.
Dan: Cool, yeah I’ll give you the link if you wanna add that.
Johnathan: We totally will. Well Dan, really appreciate your time. We will most likely have you on another type of SEO or content episode in the future, too, so thanks for spending time with us.
Dan: Cool, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Sean: All right, thanks a lot Dan.
Johnathan: All right, bye.
SEO Tools With Brian Dean
Johnathan: Hey Brian, Jonathan and Sean over here from BoostSauce.
Sean: Hey hey.
Brian: Hey guys.
So Brian, where do you wanna start with this? You probably have a fair share of experience and knowledge of what you’ve done and what you still use.
Brian: Man, I am kind of a tool addict. I actually, what I’m told, I have used over 200 tools.
Johnathan: Oh my goodness.
Brian: In about a month. It was insane, it was just non-stop, had to have someone on my team create all the accounts.
But ultimately, I tried, personally, 200 tools for the first edition, since then, I’ve tried another probably 60 or 70. Only about 190 made the cut for this giant list that I have, but I can say with confidence that I’ve tried more SEO tools than anyone else out there.
Johnathan: We believe you. That’s amazing, so there’s different tools for different things, if you wanted to take somebody through the must-haves and then the nice-to-haves, where would you rank and categorize the must-haves?
Brian: Well, I mean obviously, the must-have right now is Ahrefs because even just for link building, they are a must-have. Because they’ve totally, that won’t throw me off, don’t worry.
They were a link-building tool and they’ve fully expanded their feature set. And every feature that they’ve put out is one of the best out there. They released their keyword research tool a couple years ago that has since been refined.
And it’s slowly become my go-to for keyword research, in addition to all the other stuff they have.
Now they have some other features that probably aren’t as good as some others and things like that, but in terms of must-have, that’s the one that I find myself logging into most often. Which to me, indicates how much value it brings to the table ’cause I can’t do a workday without that tool.
That shows me that it’s a must-have.
Johnathan: Okay, awesome. What other tools?
Brian: The other would be SEMrush.
Johnathan: Okay, and what do you use SEMrush for?
Brian: I use it mostly for reverse engineering competing sites and what keywords they rank for. Like Ahrefs, they have a billion features from content stuff to even their own link database.
But when I think SEMrush, I think keyword research and it’s still a really good tool for that even though Ahrefs can also reverse engineer, MOZ can now reverse engineer, a competitors ranking can show you exactly what keywords they’re ranking for.
I find the SEMrush is good for that, but it’s also good for just coming up with keyword ideas. So you pop in your keyword and get a bunch of keyword ideas. And to me, the results you get from SEMrush are still a little bit better than most because they’re not just variations on what you type in.
So a lot of times, if you type in SEO tools into a keyword research tool, it’ll give you variations like, best SEO tools, free SEO tools, stuff that you could have thought of on your own, but SEMrush comes up with some unique keywords that a lot of other tools don’t have.
The only other one that’s similar in that way that I would put on my almost a must-have list, not necessarily must-have, but it’s really good to have and it’s a little bit above nice-to-have, would be MOZ pro.
Their keyword research tool is also really good at coming up with those lateral keyword ideas that just are tough to come up with on your own, but using their own sophisticated algorithm, they know how topics are linked together and they suggest some cool keywords that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.
Johnathan: That’s amazing.
Sean: Well I was gonna say, I know that being limited on the non-pro subscription to MOZ and I get, I think, 10 keyword searches a month, that’s a bit difficult.
Johnathan: We don’t have a budget here at KlientBoost. So are those three your must-have, you can’t live without those?
Johnathan: That’s true, that’s true.
Brian: It depends if you consider them a tool or not. I do, but they’re not paid, they’re not really like a third-party thing, but you kinda need them to do SEO and to rank. You need Google Analytics and all the stuff you can break down and the Google search console is like a dashboard. I would put those in the must-have category, but most people don’t because they’re not really tools.
Johnathan: I mean I disagree. I think I’m on board with what you’re saying. They’re definitely tools because they’re free.
But yeah, that’s awesome. Now, since you’ve reviewed so many tools, too, in regards to the nice-to-have, which ones pleasantly surprised you when you were going through your review?
