If you own or are responsible for a website, you may have become aware of All-in-One SEO software from the likes of companies such as SEMRush and AHREFS.
And you may have been curious about whether you actually need this type of software, and if so, which brand will best meet your needs.
In this article, I will explain what All-in-One SEO software can do, whether you actually need it, and how to choose the right product for you.
Do you need All-in-One SEO software?
You may be forgiven for thinking that All-in-One SEO software is a necessary purchase for anyone that is serious about SEO.
However, this simply isn’t true.
Many SEO’s manage perfectly fine with free tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics. I, myself, have built websites that receive over 100K visits per month without the expense of any software subscriptions. I would also argue that the best SEOs build their own systems to collate and represent the data that is important to them.
However, SEO software does make some tasks a bit quicker and a bit easier, particularly research tasks, and puts a lot of data on-hand and at your disposal. If you have clients, then SEO software can quickly generate reports to evidence your SEO performance and their website’s progress. And some information simply cannot be collected without SEO software – for example, it would be very difficult to build a crawler that scrapes all the backlinks pointing at a particular website – whether you NEED to know this information, however, is another story.
On the flip-side SEO software can potentially make you blinkered if you trust everything that it tells you without combining it with your own knowledge of the market. Bespoke metrics provided by SEO software should also be understood for what they are and used as a guide rather than a rule. And it is essential to not become addicted to checking your stats every day and doing everything that the software tells you to – whilst I’m sure it is well-meaning advice, these recommendations can often distract beginners from the more important (and higher-ROI) tasks that they should be doing.
And some SEO software can cost around $100 per month for the most restricted plan, which can be beyond the budget of many individuals and small businesses.
Therefore, I would only recommend a subscription to ALL-in-One SEO software to individuals and agencies that operate several websites, have particularly large websites (say,over a few hundred pages) or are already earning enough from their website to easily cover the expense.
Of course, there are more cost-effective solutions available (which you can check out on my comparison table). And there will be exceptions – it depends on how often you are likely to use your software subscription and the time/money you are likely to save from having access to these tools.
But, to assess your ROI, you need to understand exactly what All-in-One SEO software can do for you, and that is what I will be covering in the next section.
What does All-in-One SEO Software do?
In a nutshell, All-in-One SEO Software provides tools to track your website’s performance, research keywords and competitors, and scan your website for technical errors.
Whilst different brands provide a different selection of features, All-in-One SEO software typically provides the following tools; Rank Tracker, Keyword Research, Competitor Research, Backlink Checker, and Website Audit.
There will be other tools that have been designed for specific purposes, but generally, these are the tools that you are paying for.
A rank tracker does exactly what it says on the tin – you give the system some keywords that you want to track and at set intervals (often daily, but sometimes weekly), it tells you where your website ranks in a search engine for those particular keywords.
So, if I have a website about widgets and I have written an article about the Top 10 Best Widgets, I might want to track the keyword “Best Widgets”. I input this keyword into the SEO software and every day, the system does a Google search for “Best Widgets” and reports back where my website ranks.
This is useful for tracking your SEO efforts. For example, on day 1 the article may not rank in Google at all, then on day 2 it ranks in position 30. As I work on the article to improve it and promote it via social media and through other websites, my rank will hopefully improve until my website is in the Top 10 results for this keyword. And I will have a nice little line chart showing how the rank improved over time.
Typically, the software will check your rankings in the Google International search engine, but some software allows you to configure it for country-specific Google searches, language-specific searches, device-specific searches (e.g desktop and mobile) and even other search engines, such as Bing or Yahoo.
It is important to understand that the rank tracker keyword limits in SEO software are usually based on a single keyword/search engine/location/language/device combination. So, if I wanted to track the same keyword across Google US, Google UK, Bing US and Bing UK, it would cost me 4 keyword credits (even though they are for the same keyword). There are exceptions to this rule – for example, SE Ranking lets you select up to 5 combinations for each keyword credit.
The Keyword Research tool will provide you with useful information about any specified keyword and offer suggestions for other related keywords.
Although keyword metrics can vary between brands, typically you will be provided with:
- Keyword Difficulty: An estimation of how difficult it will be to rank this keyword in the top 10 search results
- Search Volume: How many searches there are for this keyword each month – this may also be divided into country-specific search volume and show historical trends
- Search Intent: The underlying reason behind the search (e.g. navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional)
- SERP Features: Search results structured slightly differently and often at the top of the organic results (e.g. reviews, knowledge panel, video, people also ask etc.)
You will also be supplied with a list of related keywords, along with the same information above, which can usually be filtered and sorted according to your requirements. And there may also be information about Paid Ads (including the estimated cost per click) that are being targeted for these keywords
Whilst the Keyword Research tool analyses keywords, the Competitor Research tool analyses websites. You input a domain name or URL, and the SEO software provides you with information about it, including:
- Domain Rating/Authority: An estimation (typically between 1 and 100) of how authoritative the domain is (as a whole)
- Page Rating/Authority: An estimation (typically between 1 and 100) of how authoritative the particular webpage is
- Organic Traffic: Estimated monthly traffic this website receives from search engines
- Keywords: Estimated number of keywords that this website ranks for in search engines (and a list of the top keywords)
- Organic Competitors: Other websites that compete in search engines for the same keywords
There may also be data about paid search and traffic breakdowns by country.
