Search engines have been around for more than a decade now. And, if you Google ‘history of search engines’ you’ll find out that it was in the 1990s that the first of its kind search engine ever got invented. However, it wasn’t until the commercial usage of search engines was realized that search engine optimization emerged into the picture. SEO was born out of the understanding that search engines could be used to monetize or cash in on user search intent and behavior. As soon as businesses discovered that targeting certain keywords and manipulating search engine results could make them magically appear in top search results on a search engine, they grew more SEO friendly. In the beginning, nothing was strict. Black, white, or grey, SEO could help you get to the first or second page of a local search engine. Soon, with competition growing and SEO became more organized and businesses were to follow the Penguins and Pandas to earn their legit ranking. Otherwise, Google would penalize. That’s when SEO tools came into the picture to help businesses optimize better and in accordance with standards.
Semrush, SERPstat, Ahrefs, Spyfu – the list of SEO tools available today is unending. I have earlier discussed in detail a number of these tools in my previous posts. However, for those who’ve happened upon this blog post purely by search and are reading my blog for the first time, I’ll briefly talk about them again here.
SEMRush: One of the most popular tools around, SEMrush, as the name suggest is one step ahead of just SEO. The focus of this tool on search engine marketing. That is why other than aiding in organic search and keyword research, SEMrush also focuses on competitor research, helps you get the best out of your PPC campaigns, and gives excellent insights into display ads, as well as product listing ads ( a must have for eComm websites). To read about alternatives to SEMRush you can check out this post that I wrote as an early 2019 review.
Below is the dashboard of SEMrush:
SERPStat: An all-in-one solution for you if you want to get intelligent insights about data related to your or your competitors’ web presence. Every feature or capability in SERPstat enables you to dig deep into analytics to draw insights and learnings. For example, the backlinking capability not only points out the domains from which you’ve got link backs but also shows link quality, top keywords to those backlinks, etc. so that you can optimize for backlinks also. All this you can do just at a glance, from a backlink dashboard! Checkout their keyword variation tool:
Here’s what your business will need to regularly invest time, effort, and money into, to stay ahead in the game:
Keyword analysis: This is the secret to understanding your visitors’ search intent. By running a keyword analysis, you can discover those search phrases or words that a user types into his browser that make him land on your website. To be able to know what queries qualified website visitors make to be able to look you up means marketers can customize their landing page content more appropriate to include those search queries, and subsequently win more traffic (and improve conversion rates). Also, when you know the exact keywords being searched, you can improve keyword relevancy in your content, as well as reduce your keyword spend for paid campaigns.
All the tools I’ve mentioned above do more than just keyword research. However, keyword research in itself is an extremely important part of search engine optimization. It is in fact, the foundation of your SEO ground. You can’t ignore it at any cost and will need it at every step.
Keyword tracking: This process goes one step beyond discovering keywords that make users land on your website. With keyword tracking, you can monitor the performance of your web pages with respect to specific keywords. So, if you have discovered that your users are looking up ‘how to start with email marketing’ and landing on your website, you can optimize your landing page content for that keyword. However, doing only that much isn’t enough. You will need to track your performance on that keyword regularly to keep your content from dying out.
Keyword grouping: Logically, you never use just one keyword on the same page or different pages on your website. You always pick a group of related keywords that are relevant for your niche. That’s where keyword grouping comes into the picture. For example, if you sell fashion accessories, your keyword group should contain ‘trending fashion accessories,’ ‘latest fashion jewelry,’ ‘Celesto accessories’, etc. You can create sub-groups for each keyword group. The group ‘latest fashion jewelry’ could contain sub-groups such as ‘latest fashion earrings,’ ‘latest fashion rings’ and so on. Similarly, group ‘Celesto accessories’ could contain sub-groups like ‘Celesto party accessories,’ ‘Celesto accessories on sale’, ‘Celesto designer accessories,’ etc.
All this sounds much easier than done. And, to accomplish this repeatedly for every campaign that you run can be unimaginable unless you are using a good SEO tool. Moz has been widely used by marketers in the industry to equip themselves with keyword research, analysis, tracking, grouping, etc. for both organic and paid campaigns. Other than Moz, there are other alternatives like SEMrush, SERPstat, Mangools and Seranking available to digital marketers for research and competitor analysis. Let’s take these alternatives up, one by one. I’ve touched upon two of these alternatives above in this post; however, from there is a lot more that can be talked about.