Brian: One tool that I really like, and I don’t hear a lot of people talk about, is called seedkeywords.com. It’s kind of a strange tool, but it’s brilliant in its own way.
So the problem I have with keyword research, a lot of time, is that it’s based on what you type into it. It’s like that old computer science, garbage in, garbage out and a lot of times, I’m giving it garbage.
I will just type in keywords that come to my mind, like link building, and it’ll just spit out variations of that. And I don’t even think of how people are actually searching for this stuff.
So what Seed Keywords is, you create a question for a task for Google. So you say, okay, how would you find an SEO tool in Google, and basically, it creates a link and you send this question out to anyone that you can. You can share it on Twitter, with colleagues, with friends, with clients, with your own agency, and then they tell you how they would search for this stuff.
And then a lot of times, the keywords they would use in Google are completely different than you would think. So it brings up these awesome seed keywords, hence the name, that then you can type into the Google keyword planner or whatever, to see how many people actually search for this stuff, or whether that one person was just a weirdo and they searched for it in a weird way.
Or maybe they’re onto something and you’re the weirdo and the way they typed in is how most people search for but you didn’t think of it. It’s really good for industries or niches or topics that you’re in and you can’t see it from an outside perspective.
Johnathan: Okay, I like that. Any other ones in regards to, I guess Ahrefs and SEMrush can do this too, but competitive monitoring. If there’s anything new that they’re doing? I don’t know if that’s something that made the list or anything that’s nice to have?
Sean: Or what about Answer The Public, I mean doing something like what you just described. Do you ever use Answer The Public for that?
Brian: Yeah, but they’re not really necessarily keywords, they’re more looking at communities for questions. And obviously, there’s a lot of cross-over, don’t get me wrong, Answer The Public‘s great. I use it a lot, and faster than the seedkeywords.com tool, which is free, by the way.
I use them both, actually. Seed Keywords is good if you’re, say you’re an agency and you just get a new client that sells organic gardening stuff. And you know nothing about this topic. It’s a good way to get some keywords that you couldn’t think of.
Or the opposite, if you’re in it and you wanna see an outside perspective. Answer The Public’s good, but it has that same problem that if you type in gardening equipment, it’s gonna give you the same set of questions based on that, versus Seed Keywords will give you these laterally, things you wouldn’t even think of, like organic tomato kits.
Then you type that in and you get all the questions people ask about that online. They actually compliment each other really well.
Johnathan: Cool, what other ones surprised you when they made the list for you?
Brian: Another good one that I like, I would actually put more in the must-have that I forgot to mention is BuzzSumo, which I think most content marketers, SEO people are very familiar with it.
A couple things I use it for that are a little outside the box, I don’t think get enough love, one is searching for content on a competitor’s domain. So a lot of people only use it, they type in a keyword and see what content is done well, this is how it was designed to be used.
But you can actually put a domain, like you can put KlientBoost.com and you can see your best content over the last year, two years, three years, and this is great for viewing a competitor, especially one that puts out a ton of content and it’s kind of hard to tell which ones did well, which ones didn’t do well and I do that a lot for various other SEO sites and other industries.
And then I’ll put in a competitor and you get a list of their best stuff as opposed to looking at it from a topic perspective.
Johnathan: So if you put in some competitor URLs and it gives you a ranking of the best performing content, is that, and I honestly don’t know because I’m not in this every day, like you guys are. Is that based off of social shares? Or is it based off of backlinks? How do you determine which piece of content is the best of the competitors?
Brian: Well they sort it by something that they call an agent, which is a combination of social shares and back links. So they combine the two into their rankings. It depends on what your goals are.
If you’re like, hey I wanna create something that goes viral on, let’s say, Pinterest, then you’d really zero in on that and you can sort by Pinterest shares. So it’s kind of a two zone event situation where you could pick whatever thing you wanna get off it.
So if your goal is link building, obviously you’d just look by backlink and kind of ignore the social stuff.
Another cool feature in there, in BuzzSumo, that I like to use is called Evergreen Score. And like it sounds, that shows you how well a content performed over a long period of time. So some content comes out, it’s a flash in the pan, it does well, and then a week later, it’s completely forgotten.
It shows you content that has legs over time and that’s cool because you could be like, something on that topic would give me value over the course of the months and years as opposed to just a day or a week.
