Best SEO Tools for Freelancers (Free + Paid)

As a freelance SEO specialist or small business owner, it’s up to you to find and utilize the best tools for your clients and personal websites. However, it can be difficult to know which paid SEO tools are worth your money, and which free tools are worth your time.

Whether you’re a general SEO specialist, backlink hunter, or are getting into freelance SEO copywriting, there are numerous services that can make your life a whole lot easier. To save you the effort, I’ve compiled the following list of tools that I’ve acquired over the years of my own SEO freelancing.

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Best Overall SEO Suites

Ahrefs – The Gold Standard In SEO Data

Ahrefs logo
  • Paid (limited free access to Site Explorer & Site Audit)
  • Keyword research tool with extensive data
  • Content optimization tool
  • Backlink insights
  • Rank tracker

Ahrefs is known across the SEO industry as the leading SEO suite, and for good reason. For instance, you can use Ahrefs to track multiple websites and inform you of various issues, do keyword research and notify you of which keywords you’re ranking for, tell you about new backlinks and opportunities, and plenty more.

My personal most-used tool on Ahrefs is its Keywords Explorer due to its massive database of keywords and comparatively great accuracy vs. many competitors. It’s something I use multiple times a week for various SEO tasks.

Besides utilizing Ahrefs’ tools for your own website, you can also apply them to competitor websites to spy on them and get a useful overview of what they’re doing. This is especially useful when it comes to content analysis.

Semrush – Extensive SEO Functionality and Content Tools

Semrush logo
  • Paid (limited free access to keyword research, site audit, and keyword tracking tools)
  • Strong keyword research functionalities
  • Useful SEO writing assistant
  • Powerful backlink tracking

Like Ahrefs, Semrush is a fantastic all-in-one SEO suite. It shares most of the same features, including keyword research, competitor research, rank tracking, link building, and more.

Although I’ve used Semrush extensively, I still place Ahrefs above it for a few reasons. Primarily, from my experience, Ahrefs has a larger keyword database – there were fewer times when I came across keywords with no or incomplete data. Additionally, Ahrefs is simply a little cheaper. When these tools already cost as much as they do, every little helps!

However, anecdotally, I can say that Semrush has a more user-friendly interface and a more accurate Keyword Difficulty tool than Ahrefs. Overall, the two aren’t that far apart – it’s worth checking out each of their free trials to see what’s best for you before committing to either one.

Ubersuggest – Solid Free Tier With Affordable Premium

Ubersuggest logo
  • Paid (free tier has limited keyword searches, rank tracking, and site audit)
  • Affordable lifetime (and monthly) plans
  • Good competitor research tools
  • Limited but improving keyword research database

Since being acquired by SEO “guru” Neil Patel, Ubersuggest has undergone a lot of improvement. Although it lags behind competitors Ahrefs and Semrush in practically all metrics, it has a big thing going for it: it’s cheap! For an affordable one-time payment, you can get lifetime access to the tool, while the monthly pricing is just 30% of Semrush’s monthly cost.

The data isn’t on-par with its more established premium competitors, but for its price, Ubersuggest is a strong alternative. Keyword research tools are best-guess approximations in any case, and from my experience, Ubersuggest’s data at least tends to be in a similar range to competitors.

If you have the money, Ahrefs and Semrush are still my top picks, but for those on a budget or starting out, Ubersuggest is a compelling value proposition.

Best Keyword Research Tools

My personal favorite keyword research tool is Ahrefs, with Semrush a close second behind it. Since I’ve already discussed these above (and they’re fairly expensive all-inclusive SEO suites), here are a few tools with a narrower focus on keyword research.

Keywords Everywhere – SEO Data Right in Google Search

Keywords Everywhere logo

Keywords Everywhere integrates right into your browser as an extension and displays everything you need to know alongside the SERP results. Simply perform a Google search for a keyword you’re interested in and you’ll be shown a number of data points, including volume (paid), SEO difficulty, on- and off-page difficulty, related keywords, and more.

Although Keywords Everywhere was free for quite a while, they later switched to a freemium model due to server costs and heightened bot usage that made it impossible to continue for free. Thankfully, it’s still super affordable. Most people will only spend a few dollars per month with average usage – a far cry from most similar services!