- SEMrush: Managing all aspects of your digital business is a breeze with a full-stack tool like SEMrush. Let’s just quickly run through some of the most useful and intelligent capabilities that SEMrush boasts of.
Competitor Monitoring: I’ve already covered in detail how you can unfold your competitor strategy with SEMrush. One feature in this aspect that I’d particularly want to talk about is the SEMrush competitive positioning map. Using this map, you can instantly compare where you rank as compared to your competitors. You can carry out this direct comparison in a matter of minutes and find out whether at all you rank and where do you stand in the list of the top 20 in Google’s or Bing’s search results.
Display advertising: SEMrush was created with the focus on helping you win at social marketing – paid, display, or whichever other forms of advertising you choose. The idea was to be able to equip marketers with insights other than organic. If you are keen on running display ads, SEMrush will help you find out where you should be placing your ads based on user behavior. The tool will also allow you to view your ad.
Product listing advertisements: With SEM competitor report you can identify your competitors on Google shopping, identify your competitors’ product listing keywords, find out those keywords that get your competitors visibility on paid search, and do a lot more. This is a plus point that SEMrush offers to eComm businesses.
Backlink analysis: You get simply unmatched backlink analysis and research in SEMrush. You can easily filter worthy from spam backlinks, identify backlinks driving traffic to your website, check do-follows and no-follows, find out backlinks pointing to your competitor websites, discover new referral traffic sources, and so on. Use their Effective Backlink checker to check on the quality of incoming links, their authority, location, and to compare it to competitors’ domains.
- SERPstat: If your objective is to track website performance, SERPstat should be your go-to tool. It helps you run insightful analysis on the web presence of a domain – be it is your own or your competitor’s. Some of the capabilities that this tool offers are mentioned as follows:
Backlink analysis: SERPstats is brilliant at backlink analysis. I could without a doubt say even better than SEMrush’s because of the ‘metrics’ that have been clearly defined to measure backlink quality and performance on -referring domains, referring pages, anchors, top pages, and competitors. The best thing – you can track your backlink performance on all these metrics from an in-built dashboard. That’s ease of use tied with excellent performance measurement and tracking abilities.
Competitor analysis: Enter a website’s URL on the homepage search functionality on Serpstat, and you’ll be redirected to a page that shows data and insights for that URL. Running a more in-depth analysis can help you figure out everything that your competitor is up to, where it is winning, and hence visualize what you should be doing to rank higher and do better than competition. Find out which blog posts are top performing on search engines, run a keyword analysis on them, and use a similar strategy to rank your content better than your competition. This is just one example. You could use competitor analysis for paid campaigns as well.
Keyword Research: Using Serpstat’s keyword research tool, you can dig out all keyword related data. Just enter the keywords for which you need to find out related data for in their Keyword research tool. You’ll get data such as keyword difficulty, search volume on that keyword (organic and on paid ads), keyword combination used for ads, etc. You get the entire keyword history in a matter of minutes!
Rank Tracker: This feature displays the top 100 results for a monitored keyword. With Rank Tracker at your service, you have complete access to the data collected by other webmasters for a certain keyword that you are tracking.
Member perks: For their members, Serpstat offers a number of sweet perks and benefits. They surely know how to keep their users happy and loyal. For example, they offer a significant discount on a feature called Ringostat call tracking that can be used to analyze and study web traffic sources that can draw in more calls. Similarly, they offer Reply feature as a perk enabling members to automate sending the personalized emails to customers.
- Seranking: Along with SEO capabilities, competition monitoring, and paid campaign analysis, Seranking also provides you with the ability to manage your social media. Even better, right? Another great thing about Seranking is that businesses can use it for projects and campaigns of all budgets – low or high. Some of the features that Seranking offers are as follows:
Keyword rank tracking: This functionality can be used to discover keyword ranks for a certain keyword for all major search engines, locations, and devices.
Website audit: Track and analyze the performance of your website for over 70 parameters or key performance indicators. This feature allows you to understand where you are doing well and what metrics you need to optimize for.
On-page SEO: Fetch detailed reports for a particular page say the homepage of your website. Find out how well it is optimized and fix SEO issues that have been pointed out.