Johnathan: That’s super cool.
Speaking of link building, too, I mean you mentioned BuzzSumo can be great for that, too, but are there any specific tools that you like that you’re using for link building?
Brian: Yeah, I use mostly Ahrefs for link building and there’s a couple cool features in there that I use more often than others. One is they have a tool called Content Explorer, which is basically their version of BuzzSumo.
You type in the topic and it gives you the stuff that has performed best in terms of social shares and links, but what it has as a cool feature is that you can specifically bring up content that has done well that’s now broken.
So the URL is broken. And then you can use that for broken link building. So you can find content that has been shared a bunch, maybe a couple of years ago, and now it’s dead. And it’s a cool way to bring that up because otherwise, the only way to find broken links is to either go page by page or put in the competing domain.
This shows you stuff that you couldn’t find, otherwise. It’s almost like broken link building searching from the keyword, it’s pretty cool. And they added it specifically, they added that feature for broken link building. So I’ve been using that quite a bit lately.
Johnathan: Okay, this kinda goes outside of the SEO tools, but if you do email outreach for link building purposes, what email platform or tool do you use for that?
Brian: I personally like to keep things really simple. I use mostly Gmail or a G-Suite account and an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything.
Brian: Because I do some, but I don’t have a key, you know.
Johnathan: Yeah, well that’s awesome.
Brian: Yeah, if you’re just getting started, I wholly recommend people just get, start with a simple spreadsheet and send each email one by one, ’cause that’s the only way to really learn how to get good at outreach.
And you get those emails, those horrible outreach emails that are like, hi name, and they forgot to put the name. That happens a lot ’cause people are using a tool in their first outreach email.
But when I did scale and I was using a lot more, I used BuzzStream, which is really good. It’s very beginner level, pretty easy to try out and then, if you wanna get super advanced sequences, finding influences and stuff, Pitchbox is really good.
Sean: Pitchbox is life.
Brian: Pitchbox, yeah it’s legit.
Johnathan: Okay, cool, awesome.
Sean: I’m impressed.
Brian: But you gotta get your money’s worth out of it. You’ve gotta be doing a ton of outreach, basically.
Johnathan: Yeah, that’s rad.
This is kinda to your point, too, a lot of people, and I’ve been a fault for this too, like, oh shiny new tool, let me use it and start going about it.
But you mentioned something really, really important is that if you don’t put in the work first on some of these things, of course, some of these tools are invaluable, you have to use them.
But for the outreach perspective, knowing what works and what doesn’t when you get those replies or not get those replies, it’s really important for you to sharpen your own knife as you go through this.
Anything else you have, as far as recommendations when people go out and research? We’re gonna include your blog post about the SEO tools, but as people scan that list, what should they be aware of?
Are there certain categories of tools and saying, hey I need one tool for this, one tool for that, one tool for this?
Brian: Yeah, exactly, I think there are some categories that you, it depends on what you’re doing.
If you’re not that into on page SEO stuff, you can skip some of the content optimization tools and if you’re really focused on link building right now, you can just zero in on those.
And the cool thing about platforms like MOZ and Ahrefs and SemRush expanding. They now cover several different categories.
It used to be you had Ahrefs for link building, SemRush for keyword research, MOZ did a lot of local stuff, and have this and that kind of a suite going on. Now, you can, more or less, pick one tool and get a lot of value out of it.
So I wouldn’t go crazy with categories. I would just be like, what am I doing the most and what am I doing the least and which one has strengths and weaknesses there?
So if you’re doing link building, in my opinion, Ahrefs is best. But if you’re also doing a little bit of keyword research, even a lot of keyword research, it could get you covered there too, so you don’t need to necessarily get both tools.
If you’re like, hey we’re putting out tons of content, we’re scaling our content, we need tons of keywords, then you might wanna go with SemRush and then use their link building features whenever you do link building stuff for you.
So it is a bit individual, but yeah, again, that post has recommendations and some highlights of what things tend to do best.
Johnathan: Awesome, awesome. Anything else you think the listeners should know about when it comes to SEO tools? Anything that we didn’t cover yet?
