A Beginner’s SEO Toolbox

Filed in MY BEST POSTS, SEO & Web Tools by Matt McGee on September 13, 2007 21 Comments

If you’re an experienced search marketer, feel free to move along; there’s probably nothing here for you. This post is mostly for current (and future) clients, so that I have a place to refer them when we talk about what they’ll need to do some SEO-type work on their own.

Web Browser

It all begins with Firefox. Use Internet Explorer as much as you want when dilly-dallying at the office or home, but your SEO toolbox must include Firefox. Most of the tools below only work in this browser.

Firefox Plugins/Add-ons

Once you’ve download Firefox, you now have access to a great, big candy store of add-ons (or plugins) that extend Firefox’s capabilities. Here are the ones you’ll need for your Beginner’s SEO Toolbox:

WebDeveloper by Chris Pederick
This add-on will install a toolbar that’ll turn your Firefox into Barry Bonds circa 2001. You’ll have all kinds of new ways to analyze a Web page. I often use this to see which images are missing alt tags, or to see a page with javascript and/or CSS turned off. Here’s what it looks like:

WebDeveloper toolbar

User Agent Switcher by Chris Pederick
I thought about not including this on a beginner’s toolbox list, but it’s easy to use and very helpful. User Agent Switcher lets you surf the Web with another identity. The most common use I have for it is to switch my browser’s user agent from Firefox to Googlebot, which allows me to see a Web page the way Googlebot does. It’s very helpful for looking at your own site, but especially for looking at competitors.

The default toolbar download is a bit sparse, so you’ll also need this Firefox User Agent Switcher list. Download the XML import file, then import it and you’re all set. But be careful, because you can cause yourself problems if you pretend to be Googlebot too much. Use this lightly and wisely.

SEO for Firefox by Aaron Wall
How would you like to run a Google or Yahoo search, and right there in the SERPs be able to see all the important data about each site listed? That’s what this add-on does. You’ll have quick access to PageRank, Google Cache Date, Age of Domain, Yahoo link count, and a lot more. Here’s what it looks like in the SERPs:

SEO for Firefox

This add-on gives you quick access to a page’s Alexa Rank and PageRank right down in the status bar at the bottom of your browser. It also provides quick access to a lot of other data about the page you’re visiting.

Another one I wasn’t sure about including on a beginner’s list, but if I can figure out how it works, anyone can. You’ll come across various Greasemonkey scripts which may add helpful functionality to your web browser; these scripts require Greasemonkey to be installed.


I’m a big fan of bookmarklets; I have a whole folder for them in my bookmarklets. The two that are most helpful for SEO purposes are below. In each case, just drag the link up to your browser bookmark bar and it’ll be added (assuming I’ve done this right).

Yahoo Site Explorer Bookmarklet

DomainTools Bookmarklet

Other Tools

Xenu Link Sleuth
This is a PC-only software program. I don’t get to use it much since I work from home (on a Mac) as much as I work at the office (on a PC). What it does is crawl a Web site and spit back a list of URLs, Page Titles for each URL, inbound & outbound links for each URL, file types, and more.


There are additional add-ons and SEO tools I use, but for the vast majority of clients I’ve ever worked with, the list above is more than enough. In additition to the above, here are a couple other recent SEO toolbox-style posts that may be helpful:

If any readers think I’ve missed a tool or add-on that’s appropriate for new/beginner SEOs, let me know in the comments!

Comments (21)

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  1. sheseltine says:

    Damn you Matt, I was going to do a similar post on this today… now I have to come up with something different.

    Good job though 🙂

  2. Excellent post, Matt! Thanks for putting that together. I’m an avid Firefox user, but hadn’t put some of those add-ons in yet. I think alot of people will find this info useful!

  3. Vittorio Bosio says:

    Hey Matt,

    Great post! I am going to try Link Sleuth right now…

    Could I ask you to expand on the User Agent Switcher extension?

    Do you use to see if a website is cloaking its pages? I thought cloakers used IPs and not user agents. But maybe I am wrong.

    Btw, thanks for mentioning my post.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Hi Vittorio,

    It’s not just full pages that are cloaked. If you’ve been reading the search blogs lately, there’ve been stories about some people cloaking links — the link is no-followed if Googlebot visits, but not if a regular user visits. That’s just one example of something you see when you switch your user agent to be Googlebot. And as you use it, you’ll see there are a lot of other things going on. 🙂

  5. Vittorio Bosio says:

    Thanks Matt for the explanation.

    I am going to install that extension right now! 🙂

  6. Donace says:

    I think one other plugin that deserves a mention is ‘search status’.

    This plugin displays PR and Alexa rank at the bottom bar as well giving the option to highlight do/no follow links; meta tags link reports etc. etc.

  7. Chris says:

    These are great tools, and I would like to add SEOQuake. It’s a great tool to show you a ton of stats for the sites you visit, as well as your own.

  8. Nick says:

    I have only recently (past couple of months) converted to firefox, and I must say how glad I did. There are so many great tools for firefox which make SEO that bit easier.

    Not strictly for SEO but the firebug tool is absolutely fantastic and highly recommended.

  9. Matt McGee says:

    Hi Adrian — I didn’t miss it. I’m just not a fan of it. 🙂

  10. Paul R says:

    Great applications! Thanks for putting them all in one article.

  11. Wasim says:

    Hi Matt!

    You did well in this post, I like this and trying to adjust my toolbar as your post says!

  12. Mike Phillippi says:

    Hey Matt,

    Great article. Just realized it was from several years back. What would you update or change to this???



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