We work in an industry where there are new tools launched every week. Whether they are paid or free, there is always somebody recommending the next big thing that will revolutionise the way that we work.
However, unless you have a limitless budget, how do you know you are using the right tool? Should you be using both SEMrush and AWR? Does aHrefs enhance your Kerboo subscription? Do you go for Deepcrawl or Screaming Frog, or both?
These are just some of the decisions we have to make on an ongoing basis. You only need to take a look at the marketer toolbox website setup by Aleyda, to see the large amount of tools available and the challenge we are faced with.
To ensure that you are not just buying every tool you come across, you need to evaluate each one and make an informed decision on whether it will benefit you or the business. In the remainder of this post I will discuss some of the key areas that I consider when evaluating my toolset.
1. Recommended or advertised?
How did you find out about the tool? Did somebody recommend it in a blog that you have read or directly? Was it mentioned at a conference or was it a through a cold call?
Although where you saw the tool shouldn’t have a major impact on your decision, I have always found those that have been recommended a lot more beneficial.
If you have been recommend a tool, I’d suggest that before enquiring about a trial, you reach out to the person and ask them why they liked it so much. Ask them privately, ideally over email or SKYPE so that they can be completely open and honest about it. Here you will find out a lot more information than you would through a cold call, or running an initial trial.
If you do decided to take a cold call from a software provider, make sure that their is a real need in the business to explore whatever tool is on offer. If you are pursuing a cold call to be polite, then you could find yourself on a number of calls wasting a lot of time. If you don’t want something, be honest both you and the salesperson would prefer the honesty.
If you proceed with the cold call, then make sure you get a trial and take it for test drive. The salesperson will always only concentrate on the positive aspects of the product, but what about those little niggles that may affect the way you work. What about those aspects that you really need, but are actually not available. Having a trial is extremely important when you think about purchasing any software, but even more so when it’s through a cold call.
Once you have decided on whether you want to proceed to a trial, you need to understand what similarities if any, it has with your other tools.
There are a huge number of tools available to us that either do exactly the same or a very similar job, use the same data source (Majestic as an example), or cover one aspect in a more campaign approach.
It’s at this stage of the evaluation you need to determine if the tool you are trialing is offering you anything different to the tools that you already have, or if it is just doing the same job. If you it is just doing the same job (example: AWR vs Authority Labs), this is OK, it means that you need to determine whether it is doing a better job than the old tool.
However, if it is just overlapping such as SEMrush and aHrefs, you need to determine if the data from the new tool is better, and if so does it overlap in such a way that you need to remove the other product?
In case of the example I provided with SEMrush and aHrefs. I made a decision to use both of these tools, even though in my opinion they overlap, they are both strong at different aspects which makes them work well together.
Will this tool make your work quicker? Will it make your work better?
If the answer is yes to both questions then the tool is likely to be a no brainer. However, if the tool is clunky, unreliable and will take a great deal of change to your work low then I’d suggest that you look elsewhere.
My number one rule for a tool is – If it doesn’t make the quality better and isn’t efficient it’s not right. This is just my rule, I’d be interested to hear if you agree with that?
4. Required or luxury
One of the biggest issues that we have when it comes to adding to our toolkit is the necessity to have everything that is available. If there is a new tool we need to have it, regardless of cost, proper trialing or if it’s actually required.
I have seen it many times when you create a list of all the tools that you want to have and it fills a couple of A4 pages of paper.
Because we need it, it’s new and better.
In most cases, this is not actually true. The reason that it is on the list at all is because somebody has just stumbled across it. They have read the latest blog post and it’s highly recommended or they have come back from an amazing conference and it was the Buzz product.
It’s at this stage of the process that you need to be really brutal with the tool. Does it make you, your team and/or business better? Does it replace another software that you already have, not just because it is new, but because it is better!? Will it give you a competitive advantage?
This is the stage that you need to ask yourself. Do we REALLY need this tool?
5. Replace or add
Many tools that are available do the same job as a lot of others, and don’t really provide any extra value.
When trialing your piece of software you need to be crystal clear on how his tool will add value to your current seo toolkit, or whether it will replace one or more tools completely. You don’t want to add or remove tools that will weaken your ability to provide the very best work to your clients or team.
Here you need to be ruthless. A new tool maybe better than one that you have a really good relationship with the owners, or you are a fan of the business that creates it. This can’t come into the thinking, they will understand and you can always provide feedback as to why you are changing. However, you need to do what is best for you and the business, that is key.
Although this shouldn’t be the deciding factor, cost does have a part to play in the decision making process. Regardless of whether you are an internal team, small/large agency or whether you freelance, you need to keep the cost down and tools can quickly escalate out of control if you don’t have a handle on it.
Two key things you should consider when it comes to cost include:
- Tool cost vs total income: – Will costs be reduced as it is replacing other tools? are you happy with the amount of income you are spending on tools?
- Tool efficiency vs manual time: – Will the cost of a monthly subscription save you enough man hours to make it viable.
There are likely to be other costs that you need to look into, especially if you are the business owner, however these are what I look at.
A final recommendation from me. Set a date each year that you evaluate your entire tool set to ensure that you are using the best tools available to you and your business.
There you have it, six things I consider when evaluating my seo tool kit. How do you evaluate your toolkit? Do you have a diverse set of tools or do you stick to a single campaign software? I would love to hear your thoughts on how you evaluate the seo tools that you are currently using in the comments below or over on twitter @danielbianchini.
Image Credit – Sami Paju (Flickr)