Please be aware that metrics such as Domain Rating and Page Rating are bespoke to the particular brand of SEO Software and each brand has their own way of calculating this number. Search engines DO NOT use this metric (or any other metric provided by SEO software). These metrics should be used as a guide only and important decisions should not be made solely on this data.
The Backlink Checker tools tells you which websites link to a particular website or webpage.
Backlinks are a significant factor for ranking websites in search engines, and identifying where your competitors are getting backlinks from can provide you with the same backlink opportunities.
A backlink report typically provides information about:
- Number of backlinks: How many links point to the specified website
- Referring domains: How many domains point to the specified website (e.g. a website may have 50 backlinks but only one referring domain, which means that the same website is linking fifty times)
- List of backlinks: Shown as a table with the source webpage of each backlink, the domain authority, page authority, anchor text, and estimated traffic that the page receives.
There will often be a line chart associated with backlinks and referring domains showing how these numbers have changed over time, as well as charts showing new and lost backlinks.
The Backlink Checker could be considered part of the competitive research tool (above), however, I have given it its own section because it is something that provides data that is nigh-on impossible to obtain through other channels.
It is possible to track the rank of your keywords manually (by typing them into Google), and keywords can be collated from other sources, such as Google Search Console, on-site search, and Google Keyword Planner. Similarly, you can learn about your competitors by manually navigating through their websites. Identifying backlinks that point to a particular website, however, is very difficult to do without tools.
It requires lots of computing power to send out crawlers to scan and log a significant subsection of webpages on a 5-Billion Gigabyte Internet that is constantly growing and changing!
Finally, the Website Audit tool crawls all the pages of a website to identify technical issues and bad practices that should be resolved.
This is a good way to find any errors that may otherwise have gone unnoticed – something as simple as a broken link could cause you to lose a lot of traffic.
There can be various configuration options, such as excluding particular pages from the audit, however, the process generally involves simply typing in the domain name and running the audit. It will take a while to process as the system scans each page on the website, but when it has finished you will given a list of items that the tool believes needs to be fixed.
However, don’t feel as though you need to fix everything on the list. For example, it will usually tell you that a missing meta description is bad, however, I’ve not used meta descriptions for years (imo, an unnecessary time burden). Fortunately, most website audit tools categorise the issues into groups of severity and I tend to only look at the most serious problems.
Plans, packages & limits
As well as there being a number of different brands that provide SEO software solutions (each with their pros and cons), there are also a number of different plans/packages offered by each brand.
Plans and packages are usually differentiated by software tools/features available and limits for carrying out specified tasks.
These limits can include:
- Number of websites: The maximum number of websites that you can add to the system for rank tracking and analytic purposes. This may also be called campaigns or projects
- Number of users: The maximum number of users that may access the software concurrently (there is usually an option to add more users for an additional cost)
- Keywords: The maximum number of keywords that can be tracked in the Rank Tracker – this is usually on a per keyword, per search engine, per location, per language, per device basis
- Keyword/Competitor Queries: The maximum number of times that you can carry out a search for a keyword or domain each month
- Backlink Checker Queries: The maximum number of times that you search for the backlinks of a domain/url each month
- Number of rows returned: The maximum number of results returned for a keyword/competitor search. There may also be a row limit for backlink checks.
- Audit pages: The maximum number of webpages that you can audit each month – there are often separate limits for both the number of pages for a particular domain and the total number of pages across all domains
Because of these limits, it is useful to make a note of your own numbers (how many websites and keywords you need to monitor, how many keyword/competitor searches you are likely to carry out each month etc.) before choosing which SEO software to use. It will be beneficial to slightly overestimate what you think you will need – perhaps add 10-20% to your figures – so that there is some room for growth or unforeseen circumstances.
My comparison table allows you to filter SEO plans based on the limits you need.
Pricing & other options
So, if I search for the limits I need, I then just pick the least expensive option, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not always quite that simple because some brands are more expensive for a reason.
AHREFS, for example, crawls more of the web and has the largest backlink database, whilst SEMRUSH tends to have a better keyword database.
Some brands provide more options for searching and filtering data (and may even have a different usage structure). For example, AHREFS provides a lot of filtering options, however, it charges you credits from your limits every time you use them. In contrast, other brands only charge you once for the initial query and not for manipulating the data afterwards.
Finally, each brand has a selection of smaller tools and utilities that may be useful for your own particular needs. For example, SE Ranking has a Keyword Grouper tool for clustering a bulkload of keywords into groups based on their similarity in the SERPs.
Now that you know what All-in-One software can do for you, you are in a good position to decide if you should purchase a subscription.
As I said before, SEO software would probably be overkill for operators of single small websites.
In addition, if you are unlikely to use most of the tools available, it may be more cost-effective to use a dedicated software solution for your needs. For example, there are several software vendors that provide software for Rank Tracking only.
However, as the number of websites and number of pages you are responsible for increases, so does the burden of Search Engine Optimisation – and this increased workload can often be an exponential relationship.
All-in-One SEO software can help you to manage your workload by making tasks such as keyword and competitive research quicker and easier. Data about your search marketing performance is collected automatically and you can check for technical issues at the touch of a button.
If these are tasks that you carry out infrequently, then it would be right to say that you probably don’t need the additional expense of SEO software, however, if you can see yourself saving a lot of time and effort by having useful data collected automatically and being immediately available, then check out my SEO Software comparison table to discover which product best fits your needs.