July 9

SEO Tools I Used to Grow to 20k Global Traffic in 6 Months

2  comments

This is my SEO tools stack that took a complete SEO beginner like me from 1k traffic to 20k global traffic in 6-8 months.

These days, when I tell people that I design websites or provide an SEO service, people still look at me wide eyed and ask me: so, you must know how to code right?

That’s not true. I don’t know how to code. I know basic HTML some Java, and that’s it. You don’t need to know how to code to do good SEO (yes it’ll be helpful) but what you’ll need is a great SEO tools stack.

The SEO Tool Must Have Swiss Knife: Ahrefs

There are complex softwares out in the SEO market to calculate keyword density, latent semantic indexing keywords and SEO can come off as a complicated process that involves complex scary looking third party tools such as Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, BuzzStream, Majestic SEO and etc.

Screaming Frog
Isn’t this giving you a headache already?

For the starting web designer, blogger, content writer, business owner, marketer, it can be quite intimidating.

In my experience, I think most complicated SEO tools are unnecessary for majority of people looking to grow their sites, at least from a 0 – 50k traffic level. Complicated software and SEO tools only account for 5% of SEO success.

I personally don’t enjoy complicated processes. I like keeping SEO simple by keeping my SEO tools stack I use lean and simple.

Keep your SEO tools light, keep your stack lean and focus on outreach and link acquisition: the ultimate needle mover for traffic.

Backlinks Prospecting and Research

  • Ahrefs

If there is one SEO tool that is essential to SEO success, that is Ahrefs. It’s almost impossible to do good SEO without this tool. It’s commonly called the Swiss knife of SEO tools for a reason. Ahrefs can do everything from keyword research, backlinks research, keyword tracking and pull out a technical SEO site audit. Not to mention, their data is pretty accurate.

I use Ahrefs for backlinks research and prospecting. I highly commend the team at Ahrefs for building out this beast of a software.

Ahrefs Office in Singapore
Ahrefs has an office in Singapore, which is the country I am from. Tim Soulo, if you’re reading this, you owe me an invite.
  • Hunter.IO

I use Hunter.IO to get email addresses for white hat outreach. Hunter.IO is simple to use. Simply plug a website and get the contact information almost immediately. You can also bulk find emails. This is extremely useful for guest blogging, skyscraper and PR outreach. Hunter included an email verification feature on their platform recently. It’s a useful feature to verify the emails before you send outreach emails.

Keyword Research

  • Ahrefs

The beginners start with Google keyword planner and the seasoned professionals use Ahrefs. Yes there’s a limit on the number of keywords you can research on a day but Ahrefs has tier-ed plans as you manage more sites. I simply use Ahrefs for keyword research these days.

Keyword Ranking Tracking Tools

  • Google Search Console

Google search console gives you an ‘average’ keyword position ranking. You can do this by checking Google analytics data under user acquisition: landing pages and search queries, take a look at the queries you are driving traffic from.

// Screen Shot

  • Ahrefs

To keep my SEO stack light, I didn’t go about purchasing custom SEO keyword tracking platforms. I stuck with Ahrefs. The lower plans in Ahrefs have a limit to the number of keywords you can track, however as starting out marketer, I can assure you it’s more than enough. You can always upgrade to higher

SEO Outreach Tools:

  • Mailshake

I tested both Mailshake and Lemlist and found that both are great. Lemlist has a pretty cool user experience whilst Mailshake isn’t too far off either.

Mailshake UX

I integrate Mailshake with gmail from Google Workspace and use them as a combination to do outreach at scale.

The key to successful outreach is being able to filter deliverable and non-deliverable emails, choose the right ones to outreach to.

This is done by running your email data through an email verification tool such as the Usebouncer or the email verification feature in Hunter.IO.

Oh yes, you got to get your SPF, DKIM and DMARC setup as well to increase email deliverability.

Technical SEO and On Page SEO Tools

  • All in One SEO

I started off with All in One SEO and preferred it over Yoast. It doesn’t matter, just pick one and focus on other aspects of SEO such as link acquisition. Like I mentioned, your needle mover is going to be acquiring backlinks.

In my opinion, a beginner may make the mistake of focusing too much on technical SEO such as meta descriptions and title tags. Technical SEO is necessary in the larger scheme of things, however, links are going to the needle mover. (Trust me, I used to fiddle around title tags and meta descriptions)

  • Ahrefs Site Audit Tool

I am a huge fan of Ahrefs site audit tool a feature the team at Ahrefs has been working on through the years. It’s doesn’t look like you need to be software whizz to use, and it can send you automated monthly weekly reports on your site’s speed

The Ahrefs site audit too is able to pull data and look at broken links to technical SEO errors such as missing meta descriptions.

The big boys often cite ScreamingFrog as a great tool, however, I think Ahrefs too does a great job at pointing out technical errors in SEO. Like I mentioned, keep it lean.

Ahrefs Site Audit Tool
Let’s clap for the team at Ahrefs for this beast
  • Broken Links Checker

I used to use this a lot as a beginner but these days I run it through Ahrefs just to keep things leaner and simpler. The broken links checker checks for broken links. It’s no brainer. Simple plug and play. The best part: it’s free.

Reporting and Data Analytics

  • Google Analytics

This the bread and butter tool for traffic analytics. Google analytics can give you data on rankings, search queries, user acquisition and etc. You can set up goals, look at your audience break down, bounce rates and all other nerdy, data stuff

This is a no brainer.

  • Google Search Console

Google search console helps you track how’s your site indexed and indexing errors. Google search console can also gives you keyword rankings and average click through rates.

Free SEO Plugins For Optimization and Speed

Technical SEO can sound already complex (at times). I’m always looking for plugins to avoid manual solutions such as finagling around writing code.