Brian: Yeah, another tool that I would recommend that I don’t hear a lot of people talk about is called Keyword it,
Johnathan: Keyword it?
Brian: Or Keyword Reddit. I should have looked that up. My ads are showing on that one.
Johnathan: We’ll add those for sure.
Brian: Basically, what it is, is if you put in a sub-Reddit that your audience hangs out on and it rates it and finds terms that people are talking about on there. And it sorts it by search volume.
So it’s very keyword focused.
So for example, if you’re in the Keto space, you put in the keto sub-Reddit and it shows you all the terms that come up most often in that sub-Reddit, which is just a gold mine of keyword research.
And again, it’s one of those where you don’t need to see keywords, it’s stuff that will be hard to find, otherwise.
Sean: Right, yeah that’s really straight from the source.
Johnathan: It’s funny, so I don’t–
Brian: Yeah, exactly so you don’t have to do it manually.
Johnathan: Yeah, I was gonna say, too, obviously it’s not a similar situation but on the paid side for, let’s say Display Network, we have something called Custom Affinity Audiences and what we found worked really well was when we used sub-Reddit URLs, Pinterest URLs, which unfortunately there’s not a lot of text, or even wikipedia articles to generate a topic that we’re basically using to target our ads, so it’s funny to hear what you just mentioned there, that there’s a tool for the SEO portion of it.
Cool, cool. Well Brian, you’ve been so helpful and straight to the point, I love all these nuggets. Obviously we have more than what you actually heard from the chicken sounds, so we wanna thank you for your time, man. Really appreciate it.
Brian: My pleasure, thanks for having me.
Sean: Thanks a lot man.
Johnathan: All right. Talk to you soon.
Brian: No problem, thank you guys.
Johnathan: All right, bye.
SEO Tools With Rob Bucci
Jonathan: Hey is this Rob?
Sean: Hey, hey.
Rob: Hey, how’s it going guys?
Johnathan: Hey, good, good. How are you?
Rob: I’m well, thank you.
Sean: Good to hear it.
Johnathan: For the people listening, we have, hopefully I don’t butcher your last name, Rob, but it’s Rob Bucci, is that right?
Rob: You got it, Bucci, that’s right.
Johnathan: Not boujee? Just kidding.
Sean: It’s Bucci like Gucci.
Rob: Yeah, absolutely, looking forward to it.
Johnathan: Well now that we have you on the show, I’m gonna go off a little bit of a tangent. I am curious what you spend your time on when it comes to R&D at MOZ, that seems like a secret Area 51 lab kind of thing.
Rob: There are no aliens at MOZ, but yeah, absolutely, I spend a lot of my time working with, trying to figure out what is on the cutting edge.
What digital marketers and SEOs need in order to do their jobs better and we’re working on a lot of direct analytics machine learning type stuff to help us better get in front of, how do we help people make their websites more visible in Google search?
Johnathan: Cool, well you guys are, and it’s kinda like, you’re way more than that, obviously, but you are technically an SEO tool. So when it comes to the MOZ capabilities, let’s spend most of this episode segment on that.
Because while we can talk about other tools and what you guys might use beyond your own tool, I’m really curious to understand the things that people can gain value from and anything you have in the pipeline from an R&D perspective, too.
So where should we start?
Rob: Why don’t we start talking a little bit about local since that’s an area that we’ve been talking a lot about. You know, local search, how people can use MOZ’s tool set to get in front of that particular area. How does that sound?
Johnathan: Yeah, let’s do it.
Sean: That’s great.
Rob: Great, great.
We, just last week at MOZ, we announced the launch of this new functionality called Local Market Analytics and it’s based on this research that we’ve done that shows that increasingly, the vast majority of searches that people do results in, searching result pages that are local, ie they change based on where the search is coming from.
So, if I’m in Seattle and I search for sushi in Seattle, I’m gonna see a different result page than someone in New York. And that seems obvious, right? That’s a very local search.
But if I’m doing, even non-local queries, and I’m searching for Adidas shoes, or how to file a small claim, for example, I’m seeing different search results depending on where, in the United States, I’m searching from.
So one of the things that we’re uncovering is that there is no such thing as a national search anymore. Now, it’s a matter of where you’re standing in the US, the search results are different. So these customers of yours, what they see is different depending on where they’re searching from.
