Bruce Clay Talks Choosing the Right SEO Tools

The days of looking at your rankings to measure SEO success are long gone; I know this not only because it’s true, but also because I just discovered a “vintage” interview with Bruce way back in 2008 titled, “Ranking Is Dead.” The real goals of SEO today are visibility, traffic and conversion (this is straight from the Bruce’s mouth). He recently talked about this and other ideas at length in an article he wrote for Visibility Magazine, “Retooling the SEO Tool Belt.”

Beautiful Tools
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In the article, Bruce talks about the tools that SEOs use and how they must adapt to the ever-changing goals of the search engines. And because you’re all such loyal readers, I’m going to give you the CliffsNotes, so to speak, in case you want to skip class aka only really have time to skim a shortened version and hopefully your brain registers some of it.

In his article, Bruce points out the major changes that have occurred with search engines that make rankings a complicated little thing:

• Personalized search: Depending on a user’s prior searches, bookmarks and websites visited, the search engines try to interpret what the user is really searching for with any given query.
• Behavioral search: A search engine can monitor the behavior for all users of a particular query and make predictions for the results based on a community-level understanding.
• Intent-based search: Search engines try to understand what the intention of the user is based on the query, for example, research, commerce or something else.
• Localization: Depending on the user’s location, search engines tailor the results to the geographic area.

New updates to the way search engines work require that the tools in a person’s SEO arsenal must also evolve. No longer can people solely rely on a print out of a ranking report to gauge success. The new tools must work harder and develop faster than ever before to keep up with the changing search marketing industry. Just some of the features SEO tools should have today, says Bruce, include:

• Features for assisting geotargeting efforts.
• Features that make optimizing simple for search engines other than just Google.
• Tools that offer mulitbrowser compatibility and work just as well on a Mac as they do on a PC.
• Features for multilanguage support as search marketing continues to go global.
• Features that allow research to be more convenient, serving up info like keyword stats, daily activity, demographics and so on, without ever leaving the SERP.

Check out the full article, “Retooling the SEO Tool Belt,” on for more tidbits from Bruce on how search is changing, and the free and subscription-based tools you can use to stay ahead of the game.

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (25)
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25 Replies to “Bruce Clay Talks Choosing the Right SEO Tools”

I definitively agree with most comments above: no way ranking is dead and page 1 is the place.

But I also agree that search engines are increasingly trying to give customers better hits with localization, habit tracking etc.

To me this translates into more efforts and work for SEO companies and individuals who have to keep this in mind when developing a strategy.

Hi, Sarah. There are so many things Internet marketers have to take into account now with Google changing the way search works. Businesses must keep up with it or fall off the page. Thanks for stopping by!

I have seen the video telling about this article in YouTube where Bruce was explaining why rankikng is dead and since then, I believed that this will happen. That interview with michael mc donald was history back in 2008 and now, it is what prevails. Bruce was right after all. I’m glad I found this post. – Ana

Thanks for your support, Ana.

We could talk a lot about this subject, but the truth is that without creativity we can do nothing, so not only learn everything you need to know about SEO, but also feed our brains to create new ideas.


Sergio Vergara

Thanks for your comment, Sergio :)

Great advice. I am also a believer that tools are there not to do your job for you, but to simplify tasks so that you have more time to really figure out what to do next for your SEO campaign.

I agree. The tools are to assist you, the personal wisdom is the real driver of strategy. Thanks for stopping by!

— either that or it makes high rankings nearly impossible… LOL…

Only if your lazy enough to do your basic homework. The techniques still remains the same. White Hat with users in mind can still carry you a long way. The only difference now are the preference of users and how they will click through. The point given about below the 1st fold of page 1 is very much true. As I’ve mentioned before, they might as well replace page rank will 3 shiny gold, silver and bronze medals for the top 3. But that will remain wishful thinking in my part.

Well put and I agree — techniques are similar, it’s just the options are presented differently to the user. And I like your idea of special shiny badges ;)

That point above about the top 3 positions being “the new page 1” should get more coverage… We’ve got more data on that than you can shake a stick at, and it’s really true. We’ve known for a long time that there was no love until page 1. But the reality is that there is no love below the fold on page 1 either. Depressing, but true…

Or I guess you could spin that around and it means that the client needs to keep the SEO engaged longer to make it to the real top of the mountain…

Sure – Other things matter, but there is no way that rankings are dead (really).

Hey thanks for that comment — that’s a great idea to start talking about that concept more. This new criteria makes good SEOs invaluable, eh?

“Ranking Is Dead.” The real goals of SEO today are visibility, traffic and conversion – if that’s what you think then maybe work will be doubled for SEO.

Hi Jeorge, yeah I think SEOs are and will continue to add additional skills to their profession that includes things like understanding CRO.

Is it really that ranking is “dead” or just that ranking is no longer king? Sure personalization, localization, mobile etc mean different results for different people, but I don’t just think you can just say you need “visibility” and leave it at that. If you want traffic and conversions, you have to get in front of people, and while it is smart to look at other alternatives and ways that traffic sources may be shifting, for now (and the forseeable future) a significant part of that is ranking in the search engines, especially Google. While personalization et al. mean there is no one end all, be all “ranking” seeing how you rank “generally” is still a useful and important metric.

Hi Paul, you are right; rankings are no longer king aka the only metric that matters. Rankings are an important component because they lead to visibility. Visibility then leads to traffic, conversions and so on.

In his article, Bruce also points out that because Google is customizing results to the user nowadays, five people running the same search query may receive different top 10 results in the SERP.

In this 2008 video, the notion was that he was predicting how search was changing, and I think he hit the nail on the head with that one.

Thanks for your comment, appreciate it!

Really? Rankings are dead?

So there is no difference is a prospective customer finding your link at #9 in the top 10 search results vs #1, #2 or #3 in the results?

Before a prospective customer can click to the client’s website they have to find the result… before you can measure conversion, you must have a click.

Is this just link bait? Or does Bruce actually think this?


Hey Steve, of course ranking is still important; in fact, the top three results have been called the new Page 1 by Bruce.

In that video from two years ago, Bruce was simply predicting the way we look at rankings will change. Of course, it was a very controversial interview when it first came out, but nowadays everyone is pretty much in agreement that rankings is not the ONLY measurement of success of an SEO campaign.

Thanks for joining in, Steve!

ok.. whew… with Danny Sullivan and Bruce really being the original oracles of SEO.. my perception of reality would change.. totally agree with top 3 being page 1.

(goes back to work knowing all is right in the universe)


Ha ha, Steve — you crack me up!

It would be great if any of tools address the idea of URL shorteners and its effect on link building and SEO in general. Same goes for Google Instant, which could endanger long-tail search terms.

Interesting thought … thanks for stopping by to share.

In terms of long tailed searches, the funny thing is, we still have to take human capabilities as a factor. Not everyone can “Blind Type.” There will still be people who are looking down on their keyboards while typing a query and wouldn’t even notice the changes happening on-screen. If you look at it in a wider perspective, no 2 users are the same.

Great point! Thanks for sharing that.


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