Paying an expert for search engine optimization on your website can cost a fortune and it doesn’t necessarily guarantee results.
But search engines — and optimizing traffic from them — are vitally important to most online businesses. They are not the only things that drive customers to your site, but they are one facet that will likely need to be addressed at some point, especially as your business grows larger. A good place to start is with free online tools to take a look under the hood and gather some SEO intelligence to see what steps might need to be taken next.
There are free tools that can analyze various aspects of your website’s SEO and will help you fix any issues yourself or determine if you need to hire an SEO expert.
SEOmoz Open Site Explorer
SEOmoz is a Seattle, Wash.-based SEO software development company. It provides a lot of free and useful online SEO tools, most of which can also offer enhanced usage ability with a paid subscription between $99 - $2,000 per month. All of its tools have a free 30-day, full-featured trial; or limited access for free.
We’ll take a look at three tools from SEOmoz, starting with Open Site Explorer, a handy link-popularity checker and backlink analysis tool.
- Simply enter in your site URL into the field on the Open Site Explorer home page.
- Click the green “Get Link Data” button next to the field.
- You’ll get a breakdown of all the link activity on your website and a custom page ranking score out of 100-point scale for page and domain ranking potential in a search engine, number of unique root domains and total links on site.
- Top Pages. You can then start analyzing the data. See your Top Pages by clicking the “Top Pages” tab and see what content is being linked to the most.
- Linking Domains. You can also get a list of all the root domains that have links pointing toward your site by clicking the “Linking Domains.”
- If you are new to SEO or unsure what these statistics really mean, you can even compare your site to a competitor's by clicking the “Compare this URL Against” button under the field into which you originally entered your URL.
- Enter in a competitor’s site, or just a site that you know is popular, and click “Compare.” You’ll see a full breakdown of the activity between the two sites to get a fuller idea of what kind of linking activity your site has and how it’s effecting your traffic.
- If you want to keep this data for later analysis by an SEO expert or for your records you can export it to a spreadsheet by clicking the “Download as CSV” button and saving the file to your computer hard drive.
SEOmoz Rank Tracker
Another handy tool from SEOmoz is the Rank Tracker. You can check and track your website and keyword rankings with the three major search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo!.
- Sign up for a free account to use this tool. You’ll be prompted to do so when you first click on the Rank Tracker from the Tools page. Simply fill in your name and email and you’re ready to go. With a free account, you are limited to only five ranking track searches a day.
- Search Term. Enter in any keyword to track how it ranks in relation to your website on a given search engine.
- URL. Next, enter in the website URL you wish to track against the keyword search term you just entered.
- Search Engine. Select your preferred search engine: Google, Bing or Yahoo!. Then select your country (the default is set to United States).
- Select either “Exact URL” if you just want to check search terms for a single page, or “Check Entire Subdomain” to check all pages of your URL.
- Then, click “Get Ranking.”
- You’ll be given the page ranking and position number for your URL on the search engine you selected and the specific region.
- You can even track your website’s search engine ranking history. Each time you run this test, the history will be automatically saved to your account. Keep tracking repeatedly over time and your chart will begin to reveal trends to you about your site, where traffic is coming from, which search engine is directing the most traffic towards your site, which keywords are most effective for your site and more.
SEOmoz On-Page Keyword Optimization
Another useful tool from SEOmoz is the On-Page Keyword Optimization tool that analyzes the text on a given website (your on-page keyword terms) and offers helpful recommendations for improvement, if needed.
- Again, you’ll need to sign up for a free account to take advantage of this tool. A free account limits your use to only three keyword queries per day.
- Keyword. Enter in the keyword you want to track.
- URL. Enter in your website’s URL address.
- Click the “Grade My On-Page Optimization” button.
- You’ll get a comprehensive report card about the usage of your queried keyword term and a letter grade (“A” through “F”) that is determined by how well your keyword performs under the parameters of the test.
- Simply go down the Page Analysis Detail list to see the issues your URL and keyword may have. A green check mark means you passed the test. A box without a check means you have some work to do, and some simple recommendations are provided as to what you can do to fix the issue(s).
SEO Book Keyword List Generator
SEO Book is an Oakland, Calif.-based SEO consulting company with a host of free tools offered on its website. One of the most helpful is the Keyword List Generator, where you can generate a list of keywords for use on your website.
Think about the kind of keyword phrases you want to create. If you are a merchant selling baby clothes, perhaps a keyword phrase you would be interested in using would be “purchase baby clothes store.” With that phrase in mind, fill in the fields on the Keyword List Generator page.
- Word List 1. The first field on the left. Enter in the action words, the first words in your phrase. So, for our example, we’d use words like “purchase, buy, find” and so on.
- Word List 2. Enter in the products sold under the first Word List field. For this example, use words like “baby, clothes, onesies, kids, children, pants, shirts” and other relevant words.
- Word List 3. Under the second Word List field enter in any other details, like your website name and other words that users might search for, like “cheap, discount, hand-made, artsy, fun.”
- When you are done filling in two or more of the Word List fields, click the green “generate” button.
- Current Results. The Current Results window will display the phrases it generated. Click into the field and all results will be selected, then just copy-and-paste, or click the “CSV” button to generate the list into a downloadable spreadsheet.
SEO Book Spider Test Tool
A simple tool from SEO Book is its Spider Test Tool. It is a search engine indexing simulator that allows you to see how the search engine indexing bots view your website.
- Enter your URL address into the “Enter URL” field.
- Click the green “Go” button.
- You’ll see a comprehensive breakdown for your site of all keyword count, meta data, total links, on-page text and source code in a single report.
SEO Extensions for Web Browsers
There are many helpful SEO toolbars, extensions and add-ons for most of the major web browsers. These tools are produced by third-party companies, and many of the them are free. Here are three free tools for each of Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
- Chrome SEO. A Chrome extension that can help you with keyword research, backlink checks, page ranking and other SEO tasks.
- SEO for Firefox. A comprehensive Firefox extension — from SEO Book — that can help you track incoming and outgoing page links, page ranking, total pages indexed and much more.
- SEObar for Opera. A limited toolbar for the Opera browser. It provides information about traffic and page rank, backlinks in Google and Yahoo!, as well as total pages indexed in Google, Yahoo! and MSN.