And if you’re trying to figure out how to be best visible to those customers, you have to be searching in the exact same place they’re searching. So that gets really challenging to do, to build that kind of data acquisition and analytical pipeline for you to be able to understand, what do my customers in Memphis, Tennessee see when they search for my business? We’ve been building solutions for that particular problem.
Sean: Oh that’s awesome, so that’s a completely segmented, it’s local searches across the nation.
Johnathan: So how do people–
Rob: You got it, yeah, sorry go ahead.
Johnathan: I was gonna say, how do people take advantage of that when you guys now have that capability of improving local SEO for companies that use MOZ? What are the things that are vital to be able to show and also grow more locally, so to speak, in the search results?
Rob: The primary thing is that we want them to see the on the ground reality of what their customers see ’cause it all starts with having the right data, the foundation of what you build all of your campaigns, all of your strategies.
So historically, people that look nationally, and perhaps they have been mis-reporting or under reporting their performance in these markets because they think, well I’ll just search, let’s say I have a hardware store. Let’s say I have hardware stores across the nation.
If I just search for hardware stores in the United States, I’m not seeing exactly what my customers are seeing. We’re giving them the right data by saying, here’s what the SERP looks like for hardware store in Memphis, here’s what it looks like in New York, here’s what it looks like in Washington State and so on.
Give them the right data to base their strategies on top of. So that is the lowest, the minimum bar that we have to catch. But on top of that, we want to allow them to understand, what is the demand in that market? How does the number of people searching for hardware stores change based on where they are in the country?
So we’ve layered in this other piece of data that we’ve been developing at MOZ which is called local search volume. So now we can tell you, here’s how many people are searching for you in this area, here’s how many people are searching for you in that area, and here’s how it changes.
And that’s where it gets really interesting ’cause now we can start to actually value the potential return in specific markets. We can make the business case for, hey you should move into this market because there’s more people searching per capita for your service than there is in another market.
Johnathan: That makes sense.
So knowing that, those insights, seeing what the SERP looks like, getting the data of the search volume, how do individual local business owners that might have one location or multiple locations then take advantage of it? What things are they doing differently to then being able to be more present in the search results?
Rob: Well when it comes down to it, the actual nature of how we ask the owners to change so much, it’s more about where do we focus. So the good old fashioned principles of create great content, solve real user problems, figure out what those users are trying to do and make sure you help them do it.
It’s all good standard SEO advice that doesn’t change. So now we’re helping them be a bit more granular about where they put their focus. I want them to say, I have to focus on, this is kinda random, but part of my research was related to pet auctions, so I wanna focus on dog related content, dog at auction content, in Portland specifically.
I know that I’m performing poorly in Portland, I know there’s a high number of searches per capita in that market, so I am taking my relatively limited resources that we all have and I’m applying them, very strategically to one specific area I know will make an impact.
Johnathan: Right, because of search volume potential or search volume that’s already there but you’re not grabbing it because, like you said, the resources may be constrained, as well.
Rob: Yeah or you have a big competitor who’s in every market except that market so you’re going where they’re not. Exactly.
Johnathan: Very cool, well that’s awesome. If we had multiple locations, I mean that’s a goal one day, then we can consider being a customer of yours for that.
What other things, in regards to the SEO tool of MOZ, beyond the local factor that people take advantage of and love?
Rob: Sure, yeah okay.
So one of the cool things that we’ve sort of all in the industry have come to terms with in the past few years, is that Google thinks a lot about satisfying the intent of the search.
Meaning that they know that when people go to Google and they search for something, they’re trying to solve a specific need or problem, or meet some sort of requirement that they have, and Google, in order to do that well, tries to understand what that intent is behind the searcher.
Are they looking for information? Are they looking to purchase something? Are they looking to get somewhere? Are they looking, is this an ambiguous query to figure out exactly what the particular query they’re after means, so there’s all these different kinds of intents that someone might apply to their searching and Google chooses to solve those needs by blending a whole bunch of different content.
For example, when someone wants informational queries about the best products to buy, you’ll see a lot more video results in the SERP because Google knows that people like to interact with video to get this kind of information. Or when they’re looking for really quick answers, they use what’s called a feature snippet at the very top of the search.
