What Platform Do SEO Services Use to Rank Business Websites?

Ask a question about small business. We'll answer by email & post our answers here to help others.
Forums: 

I don't want to hire an expensive SEO company to help improve page rankings for my business website if I can do the same job myself. I've already done a pretty good job of ensuring that the site is fast and has good document structure, keywords, etc.

In other words, I've got the basics.

What I need to know is the type of optimizations I should be looking at (In particular, I'm thinking about link building because that's not something I've ever really made an effort with) and what SEO software and tools are available that will allow me to do more advanced SEO, without hiring an SEO agency and paying thousands of dollars?

SEO Software Used by Leading Agencies & Consultants

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a massively broad discipline that has evolved into one of the most challenging Internet marketing disciplines around. It has tendrils in almost every aspect of the online world, from technology to building relationships with influencers.

You've mentioned that you have the basics of SEO wrapped up, so I won't waste time on this. Advanced SEO (the type companies pay a lot of money for) comes down to building highly valuable organic backlinks from authority websites on a decent scale - without resorting to spamming.

SEO & Backlinks

Since backlinks are essentially the currency of the Internet, when it comes to capturing first page rankings in Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), it's not surprising that building a strong backlink profile is not easy. In fact, the only thing that makes it possible is a lot of good data and information about who's doing what.

What underpins all great SEO campaigns (aside from great content) is data. You have to be led by data in order to make strategic decisions on the same level as the big online marketing agencies. There's no point blindly reaching out to other bloggers and webmasters hoping that they'll give you a backlink or referral. That's not how things work.

You need to know who is likely to give you great backlinks and how to encourage them to do that. This means that you need to know:

  1. who your competitors are
  2. what they are doing
  3. who's linking to them
  4. how they're getting links
  5. what opportunities there are for you to gain similar backlinks

Assuming you're pretty handy with Google search already you can find out a lot of useful information using some advanced searches (i.e. using the site operator, related operator, title, url, exact match, wildcards, etc) . But to really get to the crux of the matter it's better to use one of the top SEO tools around - SEMRush.

SEMRush is arguably the leading online SEO software used by SEO agencies to rank websites.

Be Your Own SEO Agency (with SEMRush's SEO Platform)

You can get started for free right now by analyzing your website right now (type in your domain below).

SEMRush Pricing

Plan Price (monthly) Usage
Free $0 10 results per report. 20 reports per day.
Pro $99 10 000 results per report. 3 000 reports per day.
Guru $199 30 000 results per report. 5 000 reports per day.
Business $399 50 000 results per report. 10 000 reports per day.

This will bring up an overview of your own domain, as follows:

SEMRush overview

From the menu down the left hand side, click on Organic Research to bring up a list of the search keywords for which your site ranks:

SEMRush organic positions

Next, click on one of the keywords which you'd be interested in ranking slightly higher for. This will bring up an analysis for this keyword that includes everything from phrase match keywords (i.e. keywords that contain this keyword) to related keywords, ads and a list of domains winning that keyword.

SEMRush SEO keyword analysis

Here's where things get interesting. Now that you know which domains occupy the top few spots for this keyword, it's easy to research those particular pages to find out who links to them (both to that specific page, and more generally to that specific domain). Simply click on one of the links in the results to bring up a backlink analysis for that ranking page:

SEMRush backlink analysis

Now you know who links to competing articles. This allows you to build up a targeted list of bloggers and websites who have passed valuable backlinks to your competitors and may well be interested in linking to you too.

How you do this falls under a slightly different, but related, discipline called influencer marketing. You can learn how to identify and successfully build relationships with important influencers over at our influencer marketing 101 guide.

Finding out what backlinks have boosted competing pages to the top of the rankings is only one example of advanced SEO strategies you can apply using a tool like SEMRush. There's plenty more insight and advice over at our complete guide to SEO (check out the advanced SEO section).

Remember that you aren't confined to analysing your own domain using SEMRush. It's just as easy to look at the links and rankings of any other website.

This is particularly useful for keyword research because it shows you a whole set of keywords for which a closely related domain ranks. Often this can guide you to valuable keywords that your own domain would otherwise miss out on. Competitive keyword analysis should form part of your publishing and SEO strategy, in order to ensure you are competing for the best search terms and phrases.

While SEMRush can help with virtually every aspect of advanced search optimization, it won't make you a better writer. As mentioned at the start of this reply, all SEO campaigns rely on two things - great content and great data. SEMRush can give you the data, but you still need to convert that knowledge into quality content, outreach, promotions and marketing campaigns.

Blogging and content marketing while part of SEO are also their own standalone disciplines and it's important to understand that your content should form part of effective sales funnels that not only drive traffic but also convert well in order for your business to make money. You can learn more about sales funnels by reading sales funnels 101.