This is easily the most effective way to determine if a certain SEO tool is right for your needs, although it can also be the least time-efficient. If you have the time and resources to devote to trying out a new tool and you have the option of a free trial, go for it, especially if you’re already pretty sure this is the tool for you.
Competitor reviews: If your competitors are using a tool successfully, you might want to jump on that bandwagon to start claiming some of those customers.
Find out what SEO experts are saying about the tool. A good pro and con list about a tool can help you determine if it will do what you need it to. These guys can also probably give you inside tips on how to use a tool in a more creative way than your competitors are. Attending SEO conferences like SMX is also a great way to get the low-down on-the-top tools; if you can’t attend in person, keep your eye out for conference recaps and reviews that will touch on the topics covered. You can even find whole presentations!
Things You Probably Already Know
Understand the costs associated with the tools you’re researching. A $300/month subscription fee is nothing to a major agency but can be a deal breaker for a lot of smaller companies. If cost is a factor look into the free or low-budget tools – there are plenty out there that will do exactly what you want without sending your company.
Understand what you want a tool to do for you or help you do more efficiently. This seems like a no-brainer but unless you have a clear idea of what it is you need you’ll have a hard time sifting through all the great tools out there. Be honest with yourself.
Since we’re nice, here’s where you should start your SEO tool search:
At SEOmoz you’ll find:
An extensive list of useful and easy-to-implement SEO tools
A free 30-day trial that includes all of their great tools
A free version of most of their tools (albeit in limited versions)
A paid subscription that gives you unlimited access to all of their tools
Daily blog posts with helpful information
Google tools include:
Webmaster Tools for site owners to learn about visitors in real time
Analytics Tools for site owners and/or agencies to track data over time
Keyword Tool to hone in on local and global searches in an industry
All of the above in addition to the suite of Google apps, including Gmail, Google Drive, etc.
All of the above are free (hooray!)