Scaling SEO by Eliminating Pain Points

by on November 2, 2010 | posted in Scalable Link Building

Being a “great” SEO, now, is something that comes from various levels of proficiency. Talent isn’t relegated to one point along the scale – you can be a great in-house, a great agency SEO, a great link builder, or otherwise, have the computer science background to understand the algorithm more than most other search practitioners.

Much of this won’t change ten years from now. All of these factors will offer deliminating characteristics that separate the top three positions from the top thirty. But there is something else that will change – and is continuing to change – that, for now, is providing much of the differentiation between the top rank and a middle position. That something is the ability to eliminate SEO pain points.

Economies of Scale

Every point along the SEO process, there is time wasted performing data entry type tasks – ones that, for all intensive purposes, don’t require a brain to implement. But, because of the size of the search field, the relatively small number of programming-posed practitioners, and the relative youth of the industry, many of these pain points are still relatively unsolved, or otherwise,  not solved to an acceptable point.

For every SEO, these pain points are different – some haven’t heard of things like Textbroker, don’t use Open Site Explorer, or don’t use article spinning software.  Others have top-level SEOs doing data-mining tasks like e-mail gathering when they could outsource it at a much lower cost.

As I talk to lots of colleagues in SEO, I’ve come to notice how widely knowledge of these scalable, time-saving practices varies between professionals. Often times, the holes is productivity come from lack of need – if you choose a high-quality-only link acquisition strategy, automating the link report process with Raven SEO might not seem like a must – but the time adds up. Similarly, if you don’t see e-mail link building as a viable aspect in your niche, familiarizing yourself with Mechanical Turk or ELance might not seem worth the pain gathering the random 300 e-mails you want requires.

These little blips come into play from process to process – and, on a long enough timeline, every SEO will see benefit from finding the holes in their process where these pain points occur – and then go about solving them.

The Future of Being a “Great” SEO

Today, these pain points – and the ability to eliminate them – can separate websites in the search results. These data-entry tasks still hold up many SEO teams – even if it means having your intern spend time gathering e-mails when they could be doing something else that generates hypertext that moves the needle.

Every day, SEO tools get better. Their job is to eliminate these pain points. In five to ten years, I imagine that much of our pain point problems will be solved – and because of that, competitive advantage in the form of productivity maximization will be minimized. But, for now, the leverage this creates is real. It makes the difference. It can turn 100 links a month to 150. 200 to 300. And on.  As SEOs in this for the long haul, it’s absolutely required that we find these little time losses in our process, eliminate them, and scale the heck out of our efforts so more time can be spent getting links.

Many agencies and businesses have proprietary technologies to take care of many of these pain points. But much of them will leak, or will eventually be created by public tools. So, getting these answers now – rather than waiting for them later – is the best bet for holding any competitive advantage tight we have in the coming years.

I definitely have a few holes in my “pain points” process – which is where you come along. Below, I detail every good tool for every immediately identifiable SEO pain point – as I’ve come to discover it. I also offer up my current pain points – with hope you have a remedy, or to grow awareness that this is something that SEOs need. It’s even possible that much of my dilemmas are solvable by a rather advanced Excel equation – if you’ve got it, please serve it up. But, of course, you’d do us all a favor by creating a webapp for efficiency/ease of use.

If you have any more, or I’m missing some other SEO process, please inform – I’ll add it to the list immediately, and also give your site some link love, should you want it.

Site Audits

Site Creation

Competitive Research

Link Building

  • Locating Link Prospects:
  • Automated Link Reporting/Management: Raven SEO
  • HTML Code Generator for Link Building/Article Directories – By offering Keyword/URL in a spreadsheet/list, auto-create HTML code to  be used for link building (a href=) – mostly for article directories: No known tool
  • E-mail Gathering/Data Entry at Scale: Mechanical Turk, ELance, oDesk
  • Content Spinner for Unique Content Generation: Spin Profit
  • Form Filler for Expedited Website Registration/Contact Form Fillling: Autofill Forms Firefox Extension | Chrome Settings Under Options>Personal Stuff


I’m sure there are a few problems with this list – first, that there are other good tools that might do the preceding things, better – and that two, I’m missing some pain points that you might have or have had experience with as an SEO. Feel free to send both along – I expect this list to grow/improve over time, and it’s something that I will keep constantly updated as I walk into more SEO pain points.

As the saying goes – no pain, no pain. Right?

Image credit goes to The New Yorker.

