SEO Writers: How Much Money Should You Pay for SEO Tools?

Today, I’m going to hit you with a loving reality tap — and pair it with data that will (hopefully) help you relax.

Here we go…

If you’re an SEO writer, subscribing to a paid keyphrase research tool is a must do. It’s just as important as your laptop and your internet connection. 

Yes, even if you “just have a few clients.” Yes, even if you “think you can’t afford it.” 

You need to spend the cash to get the real data you need. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to your business and to your clients.

Now, here’s the part that should help you relax.

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and purchase every SEO tool out there. 

SEO writers can keep their costs way down and stick with just one tool. Or two.

After all, that’s what most other SEOs do.

In fact, according to a recent survey, 24.8 percent of SEO respondents use just one SEO tool. The majority of respondents — 56.8 percent — use between two to four tools.

That’s it. 

This mirrors my own usage. I use SEMrush and BuzzSumo most often — and I don’t think I’ve ever subscribed to more than four SEO tools. 

I’m always on the lookout for cool new tools, but I also know which ones work for me. 

That’s all well and good, but let’s talk about how much SEO tools cost

If you checked out the blog post I referenced, you may be freaking out at the $13,000 annual budget, which represents the “low end.”

First, note that the majority of respondents pay less than $13,000 a year. I’m guessing 13K is just a random amount for survey purposes.

Even Barry Schwartz, the author of the article, was skeptical of the 13K budget. His comment? “I expect that most of those (survey respondents) spend a heck of a lot less than $13,000.”

Plus, $13,000 would be a way overinflated SEO tool budget for most writers.

If anything, I see it being closer to $2,500 or so a year — and that’s on the high end.

And if you’re a beginner who isn’t diving into the world of competitive intelligence, you’ll pay much less.

For instance, if you wanted to start with just one keyphrase research tool, you could pay as little as $25/month for Long Tail Pro.

That’s “just” $300 a year…which is a far cry from $13,000. 

As you increase your client base and take on different jobs, it may make sense to invest in something more robust. Yes, you’ll increase your SEO tools budget — but, you’ll be making more money by then, and you’ll need the information the more expensive tools offer.

So, if you have stressed out about a super huge SEO tools budget — relax. You don’t need to subscribe to all of them.

Just the one or two that work for you.


Oh, and if you’re about to ask “What keyword research tool should I use?” know that I wrote a blog post about this very topic. No, I don’t tell you what to purchase (which annoyed some readers,) but I do share some things to consider. 

What do you think?

Have you worried that you needed to purchase every SEO tool under the sun? Leave a comment and let me know!

10 replies
  1. Eric Novinson says:

    I agree, there’s a big difference between the results you get for free and what you get with the paid tools. The companies that make those paid tools buy third-party data and run their own scrapers, so they’re not just showing you Google’s autocomplete suggestions. And they don’t just show you keywords, they also show you information about how articles performed on social media and how many backlinks they have. I was using free tools like Answer the Public before I subscribed to Ahrefs, and Ahrefs provides a lot more information.

  2. Storm McManus says:

    I have to admit, it took me a while to find the right fit SEO tool for me! I’ve tried them all from Answer the Public through to SEMRush and Moz and my preference lies with Ahrefs. But that’s just because it gives me the data I need to help my clients with their tech SEO. For finding content gaps and to really hone my writing, I love Surfer SEO. If budget wasn’t an issue I think I would stick with what I currently use :)

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Ah, budget! Can you imagine all the fun data you could have with an unlimited SEO tools budget? Then again, I’d probably get lost in a rabbit hole of data every day and not surface for hours… :) Thanks for your comment!

    • Tess Wittler says:

      Storm – That’s exactly what I went through, too. It took me a long time to figure out which tools were the right fit for me. I’m in the same camp as you: Ahrefs and SurferSEO!

  3. Vaibhav kakkar says:

    Hey, I think their is no need to purchase each and every SEO tools but there are some tools which you can purchase by that you will get exact results which will be good for you to get some perfect result in that form. I agree with your point of view also.

  4. Joseph S Kahn says:

    For SEO copy tools, the main one I would recommend is SurferSEO because it has helped us rank for thousands of keywords while allowing us to write naturally without suffering user interest and engagement. The cost is roughly 2400 per year, but it is worth it and as a copywriter, they have a directory and writers get top dollar for using their tool.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Awesome, @Joseph, thank you. It’s so easy to get hung up on the monthly cost of SEO tools — and I totally understand why people do. At the same time, having a good SEO tool that you like, helps you gain great results, and makes your life easier is sooooo worth it! Once you experience the difference, it’s hard to go back to freebie tools.

  5. Ernest Riddick says:

    Thank you for this post. I am going thru this now and I know the inevitable is coming. I want the quality and expertise that these tools offer. It will save a lot of time for me to concentrate on the content of the site.


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