Once I learned more about SEO, I realized I needed tools.
The first tool that seemed obvious was a rank checker. Though the book I read said not to get too focused on your rank on a search engine result page (SERP) because they changed, it seems like a nature benchmark. If you are checking a couple of keywords, like the name of your website, you could do it manually. But, that doesn’t scale well.
I did some research for a rank checker and found Rank Tracker. It is part of a larger suite of tools called the SEO PowerSuite. The overall price seemed reasonable to help track a number of keywords and store the results to compare the changes. It also tracked a number of search engines. The other three tools in the suite did website analysis, backlinks and link building. I will probably use those tools later once I get more traffic and start trying to optimize my websites.
Rank Tracker worked great to tracking SERPs. It also helped with keyword suggestions. The only downside and it really isn’t except for the cost, is you have to purchase a “update” subscription to get the latest techniques as the search engines make changes. This seems fair because they are developing the product to improve it.
The other major tool I started using was Google’s Webmaster Tools. This is invaluable because you get data directly from Google. Bing has a similar tool but I haven’t used it much because so many searches seem to come from Google.
Related to SEO but a necessity for other reasons is an analytics package like Google Analytics. Basically I have read before that if you don’t measure something, you can’t manage it.
I found a few other tools but they never became part of my regular tool kit. I really like SEOmoz Pro but it is hard to justify the monthly cost at this stage in my website.