6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools

seo software and toolsIf you are a search engine optimizer, internet marketer, blogger, or small business owner you are probably always looking for ways to get an edge over your competition.  This makes you always on the lookout for new search engine optimization (SEO) software and tools to buy to add to your SEO toolkit.

Companies that build and sell SEO software and tools won't like me saying this but a lot of times I see people needlessly waste money on these SEO programs.  To be honest with all of my readers I've been one of those people.  If you have also wasted money on SEO software I can tell you that the issue, like buying anything, is that you don't ask yourself the right questions before opening your wallet.  To try to save my blog readers time, money, and hassle I've decided to make this list of “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools.”

1. Do I need this SEO Software or Tool?

Sounds pretty simple and like common sense, right?  Not quite.  A lot of people will just buy any SEO program or tool because they saw on some forum or blog that it was supposedly really useful.

What you need to understand is that most SEO software and tools have fairly good affiliate programs.  Meaning the blog or site owner gets money if you click through their link to buy it.  (Just so everyone is aware I have nothing against affiliate links and use them on this blog.)  The reason I want you to realize when someone is using affiliate links is that most people don't.

Consider if the person is recommending the product on the merit of it's usefulness or if they just want to collect affiliate money.  Just because someone recommends something doesn't mean you have to buy it.

2. What will I use this SEO Tool for?

I guess this goes into question #1 but I'd recommend you ask yourself this anyway.  You need to have a clear idea of how that SEO tool or SEO software you are going to be paying for will be helping your online business.

If you can't think of an area where the tool will help you, then just don't buy it.  If the SEO tool seems legitimate, you know what you will use it for, and it's going to fill a specific SEO need you have, then go ahead and open your wallet.

3. Is there good Documentation and Tutorials?

Before I put any money on the table for SEO tools or SEO software I like to check the website and see if they have a reasonable amount of documentation.

For instance I want to know if the software has any bugs.  Issues with certain operating systems might be something you want to think about.  If you use Mac computer you will probably need to run most SEO programs in Parallels, which emulates Windows in a virtual environment.   Most SEO developer don't spend time making a version for Macs or Linux desktops.  Often times in the documentation they will state if there are issues of it's been tested in Parallels or WINE (like Parallels but for Linux).

I also like to understand how the SEO software works and what it does.  Is an SEO tool that can be used for whitehat or is just for blackhat link building techniques?  Consider who built and who the developers are behind it too.

The creators of any SEO software should have clear and easy-to-understand video and picture tutorials on how to use it and state specifically why you need it.  This will make your decision for question #2 easier.

4. Is this SEO program Easy to Use?

If you don't understand how to use the SEO program and software, you will have just wasted your money.  If you check the documentation and tutorials this should give you a clear idea of the difficulty for picking it up.

I've personally found that most SEO programs and tools have a learning curve higher than average.  So you will need to put time into learning but do consider how much time you want to put in. 1 hour or less?  A week?  Keep in mind a lot of SEO programs are built by programmers and NOT people that are great with intuitive design layouts.  Often they focused on making things easy-to-use, but failed miserably.

Most creators of various SEO tools will offer a short free trial period before you buy so you can see whether it's useful, easy-to-use, and will fit your needs.  They vary in length but usually are between 7-30 days for a free SEO software trial period.  Some don't but I'd take advantage of any free trials.

5. Is the Support Good?

If support is non-existent or isn't helpful, don't buy.  I've been surprised by how many times I've needed to contact support for an SEO tool due to an unexpected bug or issue.

I usually recommend you send an email after looking over the documentation, FAQs, and tutorials and see how long the response time is and what the response is like.  If they seem helpful and answer your questions clearly that's a good sign.  If not, you might want to move on and keep searching for another SEO software with the tools you need that has responsive and helpful support.

6. Can I afford these SEO Tools or SEO Software?

A lot of SEO tools comes with monthly subscription costs which can be quite costly.  The reason for this is that most SEO programmers know that marketing and SEO agencies often charge a king's ransom.

Most of us probably don't have a huge amount of money to drop on every single SEO tool that we feel we need.  So don't break the bank by overextending your finances.  Again, it's common sense but if you can't afford something don't buy it.  If you feel you need that SEO software with a monthly subscription cost for your toolkit ask some friends or family with websites that wan't better Google rankings if they want to split the monthly cost with you.  All of you could then save a ton of money learning and building links on your own sites.  You will have to all collectively ask questions 1-5.

