If you have read any posts advising how to get traffic to your blog you should be under no doubt that SEO is really important. It is the best way to reliably get traffic to your site which can ultimately translates into providing an income. Absolutely key to SEO though is choosing the right topics to blog about and that can be a challenge. Fortunately there are lots of apps and tools out there to help. They can help you choose keywords for posts and even plan the content, but are the paid for tools really worth it? Not always. So before you splash the cash find out how to decide if you should invest based on your current blog size and growth strategy.

Year on year keyword growth  but is a paid SEO tool required
Will a paid SEO keyword tool make your search traffic grow?

Deciding If Paid SEO Keyword Tools Are Worth The Money

Before spending money on anything for your website (and that includes SEO tools) you need to put it through two tests:

Test 1: What’s the Return on Investment?

Return On Investment (or ROI) may be a familiar phrase to you or it might sound like financial jargon, but essentially it means: what are you going to get in return for the money you spend? It's a simple way to see if buying something is financially worth it. In other words: if you spend £10 a month on a tool for your blog is it helping you to make at least £10 more than you would otherwise have earned?

The purpose of SEO tools is to help you increase traffic to your blog so think about the ways you make income currently via traffic and how much more traffic you will need to cover your costs. SEO tools vary hugely in price, but most start at between £10 and £100 a month. That adds up to over £1000 a year just for one tool!

Consider Where You Are Now

How easily you’ll get a return on investment partly depends on your starting point: 

  • If you currently make £5 a month from your ad network and say £5 from affiliate income you need to roughly double your search traffic to cover the cost of an SEO tool. (This is an over simplification as not every view brings in equal income, but for the purpose of working out ROI it's good enough).
  • If you are already on 50k monthly views or more and your ad and affiliate income is over £1000 a month you don’t need to see a big increase in traffic to cover the cost. 

So whereas a small blog might need to increase their views by 100% to pay for the lowest price paid tool, a larger blog would only need to increase their views by 1% to pay for the same software.  

How Much Will You Use It?

A key part of getting value from a tool is your commitment to using it. Paying lots of money each month for access to Ahrefs, Semrush or Rank IQ isn’t going to increase your traffic if you don’t actually use the tool.  Think about how many posts you are realistically going to write or rewrite each month.

If you are only able to commit to optimising one post a week then even with the lower cost tools you are looking for each of those posts to bring in an extra £2.50 a year to cover the cost (I have calculated that based on: £10 a month for the tool, divided by 4 posts created each month). 

Most tools have a maximum number of reports you can run each month which you need to consider when working out the costs so make sure you check this before committing to a tool.

Paid SEO tools seem to start at about £10 a month and easily go up to £100 or more. So for one tool you might be paying somewhere between £100 and £1000 a year and lots of people have more than one. How much money are you making now from ads and affiliate income? Do you think you have the potential to increase the amount you are earning by at least that amount over the next year?

Test 2: Does it help you meet your goals? 

Of course it’s not just the here and now that you need to think about, you need to consider your longer term strategy. A great goal with blogging is to have a long term passive income and growing organic search traffic is an important part of this for most businesses. But how quickly are you planning to grow?

Are you happy to just potter along and slowly grow while you also focus on other things? That’s great, but you are unlikely to see the speed of growth which will bring the increased income to cover the cost of the tools. 

On the other hand if you are planning on an aggressive period of growth where you are really going to invest the time in creating and improving content then you can really maximise what you get out of the tools. 

A common goal I hear is to hit 50000 sessions and join one of the better ad agencies. Even if you are starting a completely new blog this is achievable with enough commitment and careful planning of content. In this scenario a good SEO Keyword tool will definitely help and be worth the investment.

Before Investing

Before you sign up to any of the paid tools I recommend the following: 

Revise SEO Basics

Before investing make sure you have an understanding of SEO. Knowing how SEO works at a basic level is key to getting the most out of any tool. You might create posts that do well through luck, but even those posts will do better if you know the basics. SEO isn't just about the keywords, but the quality of content and your site and post structure. 

Sign Up For A Free trial

Most tools allow you to try them for free which lets you see if you find that tool helpful and easy to use. I have signed up to tools some people rave about and been unimpressed so don't just go on recommendations. It's probably not a coincidence that many of those recommending the sites are affiliates which can pay a lot per referral. If you sign up to a free trial make sure you do it at a time that you can really take full advantage. Clear your work for a week and focus on SEO. If you aren’t using it as much as you would like, or it isn’t as helpful as you thought, cancel before you have to start paying. This also has the bonus that they have your contact details and are likely to send you tempting offers from time to time to lure you back.

Look for Offers

If possible sign up when there are offers on. Black Friday is a good time, but they might have discounts at any times of the year when other shops have sales. Sometimes affiliates have offer codes too. Do a search on Google and social media to see if anything comes up.

Give it a Year Then Review

Once you sign up give it a set period of time eg a year then review your progress. Really use the tools, commit to them and see how much you can grow. Remember it can take months for a post to start ranking well so don’t expect overnight success. If you haven’t seen a significant improvement in traffic after a year then stop throwing your money away. If you have seen great growth then see how much more you can grow over the next 12 months. 

Free SEO Keyword Tools?

You don’t have to pay to get help with keywords. There are a number of free ways to choose keywords and what to cover in posts. The most basic of these is to open Google and type in the keywords or the question you are planning to answer in the post. Look at the search results, see if they properly answer the question and if you can offer anything better. Look at the “People also ask” section to find out what you might want to cover in your post. You can find more free SEO tools here.

It’s time to think twice before you buy tools for your blog. Definitely don't spend money because other people recommend them. Review what you are really getting out of those subscriptions and make sure the tools pay for themselves.