If it’s one thing you and I can agree on, it’s the fact that SEO can get incredibly complicated. It’s difficult to know which strategies actually work right this minute (since the 800 pound gorilla known as Google changes their algorithms multiple times a year), which tools will help your SEO efforts, how much money you’ll need to invest to have the entire toolkit you may need, learning how to use all of these tools…
The list goes on and on.
By the end of this article, you will have full knowledge of the exact tools you will need to build out your entire SEO strategy from start to finish.
Best of all most of these tools are either free or have free options available.
This article will cover all of the SEO tools you need, as well as go over each step of the process where you would use each tool. This way there would be no question as to how or when to use the tool in question.
With that said, let’s get started by first talking about the cornerstone tools for everyone who is serious about building a long-term SEO strategy.
First, Grab and Set Up Your SEO Starter Tools
These tools are the cornerstone of your overall SEO strategy. All of the tools in this category are free to use, and you will be using them daily to track your progress.
The Google Search Console is a powerful tool that’s designed to help you track your site’s performance in Google Search. It’s packed with useful features such as:
- Seeing which keywords bring you the most traffic
- Submitting a sitemap
- Fixing website errors
- Receiving messages from the Google search team
- …and much more.
To get started, you’ll need to verify your Search Console account. There are five ways of verifying your account:
When you click on each radio button, Google will open a drop-down set of instructions to follow. For example, if you click on HTML file upload, you will get this set of instructions:
Follow the instructions to register your site, click the reCaptcha to tell Google you’re not a robot, then click “Verify.”
If you are using WordPress for your site, we strongly recommend using Yoast SEO (also listed below). Yoast SEO helps significantly in this verification process. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep the plugin active to maintain that verification.
Bing, accounts for ⅓ of all searches online. On top of that, Bing Webmaster Tools has a tremendous built-in keyword research tool.
Google Analytics is a powerful free tool that allows you to see:
- How much traffic you get from Google
- The pages on your site that bring you the most traffic
- If your traffic is increasing (and by how much)
- Other sites, pages and search engines that send you traffic
- Your average bounce rate
- Page views
- Time on site
According to CMSWire, these are the ten most important items you should track in Google Analytics for 2018:
1. Mobile Traffic
Google has just released a “mobile-first” index, effectively prioritizing mobile sites over desktop sites. Be sure you prepare your site for a mobile audience.
To check Mobile Traffic data go to Audience → Mobile.
2. Site Speed
You have 2 seconds to capture the attention of your readers. If they spend that time waiting for your site to load, that reader will disappear and most likely never come back. Google has also called site loading speed one of its top ranking factors.
To check Site Speed data go to Behavior → Site Speed.
Setting up goals and e-commerce tracking helps marketers show Google that they are promoting content, products, and services that people are interested in.. Connecting all of your Google products (such as YouTube and AdWords) to Google Analytics will help make your paid and unpaid marketing campaigns more effective.
To check Conversions data go to Conversions → (various options).
4. Search Console
To supercharge and simplify your SEO efforts, connect Google Analytics with the Google Search Console. When you do, you’ll see your Search Console information directly inside of your Google Analytics account.
To get to your Search Console go to Acquisition → Search Console.
When you meet a goal, Google will attribute the conversion to the last click related to that goal, meaning if they initially land on your site from an organic search, and then they come back from a Facebook retargeting ad to buy from you, Facebook will get the credit for that conversion. This can cause people to overvalue specific pieces of a campaign while ignoring the other touch points involved in making that sale. To avoid this misunderstanding of your data, you will want to use the Model Comparison Tool. This will allow you to compare up to three attribution models and help you get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your different channels.
To check Attribution data go to Conversions → Model Comparison Tool.
Benchmarking compares the performance of your site with other sites that share their information with Google. Benchmarking uses metrics such as
- Site performance by channels (Ex: social or display ads)
- Devices (mobile, desktop, and tablet)
- User flow (by city, country, browser, and so on)
To check Benchmarking data go to Audience → Benchmarking.
When you enable Google Analytics Advertising Reporting features, you get access to demographic data such as visitors’:
- Interest category, based on online travel and purchasing activities
Keep in mind, if you do activate Google’s Advertising features, you must notify your website visitors.
To check Demographics data go to Audience → Demographics.
8. Frequency and Recency
This metric lets you see how many times users visit your site, and how many days there are between visits. This is useful when you apply the conversions segment to this metric. This reveals data about how many visits it takes a visitor to convert over a specified period of time if they’re not purchasing from the first visit to your site.
To check Frequency & Recency data go to Audience → Behavior → Frequency & Recency.
9. New vs. Returning Visitors
This metric tells you how good your content is at getting people to return to your site. This is good to know since returning visitors are more likely to become customers than first-time visitors. This information will help you decide to adjust your content, and by how much.
To check New vs. Returning data go to Audience → Behavior → New vs. Returning.
With Real-Time data you can see what’s happening on your site right this minute. You can see where you’re getting the most referrals, the most social traffic, which pages are most active, and more.
To check Real-Time data go to Real-Time.
