What Do Busy SEM Professionals Keep in Their Toolkit?

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As a busy professional in the hectic Search Engine Marketing industry, my time is limited. Severely limited. Sometimes I feel like I need to travel at warp speed just to keep up with the demands of this industry! To squeeze as much into my schedule as possible without resorting to self-cloning, my daily routine involves the use of a range of time-saving tools and software. Here are a few of my favorites:

FreshBooks Invoicing and Timesheets

This little gem is an online estimating, invoicing, project management, and time tracking service that gives your business, no matter how small it may be, a professional image. I use it to invoice all my clients online and  can even be set up to automatically bill and debit the credit cards of recurring clients every month. It also has built-in staff timesheets and project management tools for online collaboration.

Staff can use the stop-watch to time the various tasks they do for certain clients and then press a button to bill those clients automatically, based on the hours logged in the timesheet. FreshBooks offers plug-ins for a wide range of third-party tools such as Basecamp, PayPal and 2Checkout and provides the option of email or ground-mail invoicing. I’ve raved about this product so much that they put my testimonial on their home page!

Price: Free for 3 clients or less

Link: http://www.freshbooks.com/

XML Sitemaps Generator

For fast and easy XML sitemap creation, the free generator from XML-Sitemaps.com can’t be beaten. It not only trawls through all levels of your site, it also gives you a running count of pages, provides a text-based URL list, and an HTML sitemap you can import straight into your site. The XML file it generates for you is in both compressed and un-compressed versions.

The online generator is free for sites of less than 500 pages, but there’s also a low-cost, script-based version for larger sites. It can be set up to automatically index your site, upload an updated XML file to your server, and ping Google and Yahoo! when done. The XML Sitemaps Generator also gets an endorsement from Google via inclusion in their List of Third-Party Plugins for Google Sitemaps.

Price: Free for sites of 500 pages or less

Link: http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Proposal Kit

I discovered Proposal Kit when I was searching for a sample contract for my SEO business. Basically, Proposal Kit takes the chore out of creating and tailoring client estimates and proposal contracts. With over 200 pre-designed, self-guiding templates ready to fill in the blanks with your company, project/product/service and client information, Proposal Kit has already half-completed your proposal for you. You simply flesh out the templates with your own data and contact details.

The templates are particularly suited to online businesses and include documents for the initial sales pitch, the planning stage, estimating, contracting, project timelines, analysis, and even invoicing. For SEO consultants, Proposal Kit’s Contract Kit even includes a Search Engine Optimization Services contract. The smartly designed, colorful templates also give your proposals a slick and professional edge, regardless of your business size.

Price: From USD 47.00

Link: http://www.proposalkit.com/kits/pkhelp.htm

ClickTracks

I use ClickTracks Optimizer exclusively to track the visitor metrics of my sites and those of my clients. Many in this industry claim that Google Analytics is just as good as ClickTracks, but I disagree. While ClickTracks Optimizer is a bit on the expensive side, the depth and accuracy of data just can’t be beaten, in my opinion.

The ability to flag individual visitors or groups of visitors based on unique identifiers (such as all persons who visited page X or all persons who bought product D) provides a level of analysis that other analytical packages can’t compete with.

The visual analysis ClickTracks provides is probably its best-known feature, with statistical data overlaying actual screenshots of your website pages. While many of my clients find website statistics a bore, this visual display can impress even the most skeptical. The depth of referrer data is superb, with the ability to drill down to IP address and the precise keyword search that triggered the referral. The ability to export reports into Word, PDF, or Excel is another plus.

Every time I use ClickTracks, I shake my head in wonder at how I ever managed with the far-inferior analytics packages I used before.

Price: From USD 76.00 per month

Link: http://www.clicktracks.com

AWeber

This is a recent discovery of mine. I was tired of using two different tools to manage my autoresponders and newsletter subscriptions lists when a friend pointed out that I could use AWeber to manage both.

The beauty of AWeber is that they manage ALL your mailing lists on your behalf and make it simple to send campaigns and emails to each list individually, or broadcast to all your lists at once. Members can send an unlimited number of campaigns, follow-up messages, and newsletters to an unlimited number of approved opt-in lists. Various types of subscription web forms can be created at the press of a button and a central control panel to access statistics tells you at a glance which sign-up forms are more effective. They even offer split testing for this specific purpose.

AWeber also has a very diligent verification and opt-in process, which weeds out drive-bys from genuine subscribers and ensures your subscribers know exactly why they are receiving correspondence from you. AWeber claims to have 99.34% email deliverability rates, and I can understand why. All messages have personalization features and can be run through CAN-SPAM compliance testing prior to sending to ensure higher deliverability.

