Q: The question I wanted to pose to you is regarding third party software tools such as IBP and Arelis, that on the surface seem to provide a number of features that could be useful in analysing competitors and improve your own site accordingly. I am very wary of such programmes as I am cautious of the sales hype that surround them.
If there is any other software that you could recommend that might make the task a little easier then I’d appreciate some advice.
A: We generally lean strongly toward a manual process of SEO, and you’ll see this mentioned at various points in our book. While there are many automated tools for SEO tasks, we find that taking the “slow road” provides many insights that using automated tools do not allow. For example, checking ranks manually can allow you to get a better sense of what the competition’s doing, and see changes in the search engine results (only today, I noticed that Google was showing image results for one of our client’s top keywords – that’s the kind of thing you could easily miss by using automated software).
One scary thing about automated software is that it sometimes can point newbie users down the wrong paths. For example, one that you mentioned in your email includes this quote: “[Our Software] also finds web sites with link exchange forms and it automatically fills out the forms for you. That allows you to get hundreds of backlinks in no time. It is a unique software program for the success of your business. Don’t wait any longer and download it now!” Now, this probably wasn’t the best advice even in the late 90s when having hundreds of backlinks was temporarily helpful – today, links like this could be downright damaging to your search engine rankings. The emphasis on finding the “perfect” keyword density is also not the greatest advice.
So, use tools like ARELIS and IBP with a grain of salt and only in conjunction with a more holistic SEO plan or some good advice from an SEO professional. For example, you can use them to mine the web for potential linking sites, and then mail your link request emails manually.
Of course, we are not totally averse to getting a little help with some of the more tedious tasks in SEO. We often use on-line tools, and many of these are discussed in our book or can be found on our SEO Blogs and Tools page. You may find enough time-saving (and free!) tools there that you won’t feel the need to pay for more.