Over the past two months I have reviewed the search engine ranking factors guide, recently created by Search Engine Land, which explains the major concepts of what search engines like Google look at when deciding to rank your page, video, image, etc. I gave highlights on how to optimize your site content - and what to focus on off your site - in order to help your site and content rank within the search engine result pages.
This month I want to tell you how exactly you would go about assessing your onsite and offsite search engine optimization (SEO) using a few of my favorite tools. Here are the essential tools – five of the top tools, to be exact.
Free starter tools that pack a lot of SEO punch:
1. The first step in SEO is to determine what key words your target audience is using, and for which words you should optimize your content. For years, one of the best keyword research tools has been Google’s Keyword Research Tool.
a. What to do: Type in general topics to get the juices flowing, then refine your list from there. You can use advanced filters like locations, languages, and devices (Google will show desktop versus mobile device searches as well). Power tip: Be sure to set the match type to “Exact”, so that you are seeing exactly what people are searching on.
2. Webmaster Tools – Both Google and Bing encourage site owners to submit their sitemaps in order for them to index sites and content properly. This is a necessary first step when starting your SEO program, because if Google and Bing cannot see (or index) your site, then you will never rank.
a. What to do: You will need to create an XML sitemap (HTML doesn’t work for this purpose) and you can use a free tool like this one to do so. Next you will need to create accounts on Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. Once you upload your XML sitemap into your new accounts, you will be able to diagnose some critical SEO issues like crawl errors, search queries that your content ranks for, inbound links, and duplicate title and meta description tags.
3. SEOmoz Open Site Explorer - If you aren’t familiar with SEOmoz, you should get to know this valuable SEO resource! They have a treasure box full of tools (free and paid), but the free one that I use on a daily basis is the Open Site Explorer. Here you will find information on your site that will help you improve your inbound link quality and quantity.
a. What to do: Enter in a url and any competitor urls or additional urls from your site. Then review stats like inbound links, anchor text, page authority, and domain authority. Power tip: A good step with improving your inbound links is to look at the ratio of “linking root domains” to “total links” – you’ll want to have a decent amount of domains, which tells the engines that you are popular on many sites.
The last two tools are paid tools, but, in my opinion, worth the cost:
4. Screaming Frog SEO – This tool is free up to 500 urls, but since you will likely have more urls than that, I recommend just buying the paid version which only costs $99/year and is well worth the convenience. The spider tool crawls through your site, just like the Googlebot would, and indexes information like errors, redirects, external links, duplicate pages, title and meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags, and many others. It’s pretty straightforward to set up, so try it today!
5. Raven Tools – Raven bills itself as “your SEO cockpit,” so you know this is a serious SEO toolset! This tool marries all your data in one place and truly does serve as a cockpit. Here you can see your rankings, changes in rankings, competitor data, and a comprehensive link-building manager. In addition to their SEO tools, they have a comprehensive suite of social media tools that makes the $99/month subscription well worth it! Just like Screaming Frog, it’s pretty easy to set up but there’s no time to go into depth about how to customize it – that would be an article in itself! Maybe for next time!
That’s it for me this month – Good luck setting up your SEO tools and using them to analyze the optimization of your various pages and content! Next month, I hope to cover more of the recent launch of Google+ for Businesses. In the meantime, please read Anvil’s Blog for a brief overview.