If you’re interested in the service, you can use our link to get 20% extra credit when you purchase a Keywords Everywhere credit pack (it’s a referral link, but we’re not paid for it – we just get some tasty bonus search credits ourselves!).

Keyword Surfer – Free Volume Stats in Google SERP

Keyword Surfer logo
  • Free (although part of the paid Surfer SEO umbrella)
  • Displays keyword volume and related keywords within Google search results
  • A good free option but less accurate than other paid competitors
  • Only for Chrome

Keyword Surfer is a good free alternative to Keywords Everywhere. Simply install the browser extension and perform a Google search to be shown the relevant keyword volume and related keyword information alongside the search results.

In my testing, I’ve found Keyword Surfer to be the weakest option vs. Keywords Everywhere and more premium tools like Ahrefs and Semrush in terms of keyword coverage and accuracy. However, for a free offering (one they claim will always be free), it offers you some invaluable data to work with if your budget is limited or you simply don’t need the extra data provided elsewhere. It’s also early days for the company, so there’s a good chance these things will improve and evolve!

Best Website Optimization Tools

GTmetrix – Measure A Site’s Performance in Seconds

GTmetrix logo
  • Free (Paid plans available but free should be fine for most)
  • Detailed breakdown of a website’s elements for thorough analysis
  • Auto-monitor domains on an hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly basis (hourly is a paid choice)
  • Test website speed from various global locations

Making sure a website loads quickly for visitors is crucial for SEO. A slow website will be penalized by Google and drastically reduce the chance of your hard work being seen by a potential audience.

GTmetrix helps you by analyzing a given website’s loading speed while connected to a server in a location of your choice. It then breaks this information down to show you which, if any, elements are causing a slowdown. It then offers potential fixes to help you improve.

PageSpeed Insights – Google’s Own Performance Analyzer

Google PageSpeed Insights logo
  • Free
  • Analyzes the user experience of a specified page on both mobile and desktop
  • Breaks down the results into 4 categories (Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, SEO)
  • Gives detailed tips on how to improve page speed

With Google being the #1 search engine by a country mile, it pays to listen to their advice. PageSpeed Insights is an invaluable tool both while building a new site and for ongoing maintenance, giving you plenty of information on where your site’s speed needs improving and how to do so.

PageSpeed is similar to GTMetrix but utilizes different techniques to get its results, leading to some occasional variation. PageSpeed also doesn’t give you the option to measure from specific locations, which gives GTMetrix the edge in some cases. Therefore, it’s worth using them both to see where there’s overlap and where else one may miss something the other doesn’t.

Best Website Technical Audit Tools

Screaming Frog – Powerful Self-Hosted Technical Audit

Screaming Frog logo
  • Paid (although the free tier should be enough for most)
  • Crawls your website and extracts data for auditing
  • Brings SEO issues to your attention
  • Has an enormous number of variables it can crawl

If you really need to get into the nitty gritty of a website, Screaming Frog is the way to do it. It runs locally on your PC, so there’s no need to worry about usage limitations (with a 500-page limit per scan on the free plan).

Once a scan completes, you’ll be shown an enormous amount of data, such as link details, metadata information, duplicate content, sitemap info, redirects, and a lot more. Whether you’re actively improving or simply maintaining your own or your clients’ websites, Screaming Frog offers a treasure trove of audit information.

Bonus Mention

Search Console – Free Link and Ranking Keywords Overview

Google Search Console logo
  • Free
  • Helps you monitor your Google search presence and where search traffic is coming from
  • Displays backlinks and internal links
  • Submit new web pages for faster indexing on Google

Google Search Console is an indispensable tool for any site owner, showing you a daily breakdown of which pages are generating clicks, detailing which queries led to each page, along with other data like the click-through rate and average ranking of pages over time.

The queries information can be a great way of seeing which keywords are causing your pages to appear on Google, and can be a great way to discover new keywords that are connected to your topics but that you didn’t come across during your initial research. It’s an amazing way of fleshing out topics and seeing real live data of exactly how people are discovering your content. It takes some time to get there, but once your site has been live for a few months the data will keep building up.

Search Console also displays a list of external and internal links pointing to your site’s various pages, although I’ve found backlinks to take longer to appear here than on other tools listed above with backlink tracking. You can also use Search Console to request Google to index newly-published pages faster or request urgent removal of certain pages from the search results.