Posted by Cyrus Shepard
SEO is easy. Graphic Design is hard.
At SEOmoz we take pride in making SEO tools that shine with beauty, often with great success. To be fair, we haven't always hit the mark. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Some of the best SEO tools ever invented exist on a geek's homemade Google Docs spreadsheet pulling in raw API data.
We love ugly SEO tools. They’re practical and more often than not, made by a single developer. Let's spread the love by appreciating those under-designed tools that are actually awesome.
1. Shared Count
Why it Rocks - Introduced to us by Tom Critchlow, Shared Count has a permanent place on my bookmarks bar. Not only does it track the social sharing statistics of any page you desire, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+and raw Twitter counts. In addition, Shared Count has an open API, so you can build your own tools on top of it.
Why it’s Ugly - It’s hard to pick on a tool with absolutely no design whatsoever. Sort of like kicking a dog when it’s down.
Why it Rocks - Whenever you check cross browser compatibility, 9 times out of 10 Internet Explorer throws you for a loop. IETester is a free, downloadable web browser that allows you to render different versions of IE in side-by-side windows and check for errors. There’s also a cool debugging option to root out tough-to-find problems.
Why it’s Ugly - Nothing looks good in IE6, not even IE6.
Why it Rocks - The hidden gem of the SEOmoz toolset, Blogscape allows you to monitor the popularity of any keyword, brand or url on a daily basis. Simply enter a term or domain and see a list of all mentions of that phrase taken from a list of 1000s of RSS feeds and more.
In addition, advanced query operators allow you to track only posts containing a link to a specific domain – great for tracking new link discovery. We use it in-house at SEOmoz weekly to help measure the success of our SEO efforts.
Why it’s Ugly
The above screenshot doesn't look bad, but every time the neon green wolf logo loads in a browser, Roger MozBot blows a circuit. (This is a PRO tool. If you’re not a PRO member, the login page is even uglier.)
4. URI Valet
Why It Rocks - URI Valet combines over 10 structural tools in one to perform technical audits, site reviews and more. You can see behind the scenes of any web page by checking server headers, text to HTML ratio, download speed, object details and quick links to W3C Validators. One of my favorite features not only lists all the internal and external links on a page, but validates them as well.
Why It’s Ugly - Who says you need a graphic designer to make a web-based tool? Or a color pallet, for that matter.
5-6. Robots.txt Checkers
Why They Rock - I couldn’t decide which of these tools I liked more - it’s good to bookmark them both. When I worked on the help team at SEOmoz, these tools were essential for finding hidden problems with robots.txt files, even when no error was visible. They even account for hidden code in your files that can trip up your average search spider. I guarantee at least 1 out of 5 readers will discover robots.txt errors they never knew existed.
Why They’re Ugly - We know robots.txt files are boring (exceptions excluded) but does your user interface have to be too?
7. Wayback Machine
Why it Rocks - The Wayback Machine has a giant archive of website pages going back 15 years. If you want to research older links that may have disappeared or track website modifications that resulted in traffic changes, the Wayback machine lets you peer into the past, sometimes with dramatic results. It’s hard to believe this is what SEOmoz looked like just 2 years ago.
Some grey hat SEOs buy expired domains, then reconstruct the previously existing website page-by-page from the Machine’s archives. By doing so they hope to preserve the allusion of continuity to Google. (In my opinion, the jury’s still out.)
Why it’s Ugly - It’s cool to see what your favorite website looked like in 1996, but what's up with that 1996 logo? Still in Beta... seriously?
Why it Rocks - Quickly see all of a webpage’s important SEO Browser
is an old favorite and great when I want to see the entire text copy laid out on a single, readable page.
SEO Why it’s Ugly - Their tagline is “See your website like a Search Engine sees it.” Unfortunately, most search engines have the design aesthetics of a color-blind CSV file.
structure in one view, starting with the title tag and working your way down. Does the page have a robots.txt file? How about analytics installed? Often I use the SEO
Toolbar for a quick look at page structure information, but the SEO Browser
9. Rank Checker
Why it Rocks - Sometimes you want to check a bunch of rankings…. fast. The from SEObook runs on your browser so you don’t have to wait for a third party to check your rankings for you. Beware, because it runs on your browser it’s much harder to control for the effects of localization and other mitigating factors, but it’s still handy when speed is more important than absolute accuracy.
Why it’s Ugly - It’s not that ugly. But it is quick and dirty.
10. Xenu’s Link Sleuth
Why it Rocks - While is winning over the hearts and minds of many SEOs, Screaming Frog takes the award as the original ugly Xenu’s Link Sleuth.
SEO Why it’s Ugly - After performing a Google search for Xenu, the first thing you do is hit the "back" button to double check your results. Quite possibly the worst landing page in the history of
The alien has landed.
tool that rocks. Most think of it as a link checker that runs on your desktop, but its dead simple interface and easy-to-understand reporting makes it a must have when running quick site audits. It’s also brilliant when mining for link opportunities
Do you like this post? SEO tools, you swear you've arrived on a broken site from 1992. Trust us, it's okay.