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There are a few comprehensive SEO suites that report on anything under the sun, from on-page issues to rankings and backlinks. Surprisingly, none of them is enough for me, so I use these four depending on the tasks I am dealing with:
|Features||Ranking analysis, keyword research, on-page audit, position monitoring, SERP analysis, competitive analysis, backlink research|
They all have free trials, so you can totally check each of them before you decide which one you like best.
Here are my favorite features inside each platform (and actually why I have to use all of them):
Ahrefs: Advanced Keyword Research and Analysis
Ahrefs most powerful feature is their Keyword Explorer. Not only will it extend your keyword and calculate keyword difficulty (i.e. how high the organic competition is), it will also suggest related keywords. This helps a ton in finding alternative, less competitive keywords to focus on:
Semrush: Multi-Feature Position Tracking
Semrush is my very first SEO dashboard I’ve ever used. They have a ton of historical data and their tools are simply awesome. My favorite one is their ranking position tracker. I love the fact that you can track positions inside “Featured Snippets” and “People Also Ask” sections:
Serpstat: Keyword Clustering
Serpstat‘s Clustering feature is one of its kind. It helps you organize your keyword lists by relevancy, make sense of thousands of queries, understand your niche better and optimize for several keywords at a time. It’s a must-use feature for every topic research because it shows you how you can optimize one page for several queries.
Spyfu: Indepth Position History
Spyfu is one of the oldest all-in-one marketing dashboards out there. Initially focusing on PPC tracking, the tool has successfully expanded into organic SEO. My by far favorite feature there is their organic history feature visualizing which pages were ranking for a give query throughout the years:
Web Analytics Tools
Finteza is a great – and more importantly independent – web analytics suit that is both affordable and feature-rich. You can use Finteza to monitor your traffic channels, traffic quality and conversions. The tool also comes with a powerful feature set allowing you to create your own, again, independent, on-site advertising program as well as set up re-marketing campaigns.
I’ve tried hundreds tools to get organized and I’ve worked with many of them on a continuous basis, including Zoho, Trello, etc. Here I am featuring my currently favorite productivity and collaboration tool but I may expand the article with more options going forward.
Renderforest is a multi-feature content creation and branding tool that can help you create diverse content assets including videos, animations and branded mockups. Its online video creation platform is an exciting one because it can help anyone create professional videos without spending extra budgets on third-party creators or expensive software. You can create explainer videos, whiteboard videos, cartoon animations, and so much more.
Zenkit is the to-do list and mindmap builder with cool collaboration features. Zenkit is your marketing productivity Swiss knife: You can use it to organize just about anything, from content marketing editorials to a project timeline. Zenkit offers several ways to organize your lists, including lists (checkboxes), tables (my favorite one because I love tables!), calendars, and Trello-style Kanban view:
You can switch between layouts with one click of a mouse, copy-paste your to-do lists from excel or doc files, share your lists with your team, etc.
Social media strategy is an integral part of any digital marketing campaign.
The only tool I am currently using for social media promotion is Viral Content Bee, and yes it’s my own tool and the fact that I can totally recommend it as a secret social media marketing weapon makes me incredibly proud.
For every project I am promoting through Viral Content Bee, I make sure to:
- Retweet every VCB-driven tweet (to push it into my Twitter stream)
- Like as many VCB-driven updates on Linkedin, Pinterest and Tumblr
This way Viral Content Bee builds both my traffic and my social media interactions in a most meaningful way.
Namify: Find a Cool Brand Name
Starting a new project? Use this cool business name generator to come up with some brandable domain names. Unlike any other name generator out there, this one utilizes Artificial Intelligence to find domain names which create cool niche associations. You will be surprised how many cool names are out there for your new site.
The tool takes care of other brand identity aspects on the fly:
- It will check social media sites to find whether your chosen name is still available
- It will create your logo right away
Easy to use and free!
There are lots of tools I am using for inspiration and topic research, including Google of course. Here are two of those tools I am using on a daily basis:
TextOptimizer: Content Optimization and Research
TextOptimizer is the semantic search tool that extracts related topics and entities from Google’s SERPs and lets you better research and optimize your content. It directs and empowers your writing and helps you structure your content in a most efficient way too. You can check my detailed review of Text Optimizer here.
