Yahoo! Pipes is a visual RSS slicing, dicing, and meshing tool. Basically you can take any feeds you like, add them together, and apply a bit of filtering. It is fairly intuitive and a lot a of fun for a wannabe programmer like me. And then when you create something, someone else can clone your pipes and add more stuff to it.
Here are some cool ways to use Yahoo! Pipes:
track the latest news in your industry (filtering by sources, keywords, or both)
Google's Link: command has been broken forever, but now Google is letting you see a far more representative sample of external links to your site and your internal link structure if you verify that you are the owner of your site by signing up at Google Webmaster Central. They also allow you to export your linkage data in an excel file. Some ways to use this data:
look at internal link structure of important pages and make sure they are well represented
look at internal external structure of important pages and make sure they are well represented
look at which pages on your site are well represented and make sure they link to other key pages
download your external linkage data and sort by date to look for new link sources (and why they are linking at your site)
run the excel sheet through a duplicate site remover or c class IP range checker to see how diverse your linking profile is
If you have shifty sites obviously there would be little to no upside in verifying those sites with Google, but if your sites are generally above board you might find this tool useful.
Please be careful when reading feedback about SEO Elite. I shockingly discovered that many of the below comments praising SEO Elite are fake. Read more about it here.
If my experience with someone posting fake testimonials to this page says anything else for the marketing used to push SEO Elite, I am not sure how much I would trust any of it.
Why I Don't Recommend SEO Elite
I used to recommend Brad Callen's SEO Elite, but due to evolving search algorithms placing more emphasis on site age and usage data I believe that (unless you are penalized or are right on the edge of being penalized) looking through a link profile does not have much value beyond just getting a quick glance at it. And you can do that free using the link explorer inside Bing's webmaster tools.
And if you do get penalized by a search engine, you might be able to get a ticket (as well as link data for your site) inside their webmaster tools sections, plus the online link data sources are great at helping you spot trends and patterns.
SEO for Firefox offers everything you would want to know about links and site authority status outside of anchor text, and my friend Joost De Valk created a free SEO link analysis Firefox extension which shows anchor text and PageRank next to links.
Just spending 5 minutes installing those two extensions means you don't need to waste any time or money downloading and installing bulky software. Further, if you use the online link databases you can be certain you are pulling fresh data & they have loads of features in their interfaces (like seeing which links are brand new, many ways to look through anchor text profiles, tracking new links to competing sites, and so on).
Free Online Link Analysis Tools (No Download Required!)
Tattler and Backlink Analyzer both allow you to view backlink information for free. Tattler is quicker than any of the paid tools on the market. At the price of free it can save you anywhere from $150 to $225 when compared to software like Optilink or SEO Elite. If you want a bit more data than what is featured in Tattler you may want to give Backlink Analyzer a go. Here is a free video on how easy it is to use Backlink Analyzer:
The above mentioned tools were powered by Yahoo! Site Explorer, which has since went away. :( ... However Bing offers a replacement in the link explorer inside their webmaster tools.
Catching Up With Free Tools:
SEO Elite does have a few features that are not included in the free tools listed above, but about the only features I found useful are also available in free easy to use web based tools, like rank checker. SEO Elite later added at co-citation data, which is something many other tools like Link Tree or Hub Finder have been doing for years.
Stay Away from Bad Link Neighborhoods:
I also would recommend avoiding link exchange networks and the typically low quality links people get by using automated link software. Years after search engines started torching websites for getting links from crappy link exchange directories people were still selling access to them, in effect charging you money to get your site penalized. ;)
Google's Matt Cutts has confirmed that these types of links can hurt your website and prevent Google from even indexing it. Most the sites that participate in them are spammy. If you force your link building and get many low quality links it will be much harder to crack the top 10 rankings. If you want to do link building that will actually help you rank I recommend reading this post.
Why Affiliates Push SEO Elite so Hard:
Affiliates recommending SEO Elite with rave reviews make over $70 per sale to recommend it. If I would have just recommended it to you via an affiliate link and you would have bought it I would have another $70 in my pocket, but think of effective link building as the art of getting real editorial citations that send traffic your way.
Since quality links require real human editorial judgement, most software will not help you on that front. In fact, focusing on software that has you looking at the wrong things may make it harder for you to become a topical expert.
A couple years ago when the algorithms were less evolved this was useful software, but I wouldn't recommend buying it today.
on SEM2.0 a PPC keyword research tool named Key Compete was mentioned. It shows you keywords competitors are bidding on by URL, and can be used for keyword ideas for arbitrage plays or authoritative content sites. You know if people are bidding on the keywords that there are going to be relevant ads. If you track your earnings and outbound ad clicks (if you do not want to buy a script for that use the free script here) then when you find an overpriced outbound click you can go buy the keyword list for that advertiser and start cranking out bids or content based on exploiting a great keyword basket or an idiot advertiser. As technology gets cheaper and people keep getting better at packaging highly relevant affordable market research the only thing that will prevent you from becoming commoditized is your brand.
Here is a brief overview of a few of the other free competitive anaysis tools on the market. All I ever have to do to realize how Alexa is inaccurately skewed toward marketing and webmaster resources is look at my own graph. There is no chance in ___ that this is one of the top 1,000 sites on the web.
Recently there have been a couple launches of services which compete with Alexa, and appear to have quite a bit less webmaster skew to them.
Compete.com gives a snapshot of your site which includes average pageviews per visitor and average time on site.
Quantcast.com gives a snapshot of your site which includes demographic information (they think 90% of the readers here are guys), and breaks your site visitors and traffic volumes down into passers-by, regulars, and addicts. Sites which have highly engaged visitors are typically going to be much harder to compete against than sites which are entirely reliant on search.
There are also a number of tools which show you what keywords competitors rank for,
Spyfoo shows top ranking keywords, competing advertisers and organic competitors.
Quintura updated their website to allow you to use their keyword research tool right from there home page, without needing to download any software. It is exceptional for discovering keyword relationships and digging deeply through a category.