I usually try to find SEO software that does not have a monthly or yearly renewal.  I like to pay once and forget about it.  That's just easier for me and my wallet.  Also I like to weigh whether the software will cover the cost of buying it.  Meaning can I make back what I spent on the SEO tool?  You should consider the same thing too.

Sometimes it might be worth it to check around first to see if there is something for free that can fill your SEO needs.  Honestly for something like basic keyword research you probably won't need much else besides the Google Keyword Planner.  If you want free keyword rank tracking all you need is Google Webmaster Tools.  Most of the time though you will find you need to spend money on buying an SEO tool, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts on Buying SEO Software and Tools

My final recommendation would be to just watch out for any shyters selling useless SEO tools or ones that will get you banned or deindexed by Google.  There are a lot of people selling useless products out there and I met plenty at Affiliate Summit.

I hope you've found my “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools” useful and helpful.  If you want to refer to these next time you are considering purchasing any SEO Software and Tools feel free to bookmark this article.  If you have any questions or comments to add feel free to leave them below.

6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE your Hire Them

Hiring a Search Engine Optimizer is no easy task.  For one thing there are a lot of people out there that claim they know how to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and build quality links, when in fact they don't.  Also there are Search Engine Optimizers that will give a great price that undercuts what everyone else told you.  However, what they don't tell you is they will use all BlackHat (meaning Google doesn't like it) link building techniques to rank your site.  You could very well rank for 1st for some keywords for a couple days or weeks, but most likely your site might get deindexed from Google or face penalties.  You could still be listed in other search engines… but who really cares about those?

search engine optimizerAs someone who's seen and heard of waaay to many people getting ripped off by SEO scammers out there, here are 6 Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer BEFORE you make the decision to hire them.

1. What SEO Software and Tools Do you Use?

Search Engine Optimizers need quite a few SEO tools and software to pull data about competitors websites and to try to figure out how to rank your site for certain keywords and terms.  Typically they will have a subscription to some sort of rank tracking software or monitoring service, link analysis software, and have one or several VPS (Virtual Private Servers) for running some of these programs.  In addition they might have to hire workers via oDesk or another freelancing service for doing small tasks and jobs they don't want to do.  This could be writing articles, contacting blogs or websites where they might be able to post an article with your URL above the fold (this means not as a comment or forum signature link), link analysis, filling out forms, etc.

Any legit Search Engine Optimizer should be honest with you about what SEO tools, software, and subscriptions they are paying for and what tasks they sub-contract other people to do.  Many feel sharing with clients is giving away trade secrets, but that just isn't true.  If you bought SEO tools, guess what, other people bought use those SEO tools too.

Even though I would let clients of mine know what SEO software I use, they obviously don't have the expertise or knowledge to use the effectively.  Of course if later they want to learn, that's fine with me.  The client is paying me for my knowledge and there is always plenty of SEO business out there. 🙂

2. What link building Techniques & Strategies Do you Use? Blackhat or Grayhat?

This is an important question you really need to be on your toes about.  If it's clear they completely use BlackHat techniques, then run away very fast!  (This is hard to know if you don't have any idea about search engine optimization.)

I assume most people that read my website are looking for long term benefits from SEO.  You need someone who understands that and isn't going to give you a bunch of crappy low quality links, even if they drive traffic.

Consider how your potential search optimizer answers question 1# and what tools they told you they use.  Guess what, you should Google it.  Is it SEO software that is mainly used for BlackHat link building?  Then ask how they use the tools and what strategies they use to build links?

To be fair and honest and what you do need to keep in mind… no Search Engine Optimizer, and I mean NOBODY, completely does whitehat SEO.  Everyone works in “Grayhat SEO” when it comes to link building.

Larger sites and companies will buy links, which is technically against Google's guidelines, for certain keywords they want to rank for.  Smaller sites and blogs don't care since they need the money.  (I know since I've been there.)  It's not like Google isn't aware of it but I've never seen Google do much about it since a lot of these companies have large advertising deals with Google.  Also there is no way the bots are smart enough to figure this out on ever single website out there.

A lot of SEO software is not necessarily considered “whitehat” by Google.  For instance I use a program called ScrapeBox, which everyone uses.  You can't use ScrapeBox with one IP address or Google would ban it.  ScrapeBox sends to many automated queries at one time, so if you are going to use it you need to buy proxies.  ScrapeBox is not a bad tool in my opinion, but Google doesn't like how it pulls data.