Backlink checker and monitoring: Evaluate your backlinks on 15 parameters, automatically import backlinks, and do your budget planning using this tool.
Seranking also comes with a keyword checker as well as page-monitoring capabilities for your SEO campaigns.
For competitor analysis
Identify keywords and ads that your competitor URL/ Domain is ranking for. Discover new competitors based on keywords that you are trying to optimize for. Identify keywords, keyword groups, and similar meaning key phrases that competitors are using and ranking for.
For social media management
Auto-post your updates on social media, keep track of how your social media campaigns are performing and optimize for improved results on key metrics. Use social media to promote best performing content and win more visits, and ultimately more conversions.
- Mangools: Spelled almost like mangoes, Mangools market’s itself as ‘Juicy SEO tools you’ll just love.’ So, basically, this is not just one tool but single point access to a number of tools that you can use for search engine optimization, competitor research, etc. The main tools that it bundles include:
KWFinder: Cull out accurate keyword difficulty score on your keywords. Use this keyword difficulty level to target the most beneficial keywords you can actually optimize and rank for. which makes it simple to find profitable keywords you can really rank for. The keyword finder dashboard gives you the trend on keywords, their search volume, the PPC estimate, and CPC. It also gives you the Google SERP report that you can analyze. If you want to optimize keyword based on geographical location, KWFinder allows you to narrow your keyword research to city-level.
SERPchecker: Compare how your website is fairing as compared to your competitors and how SERP features are impacting organic search results. Find out how featured snippets, answer boxes, carousels, etc. affect organic search. For me, the best thing about Mangools is that it allows going local with GoogleSERP for both desktop and mobile. You don’t even need to use a location specific IP for this.
SERPwatcher: The dominance index allows you to track your SERP health. To do so, the SERPwatcher dominance index tracks your keyword positions and estimated visits. You can get a bird’s eye view on estimated visits, Dominance index, and ranking distribution charts, and daily rankings, on a single screen. Saves time and effort!
Linkminer: Mangool’s backlink analysis tool, Linkminer evaluates backlinks on some extremely valid (and fresh) metrics – Citation Flow, Trust Flow, Do follow vs. No follow links, etc. It also allows you to identify URLs that have solid backlinking potential. I love the fact that I can save these URLs and go back to them whenever I need to start building quality backlinks.
SiteProfiler: Gives you complete health check on what content is working for your website and what isn’t. For example, which content is generating good traffic, identifying spammy backlinks, and check the authority of your site. The tool also helps analyze your competitors’ websites based on their authority and popularity.
Other SEO Tools that are quite popular
For many MOZ is the easiest SEO tool to work with. Just install the MOZ bar and get started with tracking details like DA and PA, right on your screen. It’s simply super handy and truly mobile. Some of the features that MOZ offers its users include Keyword research, rank tracker, link profile, site crawler, and on page optimization. However, there are a number of alternatives beyond MOZ waiting to be discovered, used, and appreciated for the kind of extensive work they do to help you win at SEO and other aspects of digital marketing. Above I’ve discussed a few, and three more I will be talking about briefly next.
Spyfu: This tool is a great alternative because of a very user-friendly interface that makes the whole experience of working on it seem welcoming. Right on the home page, by just entering the URL of a website, you can cull out loads of data that gives deep insights into website performance. Running your PPC campaigns using Spyfu is a great experience just because of the refreshingly clean interface that the tool offers. So, if you like easy on the eye interface, Spyfu is an excellent option to consider.
Ahrefs: It’s amazing how people have started trusting nothing but Ahrefs results. Every time a guest blogger contacts me, he has one thing to state – my Ahrefs organic traffic is awesome. He won’t consider Google analytics but trust the numbers that Ahrefs shows. Ahrefs comes with a range of power-packed capabilities like Site Explorer, Content Explorer, Rank Tracker, etc. With Ahrefs to your rescue, you get to delve deep into competitor secrets such as their top performing website pages, their high traffic pages, backlink analysis of a competitor’s page, etc. So, if a specific page has fewer backlinks and more organic traffic, you can go back and run keyword research to find out what keywords is it targeting to rank on the search engine. If you are using Ahrefs and need to read about alternatives that you can try out, check this post out.
