At your typical SEO agency, there’s a lot of juggling going on.
A lot of balls in the air to keep track of.
Often, there aren’t enough people with free hands to catch and toss in a timely manner.
But we never want to let things hit the ground.
It doesn’t seem to matter what stage of the game your agency is in. Whether you’re currently focusing on bringing in new clients or managing your existing campaigns—and it’ll usually be a combination of both—this is the main challenge of agency work.
If we can’t change the game, we just need to become better jugglers.
With tools in place, you won’t need as many hands outstretched to keep the juggling action going. You’ve given your team a bunch of automated, robotic hands to keep things going for you. That frees up their hands to focus more on high-leverage SEO projects, less on minutiae and easily-automated tasks.
Most SEO agencies handle a combination of digital services on top of standalone SEO from content strategy to PPC, making things even more complicated. In any case, the implementation of tools to streamline and simplify the way you work is absolutely essential.
How the Right Tools Can Support Your SEO Agency
For my day job, I work at an SEO agency that manages to maintain a regular stream of work thanks, in part, to our domination of the top location-based SEO search terms for our local city.
While that’s one area where we’ve succeeded, in my experience I’ve come to recognize that it’s the tools we use that allow us to keep doing our jobs as well as we do. We focus less on the daily grind and more on big-picture ideas and customer satisfaction.
Our toolkit has been honed and polished to suit our business, maintain clients’ expectations and make it possible for us to keep performing and improving—for existing and new clients alike.
Now, there are a lot of SEO agency tools out there, and no two agency toolkits will be the same. When it comes to choosing the right tools for your business, you need to consider how each one will make your life easier.
I like to group SEO agency tools into one of two main camps:
- tools that improve the way you work internally as an agency
- tools that improve the way you actually do SEO
You need a combination of both if you really want your agency to succeed and grow. As an agency (as opposed to being a lone, freelance SEO, for example), your internal performance is just as important as your external performance.
Having the right SEO toolkit can make all the difference.
While every agency’s internal processes and standards will differ, in essence, they’re all in place to ensure everyone can do their job to the best of their ability. This revolves around perfecting the way you communicate, the way you collaborate and the way you manage projects.
Communication is vital to business success, whether you’re an agency or not. As an SEO agency, where various departments and teams are all working together—but also still working separately at times—to achieve common goals for their clients, having open lines of communication is an absolute must.
This means being able to effectively communicate both urgent and non-urgent information to department heads, other team members and up the chain of command right through to management.
Having a streamlined internal communication system in place (and no, I don’t just mean email) can do wonders for efficiency, encourage the sharing of ideas, prevent overflowing, disorganized inboxes and even boost staff morale.
In that same vein, collaboration is another important function of SEO agencies that the right tools can improve immensely.
Being able to brainstorm and strategize with other team members and departments results in better-planned, well-rounded digital strategies and a richer experience for your clients. Everyone on your team has different strengths and specializations, so enabling smooth and open collaboration means all those various strengths can be utilized.
Collaboration and communication often go hand in hand, and there are some great agency tools that bring the two together in a really intuitive way. But more on that later!
The third area your agency will really want to focus on refining is project management, both individually and as a team. As your client base grows, you need an efficient, easy-to-use system that helps you organize your workload, manage priorities and stay on top of deadlines. It’s just common sense—if you work with multiple projects (as every SEO agency does), you need a way to manage those projects.
SEO Campaign Performance
Now when it comes to your actual SEO performance, the fundamentals are a little different.
You’ll need tools that focus on improving, optimizing and measuring three factors of every website you work with. These are the factors that Google and other search engines are primarily interested in: links, content and technical onsite elements.
Backlinks are arguably the most difficult part of SEO, and will almost definitely take up the largest amount of your time—on an ongoing basis. Building a good backlink profile will show search engines that your website is an authoritative source that other people trust and are willing to link to. As a result, this will push your site up the SERPs and ultimately lead to more traffic, revenue and conversions—exactly what your clients are paying you for.
Now, it should be noted that tools can only do so much here because good backlinks need to be earned as naturally as possible. What you should be looking for in this case are tools that can help with measuring, tracking and reporting so that you can better analyze backlink profiles and then devise your own link building strategy from there.