  • Eric Pratum

    I’m no SEO, so someone could come along with corrections or a better idea, but doesn’t Mozenda work as a scraper? Also, while there are much better tools, the Google Keyword Tool can give you a pretty decent start when it comes to generating keywords. Plus, you can get quite a lot of info on local vs global search rates, competition, CPC (if you’re in the paid market), etc.

    This list, or some form of it, should be a page on this blog if you ask me. I would think that beginner SEOs (and non-SEO marketers like me) that visit your site would find it immensely valuable.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Nice, I didn’t know about Mozenda – I see that it’s $99/mo, though, which makes it a bit too high for someone who isn’t in a pretty big agency.

      The Google Keyword tool is not what I’m looking for.. it might be hard to explain/understand if you’re not an SEO. I would like to be able to give say, a huge list of cities, and then four main keywords, like “CITY apartments” “apartments in city”, and etc, and then be able to click a button and auto-have a list of hundreds of keywords using my search characteristics.

      • Brian Criswell

        A tool like that would be amazing for pre-sales evaluations for local businesses. I’m not a programmer, but I would imagine you would need quite a bit of computing power to auto-generate a list of phrase variables along with their respective search stats.

        I do have some programmer friends though. Hmmm….

        Good post Ross. I’ve noticed you seem to really like Raven’s toolset based on this post and some of your previous posts.

        • Ross Hudgens

          I do like Raven a lot. SEOMoz and Raven are the only two paid services I use, currently.

          Thanks for the comment Brian!

      • Eric Pratum

        So, basically, you want a list of keywords similar to “apartments,” “find a rental,” “moving,” or whatever else with the city name prefixed, appended, added in the middle, etc? If I’m understanding you correctly, you could probably use the same method I do…Although, not being an SEO, I might be using a clunky method, who knows.

        I get exports from the Google Keyword Tool based on whatever types of keywords, web pages, etc that I’m focused on. Then, I concatenate the keywords with the city name in Excel in however many variations I need, review them, and finally upload them. I do something very similar if I need exact match, phrase match, or whatever else. Depending on how many keywords I have to review, it could take a lot or a little time, but kind of figuring this out as I go along, that’s been the best method for me.

        This prcoess won’t give you search stats that I’m aware of, but I would think that you could re-insert the concatenated keywords into the Google Keyword Tool and have it only find terms that include your keywords. That’s an option, isn’t it? Then, you could do a new export of the list and weight/sort it based on whatever your most important characteristics are.

        It’s not automatic, but is that sort of what you’re looking for?

        • Tom Demers

          Hey Ross,

          I’ve been reading your last few posts: great stuff! I think the keyword generator tool you’re looking for is here:
 (excel and concatenate can work too)

          And this is a really cool one for local terms:
          (having trouble loading it at the moment though):


          • Ross Hudgens

            Thanks Tom! I think the SEOBook tool really would work. The other one is giving me a headache just looking at it.. it should have a tutorial or something. Noted you in the post!

  • Robyn S

    Hi Ross,

    Another worthwhile read . Your point is well taken. One of the things I most need to do at my job now is brush up on Excel – Will Critchlow always manages to do amazing things with it and it can make your life SO much easier. Unfortunately I don’t have any secret equations to share!

    As far as rank tracking goes, we use Market Samurai. It’s a one-time payment (currently at $129) and despite the fact that the site is in full SELL SELL SELL affiliate mode the product is quite good. I am an SEOMoz member but unfortunately their rank tracker doesn’t allow you to track as many as I need and cannot be updated whenever you need it to be.

    What I’m looking for in terms of tools is an analytics package (or magical Excel equation) that can help me analyze long-tail traffic. That would be a big time saver.

    Again, great post!

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Robyn! I hate the idea of dropping $130 for a rank checker.. it just doesn’t seem vital, and it seems like something we can do for free, somehow. If you have a huge consultancy I could understand it, I guess. But I think you could accomplish relevant tracking for a decent sized company per month at less than $130 in labor costs.

  • Tim Aldiss

    Thanks for an insightful article and a useful list of tools. Bookmarked :)

  • Mike Raia

    This is a great list and a helpful article. Have you had any experience with Hubspot? It looks similar to RavenTools, although, I’m pretty blown away at RavenTools’ feature set.

    • Ross Hudgens

      No, Mike. I actually looked at HubSpot and have heard of it, obviously, but had a tough time deducing what they even offered the last time I looked at it. I’ll check it out again.. but I never hear anyone talking about it from an SEO perspective, so it can’t be that great.. can it?

