Embarking on the SEO journey can be daunting for a first-timer. And if you don't have the budgetary support to back up your efforts with the support of a trustworthy SEO agency, it can be hard to decipher truly useful information that can benefit your business's bottom line. Luckily there are a handful of free tools that can give you a foundation of useful information to start taking your website's search rankings into account in your marketing.
Here are four such free tools to use as a starter kit to SEO.
We’re starting off the list with a tool that wasn’t actually designed for SEO. But when you’re working on a $0 budget, you learn to repurpose some tools! (And to be honest, I often utilize this tool even for clients who can afford enterprise-level SEO software.)
Google’s Keyword Planner is a free resource you can find in the Google AdWords platform. It is designed to help advertisers generate lists of potential paid keywords based on search volume. Keyword Planner can also be co-opted to help you create SEO-focused content. You can enter a potential query and see related keywords that people use in your local area. This tool can save you from what we call “the insider trap.”
You may use the word “attorney” internally at your organization. But when checking Google Keyword Planner for local searches, you may discover that “attorney” only has approximately 10 monthly searches, while “lawyer” has more than 1,000. That is one of the many values of the Google Keyword Planner.
I’ll be honest—there are very few free “SEO audit” tools that I value. They usually generate an SEO score for your website based on often irrelevant information (like whether or not you have a robots.txt file). SEO can’t be measured by one-size-fits-all metrics, which is why these tools are mostly nonsense. But if you are looking for a quick tool to check the basics, I prefer the WooRank browser app.
Disclaimer: Be tentative, and do your research if you hear from a WooRank representative. They can use the free tool as a way to pressure you into signing up for a paid service. But this app can help you answer a few questions if you’re a SEO novice, such as:
- Do I have a meta description or page title on my website?
- Are there any problems that would keep my website from being indexed by search engines?
- What is the copy in my header and alt tags?
Another shout-out to Google—its Search Console is an incredibly useful set of tools. Search Console is a free resource that can help you monitor how your site displays and performs on Google search results. There are a few really useful things you can do here.
Firstly, you can check to ensure that your website is actually being indexed on search engines. SEO is hard to master, so you may not be on the first page for keywords in which you are interested. But if you are Googling the name of your brand or other branded keywords and you still aren’t seeing your website, there is a possibility that Google cannot access your content. Search Console will tell you whether or not Google has indexed your search engine.
Secondly, you can give Google a heads up when you add new content to your website. If you launch a new website, add a new page or make major updates to a page, Google will re-index it eventually. But you can help speed the process along and ideally receive faster gains if you submit a request to Google to re-index your site.
There are a lot of great SEO softwares out there—BrightEdge, Screaming Frog, SpyFu, Majestic and more. My personal favorite is Moz. Moz is a real leader in the industry, and it has created some spectacular mid-level products that are highly usable. I recommend their paid versions all the time (MozPro and MozLocal), but for users looking for well-designed free tools, you can't do much better than their Open Site Explorer and Keyword Planner.
The Open Site Explorer is a link-analysis tool that can also provide you with some pretty in-depth competitor analysis. It can tell you things such as how trustworthy your website is in the eyes of search engines, how many backlinks are pointing at your site, what their spam scores are and more. You can also quickly compare metrics with competitors to investigate possible reasons they may be beating you out for keyword rankings.
Speaking of keyword rankings, the Moz Keyword Explorer is one of the best keyword research tools out there, paid or unpaid. It is extremely user-friendly. You can obtain information on keyword popularity and related keywords for starters. But you can also track keyword performance by domain, create keyword lists/groups and determine the approximate difficulty of each of those groups.