Probably the biggest advantage of AWeber is that their service is very affordable, with free unlimited customer support.

Price: From USD 19.95 per month

Link: http://www.aweber.com

JROX

After months of searching for the perfect affiliate software that did everything we wanted it to for our Search Engine College affiliate program, we finally chose JROX Affiliate Manager (JAM) for the job.

JAM is a super-powerful affiliate program that includes follow-up email tools, mass email broadcasting, custom URLs and the ability to create up to 10 affiliate downline levels. It offers affiliates groovy 3D, Flash-based graphs and charts displaying their referrals and commissions and an organized marketing tools area for storage of banners, links, and promotional materials.

What’s particularly useful is that it integrates with both PayPal and our third-party payment gateway (2Checkout), meaning that whenever a course sale is made via one of our affiliate links, the commission is automatically calculated and communicated from the payment gateway to JAM. Overall, the features of JAM are very impressive compared to similar products on the market.

Price: Free for 50 affiliates or less

Link: http://jam.jrox.com

I use all of these tools on a daily basis, and I truly don’t know how I’d function without them. This got me to thinking, what “must have” tools do other busy SEM professionals keep in their toolkit? To find out, I surveyed a few of the busiest industry rock stars that I know and asked them to share their favorite tools. Here’s what they came back with:

Andy Beal

Owner, Marketing Pilgrim - http://www.marketingpilgrim.com

Andy likes:

1) KeywordDiscovery – http://www.keyworddiscovery.com

2) Google Analytics – http://www.google-analytics.com

3) Backlinkwatch.com – http://www.backlinkwatch.com

4) All of Jim Boykin’s tools – http://www.webuildpages.com/tools

5) QuickBooks for accounting – http://quickbooks.intuit.com

6) Ranks.nl for density checking – http://www.ranks.nl/tools/spider.html

7) Rex Swain for checking server stuff – http://www.rexswain.com

8) Firefox plugin SearchStatus – http://www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/

“This is not all, but just some quick picks…”

Jennifer Laycock

Editor, Search Engine Guidehttp://www.searchengineguide.com

Jennifer likes:

1) ClickTracks – http://www.clicktracks.com

2) KeywordDiscovery – http://www.keyworddiscovery.com

3) EditPlus – http://www.editplus.com

4) Microsoft Excel – http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx

5) GoogleReader – http://www.google.com/reader/view/

“Then of course Blogger, WordPress and Movable Type since those are the three blog platforms I use…”

Jill Whalen –

Owner, HighRankings.com - http://www.highrankings.com

Jill likes:

1) KeywordDiscovery – http://www.keyworddiscovery.com

2) Basecamp for project management – http://www.basecamphq.com

“Plus a bunch of Firefox extensions that come in really handy…”

Karon Thackston

Owner, Marketing Words, Inc. - http://www.marketingwords.com

Karon likes:

1) Marketing Experiments – http://www.MarketingExperiments.com

“All the rest of my favorites are books…”

Kim Krause-Berg

Owner and Founder, Cre8asite Forums - http://www.cre8asiteforums.com

Kim likes:

1) Basecamp for project management – http://www.basecamphq.com

For accessibility testing:

2) Web Page Analyzer – http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

3) Colorblind Web Page Filter – http://colorfilter.wickline.org

4) Google Toolbar for Firefox – http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/toolbar/FT3/intl/en/index.html

5) Opera Mini for mobile web browsing – http://www.operamini.com

6) Sizer for resolution testing – http://www.brianapps.net/sizer.html

“My tools are a bit different because I no longer do SEO and [ANDREY - should the word "and" be taken out of this quote???] for my own sites…”

Rand Fishkin –

CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz

http://www.seomoz.org

Rand likes:

1) IndexTools for analytics – http://www.indextools.com

2) Wordtracker for keyword research – http://www.wordtracker.com

3) KeywordDiscovery for keyword research – http://www.keyworddiscovery.com

4) Google Webmaster Central for all sorts of yummy data – http://www.google.com/webmasters/

5) Yahoo! Site Explorer – possibly my number-one tool; I love the link & URL information they provide – http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com

“In terms of tools, at SEOmoz we almost exclusively use our own stuff…”

So there you have it; a few old favorites and a few new time-saving tools to try. Warp speed, here we come!

About the Author

Kalena Jordan, one of the first search engine optimization experts in Australia, is well-known and respected in the industry, particularly in the U.S. As well as running her own SEO business, Kalena is Director of Studies at Search Engine College - an online training institution offering instructor-led short courses and downloadable self-study courses in Search Engine Optimization and other Search Engine Marketing subjects.

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