Google does all these things to map intent. To meet the intent, and one of the things we’re curious about is, can we help our customers understand in advance what Google thinks the intent of that search query is?
So we’ve been building these models that allow us to understand and tell our clients, hey for this particular query, Google thinks the intent is this, and therefore your content will reach out as far as that.
So that’s a really interesting area of research that, it’s in a pure R&D and I’m very excited to build that into MOZ.
Sean: Yeah, actually identifying different intents, it’s like keyword research taken to the psychic level.
Rob: Yeah, exactly.
Sean: I would like that
Johnathan: Quote when you guys release it or if it is already out, you can just take Shawn’s face and use that quote for it.
Sean: That’s right. It’s a great testimonial, yeah, having never used it, yes.
Rob: Yeah, perfect. Yeah that’s a really interesting area of process.
Johnathan: Awesome, awesome, from what MOZ already is and not necessarily what’s in the R&D, what have you guys, what is your bread and butter features around your product that most people, today, are using to their advantage?
Rob: I think a lot of people who really get a lot of value out of MOZ are agency types. Individuals who are responsible for managing a set of clients that have a lot of different business areas they’re involved in and service. The need for that kind of customers are very specific.
You know, they have very specific job reporting around user management, around how to make sure data is always available when I need it, when it’s time for me to do an audit or provide a client report. So we’ve done a really good job of meeting those needs of those agencies and it’s something that we’re still interested and need more of.
So we’re working really hard to figure out what other areas are agencies under serviced that we can help them with? So agencies are people that really get a lot of bang for their buck because of the MOZ tools. So that’s really interesting to see.
Johnathan: Yeah, so if you were an agency or even an individual in-house SEO person, see I don’t even know, I don’t even talk this language, SEOer, is that how you say it?
Sean: Yeah I guess you could call it an SEOer.
Rob: SEO Analyst.
Johnathan: There you go.
From competitive analysis and watching things like that to considering what you’re in charge of, on the R&D side, which is a lot of these new things, bells and whistles and features coming out, are there anything that you guys do predominantly better today than other tools on the market?
Rob: Sure, yeah. If you think about the needs of that agency customer, or any SEO customer, we’re specifically focusing at the agencies for the purpose of this conversation, if you think about their needs, they have a lifecycle arc.
So for example, for an agency, one of the primary things I need to do is I need to bring in new business. So I need to pitch people. So I need to show up at those pitches armed with all the information I could possibly have about your market so I impress you as my potential client that you should work with me.
So in order to do that, we’re helping these customers with all these incredible keyword research features through our Keyword Explorer. We’re helping them get at this huge volume of data of things like STAT that allow you to pull in all the different SERPS for as many different keywords as you want so you get a true lay of the land for the market, so they can approach their pitch and say, we know everything.
We’ve been tracking your business, we know all your key competitors, how they change the market because we have that local market analytics product, so we can show you your competitors in Portland or show you your competitors in Washington. That’s the first basis and that’s really impressive.
And then, hey, we sell the client in. And we do that on the basis of having Keyword Explorer, on having STAT and having local market analytics. At that point, once you’ve won the business, you have to actually do what you say you’re gonna do. And so that involves us getting down to the brass taxes in SEO and at some point, we have to report on that.
So again, in MOZ you have all these abilities to report out the performance and to show the data. You started working with us in January, it’s now March, here’s how much has improved over that time frame, so MOZ is helping with that part of the lifecycle, as well.
So it’s a cycle, because they start with pitching, they won the business, they report on the business, eventually there’s new pitches to do, and rinse and repeat.
Johnathan: Yeah I’m looking on the website right now. I’m looking at MOZ pro, you guys obviously have MOZ local and obviously free SEO tools, too.
How, with how much you can say, how much of the free SEO tools is an acquisition channel for you guys for actually paying users, is that quite a bit?
Rob: Yeah, certainly. We track a lot of people who come in interested in the free SEO tools. I would say not all those users are definitely the kind of users who are gonna stick around for the long term just because the ones needs developed as we get into SEO.
You happen to start learning about SEO, you find MOZ right? MOZ is beginners guide to SEO. It’s absolutely fantastic and it’s the standard in the industry, so a lot of people, one of the challenges we have is showing people how they can use MOZ to do more than they thought they could do.