      • Mike Raia

        As a follow-up to this, we signed up with RavenSEO shortly after I posted and we absolutely LOVE it. The link management feature and Firefox toolbar alone make it worth the $99/mo. for us (there’s also $19/mo Solo plan). That being said, there are a ton of other powerful tools and integrations that we use in Raven every day. Highly recommended.

  • Stephen Kinsella

    Nice post Ross. I think with local search becoming more & more important one tool that is great for finding local citations is Whitesparks’ Local Citation Finder –

    I look forward to checking back on this post in a few days to see how the list has grown.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Steven.. that’s a cool tool! Added!

  • Randy Pickard

    Ross, Thanks for the summary. It is particularly valuable regarding the free tools. In considering the paid tools, it is probably appropriate to evaluate a vendors entire toolset for the ones where a single monthly payment provides access to multiple tools. As an example, one monthly fee provides pro access to SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer , Keyword Difficulty Tool and the rest of their toolset. SEOmoz does not offer any single tool that offers enough value that I can justify paying for “Pro” access, but the variety of tools offered makes it a very good value in my opinion. Same goes for some of the other tools you mentioned. Buy the service for a specific SEO tool, and get other valuable products in the toolset thrown in at no extra charge.

    • Ross Hudgens

      I agree. I think SEOMoz’s OSE is actually worth the price alone.. and the others are good throw-ins as you mention, though. Raven’s link tracker is worth it for me too.. I could see their report generator as being great, also.

  • Warner Carter

    I recommend SEO Spyglass, part of SEO Powersuite for tracking yours and competitors links, a very robust tool. Their rank checker is very good too. I like Market Samurai for keyword research.

  • Red

    Re.HTML Code Generator for Link Building/Article Directories – By offering Keyword/URL in a spreadsheet/list, auto-create HTML code to be used for link building (a href=) – mostly for article directories: No known tool

    Sure no simple tool as yet – it would be great to have something like a side toolbar that pne can copy a url and paste the code (Kind of like tweet shorteners!)

    However – using the CONCATENATE fx in an excel spreadsheet can get you 100’s+ of link urls and anchor text coded up in under a min! Nice little feature! Although you obviously need all of the raw link info already documented!

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  • Ironshef

    There are plenty of tools out there for crawling links, but I’m still a big fan of Xenu Link Sleuth ( for diagnosing broken links on large sites.

    Nice list indeed, Ross.

  • Еduard Dimitrov

    Ross, You have collected many useful links here! Can i suggest you two more Content Spinners for Unique Content Generation:
    – number one is – have online and desktop version (both free) and work with cyrillic.
    – number two is “WP aggregator ultimate” – automatically working aggregator that aggregate, spin content and post in many websites simultaneously.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Eduard – I’ll check those out! I’m not particularly happy with SpinProfit myself, it always requires me to do extra formatting to correct it’s errors.

  • Peter unitt

    Great Post! I think over the past couple of years, last year especially we haveseen some major additions of tools and processes that make our lives easier, for example SEOMoz Po and Open Site Explorer. I do agree that there are many shortcomings that we either miss or don’t know exist and it would be great if there was a definitive list somewhere, so kudos for this post.

    One problem with the SEO community is that a lot of us don’t like to share, that’s the very nature of the industry, we find a tactic that works and keep it to ourselves and I guess it can be the same with processes. We need to learn that sharing is caring!

    Also one to add to the list- create great content much like textbroker but I think much better quality.

  • James Dunworth

    Ross, do you use any software/techniques for making sure backlinks, particularly at the lower end of the quality scale, are indexed by the search engines?

  • Dave Foy

    Sorry, this is some months now since the original post, but would be useful for generating the kind of keyword lists you were looking for?

  • Ed@WebMarketing Group

    Ahhh merge words – I forgot about that lil number! Good work! Will work well to integrate that with my handmade Google Docs SERPS link profiler & spreadsheet

  • Еduard Dimitrov

    In last week we are published two more new and free seo tools: Article Spinner that spin texts with one click (no need of writing text in spin format):
    and Unique Check ( ) – tool that will help you to check article uniqueness after spinning. One more tool that will make unique articles with one click is pending in this week. Tool will combine two ways – spinning and synonyms. Will work over english synonym database with about one million words. All tolls will be free forever, so if you thing that tools are useful, use it as you wish.

  • Yasir

    How many pain points you have been able to eliminate since you put this post back in Nov 2010? It would be good to write a follow up on this with new list for 2011.

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  • Alex


    Could you update this post? It’s one of the most useful posts on your blog. There has been so many great tools by Distilled on GDocs and other SEOmozzers…would be good to see some of them listed here too.

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