When I first started in SEO, there was pretty much only one major tool dedicated to SEO on the market.
WebPosition Gold was the standard for SEO professionals of the time.
With WebPosition Gold, or WPG as it was referred too, you could run ranking reports, analyze pages against a knowledge base (that was updated and cost extra to subscribe too), and create “doorway pages” to help rank for phrases.
All-in-all, for the time it was a pretty sophisticated tool.
Many people at the time felt that this tool would be enough to SEO their site.
And in a less-competitive pre-Google world, the tool worked pretty well.
Until it didn’t.
Scarcity Dictates There Are Winners & Losers
There are a finite number of listings on the front page of Google.
Not everyone who wants to rank for a specific keyword or phrase will be able to achieve their goal.
Even if there was a tool that could do all of your SEO tasks, if more sites using that tool than there are listing, someone isn’t going to rank on the first page.
Don’t get me wrong, there are literally billions of queries, and each one has its own unique set of results.
You can succeed in SEO without ranking for the top “money” keyword.
But ranking for that top keyword is what everyone wants.
And not everyone can rank on the first page for the most popular and profitable keywords.
And if everyone is using the same toolset in an attempt to rank, there are going to be lots of sites left out in the cold.
Tools Are Just Tools
The current purpose of SEO tools is to make our lives easier.
Tools allow us to save time by performing tasks that, in the past, took inordinate amounts of time.
A good example is crawler tools that provide insight on each page of a site, complete with an analysis of problems within the page’s code.
In the past, each page needed to be analyzed individually.
For a small site, this was never a problem.
But for a site with thousands or even millions of pages, the task of individually analyzing every page is difficult, if not impossible.
Tools make impossible tasks possible.
But tools don’t give us a magic bullet for ranking our sites.
If you haven’t figured it out, there are no magic bullets in SEO anyway.
SEO isn’t rocket science.
I think of SEO more like plumbing.
Sure, you could figure out how to fix your sink by watching some YouTube videos.
But if you are like me, you’d probably end up flooding your whole house to fix a leaky faucet.
Sometimes it’s better just to call the plumber.
A wrench in my hand is not the same as it in the hands of a licensed plumber.
Just because you have a tool doesn’t mean you can rank for a keyword or dominate a topic.
What a Tool Can’t Do
Tools can’t tell you the right steps for your business.
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There is one tool that my team has used in the past.
This tool analyzes the SERPs on specific keywords and phrases as well as analyzes a page on your site.
The tool provides data on how your page differs from the pages that are currently ranking for the desired keyword or keyword phrase.
This data can be useful in the hands of someone who understands how rankings work.
But the data is definitely a correlation, not causation.
I’ve seen this tool give recommendations that, if followed, would be downright detrimental to a site – not just for their rankings, but for their user experience as well.
You see, just looking at the SERPs alone won’t tell you how to get your pages to rank.
We know that Google’s algorithm has thousands of components that go into the logic of ranking pages.
It’s impossible to know which factors are definitively causing a page to rank for a specific keyword or keyword phrase.
This particular tool tends to put a lot of emphasis on the number of words that are in the content of the page.
So, for instance, if the top-ranking page has 10,000 words, the tool might suggest your page needs 10,000 words as well.
That may be the case, but there is more than one way to rank, and if your site doesn’t lend itself to 10,000-word pages, that advice could harm you rather than help you.
A tool can help you do analysis, but today’s tools can’t do the analysis for you.
Sure, there are tools out there that claim to tell you exactly what to do to rank for a specific keyword, but in my experience, they all fall short when presented with any significant competition for keyword rankings.
What a Tool Can Do
Don’t get me wrong, we would not do our jobs as efficiently and effectively without tools.
As I said earlier, tools make our lives easier.
Tools can help us find issues on our sites that we might not be able to readily see.
Tools can help us understand how other sites are linking to our site, and how our competition is being linked to as well.
This data provides the basis for the quality analysis it takes to rank for competitive keywords and keyword phrases.
Tools help us to track the rankings of our keywords, even though rankings are not as important in the long run as sales.
Tools help us to work in teams – helping us to manage projects and assign tasks.
Tools allow us to focus our time on analysis rather than hunting data.
Tools help us to understand the big picture.
They also allow us to micro-focus on specific problems by providing us data to analyze what is going on.
Tools do not replace SEO professionals.
If you think you can buy a tool and be done with your SEO, you will be very disappointed.
Any tool is only as good as the hand that wields it.
If you take the time to understand SEO, tools are indispensable to your ranking efforts.
If you don’t understand how SEO works, no tool is going to consistently provide you with the results to be as successful as you can be.
So use tools – you must if you want to be successful.
Just don’t expect the tools to be the only thing you need.
The most valuable SEO tool is your own mind.