SEO Powersuite: This tool promises great SEO results combined with ease of use. That’s a powerful combination and something that every digital marketer is always on the lookout for. The tool’s capabilities include accurate rank monitoring. You can compare ten competitors at a time, unlimited keywords, get geo-specific rankings, and schedule rank checks on autopilot. Using their link analysis, you can conduct a backlink analysis based on Google’s latest guidelines, identify new link building opportunities, find competitor backlinks that are fetching amazing traffic and do some clever reverse engineering. Apart from this, with SEO Powersuite you can run a site-wide audit, optimize website pages, analyze keywords and competitor websites. The point to highlight here, however, is that SEO Powersuite offers something very interesting called the white-label SEO report, which gives a complete report on every SEO aspect. You can save this report for re-use, in HTML and PDF formats. I’d love to use this feature at some time and see how helpful these white label reports turn out to be.
Drawing direct comparisons with Moz
There are two alternatives that I’ve picked up for a direct comparison with Moz. The idea is to help you understand whether at all should you be making a switch to other tools if you are already using Moz.
Moz vs. Semrush
Both Moz and Semrush offer free and paid versions. The free versions of both these tools have their own set of limitations and benefits. For example, in the SEMrush free 14-day trial you can only get five searches and ten search results per day. However, the paid version of SEMrush is clearly a winner of Moz paid version. I recommend that if you want to grow your business or blogging career, you must consider SEMrush as it does almost all SEO tasks that you will need to carry out. They give you excellent training material to understand how to start with SEO. You get guides to help you understand data and reports. They also have an excellent support team always ready to help you out when stuck.
On the other hand, I believe that Moz is a bit expensive for the capabilities that it offers. Not to say that you are doing the wrong thing by picking Moz as your SEO go-to tool. Maybe, you really are comfortable with its interface and also want to use it for content marketing (Moz content and FollowerWonk). However, purely from an SEO point of view, Semrush is far better, at a much reasonable cost.
Moz vs. Ahrefs
No second thoughts here. Ahrefs is a clear winner. Moz simply doesn’t show enough data even for effective backlink analysis. Ahrefs is also better at snooping on competitor data, though not specially designed for this task. Using the Positions Explorer, you get data on top 10 competitors which you can use for checking each and every keyword that your competitors are ranking on the search engine for. If you know you have a competitor with lower domain authority, you can use Positions Explorer to find out which keywords they’re on the front page for. Moz can’t track SERP against URLs and keywords at all. Having improved their keyword explorer drastically, Ahrefs wins on this point again against Moz. Five years before, Moz would have fared better on keyword research. Even for generating content ideas Ahrefs gives better results than Moz, at a cheaper cost. Seems like Moz is expensive and not all that useful. You have to pay for Moz Content separately because it is an altogether different product to Moz Pro, and unless you pay for it you will only be able to use it partially.
I’ll undoubtedly vote for Ahrefs as the better one when compared to Moz.
Conclusion – Who’s the winner
I’ve talked about too many tools in this particular post, and definitely, I can’t say that only one out of all is the best. However, stacking them against Moz, I see that there are enough alternatives for you to try before taking a final call. Ahrefs is a must consider option. However, if you feel that it has too broad a scope and you might not be using all its functionalities go for something simpler like Semrush or Spyfu.
As per my judgement ( and having tried them out), two tools stand out as excellent alternatives to Moz. These are SERPstat and Mangools. SERPStat has stolen my heart because of the in-depth backlink analysis that it can run in no time. I also appreciate their effort towards customer loyalty, which is quite visible in their member perks.
Mangools is great because it focuses on SEO more than anything else. So, if you aren’t too keen on using a tool that goes beyond SEO but provides the best of SEO capabilities in a single suite, Mangools is for you. What this means is that you stay focused on SEO results and as a beginner can quickly understand the tool, run deep SEO analysis, and improve on all those metrics that need you to win on organic search. Mangools is more direct a comparison to Moz as the main focus of Moz is also on SEO. However, Moz isn’t as well equipped on a number of parameters as Mangools is. I’ve already pointed out how SERP can’t be tracked in Moz at all. In Mangools there is a SERP tracker and a SERP watcher! Of course, then, it is wise to opt for Mangools isn’t it?