So definitely the free channel is a good acquisition channel for us, but we do a lot better when we can actually talk to those users and form relationships with them and show them, we’re not just a free SEO tool company. We can actually help with full service of your agency.
Johnathan: Yeah, yeah, super cool.
So for people listening or watching right now, or even reading, I wanna go through, I’m literally on the Pro Products page on your site right now, so you have Keyword Explorer, which is knowing which keywords to target with the keyword volume, the difficulty metrics, as well too, and then you also have the tracking of those individual keywords, as well, which is, I think you mentioned and eluded to, it’s really nice to know that if what you’re doing is actually making progress and seeing that, which is really important.
You have the ability to crawl and audit the site and then you also have a page optimization score. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how that helps people out?
Rob: Yeah sure, so again, thinking about lifecycles, right? It starts with me doing some research to figure out what terms and content my customers are looking for, I build that content onto my site.
So at that point, I need to audit my site to make sure that content is well built, it’s crawlable, it’s acceptable, the site is functional, it’s responsive, it turns the page quickly, so all that is a site audit. So that helps the users do their on site SEO. And then there’s the how to grow the site in Google.
So how is my site visible when somebody searches for me and that gets down to rank tracking, and how do I improve my ranking and pay me more backlinks, so that’s where you’re gonna get back linking analysis.
So all of these tools are components that service that full lifecycle SEO from content research and keyword research to content development to site auditing to SERP visibility to backlink analysis.
It’s all one kind of spectrum of work.
Johnathan: Yeah, that’s amazing, and you said about the links, too, it says it’s new on the website, is that relatively new, the Link Explorer, or has that been around for a minute?
Rob: Link Explorer has been around for a minute for sure, but it’s been recently updated and it’s one of the biggest in the world, actually. So the scales this link can get is actually mind boggling. It’s comparable to Google, itself.
So we’re mining the entire web and crawling it and then mining all of those linkages to web pages and allowing it to search against that, it’s a huge amount of data.
Johnathan: Super, super cool. Well Rob, anything that we’re missing in regards to, are there any SEO tools that you like outside of MOZ, are you allowed to say that or will you be basically killed?
Rob: I’m pretty sure I have some leeway here. The ones that I am really a huge fan of is one that MOZ just acquired and I’m super excited that MOZ acquired them, and that is STAT.
STAT is all about looking at large volumes of keywords and aggregating them together, knowing that if we were to aggregate these keywords together, we would find new meaning in them in a group of terms, so Stat is a really incredible SERP analytics product that I would say is one of the best in the market and has a great client base across the world and it was really exciting to see MOZ acquire them.
Johnathan: I was actually speaking at a STAT crawl in San Francisco some years back, so I was really impressed when you guys acquired them and I heard that news, too, but I didn’t know what STAT was back then, so I feel kinda bad for saying this, but great people at least. That’s how much I knew.
Rob: Yeah, really great folks. Yeah, absolutely.
Johnathan: Cool. Any other tools that you know or your colleagues know that they use frequently or is it all within the MOZ ecosystem?
Rob: I mean it’s all in the MOZ ecosystem although I do like, there’s some interesting developments coming out in that content, how do I put this, content optimization, content development area.
Now, with all these apps that we’ve had in machine learning and with natural language processing, some of these tools are coming out, like Content Highlight has a tool coming out pretty soon that helps deal with intent in developing content.
There’s Market Muse, as well, which is a really interesting product that helps people understand better how their content is servicing different areas. So I think there’s interesting developments and I’m following them along.
I think they show a lot of possibility.
Johnathan: Super cool, well Rob before we wrap this up, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Rob: No, I think that about covers everything. I really hoped to talk with you guys today. I really appreciate you inviting me on the show and letting me talk to you.
Johnathan: Of course.
Sean: Oh awesome. It’s great to finally talk to someone from MOZ. I’ve been an avid MOZ follower for the last three years, so.
Rob: Oh that’s super cool, that’s super cool.
Johnathan: Awesome, well Rob, we’re thankful for your time. And we’ll be in touch.
Rob: Okay, thanks a lot.
Sean: All right, thanks a lot.