Free SEO Tools
Get Higher Rankings on Google for a Song
By Joe Dysart
Tweaking your website for higher rankings on search engines may seem daunting, but there is a slew of free tools you can use that make the job much easier. Sure, there’s a bit of jargon you may want to brush up on to get the most from these search-engine optimization (SEO) tools, but with just a bit of effort, these freebies should give you the ability to get at least some of your pages into the top 10 of Google search-engine returns.
“The importance of SEO becomes clear when you think about the fact that nearly every business has a website,” said Kevin Mahoney, an SEO consultant at Marketing by Kevin (https://marketingbykevin.com). SEO enables your business to stand out in a sea of websites, he added.
Dinesh Thakur, director at Ads Triangle (www.adstriangle.com), a digital marketing firm, agreed that SEO is worth all the resources and investment you put into bringing your website to the top of search-engine rankings. The statistics bear out that conviction. A majority of marketers—57%—said that good SEO generates more leads than any other digital marketing method, according to Thakur.
Plus, leads drawn from someone actively searching for a product or service trigger a 14.6% sale rate, as compared to the 1.7% sale rate gleaned from alternative marketing methods such as cold calling, direct mail and the like, Thakur said. With such a friendly price of admission, it makes sense to give the following free SEO tools a whirl.
Google Analytics (https://analytics.google.com): Now in version four, this is one of the most powerful tools you can use to get an overall appreciation of the amount and type of traffic you’re getting to your website.
Version four (www.blog.google/products/marketingplatform/analytics/new_google_analytics) ups the game with new artificial intelligence that will detect products on your site seeing rising demand, how many customers you’ll gain or lose in the next 30 days based on past performance, which sales are triggered by your website, YouTube presence, email offers and other digital properties and more.
Google Search Console (https://search.google.com/search-console/about): This tool, which you sign up for using the URL of your domain, digs into the inner workings of your website and offers suggestions for optimizing your site for Google Search. Specifically, Search Console will ensure that Google is able to read your site correctly when trying to pair it with a searcher’s keyphrase, and it also enables you to file a sitemap of your site to Google to help with higher search-engine rankings.
But one of the primary advantages of the tool is its ongoing analysis of keyphrases that people are using to get to your website. Over time, Google Console lists those keyphrases for you in order of popularity. That enables you to drop those same popular keyphrases into your content to attract even more users to your site.
Google Page Speed Insights (https://developers.google.com/speed/
pagespeed/insights): Google rewards websites that download quickly with higher rankings in its search-engine returns, so it only makes sense that the search giant provides a tool that offers a precise analysis of how quickly your page downloads—along with suggestions for improvement. Simply enter the link above and then enter your website’s home page, and you’ll be able to retrieve a full Google analysis of your home page’s download speed in a matter of seconds.
The tool even prioritizes which of the design changes it recommends will result in the most improvement in download time. You may be able to save 3.5 seconds on the download of a page by eliminating specified page resources you may not need, for example. In contrast, you may only shave 0.1 second off your download time if you change the format of the images you’re using.
Google Optimize (https://optimize.google.com/optimize/home/#/accounts): This tool is great for studying how visitors to your site are interacting with new features you add to your site, how a revamped homepage is performing and similar items.
Using Google Optimize, you can compare the performance of two or more variants of a home page, or you can see how the personalization programming you added is performing and impacting interactions on your site. It will also determine if a custom-designed message you created to appear for customers at checkout is generating the wished-for triggers.
Google Optimize integrates with Google Analytics to do its magic. Free and paid versions are available.
Google Data Studio (https://datastudio.google.com/overview): This is an advanced tool you can use once you’re comfortable using Google Analytics, Google Search Console and similar tools. Essentially, Google Data Studio enables you to combine data from both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to create a custom report for data you want to monitor. Think of it as a way to create a custom dashboard that you can use to monitor the website metrics you are most interested in keeping an eye on.
Screaming Frog (www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider): This tool offers an extremely comprehensive view of what’s going on with your website, along with changes you can make to rank higher in the search engines. Specifically, Screaming Frog will find broken links on your site and make sure your page titles and the data associated with those titles are in order.
It will also uncover duplicate pages that can confuse search engines, and it will generate a sitemap for your page and ensure that your robot.txt file is in order. Screaming Frog’s paid version offers even more features, but the free tool is definitely enough to get you going.
Google Keyword Planner (https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner): This an industry-recognized tool for picking the best keyphrases for driving the most traffic to your website. Simply enter some keyphrases and concepts into the tool and Keyword Planner will kick back some keyphrase suggestions.
For each keyphrase suggestion, Google will also show you the average number of searches for that keyphrase in the current month as well as the value of that keyphrase if you’d like to pay for using its other service, Google Adwords. Google will also analyze keyphrases you come up with independent of Keyword Planner—including an accounting of how popular such keyphrases would be if you used them in Google Adwords.
Yoast SEO (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo): Given that 37% of all sites on the web are authored by Wordpress, according to W3 Techs (https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/cm-wordpress), it’s no wonder that there’s a free plug-in which automates basic SEO on a website for the Wordpress community.
I use this tool myself and have found it to be extremely handy. Yoast auto-generates my robots.txt file for me as well as my XML site map—design features I know I need but would rather not put together myself. It also offers me an instant SEO analysis of any post I create for my blog. A green icon indicates that the keyword I’ve chosen for my blog title as well as the first paragraph and throughout the rest of the post will help my post rank higher on Google. A red icon indicates that I still need to do those things.
Yoast also gives every blog post headline a score from one to 100 as well as a rating on the readability of my text. I take both ratings with a grain of salt, because headline punchiness and text readability tend to be extremely subjective, but Yoast at least gives me a baseline I can work from on those metrics.
SEOquake (www.seoquake.com/guide/index.html): This tool is built on the premise that some of our best ideas come from our competitors. Essentially, SEOquake analyzes the web pages of your competitors, unearthing SEO tricks and tactics that can be appropriated for your own use.
As an exceedingly pragmatic business person might opine: “Why pay good money for a top SEO consultant when you can simply look at the handiwork of one who has put your competitor’s website at the top of Google’s search-engine returns?”
Tools in SEOquake include a Search Engine Result Pages general analysis, an SEO audit of any technical issues with a competitor’s site, a Keyword Density Report, an Internal Links Report, and an External Links Report.
Cloudflare (www.cloudflare.com): This service offers you free access to a global Content Distribution Network (CDN). Such networks are used to store a copy of your website geographically closer to where some or all of your customers are located.
One note: You’ll want a web designer or someone with similar knowledge with you when you sign up for this free CDN. Cloudflare will ask you to approve its analysis on the technical settings of your website before it signs you up for its free service. That’s knowledge only an experienced web designer (or someone similar) will know for sure.
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.