Do-it-yourself SEO with these free tools and plugins
When I tell people what I do for a living, I’m usually confronted with a blank expression (“S…E.. what?”) or it’ll soon turn into a conversation that starts with something like this: “My sister (or my cousin or a friend of mine) is running a website (or blog). Can you let me in on your SEO secrets so we can earn more ranks with Google faster?” This is usually when I would try to debunk any mysteries that the SEO industry seems to carry, starting with a recap of a bunch of Google algorithm updates in recent years, which inevitably leads me to retell how I witnessed firsthand websites that have gone from ranking in Position 10+ to landing in Google’s “no man’s land” (Positions 80 and beyond) due to questionable link building.
I realize as a small business owner or blog owner, the world of SEO can be hard to navigate. Yet, it is absolutely necessary to be discoverable at your audience’s time of search, since so many of us look to “Google” to find the things we need. There’s a handful of free SEO tools or plugins that may come in handy- some I still use on a regular basis to quickly assess a site’s SEO health.
Plug-ins: SEOquake or META SEO inspector
Both of these chrome plugins are great for a quick look at a page’s SEO elements: Title Tag, Meta Description, Meta Keywords, Headings, Alt attributes etc, without having to look for it in the source code. Since these plugins come with their own recommended SEO guidelines and character limit, they will even indicate to you whether these elements adhere to best practices and what need to be done to fix any issues.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Much like the plugins mentioned above, Screaming Frog can inspect all the basic SEO elements but for the entire site. It functions much like a sitemap generator and can crawl a relatively large site within minutes. I like using it to check whether there are any alarming 302 redirects (301 redirects are the way-to-go usually) or any other odd page errors. It’s also neat for checking a site’s overall hierarchy and how well optimized it generally is, since it’s not hard to spot duplicated title tags and meta descriptions in this tool. I also like the “export to csv” feature. which means you can manipulate the info with all the sorting and filtering you want. In the end, you get to what you’re looking for much more quickly – everybody wins!
As much as you hear us mutter things like “ranking is dead”, “traffic is the end goal” or some version of “personalized search results making universal search results irrelevant”, position in rankings still matter and still need to be tracked. As long as the “search bar” is still kicking and the search results are still displayed in a list format, we know Position 1-3 results will get more click-throughs than results down the first page. I agree ranking is not the end-goal but ranking data, when supplemented with traffic and conversion data, will tell you whether or not your SEO efforts are working. I personally find Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) to be the most accurate and inexpensive ranking tool out there that scrapes ranking data, unlike Raven or MozTool that uses average (and inaccurate) ranking positions from Google Webmaster Tools.
So that sums it up for now. Bloggers and other SEO-ers, what other free tools have YOU been using? Please do share in the comments!