The next essential SEO factor is content. For a website to rank higher, especially for more competitive keywords, it needs a solid amount of valuable, relevant and high-quality content across entry pages, landing pages and blogs. This is what tells search engines that you’re meeting your users’ needs, answering their queries and providing them with useful information—and you’ll be rewarded for it with ranking improvements across the site.
As with backlinks, content needs to be created naturally by skilled writers; not generated automatically. So you’re not going to want tools that generate website copy—instead, you’ll want ways to help you come up with ideas for content, create content strategies, organize content calendars and analyze your competitors.
And thirdly, technical onsite elements are what lay the foundation for SEO, ensuring your website is technically sound so that it can accurately communicate with search engines as well as users and deliver the great user experience that we’re all striving for.
These technical elements are the things that tools can directly help you with the most, finding and fixing elements like page speed, broken links, meta information, 404s, 301s and duplication. These are the elements that need to be on point if you want search engines to see your website as anything more than a blank page.
The 8 Best SEO Agency Tools for Collaboration and SEO Results
Now, everything I’ve been talking about here’s just a small part of what goes into making a successful SEO agency.
I’m not trying to show you how to be successful—I’m showing you how the right toolkit can improve various aspects of how your agency works, and hopefully, as a result of that, success will come!
SEO agency tools can help in a multitude of ways including improving the accuracy of your analysis and reporting, streamlining common processes and increasing productivity.
Bottom line: When people are using tools that make their jobs easier, they’ll be able to do their jobs better.
And that, in turn, will improve the standard of quality and service that you offer, which is a win-win for everyone.
When it comes to choosing tools, it’s important that you put in the time to try them out. Most will have a free trial period or have a free version with fewer features that you can play around with before parting with any money. Try out as many as you can until you find the ones that are the right fit for your agency and will help you with the elements I talked about above.
Here are the tools I’d recommend to every SEO agency—but remember, a good toolkit will always keep growing as your business grows, so don’t limit yourself to just these. Use them as a starting point and keep building from there as needed.
Collaboration Tools for Agencies
When it comes to project management tools, Asana is a clear winner. SEO agencies have a lot of moving pieces for every project and every client, and Asana organizes everything for you and keeps it all in one place so that you can always know what stage any task is at.
It’s an especially useful tool for managing multiple teams and juggling multiple tasks, allowing you to follow the progress of tasks from beginning to end, have conversations, share files and assign tasks to anyone in your team.
It’s a pretty decent communication hub, especially for discussions directly related to specific tasks, because it keeps all your conversations, notes and files together within the relevant task.
However, I wouldn’t rely on it as your sole communication tool. You’ll also want to be able to discuss things more fluidly in real-time. So, there are better options for internal communication, which I’ll get to next.
Asana is project management at its finest, acting like a virtual office where you can stay on top of deadlines and track the progress of up to thousands of tasks. A must-have for the agency that needs to get organized.
Slack took over the world in 2014 and quickly became the fastest growing business app ever. Now it’s used by millions of organizations including Airbnb, Harvard University and the LA Times.
At its core, Slack is a communication platform offering instant messaging to keep your team conversations flowing. It’s the perfect place to brainstorm, share ideas and collaborate, and it has become indispensable to my own SEO agency team—in fact, it has replaced email for all our internal communication.
You’ll definitely see fewer emails in your inbox once you start using this tool.
Slack creates a shared workspace where your conversations are organized and accessible, with pre-built channels for general chat and random chat (because cute cat videos deserve to be shared) and the ability to create as many channels and direct conversations as you want with any number of people on your team.
Where I work, for example, we have separate channels for every department (SEO, content, social media, design, etc.) so everyone in and relevant to that department is always aware of what’s going on.
Plus, Slack has a range of cool extra features that take it beyond just a conversation tool, like searchable archives (great for getting up to speed on missed meetings), third-party app integration and syncing across all your devices.
While perhaps not as fun as the last two tools, Harvest is just as essential. Most SEOs and SEO agencies charge their services by the hour or offer packages where clients pay for a set number of hours in a week or a month. As such, agencies need an extremely reliable time tracking tool that keeps accurate, detailed time reports without intruding on your work.
