Going beyond Web Based SEO Tools

At Marketing Signals, we mostly use web based SEO & Link Tools for the most part so I should clear up from the off that this blog post is more of interest to me with my own personal marketing efforts with my own websites outside of work than anything we do during the 9-5 working week. I should also add that for the majority of people / agencies / businesses, I understand that the most popular SEO tools will be the online web based tools, so this blog post wont be of use to everyone. But for the rest of you interested in an alternative to these types of tools, read on…

Tools of the Trade

You’re Already Using Web Based SEO Tools…

There’s a whole range of online web based tools for doing all sorts of things, from checking your Google rankings, checking your backlinks and social media monitoring and more… You all know what these tools are I’m sure, Moz, Raven Tools, Buzzstream, Majestic, Ahrefs and of course LinkRisk to name but a few. But there is so much more out there, so many more ways to use and access SEO tools.

These web based tools are very popular, especially for collaborative teams where more than one person will need access to these tools. If somebody logs in and makes a change, others can later login and see the changes without the headache of having to share these changes as saved data files.

The Pros – Using web based tools benefits are there to be seen, somebody else deals with updates. You never have to worry about downloading a software update or ensuring that things are compatible with your computer system. You also don’t have to worry about forgetting to save data or in fact losing the data either, because it’s all taken care of for you.

The Cons – All of your data is locked up in one system, so you need to continue to use the same system with this data. Of course you can usually download csv files with raw data, but for the most part, it is only possible to download, not upload this data to other web based software tools. However saying that, it is highly unlikely any SEO tools you use, web based or desktop that will ever take downloads from other tools and upload their data for use (neglecting API’s which take feeds direct).

You’re probably using Desktop SEO Tools

Chances are you’re using Firefox or Chrome (be interesting to know if anyone is willing to admit to being a fan of Internet Explorer). I would class the various browser based tools as also being Desktop Tools, since the data you have access to from these is only available on your local machine and would need to be shared or rechecked from another machine. It would be impossible without screen sharing to show what data and results you’d found with others. This is what makes the web based tools so useful.

However, there are desktop tools which reign supreme amongst many people such as the Screaming Frog SEO Crawler (Xenu is a similar tools which is free). If you have a Moz account or similar, you can use their tools to find issues and problems with a website, but these results can take a little bit of time to scan. So for all out convenience, something like the Screaming Frog tool which can help you quickly check and find problems.

There’s also a whole host of other desktop tools such as SEO Powersuite, Advanced Web Ranking, Internet Business Promoter, amongst others which pitch themselves as being an alternative to the Moz suite of tools. There are also other tools which have a more shady reputation such as Scrapebox (a tool which gets a rough deal, but has many useful uses beyond merely being a blog spam tool).

The Pros – Well the great thing about using these desktop tools is that for the most part, many of them are a one time purchase (SEO Powersuite is a bug bear with ‘algorithm updates’ / licence to print money). So unlike the web based tools, you’re not locked into paying for them to ensure you continue to get access to your data. The data is therefore your own to do with what you want, without risk to the data when you decide to cancel the service.

The Cons – If you have more than one laptop / computer or you’re working as part of a team, then you already know the difficulties of being able to share the data you’re collecting between more than one person. Typically, it will mean exporting data and sharing this which loses the ability to go into the tool and manipulate the data. I can hear you saying “Well share the save file”, which of course is a logical enough idea and what most people would instantly do anyway if this was the case. However, just like when you were in your teens (some in their 20s, 30s and 40s onwards these days) when you had a particular games console, there was always the friend who didn’t have the same games console so you couldn’t play your games at their house. They had a SNES and you had a Megadrive for instance (yes I’m old school). Similarly, you’re reliant on everyone in your team having a copy of the same software, something which you’d never have a problem with if you used web based SEO tools.

I should add, tools such as SEO Powersuite do allow you to use them on more than one computer, but you will only be allowed to use it on one computer at a time. Scrapebox on the other hand is tied to one computer, so if you have two laptops or a laptop and a desktop for instance, you’re forced to use one or the other for your licence or you simply buy two copies!

You like Desktop SEO Tools, you just don’t like that they’re not collaborative

Well of course there is an alternative to all this where by you could use your desktop SEO tools across any computer and allow others to use the same software albeit with only one person logged in and using them at a time. Of course there will be some who will simply be thinking “why go to the bothered?”, but of course not all SEO tools are built the same… : )

So I’ve explained what I like and dislike about the two types of SEO tools, both web based and desktop. So the alternative is to take your desktop SEO tools online. By doing this, it means you’re no longer tied to using then on one computer, no longer tied to being unable to properly share the data and software with others. One of the last things you want to do though is go giving your friends and colleagues access through a remote desktop session to go snooping through your computer whilst you’re working.

As so an alternative to this can be done in two ways, either by using a Windows VPS with which you can install all of your Windows based Desktop software for anyone who you share access with to be able to use as if they were using their own computers. Similarly, if the problems and issues of using a web based SEO tools stretch to the thought of a web hosting company having access to your data and ensuring things are backed up. Then an alternative can be to use a Desktop or Laptop computer at home to operate as a home server. You can either use an old computer you no longer use (ensure it’s up to the task of running your software. No your 15 year old Windows Desktop running Windows 98 or ME (and you think Windows 8 is bad!) will not be up to the task unfortunately.

The Pros – You will only need one copy of a software licence if you plan to have more than one person collaborate with you using these desktop SEO tools. If you’re using desktop SEO tools which you need to run for many hours or even want to leave them running over night. You can do so without having to leave your laptop running overnight, possibly exposing your sensitive data should anyone and everyone. Also, all of your saved data will be available for them to access and manipulate at will, rather than simply having a csv export of any data.

The Cons – I might as well start off with the biggest one… If you plan to use the software on a Desktop or Laptop computer, you need to ensure that the computer remains on. That means ensuring you do your Windows updates whilst at your machine rather than expecting this to work remotely. If your computer crashes or reboots for a system update, you’re going to need somebody there to get it turned on again. The alternative is to remove the login password, but even then, you may find your remote desktop doesn’t start up ready for you to login (Windows VPS’s are less susceptible to these problems). Next up as I’ve mentioned previously, unlike web based software that depending on your account, often allows more than one person to use the software. The majority of desktop SEO tools were made for use by one person, so if you’re using them remotely, you may need to ensure that only one person is using the tool at a time.


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