At some point in time as a web owner, you’ve surely thought about subscribing to the many SEO tools out there. The most famous one as of this writing, is Ahrefs and it costs $99 a month for the most basic subscription. There’s no doubt that Ahrefs is an impressive tool. It provides a depth of keywords and ranking data that’s unmatched by anything else out there. And its spider is one of the most active on the Internet, rivaling even that of major search engines like Bing.
But here’s the question – is it worth paying for? Are any of them worth paying for? And how do we measure worth? I’ve personally used many of these services, and after a lot of testing, I think I have my answer.
“No, we don’t”.
Allow me to explain why I think there aren’t any SEO tools worth paying for.
What is Our Goal?
Presumably, our goal is to rank well on search engines. Right now, that means Google. So every tool we use needs to help us towards that goal. While Google is rather untransparent about what goes into their ranking algorithm (and rightly so), we do know quite a bit about what kind of content ranks, and why.
So we need to ask: Is our SEO tool helping us to rank better on Google?
Information for the Heck of It
If you subscribe to Ahrefs, you’ll be greeted with a swarm of data regarding your site. A complete backlink profile, possibly thousands of keywords, and their respective movements each day, competitor information, cool features like “Content Gap” analysis, and more. There’s no doubt that Ahrefs has done a fantastic job collating all this data. The time and effort their team has put in is by itself a marvel.
My worry however, is that no much of this data is actionable. Or let me rephrase that – it’s not actionable in a way that directly impacts your rankings. Ok, let’s say you know that a certain keyword “XYZ” has dropped 3 ranking points in the past day. What do you do? What can you do?
The answer is nothing! Or at least nothing that you shouldn’t have been doing anyway before the ranking change! Are you going to improve your content? That’s what you should have been doing even before you had this information. Are you going to try and build backlinks? Well, duh didn’t you know you had to do that before?
My concern is that there’s a flood of data, and none of it is clear and actionable in a way that it makes you do something different. This makes me question whether or not there are SEO tools worth paying for.
Keyword Research + Competitor Research
Where I can see value for tools is when they help you do keyword research and find out what your competitors are up to. However, there are a number of free tools that give excellent keyword ideas. Lately, I’ve been getting more and more inspiration from Google’s own search console data. If you have a website that’s been around for a while, there is a wealth of keyword data that you can mine for free. And it comes straight for the horse’s mouth!
Worth Paying for Automation
The one value I can see in paying is to automate certain tasks. For example, I pay $10 a month to a tool that tracks a bunch of my keywords everyday across several countries. I can easily do this myself, but I’m lazy. And again, this kind of information isn’t really “actionable”. It’s for information only. To make me feel good. What do I do when I see that some of my keywords have gone up? Nothing. What if they’ve gone down? Again nothing!
When it comes to SEO tools, you have to realize that you most likely already know what you need to do. Extra data isn’t going to change that. And until Google themselves reveal exactly what factors cause one website to rank higher than another, a lot of it is guesswork that more often that not doesn’t hit the mark.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!