This page details the various tools I use to plan, build and execute search marketing campaigns for personal and client projects. I thought it'd be a helpful resource for anyone looking for new tools to help scale their online business.
I update the page periodically with new tools I've tested and added to my arsenal 🙂 You can also find in-depth reviews showing how I use some of the tools to get results.
Below you will find a table of contents to quickly navigate to specific sections.
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. I have a strict policy to only promote products I personally use to run my business. If you decide to purchase a subscription/tool through an affiliate link I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. This is how I fund the blog - thanks for your support!
Recommended SEO Training / Course Platform
The SEO Playbook is my premium online SEO training course that teaches step-by-step systems ("Playbooks") to scale organic traffic and conversions. The course has 100+ over-the-shoulder training videos, 50+ templates and process documents, as well as a private Slack community with almost 200 SEO professionals ready to collaborate and answer your questions.
Learn more about the course and see what other students are saying here.
I use teachable to host and sell my online training course, The SEO Playbook. The platform is used by over 68,000 online instructors who have over $338M in online course sales through the platform.
The reason so many people use teachable is because it makes the entire process of setting up your online school and uploading course materials to setting up sales pages and processing payments a breeze. There is zero coding required to get started, and the customer support is amazing!
All customers get access to the private Teachable facebook group filled with thousands of other online course creators ready to answer your questions and share tips for success. I HIGHLY recommend Teachable to anyone who is looking for a solution to quickly launch their online course and start generating sales.
Recommended Hosting Companies
There are a number of hosting options out there. The one you choose will largely depend on where you are with your business. If you're just starting, a cheap shared hosting provider will serve you fine. If you're website is paying the bills, you should opt for a dedicated hosting solution.
I use WPX for my personal websites (this blog is hosted on WPX), and recommend it to all my clients. Page load speed not only has a big impact on your search engine rankings, it can make or break your on-site conversions. I moved hosting over to WPX Hosting and cut my site load speed in half overnight! They are fully compatible with WooCommerce, run on super fast SSD servers, provide daily backups, PHP caching, unlimited email accounts and are co-located in the world's largest data center. They have ultra-fast support and will even migrate your website (and upgrade it to HTTPS) for free.
Plans start at $24.99/ month (or $250/yr if you pay for the whole year at once). A no-brainer if your site has grown out of a basic hosting package.
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Recommended Content Management System (CMS)
WordPress powers over 30% of the web. It's flexible, open source, super easy to use and has an army of developers out there building plugins that make it easier to use every single day. These plugins add functionalities to your website without needing to hire an expensive programmer. As mentioned above, Bluehost and WPX offer one-click WordPress installs which makes it super easy to get your site up and running in little time.
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WP Buffs is your one-stop shop for 24/7 WordPress maintenance, whether you’re looking after one website or a thousand. These guys and girls handle everything - security, site speed, up time monitoring, backups, weekly updates to themes/files/plugins, and their technical team will provide unlimited edits to your site, any hour of the day.
I started working with the Buffs at the start of 2019 because I wanted to offload time-consuming WordPress maintenance and optimization, so I could focus on growing my business.
I’m now considering white-labeling the Buff’s services for my agency clients because the technical support has been so consistent and reliable. If you’re looking for a partner to handle all the WordPress tasks you’re tired of dealing with, sign up for one of the WP Buffs maintenance plans. You'll save a ton of time, and eliminate a lot of headaches.
Plans start at $67/mo. [Use code: RICHARDS to get 10% off any monthly plan]
There’s a reason WP Rocket was the top rated site speed SEO plugin - it makes your site blazing fast in just a few clicks. One of the things I like about the plugin is that you don’t waste any time struggling with complex plugin settings. WP Rocket launches on activation.
The plugin speeds up your site in a number of ways - page caching, preload caching, file compression, and serving “images of request” (i.e. images are loaded only as the user scrolls down the page). WP Rocket is now installed on almost 750,000 websites.
Recommended SEO Tools
SEMrush is my swiss army knife when it comes to competitor analysis and keyword research for both SEO and PPC campaigns. I'm able to plug in the URL of any of my competitors and find out how much organic and paid traffic they are getting, which keywords they are ranking for, the ad copy they are using as well as the landing pages they're using to convert traffic. I can completely dissect their online strategies with a single tool. I use it every single day!
But don't just take my word for it. SEMrush was just rated #1 keyword research tool by 127 marketing experts, ranked as the top overall seo tool by 143 search marketing professionals, and recently topped the leaderboard as the best organic search and PPC competitor analysis tool.