This is where Harvest comes in. It’s a simple, intuitive tool that lets you track time and manage projects, team members and budgets, together with bonus features like invoicing, payments and expense tracking.
Plus, it integrates smoothly with Asana and other popular business tools so that you can start and stop timers for tasks from within Asana and link project information and data between the two. That means less clicking around and less intrusion of your workflow when juggling multiple tasks in a day.
SEO Tools for Agencies
And now we come to the SEO-specific tools your agency needs to get results for clients.
If you didn’t already guess from the name, Monitor Backlinks really is the ultimate backlink monitoring tool, giving you the broadest, most up-to-date backlink data possible.
While there are other tools on the digital market for viewing your backlink profiles, this tool beats out the competition in ease of use. It’s a much less time-consuming way to keep an eye on your competitors as well as your own link profile, as you don’t have to manually do any research. Tons of valuable information is delivered with each backlink here, including the date added, trust flow, spam score, referring page, domain authority, Moz Rank and anchor text, and you can filter for what you need.
You get automatic email updates whenever you gain or lose any backlinks, as well as when your competitors gain any valuable links, making it incredibly easy to stay on top of your link strategy. You can manage and analyze links in real time to spot the best link building opportunities.
There are also nice additional features related to SEO work, including keyword rank tracking (which compares you to your competition) and measurements of organic traffic from search engines that sites are receiving. The reporting feature is especially nice for agencies that may want to generate neat, clean reports to deliver to clients.
Ahrefs is made up of several collaborative tools that allow you to research backlinks, analyze competitors’ backlink profiles and monitor your link profile—plus keep an eye on other key SEO metrics. It’s a bit broader in scope than Monitor Backlinks, but it will also cost you more for the additional bells and whistles.
To see backlink profiles, you just have to put a URL in the site explorer and Ahrefs will show you all of its backlinks plus a range of useful SEO metrics like the referring page, domain authority, anchor text and more so you can dig deep into data analysis.
This influencer outreach tool is a great way to stay organized once you begin actively doing link building campaigns based on your backlink research.
BuzzStream is designed for advanced outreach, which is admittedly the later stages of link building but also the one that’s never really finished—it’s something you have to keep working on to maintain and keep improving rankings.
BuzzStream gives your entire team one centralized database of all the backlinks you’ve acquired and are working on acquiring for every project or client.
It automatically pulls contact information and site metrics so you can easily identify the best websites to reach out to, connects you with influencers, keeps track of all your conversations and lets you track the progress of each backlink you build from the initial contact right through to securing the link.
If content strategy is a serious part of your SEO offering, then you need to be all over BuzzSumo.
It’s one of the biggest and most popular content analysis tools, used by some of the world’s leading content publishers including National Geographic, BuzzFeed, News Corp, Yahoo! and TED.
Basically, you just search for any topic or competitor and BuzzSumo will show you the highest-performing content for that search together with key metrics like social media engagements and backlinks for each piece of content.
It’s also great for finding content inspiration and influencers to promote your content, and it fosters well-rounded, well-researched content strategy.
Despite the fact that I can’t say the name without wincing as I imagine what a screaming frog would sound like, this tool is incredibly helpful when it comes to analysing the technical onsite elements of SEO strategy.
It does incorporate a number of separate tools, but I really only use the website crawler SEO Spider—a real-time crawl of any website URL to instantly show the areas that need to be fixed and optimized.
It’ll show you broken links, page titles and meta data, duplicate content, auto-redirects, robots and directives, and much more (with the paid version of the tool showing much more again). Screaming Frog is a must-have for SEO audits and onsite analysis.
It may seem daunting as you’re faced with the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of available tools, but building your agency toolkit doesn’t have to take as much time, energy or money as you might think.
First, think about what you need specific tools for. What tasks are your team members juggling every day? Every hour? What takes up a lot of time for your agency on a regular basis? Hone in on the areas of your agency work that you want to perfect. Then, think about which tools can help.
After that, it’s simply a matter of working systematically through the tools that may meet your needs.
I’d recommend starting with the favorites I’ve listed above, working out which of those are and aren’t right for you and then looking for alternatives if necessary.
With a solid toolkit behind you, your agency will be able to deliver the highest standard of service, work better in-house and confidently manage the work that’s coming in—whether it’s trickling or flooding in.