Find Your Most Profitable Keywords With These Keyword Research Tools
You cannot have an SEO strategy, short or long term, without keyword research. You need the right tools to tell you exactly which keywords you want to target, and which keywords in your niche for which you would have the best luck ranking on the top of the search results.
Let’s go over each keyword research tool in your arsenal.
This tool goes through Google Suggest keywords much quicker. Just type in your root keyword, and KeywordTool.io will pull out as many suggestions from Google as it can find.
There is a pro version where you can see the search volume and 12-month trend data, as well as get up to 2x more keyword results.
Google’s Keyword Planner is technically designed for Google AdWords, but it’s still a handy tool for SEO keyword research.
You will need a Google AdWords account to use this tool, but it only takes a few minutes to set up. Just follow the prompts, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
SEMRush Keyword Magic gives you massive amounts of data. Just enter your seed keyword, and you will get info like additional keyword suggestions, and for each keyword, you get information on:
- Search volume
- Keyword Difficulty Percentage (lower is better)
- Cost Per Click
- SERP Features
- Search Results
- A direct link to Google’s search results page.
With this tool, you can find low-competition keywords that are easy to rank for. Just enter in the seed keyword you want to use, then wait for the results to pop up. You can quickly narrow down the results using the filter options just above the results list.
To use this tool, you will need to create a free account with SEMRush.
Answer The Public is not a keyword research tool per se, but it does show you questions that people search for online. This way you can answer these questions with your content. This will give you the 30,000-foot view for which topics you want to start with before narrowing your options with keyword research.
Help Google Understand Your Content With The Help of On-Page SEO Tools
There aren’t any tools that will do your on-page SEO for you, but it is essential to have a guide with you to show you how to best optimize your content for the keywords you choose to target.
If you use WordPress, here is the tool we recommend.
Yoast SEO for WordPress
Yoast makes it easy to optimize your WordPress site for search engines. It also helps out with the technical stuff, like robots.txt and sitemaps. Yoast SEO is free to use, but it does have more advanced features you can also purchase in a pro version.
SEO Tools to Kill the Technical Problems
The harsh reality if SEO is this: if Google can’t read or access your site, they will not rank your site. The tools below (Google provides two of them) will help you clear up all of the technical issues you may face in your site setup, and help you get your site up to speed for both Google and your audience.
As mentioned earlier, Google now uses a “Mobile-First Index,” which means that if your site isn’t mobile-optimized, it won’t rank well at all.
Thankfully, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check if your site is mobile friendly in Google’s eyes.
Broken links can devastate your SEO efforts, so you want to find your broken links and fix them as quickly as possible.
The easiest way to find these broken links is a tool called DrLinkCheck. It’s a free tool that scans your (or any other) site for broken links.
If your site doesn’t load quickly, it will not rank. To check your loading speed go to PageSpeed Insights, a free tool from Google that lets you know how fast your website loads for both desktop and mobile users.
Best of all, it even tells you how you can speed things up.
When your site goes down, not only do your visitors get upset, so does Google.
Thankfully there is a tool you can use called Pingdom that will track your site’s downtime. Once it detects that your site is down, they will send you a notification so you can fix it ASAP.
Make Your Content Stand Out with Schema Markups
On the search engines (particularly with Google) you need to have a way to make your link stand out from the rest of the crowd. The tool below will help you do just that.
Google Structured Data Testing Tool (for Schema markups)
Schema markup helps Google and other search engines understand your content better. As a result, Schema can boost your rankings.
Also, it makes your link stand out to the people searching on Google.
However, implementing Schema can be incredibly difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Thankfully, Google has shown mercy on us by blessing us with a Structured Data Testing Tool to help out with implementing Schema markups for our site.
Use These White Hat Off-Page SEO Tools to Know Thy Enemy and Ethically Steal Their Backlinks
There is no real white hat method to automate the act of generating quality backlinks to your website. However, there are tools you can use to make this process as efficient and effective as possible.
Sometimes the best tool you can have at your disposal is your competitors. In this case, you can look at your competitors’ link sources and replicate their success.
To do this, you’ll want to use a link analysis tool such as SEMRush. We mentioned one of their tools, earlier, the Keyword Magic Tool, but SEMRush is capable of doing so much more in one capable package.
Once you go to the site you want to follow this process:
- Get your competitor’s URL
- Enter it into the tool
- Copy as many of their links as possible
You won’t be able to match all of them (as your competitor may have relationships with the site owners) but a good majority of these links should be easy to copy (such as links from guest posts, interviews, and so on).
Wrapping It Up
Now you have a clearer idea of the tools you want to use (and invest in, if necessary) to kick your SEO strategy into high gear as soon as possible. You should now have a full understanding as to what each tool does, and where to use each of these tools in your SEO efforts.
However, even with these tools to simplify the process, implementing a long-term SEO strategy takes a lot of time and effort. This is a task that should be left to SEO specialists while you handle tasks that only you can do to grow your business. Let us take the burden off of your shoulders. Click here to schedule a strategy session with us, and let us see how we can take your entire marketing strategy, including your SEO efforts, to the next level.