I wrote a comprehensive case outlining 38 ways I use SEMrush to spy on my competitors and build rock solid SEO and PPC campaign campaigns.
$99.95/month (Click here to get a free month of SEMrush)
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AccuRanker is widely regarded as the fastest and most accurate rank tracking solution on the market. It is used by over 20,000 agencies, SEO professionals and brands, including HubSpot, salesforce, IKEA and HBO.
Note: You can read my full 2020 review here.
AccuRanker provides on-demand ranking updates, SERP history reports, powerful tagging and segmentation capabilities, Share of Voice ratings, as well as unlimited domains and users, which is great if you want to add team members or clients to specific rank reports. The platform also integrates with other third party tools such as Google Data Studio, Databox, Google Analytics, and also provides API access.
AccuRanker enables users to track keyword rankings across all the major search engines, including Google, Bing, YouTube, Yandex and Baidu. This is incredibly powerful if you are running a YouTube account, or managing SEO campaigns for clients servicing other major markets in countries such as China and Russia. You can check out the full feature set here.
Starts at $109/month for up to 1,500 keywords (Start a 14-day free trial)
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Surfer SEO is the ultimate on-page SEO tool. It's SERP Analyzer looks at 500+ rank factors across top ranking assets and provides data-driven recommendations on how to best optimize your content.
This tool is extremely powerful for SEOs, marketers and content creators as it eliminates guess work and provides an easy-to-follow recipe for on-page optimization.
Surfer's Content Editor looks at dozens of on-page signals and auto-generates guidelines and briefs that can be tweaked and sent directly to copywriters. It looks beyond "best practices", and uses competitor insights to provide data-driven recommendations on things like content length, headings, partial keyword density, formatting, semantic phrases, keyword placements and referring domain counts.
The end result: your writers know exactly what topics to cover, and the best way to optimize on-page elements for higher rankings.
Surfer has also released a series of other helpful tools such as the free Keyword Surfer extension which pulls in keyword metrics, related terms, and on-page data directly into the SERP for quick analysis.
Starts at $59/month (Start a 7-day trial for $1)
BrightLocal is the ultimate local marketing platform for small businesses, multi-location companies and agencies.
Brands such as IKEA, iProspect, Hilton and Valvoline have used BrightLocal to take complete control of their local SEO campaigns, business listings, online reputation, Google My Business audits, local rank tracking and reporting.
BrightLocal was recently voted the #1 local SEO tool.
Starts at $29/month (Start a free 14-day trial)
Ahrefs has the best link index out there. I use this every day to perform technical audits, deconstruct my competitor's backlink profiles and build my own backlinks in combination with BuzzStream (listed below). Simply enter a URL and you'll be to quickly see all the links and referring domains pointing the website, identify the top content types and topics by link count, finding link intersects between multiple sites, perform domain comparisons, quickly identify and disavow toxic links.
This tool forms the foundation of all my link building campaigns and pays for itself over and over again, even if you only use half it's functionality. Ahrefs was voted the #1 link building tool, #1 backlink checker, and the #1 SEO audit tool. Check out 60+ ways I use the tool for personal and client projects here.
Limited free account or $79/month (Start a 7 day trial))
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If you want to build quality white hat backlinks to your website, then BuzzStream is for you. This tool will add jet fuel to your outreach and link building campaigns. What is it? Buzzstream is a CRM that allows you to quickly automate and scale your outreach efforts for guest posting, broken link building, content promotion and relationship building.
I use this tool every time I want to promote or build links to a piece of content I've published. Extremely powerful tool!
Free 30 day trial then $19.95/ month
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Hunter is my go-to tool for quickly finding email addresses. Over 2M professionals from brands such as Google, IBM and Adobe, leverage Hunter's database of 100M+ email addresses to find contacts for link building, content promotion and sales-based outreach campaigns.
The tool has a host of handy features that make it easy to unearth even the most hidden email addresses in seconds. You can use the Domain Search tool to find all the email addresses from a company, or the Email Finder to uncover an email address by entering a name and website.
Hunter also has an email verification tool to reduce bounce rates, as well as Google Chrome extensions Sheets Add-On to help speed up your prospecting workflow.
Get 50 free credits per month.
