Search engine optimization (SEO) requires special attention to a number of moving parts, all at the same time. You need to know your goals, your priorities and your progress in each of a dozen or so different areas. And those targets are constantly moving due to internal and external pressure. It’s a stressful position, but fortunately, you don’t have to do all the work yourself.
SEO is, at its core, a way to use technology to your advantage, and there are lots of technologies that exist to make that route easier and simpler to follow. Some of these exist as paid platforms, but there are plenty of free options for the frugal marketers and entrepreneurs of the world -- and they happen to be some of the best tools, regardless.
These 10 tools are free, easy to use, beneficial and available to everyone:
1. Google Analytics.
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Google Analytics is the granddaddy of all free SEO tools -- and you can tell it’s good because it’s offered by Google itself. Completely free to manage dozens of different websites, all you have to do is install a custom generated analytics script on your site to start tracking tons of detailed information about your traffic, including where your traffic is coming from, the behavior it takes on site and even monetary factors like your conversion rates. It’s one of the best tools for figuring out how effective your campaign really is and ways you can improve in a number of different dimensions.
2. Google Webmaster Tools.
Google Webmaster Tools is a nice complement to Analytics, providing you with more in-depth and technical information about your site’s current performance (as well as recommendations for changes within the search console). With Webmaster Tools, you’ll get warnings if your site is down or broken, or if you’re in violation of any Google policies. You’ll also be able to access information like how Google is indexing your site and recommendations on onsite SEO factors like your title tags and meta descriptions if they aren’t in order.
3. Open Site Explorer.
Moz’s Open Site Explorer has a more specific function than analytics, specializing in the analysis of inbound link profiles. Sometimes professed as the “search engine for links,” Open Site Explorer exists to help you uncover and analyze all the links currently pointing to your site. This is incredibly valuable for determining your domain and page authority growth, as well as spying on competitors to determine what SEO tactics they’re using. It’s best used as a way to weed out bad links and identify your strongest potential paths for backlink development.
4. Google Keyword Planner.
Google’s Keyword Planner is meant for use with AdWords, but it works just fine for organic keyword research too. With it, you can generate tons of new ideas for target keywords and phrases, discovering information like search volume and competition level for your prospective targets.
5. Moz's Keyword Explorer.
While it is beneficial, Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t perfect. Moz’s Keyword Explorer attempts to bridge the gap with a number of extra keyword research tools, such as more accurate information about factors like search volume and more concrete recommendations for which keywords to go after.
The free version of BuzzSumo doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the full version, but it is worth using for your content strategy. Here, you can investigate the popularity of various content topics and discover influencers who can help support your campaign.
Again, SEMRush has both a free and paid version, but the free version is still helpful. Here, you’ll be able to investigate your relative SEO positions and your competitors’ positions, guiding your tactics in more competitive directions. SimilarWeb deserves an honorable mention here for these capabilities as well.
QuickSprout offers the best free SEO audit tool on the web, so it deserves a place in this list. Use it to analyze your website’s SEO, traffic and competition metrics with the click of a button.
9. Spider View Simulator.
Google indexes sites in its search engine through the use of spiders, or web crawling bots that scour the Internet for information. These spiders can be directed in a number of ways, both positive and negative, to form an impression of your site. For example, they may skip over an entire section of your site if you accidentally block it. Spider View Simulator allows you to see your site the way a spider would, so you can identify and prevent these problems proactively.
10. SERPs Rank Checker.
Just a decade ago, search rankings were the number one indicator of SEO success, but thanks to Google updates like Panda and Hummingbird, keyword-based rankings aren’t quite as predictable, linear, or reliably valuable as they once were. Still, it’s helpful to see your ranking patterns for your target keywords over time, and since Google won’t offer you that information directly, your best bet is a tool like SERPs Rank Checker. Here, you can monitor your rankings for a number of keyword terms and phrases, and see how you stack up to the competition.
Together, these tools can help you plan, execute, measure, and refine your SEO strategy in easier and more productive ways. There’s a learning curve with most of them, to be sure, and not all of them are going to suit your brand or your personal preferences, but each of them has something unique to offer, and since they’re free to use, there’s no risk in trying them all out. Experiment with these tools to see how they can best fit into your strategy, then use them regularly for the best effects.