When Should You Use Paid SEO Tools?

As a small business owner paying for SEO tools may not be worth it for a while.

Video transcript:

Tricia: I have a quick question about Screaming Frog.

David: Yeah?

Tricia: I think it was a webinar that you were on. I think. I think it was one that Andy did. It may have been something else. They referenced Screaming Frog, and they were talking about internal links. And they showed how you run it through Screaming Frog, and it was kind of like the thing from Answer-the-Public; what is that type thing called?

David: Yeah, spider chart, I think.

Tricia: So, they were saying you put that in Screaming Frog, and then you see that chart. Is that in the paid version of Screaming Grog? Do you know how to make that come up?

David: I don’t use it.

Tricia: You don’t use Screaming Frog?

David: I love Screaming Frog; I use it every day. I don’t use the chart.

Tricia: Okay.

David: I don’t find it particularly helpful. But Screaming Frog is an amazing tool. I do pay for it, but I use it at least once a week.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Think of it as if you could see your website from the perspective of the Google crawler, or from a 10,000-foot overview, and catching details that my human eyes would often overlook, like duplicate URLs, links that are broken, spider traps, like a link that goes to link that goes to link, that just keep adding to that. You’ve seen them before where the HTML is written incorrectly, and so by clicking on a link, you go to a page that doesn’t exist. And then there’s a page on that that goes to a page that… It’s a spider trap, right? It’s called a spider trap because it can get the Google spider trapped down the rabbit hole. Anyway, there are all kinds of huge things. You can also connect it with page speed insights and check every page speed on every page of your site. You can make sure all your redirects are in place. You can find 404 errors. You can use it to crawl. One of my favorite things to do is to crawl a website to find places where I could add internal links. Because it’s really hard to say where on my website is everywhere this word is mentioned. And then, I go to that page and then change that HTML and link to the page that I want to rank for that port. Screaming Frog makes it really easy. In fact, you’ll find so many you can’t possibly use them all.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: It’s great. I’ve designed Curious Ants to be able to do as much as you can without having to invest in a crap ton of SEO tools because I do believe you should be able to do quality SEO without having to spend a lot on extra tools. The first thing I would buy if I was ready to do things is Screaming Frog. But I would first use the free version.

Tricia: Yeah, I have the free one.

David: To the maximum amount you can.

Tricia: Yeah, and I think when I first heard of Screaming Frog, I was like, what do you look at? Luckily, though, I was at a meetup several years back in person, and we went over it. And it was like, okay, I see. That really helped. But I have not purchased it because I just haven’t used it to the best that I know I could.  

David: Right. And that’s why I built Curious Ants to not use the tools because I’m convinced so many of these tools make money from people who spend the money and never use it.

Tricia: Yeah. Yeah.

David: SEMrush. I hate SEMrush because it’s such a bologna thing that it just confuses people, but they feel like they’ve got to spend the money, but people don’t know how to use it. The second purchase I’d make is a backlink tool. But that’s when you really start to get in the backlinking, right? Like, I think Youssef would agree. It was a lot harder to do link building until I gave him access to my link-building tool.

Youssef: Yes, especially the broken backlink. Having a tool is necessary. It’s impossible to do it without one.

David: Or Skyscraper. Yeah.

Youssef: Yeah. Yeah, I mean for Skyscraper, maybe you can search a bit, with some time. Yeah, but for broken backlinking, it’s impossible

David: Right? Exactly. Exactly. So, I really want to encourage you all to learn how to do SEO before you start spending money on these tools, which can get really expensive really fast, especially if you don’t need them all the time. But I can’t recommend Screaming Frog enough. It’s so much fun. It is the first thing I do when I launch a new website. I want to crawl that thing, and it finds so many errors. I do it for every client at least once a month because it just always shows me problems that I’m like, oh, I didn’t know that was a problem. Whoops. Guess we have to fix it. Right? Because again, it replicates what Google would experience going through your site in a way where you’re like, oh, that could be a real problem.

Tricia: Okay.

David: Plus, it kind of forces you to learn stuff.

Tricia: Yeah, okay, because I need to go back through Screaming Frog. I have the free version right now and get more comfortable with it, I think.

David: You know, honestly, I would start by getting comfortable with Search Console.

Tricia: Okay? Well, yeah.

David: I mean, start there because Search Console is telling you what Google thinks about your website.

Tricia: Yeah.  

David: Start there before you have to use a third-party tool.

Tricia: Yeah, okay.

David: There will be a point where you will max out what Search Console can tell you, or you’ll need Screaming Frog or something similar to find where Google is finding the error. For instance, Google finds 404 errors all the time. You’re like, where the heck is that thing? Well, Screaming Frog will be able to find it for you. Typically. Yeah, because Google doesn’t tell you where they’re finding this 404 error. It doesn’t tell you. Yeah, but double down on the free tools. There’s so much power in those free tools before you start spending money to do advanced SEO. You’re going to have to spend that money and get those tools, no arguments here. But just please, as you’re getting started and providing it as a service, please use the free tools. And in fact, one of the things I’m going to be doing in the next month is, and I’m saying this to hold myself accountable, I want to start using Bing webmaster tools more. I don’t give a rat’s butt about Bing, right. I care so little about Bing, but the webmaster tool has a lot of great resources that kind of replicate Screaming Frog. So, if you use the free Bing tool, you can delay your need for Screaming Frog. Because frankly, I don’t even really care if I show up on Bing. If what I do on Google’s going to affect Bing anyway, so who cares? But if the Bing webmaster tool has things that Google won’t give me? Oh, I’m going to use it. Like they have a keyword tool, they have a crawler. I’ve been playing with it. I’m going to start writing it up. So, add that to the process.

Tricia: Yeah, quite some time ago, I had started. This is like a couple of years ago. I had looked at Screaming Frog, and I was going to upgrade to the paid version. I’m glad I didn’t because I wasn’t ready.

David: Yeah, it’s expensive. Yeah, but yeah, eventually, you won’t be able to live without it. But postpone the purchase as much as you can. I mean, there are so many crappy SEO tools out there. This is well worth the money. I mean, I think you remember me wearing my Screaming Frog t-shirt to Word Camps. I was so proud of that t-shirt because I was the only one in the United States with the Screaming Frog t-shirt. No longer the case. But yeah, it’s I love it. I really like my favorite tool. There are cloud-based versions that will do things automatically and crawl things for you. I just rather manually do it.  

Tricia: Yeah.

David: Sorry, I’m getting off on a tangent.

Tricia: That was helpful.


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