Buzzsumo: Competition Research, Influencer Marketing, Content Inspiration
Buzzsumo is another tool that can be used in so many ways and improve so many processes.
My favorite features inside Buzzsumo are:
- “Content alerts” sending you emails whenever anyone mentions your keyword (e.g. your brand name in-content)
- Content Analyzer allowing you to see (recently) popular content around any keyword
- Question Analyzer allowing you to see questions around any keywords that are being asked in the discussion boards (including Reddit, Quora and Amazon Q&A)
- Backlink Analyzer allowing you to see people behind backlinks (there’s really no alternative to that!). You can also filter backlinks by date which gives you a solid list of bloggers to reach out to:
Link Research Tools
Apart from the all-in-one SEO suites that are described above that include backlink research feature, there’s a free tool that lets you explore your competitor’s (or your own) backlinks: This Free Backlink Checker Tool
It works incredibly smoothly: Simply put your domain or URL and use filters to dig through the referring URLs, anchor texts, link types (follow/nofollow), etc.:
There are several more backlink checking tools that I am going to check but that one is a good place to start.
New Tools I Am Going to Dig in Next:
I don’t have time to play with all the tools I’d like to, but here are a few of those that look really promising:
- Content King: Content tracking and monitoring software that reports pages and consequent rankings impact
- Convert Kit: A cool email marketing and automation software which comes highly recommended
- Mailshake: A great email outreach tool that helps you send nice personalized emails
- Pitchbox: An influencer and outreach platform which you cannot buy unless you do a demo (which is why I haven’t tried it yet)
- Business process management tools for more streamlined operations
And which tools are you planning to try? Give me more ideas!
Please contact me if you think I may be interested in your tool
Better Alternatives To ‘Click Here’
Nothing is more boring and unmotivating to a user than seeing a big “Click Here” or “Learn More” link.
As a user, they’re already researching a product or a service they want to purchase. Of course, they’re going to click links to learn more.
Going Beyond “Click Here” Or “Learn More”
So, how do we get users motivated to take the action that we want them to?
It begins by:
- Understanding user goals and user behavior.
- Establishing trust.
- Creating accessible, clearly labeled directions that inspire interest.
It sounds so easy in theory, but in truth, why are our webpages only converting at an average of 2.8% in the US?
Obviously, something is missing from our webpages. If 97.2% of us don’t convert on a webpage, we’re likely confusing our users on what we want them to do to some degree.
Let’s dive into how we can accomplish this.
While You’re Here, Go There Now
The trick to optimizing calls to action is to present the action at the precise moment when your website visitor is most interested in taking the next step.
If a user is met with a call to action before any information, do you think they are going to click on it?
If the landing page isn’t what a user expected, every time you present another opportunity to leave the page, your user may not trust that you can help them solve their problem.
The call to action is clearly labeled in the example below.
Even better, it is obvious designers understand their customers’ fears over money, ease of use, customer confidence, and the use of color.
First Date Links
When your webpage visitor is ready to take action, they must feel confident that the link invitation is worthwhile, credible, and constructive.
When you present a new product offering, nothing should prevent your visitor from immediately seeing what it is.
We may begin by being sly, especially if we want something. I call these “First Date Links.”
The screenshot above is taken from an ecommerce website. What you see here is the entire top half of the homepage.
There is no text. There are no product images.
First-time visitors would need to know in advance what the company is selling.
With this website, first-time visitors are required to scroll down, wait for the gigantic images to load, and scan minimal text to gain a better understanding of the brand and its products.
The fun part of this “First Date Links” example is knowing that this particular brand runs this special or something similar to it every single day.
There is no incentive to “shop now” for regular customers and first-time visitors have no idea where that “shop now” button is taking them.
They’ve been presented with this link that will likely overwhelm them with choice and decision paralysis – and most likely leave the site.
Try adding specific promotions for your loyal customers, or even first-time customers, into your marketing strategy.
By creating specific promotions segmented by customer type, you’re showing that you understand what they’re searching for.