Recommended Visual Editor
This is one of my secret weapons. Not only does Thrive have some amazing conversion-centered themes, they also have a visual editor plugin that makes it incredibly easy to make beautiful landing pages, optimized for conversion. It's simple drag-and-drop interface allows you to quickly add every element imaginable to your site without ever needing to write a single line of code. I've used it for everything from video sales pages to blog post reviews. Thrive even provides pre-built templates ready for you to simply drop your content into and hit publish. As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about this one 🙂
From $67 one off for the visual editor
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Unbounce is my go-to tool for quickly building custom high-converting landing pages for client marketing campaigns. No coding required.
The platform has grown into a powerhouse in the 5 years since I started using it, and is now the #1 landing page platform for 15,000+ brands (SaaS businesses, ecommerce stores, PPC marketers and agencies).
Just a few of my favorite features:
- Drag and drop page builder makes it easy to build pro landing pages without any coding.
- Add popups and sticky bars to any page.
- Connect Unbounce to WordPress and integrate with hundreds of other tools.
- Hundreds of landing page and form templates that all work with WordPress.
- AI-powered A/B testing that gives marketers a 20% average lift in conversions.
- Amazing customer support to help you step-by-step if you get stuck.
Plans start from $74/mo.
Start a 14-day free trial (and get 20% off your first 3 months).
Recommended Email Marketing Software
I just moved over to ConvertKit from GetResponse, and I'm very impressed with the tool. ConvertKit was built to meet the specific needs of professional bloggers, vloggers and authors. The UI is extremely user-friendly, the drag-and-drop automations are more powerful, and they even migrated all my content and drip campaigns over for free.
But, one of the main reasons I switched to ConvertKit was because it allowed me to connect multiple lead magnets to a single automation series without having to create separate landing pages and campaigns for each one. I also wanted an email platform that would provide all the tagging, segmentation and automation components to launch a product. ConvertKit provides all that and more, and the costs are very comparable to inferior products on the market. Highly recommended!
Starts at $29/month
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Recommended Tools For Converting Your Audience
Now that you have a fast-loading, beautiful website, you're building links, promoting content and generating traffic, you need to turn those visitors into leads and customers. The best way to do this is to capture email addresses, nurture and build relationships with your leads so they trust you enough to buy from you. Here are the two tools I'm using to get 7% conversion rates and collect hundreds of engaged email subscribers every month on autopilot:
If you could only get one tool on this entire list, Thrive Leads would be it! This tool has taken my list building to an entirely new level. My popup is converting at 7.4% and I've managed to collect 1,124 new emails in the 60 days since installing the plugin (view the full Thrive Leads review). The tool allows you to create opt in popups, header bars, slide ins, in-post forms, lead links, sidebar forms while targeting them to specific parts of your website (categories, pages, post types, tags etc). This is perfect for content upgrades.
On top of that, the plugin provides a powerful A/B testing engine. For example, you can test based on exit intent, scroll depth, page load, time on site and more. And, it's super easy!
If you're serious about converting traffic into email subscribers check this tool out now!
From $59 (one time fee).
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Recommended Tools For Content Promotion
Snappa makes it incredibly easy to build custom graphics for blog posts, social media and ads of all dimensions without Photoshop or graphic designers. The tool has hundreds of pre-built templates and beautiful stock photos to choose. You can also upload your own images, customize the templates or simply start from scratch. This tool saves me countless hours every month.
Limited free accounts to $20/mo. for 5 person teams.
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QuuuPromote has quickly become my go-to tool for driving targeted traffic from facebook and Twitter. Simply log in, create a post, select the most relevant tags, and "quuu" it for promotion. For the next 30 days, community members within your niche will share your content with their audiences. Each time I schedule a new post in Quuu it generates hundreds of shares and loads of new traffic to my site...on complete autopilot.
Plans start at $40/month.
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I love this app from Noah Kagan and the team at SumoMe. It allows you to add social share icons that stick to the page as the reader scrolls down the page and display nicely on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. You can select from 16 different social media channels and enable smart mode to have your most popular social icons display on a per page basis. This increases social proof and helps boost engagement. I've managed to generate over 11,000 social shares with this app 🙂 I can't believe it's still free!
There are a bunch of tools listed here. I understand that many of them have a cost and some of you may not have a big budget to start with. I tried to include as many cheap/free but great tools as possible. However, the power of the premium tools listed above cannot be ignored. Some of these tools will help you trip the size of your business in a very short period of time. I personally use every tool listed above for both personal and client projects.
In the near future, I'll be writing dedicated reviews/ case studies for each tool and linking to it from the list. If you have any questions about any of the tools listed above please reach out to me here. I reply to every email.