Bottom line, a Search Engine Optimizers should be honest about SEO strategies and link building tactics they will use for your website before you give them any money.  Like I said I'd keep in mind Google expects everyone to play fair, but nobody does.

3. What Keywords can you Rank me for within my Budget?

Before you talk with a Search Engine Optimizer you should figure out how much you can spend monthly or for a one-time upfront cost.  You need to understand that harder the keywords you want to rank for, the more time and therefore money it will require.

If you are told by a company they can rank you for some crazy competitive keywords such as “make money online” they might be able to… but it will cost you a lot of money.  That's why nobody posts pricing on directly on their websites.  It doesn't make sense since they are billions of searches for different categories and regions.  Cost and difficulty range with regards to what keywords and terms you want to rank in Google for.

There should be a discussion of what is doable within your SEO budget.  I'm not saying you should not expect something for your money, but understand some companies spend $500-$2,000 a month with SEO firms while other are spending upwards of $10,000+ for a whole range of SEO, social media, and website development services.

4. Can you Guarantee 1# Ranking?

This a bit of a trick question since the answer, should be “No!”  If you work with a huge SEO company that's been in the game for awhile and you are paying them tons of money each month, then it might be possible if they have the staff and resources.  Still there is no way any Search Engine Optimizers or company can “100% Guarantee” #1 sport ranking in Google for extraordinarily competitive keywords.

Even these large SEO companies can't always figure out how to get a 1# SERP (search engine results pages) ranking.  People who claim otherwise are blowing smoke.

Google rankings are NOT determined by the search optimizers you hire.  They are determined by Google and their massive computing power and stupid algorithms which sometimes nobody can figure out.  There are over 200 different ranking factors Google uses and they don't tell the public what all of these are.

5. Do you hate Matt Cutts?

The answer to this question, should be “Yes!”  (In case you don't know who Matt Cutts heads the Webspam team at Google and works on Google's search algorithm.  He wrote the family filter engine for Google as well.)

I personally don't trust a lot of things Matt Cutts tells people in the Google Webmaster Help videos on Youtube.  He tells you what Google doesn't like, not what doesn't work.  These are 2 very different things and SEO pros know the difference and will exploit them.

Watching the Google Webmaster Help videos is good for many reasons though.  For instance I wouldn't have been aware Google changed their stance on .IO domains for global use.  Also he gives straight-up advice like Don't Buy a Spam Domain and that you should always Link to Your Sources.

Often times it is quite difficult to figure out what he means in these Youtube videos though.  The issue is he is trying to appeal to beginners watching these videos that don't know much about SEO and people in the SEO industry, which doesn't work.  This was clear when Penguin 2.0 hit and his answers about regarding “Does site downtime hurt Search Engine rankings?” should have been more clearcut.  (That's why there was a website created call The Short Cutts.)  Additionally Matt Cutts SEO talk at WordCamp 2009 doesn't tell the whole story about Google and SEO.  There are a lot more factors that go into ranking than diverse keywords in articles.

6. Do you hate Google?

The answer should always be “Yes!”  🙂

Other Questions to Ask a Search Engine Optimizer

Obviously I can't account for what your specific situation or website needs are.  There are too many factors or specialty areas.  So you need to feel out how the SEO company or Search Engine Optimizer you are going to hire seems.  Do they seem like an “SEO Diva?” or are they pretty chill.  Try to think of other questions and definitely get on Skype or Google+ to talk with them “face to face” if you can.  If they don't want to take a little time to answer your questions I'd find someone else.

Personally if I get hired by a small business to do SEO work I am always open about what I am doing and I keep them updated.  They are paying me to do work for them and it's my job to make it clear what I am doing and how I am doing it, so they feel they are getting value for their money.  I even try to provide clients with tools and resources other people wouldn't.  Transparency is not something you find often in the SEO world, but you should expect it from whoever you hire in my opinion.  (If you want to Hire Me, I'd be happy to talk with you by the way.)

Ranking in search engines is something you should want to do in the long term, not short term.  Be careful who you hire and just make sure you feel comfortable working with them and what they are going to do with your website.

Think I missed something?  Have anything to add regarding SEO or search optimizers?  Let me know below!

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!