Trust, credibility, and being forthcoming with your story add spice to calls to action on websites and real-life too.
If you have watched the original film, “The Wizard of Oz,” you will understand why I refer to these calls to action as “Scarecrow Links.”
These are calls to action that provide many choices, usually with vague labels and often to the same destination.
In the film, when Dorothy is traveling the Yellow Brick Road to find Oz, she comes upon the Scarecrow and asks for directions.
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me. That way is a very nice way… [pointing]
Dorothy: Who said that?
[Toto barks at the Scarecrow]
Dorothy: Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk!
Scarecrow: It’s pleasant down that way too! [pointing in another direction]
Dorothy: That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
Scarecrow: Of course, people do go both ways [pointing in both directions]. That’s the trouble. I can’t make up my mind. I haven’t got a brain. Only straw.
Sometimes, calls to action are placed within webpage content at a moment when we really don’t want choices. We just want to be directed to that cool thing you just showed us.
In the example below, the top CTA is the best option because the destination is clearly defined and is the desired user task.
If the company wants customers to learn more about curvy jeans, they can provide this information on the landing page that presents sorting options when they click to shop all the curvy jeans.
The smaller link to details would make more sense if it explained what the details are about.
Is it a size chart? Pricing?
What does that link do for us that “Learn more” doesn’t offer?
What does the user really want to do here after they have been shown images of curvy jeans?
Link Optimization Is More Than A Label
This next example is a mixture of a button, text sentence, and text sentence with a clickable icon overlaying a large header image.
If you were to watch someone using your website during a live session, you would most likely watch them mouse over the button, the text, and the text with the icon to see which one is going to go somewhere they want to go.
For this example, the “Learn more” button label provides no information about what we are going to learn.
It is the most visible CTA and the eyes of the person in the image are facing the button, which is a designer trick because studies show we look to see what the face is looking at.
How can we optimize the CTA for this page?
First, remove the “Learn More” button. We are going to give it an upgrade.
The text below the image, in tiny font size, is not linked. It asks a question, but the user must look for where to get the answer.
It also asks a question that may not be as important or interesting as the one following it. I would remove the entire “Want to get to know us better” sentence.
The more compelling story is why.
The button can be larger and placed in line with the model’s eye gaze. The button label is the invitation to “See why we do what we do” and link that to their story.
Not only does this narrow the choice to one link for one lead task, but it is easier for screen reader software to announce the link and direct visitors listening to the page.
Links with labels such as “Learn more,” “Read more,” “Shop now,” “Submit,” “Click here,” “Download,” and “Continue” are common.
However, these links are probably less likely to be clicked on than a more specific, inviting link.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to optimize calls to action by inviting the action. Don’t be afraid to tell the user what you want them to do by clicking that link.
If anything, you’re guiding them on their purchase decision journey.
Now, sometimes we may get a little too enthusiastic with our link text.
Every Call To Action Is A Risk
Remember that when providing a call to action, it must be placed at the moment when you inspired your reader to leave their train of thought.
Every call to action is a risk. At the minimum, your link should:
- Have a clear label with the exact destination.
- Be easy to see and read.
- Be compelling to the person.
- Present itself at the exact moment when it is most useful.
- Not have competition (other links) nearby.
- Navigate to the desired task that will provide a benefit to your user.
As humans, our attention span is already short.
Each time a call to action takes them forward, they may have forgotten where they just were.
Calls to action are sometimes annoying interruptions.
What additional incredibly fascinating information is hiding behind “Learn more” that is so compelling that you have interrupted their thought process?
It better be worth it.
We have a small window of time to catch a user’s attention.
Using generic language like “Click Here” or “Learn More” won’t cut it anymore. When creating call-to-actions for a user, try to reiterate what exactly you want them to do.
Don’t insert CTA links for the sake of having them or taking up space.
Rethink your link strategy by viewing it from a user’s point of view: Is there more than one link option? Are they both needed? Are they clear enough for a user to take action?
Furthermore, your content leading to that call-to-action should be enticing enough for them to want to take action.
Featured Image: Motortion Films/Shutterstock
In-post image #4 created by author, June 2022
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