There aren’t perfect solutions, however plugins can help with optimizing code on your website to increase speed.

  • WP-Smush

Optimizing your images on your website is one way to increase your website speed. WP Smush compresses all my images that are hosted on the website. This plugin compresses images, automatically and it’s quite user-friendly.

  • Autoptimize

This plugin helps optimize Html, Javascript and CSS code. Basically, it rearranges the code on your page to make it “smaller sized” for the internet. The most recent version is pretty user friendly and easy to use.

Page Speed and Mobile Friendly Testing

  •  Google Page Speed Insights

Google Page Speed Insights is a tool developed by Google to test your website’s speed performance. You simply enter the URL of the website into Google page insights and Google will run a diagnostic for you.

You can then get a professional and preferably a technical web developer to fix the errors for you.

I find it useful as gauge (and also proof) to clients if they are to hand me a broken/ laggy website.

  • Google Mobile-Friendly Test

This is a no brainer, Google’s tool to test if your website is mobile friendly. Note: if you aren’t mobile friendly in 2021, you deserve to be shot.

SEO Content Creation and Team Hiring

  • Upwork

If you’re outsourcing your content, design or fixing technical issues, Upwork is a great place to go to. I use it for all my outsourcing efforts. You can find cost competitive talent on Upwork.

I hire the majority of my writers from Upwork. My entire SEO team is found on Upwork similarly.

I like Upwork’s team management process. The ability to keep it simple with their messaging platform. Yes, they charge fees and take a percentage of fees, however you are paying for a simple HR system.

There’s no need for you to manually log into your bank to transfer money to a freelancer/ contractor. This makes my life easier. They simply charge to your card, send you an invoice.

Secondly, I like Upwork’s hourly screen monitoring feature. If you have a contractor working for you by hour, Upwork hourly screen monitoring feature comes in handy.

Upwork interface
Their messaging rooms feature is great
  • Copyscape

Copyscape is used to check for plagiarism and duplicate content if you outsource your content. It’s not entirely free, but it’s extremely low cost.

High quality and researched content can’t be written by robots.

If you’re going to outsource your content, it’s important to check against plagiarism (duplicate content is a big no no in Google’s eyes) or you can use tools such as Siteliner to analyse your current site’s content.

  • Grammarly

I use Grammarly to check grammar mistakes. The better your grammar, the better the user experience, the higher your keyword rankings.

Themes and Web Design

  • Thrive Themes

Thrive themes is a mobile friendly theme and they have excellent support. My theme queries are always almost answered in 24 hours or less.

Their intuitive drop and drag page builder is great for landing pages, conversion styled pages. You can even do cool advanced marketing stuff like include countdown timers.

Thrive themes also has an ability to integrate softwares such as MailChimp, SendOwl that makes the entire marketing process much smoother.

Email Subscription

  • MailChimp

I started off using Aweber. However, I much preferred the UX of Mailchimp and hence I made the switch.

It’s user friendly, you get to build your audience and list whilst being a beginner for free. It’s a no brainer.

Hosting

  • SiteGround

Customer support and reliability is priceless when it comes to dry, technical stuff like web hosting and domain names.

Look, I’m not a tech guy. I can code basic Java and that’s it. In fact, I don’t like dealing with tech, I like my website and services I use to be as intuitive as possible. What you want to pay for is support.

SiteGround has excellent support that resolves my web hosting issues in hours through the years. You can’t ask enough for great support. I switched over from a Singapore web host as my traffic on one of my portfolio sites went over more than 20k per month visitors.

I commend the customer support at Site Ground for doing an excellent job.

Project Management for SEO

  • Google Workspace, Google Sheets and Google Docs

There’s nothing like using Google sheets, Google docs to project manage. So much so that if a contractor sends me a word document, it ruins my day.

I use Gmail, Google workspace, Google sheets and Google docs to manage my entire SEO process for clients, my team and content writers. Everything from keyword research, content audits, blogger outreach, content placement coordination, team management, content creation and delivery.

In my unpopular opinion, Google Sheets beats all other project management tools hands down any day of the week. It’s simple to use and easily malleable.

Google Work Space
Disclaimer: I do own Google stock

For Photos, Design Tools

  • Canva

Canva is awesome for text-based images and etc. for the basic designer. It’s a surprising user friendly tool. I use it to create basic PDFs and banners.

  • Flickr

I use Flickr because their images are awesome. They are a lot more unique than the run of the mill Google search and steal.

How I Think about Purchasing SEO Tools

It’s inevitable that you’re going to deal with some technical issues in when it comes to digital marketing down the lines. This is why you want to pay for great support.

Whenever I have questions about hosting/security/technical problems, I want to be able to reach a human being and have my problems solved within an hour or two.

You’ll be surprised that these problems arise at all the wrong times when running an SEO campaign such as email deliverability issues or your site going down on you once you hit a certain traffic limit (that happened to me).

This is why getting good service providers is going to save you countless hours of navigating technical issues.

Instead of spending time and effort bargaining every nickel and dime with service providers, spend your time on executing great SEO instead.

Cheaper services can save you $10 a month until you run into problems. Imagining scoring a guest post on a major publication, your website crashes and your service provider can’t handle the traffic. Technical problems can cost you thousands of dollars in revenue. It’s worth it to pay for good service providers.

Stay Lean

Lastly, I can’t emphasize again that the lesser tools you use, the better it is. SEO can already be a complicated process from the get go. If you’re going to include too many variables in your process, you’re going to confuse yourself and your team.

Keep your SEO tools stack lean, efficient and mean.


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  1. It is an amazing post and you explained it in a detailed way. Nice to see this here. I will bookmark your blog for more details. Keep sharing new things like this.

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