I’ve decided to put together a list of some of the best FREE tools that are available to help webmasters, bloggers, amateur SEOs and basically any website owner improve their SEO. Before anyone starts berating me on the fact that there are much better tools out there than this bunch of kid’s toys, this list is compiled to help anyone trying to learn SEO do so without having to spend a fortune on expensive software.
So, here goes, in no particular order:
This is probably pretty obvious to most but it still amazes me how many websites I come across that aren’t verified with Webmaster Tools or have Analytics installed. Some of the privacy conscious prefer to steer clear of Google Analytics because it gives Google access to loads of valuable user behaviour data on site and if this data reflects badly on the site they feel it might have a correlatory effect on rankings. This is up to the individual to decide but I’m of the opinion that if my site is receiving a high bounce rate for whatever reason, I want to know about it and something obviously needs to be fixed to improve on it. Webmaster Tools allows you to set your preferred domain and geographic target and gives you some really useful data regarding any crawl errors.
Google’s Keyword Tool is another much used favourite of mine although it should only be used as a guide and always make sure to check the “Exact Match” filter, otherwise you will receive wildly misleading search figures. Apart from that it’s pretty self-explanatory. Another handy tool Google provides is the Rich Snippet Testing Tool. Most websites have the potential to incorporate rich snippets/microformats to help improve how their listing appears in the SERPs. Although this has no direct link to your actual rankings (apart from authorship), listings with rich snippets can massively improve click through rates.
There are loads of rank checkers around and I’m sure people obviously have different opinions on which they prefer but this is about the best FREE checker I’ve come across. It’s not the most attractive piece of kit but it does it’s job and you can create multiple projects which can be saved for further monitoring. Cuterank is a slightly more attractive piece of kit but only one project can be saved at a time. There is also a free version of RankTracker which would kick ass but each project gets wiped once you close the program.
3. Screaming Frog SEO Spider
This is a must have for any webmaster or SEO and the free version is pretty cool too. This great little app crawls all the pages on your site the same as Google’s bot would and reports any issues that it finds along the way. It identifies canonicalisation issues, duplicate tags, external links, meta robots statuses and much more. It then puts all this data in one easy to read table so you can start amending any issues.
4. Redirect Checker
This is a fantastic little free tool provided by Harvey Kane which identifies whether your home page redirects are all in order. This is one of the most common canonicalisation issues and although it doesn’t normally incur a “penalty” as such from Google, it can often mean dilution of link value coming to your site because the incoming links are spread between two, three or sometimes four identical home pages. Depending on what type of server your site uses, fixing these issues can be either pretty easy (Apache) or a bit of a pain (Microsoft IIS, Cold Fusion, etc.) but this little tool not only identifies the problem, but suggests the appropriate .htaccess or .php fixes. Cool eh!
5. SEOMoz MozBar
Handy little toolbar add-on for Firefox or Chrome that displays at a glance a breakdown of the SEO factors of whatever webpage you are visiting while browsing the web. This can be really helpful when blog commenting and trying to hunt out good worthwhile guest posting opportunities. The MozBar shows the page rank, number of outbound links, whether the links are dofollow and loads of other useful on page attributes.
6. SEO SpyGlass
This is part of the SEO Powersuite range of products which I think are great (although some SEOs don’t agree) and the free version of SpyGlass is great for webmasters or amateur SEOs to get an insight into their competitor’s backlink profile and often provides linking opportunities for your own site. It’s sister software Link Assistant is also great for finding link opportunities although I haven’t tried the free version to be honest. The only downfall the free versions of the Powersuite range has is the inability to save projects but the full version isn’t cheap so you’d need to be using it regularly to justify the asking price.
7. Schema Creator
I mentioned earlier about the importance of incorporating rich snippets or microformats into your website where possible (and I don’t mean creating false reviews or product ratings, but that’s another story). This excellent little online tool helps anyone who is not entirely confident writing html (like me) to easily input your data and simply copy the code it creates to your website’s html. You can mark up product details, upcoming events, movies and of course, reviews. If done properly this semantic mark up can really improve your site’s click through rates by making your listings stand out more in the SERPs. Here’s an example of how IMDB have incorporated the review and movie microformats in the one listing:
If any of you regularly write in your blogs I absolutely implore you to update your Google+ profile and add authorship to your site. This tool will help you create your rel=author tags which will be associated with your Google+ profile. For WordPress users, there is a handy plugin called Authorsure which simplifies the process but whether you use WordPress or not, get this sorted out because authorship authority has a direct correlation to rankings and I believe this is only going to become more important as time goes on. Here’s how my mugshot looks in the SERPs:
Pingdom is a website monitoring service which checks your site’s uptime and response times at set intervals from multiple server locations and then gives you a full comprehensive report of how your site is performing. Frankly, I can’t believe that this service is free considering the amount of valuable information they provide. I actually changed hosts since signing up with Pingdom because it showed that my site was down far too much and there was far too much variation in the response and load times. Since Google has made site speed and overall user experience a more important ranking factor it’s imperative that we keep a close eye on load times and server up times.
9. Guestpost Bot
Although this isn’t actually a free tool (it costs around $9) it’s cheap as chips and it’s brilliant for finding (yeah you guessed it!) guest posting opportunities on niche related blogs. It can be a little buggy to be honest but for €7 it’s a steal. Just type in a couple of keywords related to your niche and it’ll find a load of blogs that accept guest posts. Voila!
N.B. I’m not affiliated with any of these products or services and am merely sharing some of the free tools that I came across while learning SEO myself, many of which I still use today. If anyone can suggest additional free tools or software please feel free to add them in the comments section below.