The effectiveness of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is heavily dependent upon the tools you use. Neglecting to use the right tools will place you at a disadvantage to your competitors, resulting in the gradual decline of your website's search rankings. If you're working with a tight marketing budget, though, you should avoid purchasing overpriced premium tools, many of which charge an ongoing monthly or annual subscription fee. Instead, try using the seven following SEO tools to succeed in 2019, all of which are free.
#1) Google Analytics
According to W3Techs, Google Analytics is the single most popular tool for analyzing website traffic, accounting for 85.5 percent of the entire market. Available at analytics.google.com, it's a free website analytics service that allows you to measure user performance metrics of your website. You can use your current Google account to access it, but you'll need add your website in order to gather user performance insights. Just follow the instructions by agreeing to Google's privacy terms and adding the Global Site Tag to immediately after the <HEAD> tag of your website's pages, after which Google Analytics will collect data on your website's visitors. According to W3Techs, it's the single most popular tool for analyzing website traffic, accounting for 85.5 percent of the entire market.
Google Analytics can provide invaluable insight into how visitors interact and engage with your website. The tool features a sidebar menu with several main categories of reports, including Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition and Behavior. And there are subcategories under each of these main categories to further break down user performance metrics of your website.
Using Google Analytics, you can measure user performance metrics like:
• Total pageviews
• Unique pagviews
• Average time on page
• Bounce rate
• Exit rate
• Visitor demographics
• New vs returning visitors
• Average session duration
• Average number of pages per session
• Web browser usage
• Operating system usage
• Traffic acquisition channels (organic search, direct, referral or social)
#2) Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is another free SEO tool offered by Google. Previously branded as Google Webmaster Tools, it differs from Google Analytics by focusing specifically on search performance metrics rather than user performance metrics. Just log in to your Google account, visit search.google.com/search-console, and then add and verify your website.
After verifying your website, you can use GSC to measure search performance metrics like organic impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), page rankings, backlinks and more. If you have a sitemap, you can also submit it to Google using GSC. Providing Google with a sitemap of your website increases crawling activity and encourages a higher number of indexed pages.
#3) Moz's Open Site Explorer
Moz has become one of the most prolific SEO service providers in the world, offering a variety of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools to help webmasters achieve higher search rankings. One of the Seattle-based company's most useful SEO tools is Open Site Explorer. Available at moz.com/link-explorer, it allows you to quickly and easily analyze your website's backlinks as well as your competitors' backlinks. Just enter a URL and Open Site Explorer will reveal the page's total number of inbound links, where those links are located, anchor text, Domain Authority, Spam Score and more.
Moz's Open Site Explorer is an invaluable tool that can help you create a more SEO-friendly backlink portfolio. Using it, you can identify potential harmful backlinks -- those with a high Spam Score -- which you can tell Google to ignore using the search engine's disavow tool. Furthermore, Open Site Explorer allows you to spy on your competitors, revealing the location of their backlinks so that you can duplicate them with your website.
Although Moz offers a premium version of Open Site Explorer, even the free version is still useful for SEO. It allows you to run up to 10 backlink reports per month. For additional reports, you'll need to upgrade your account to Moz Pro, which starts at $99 per month.
Available at semrush.com, SEMRush is a powerful SEO tool with a variety of useful features. You can use it to run a backlink reports, research keywords, track search rankings, conduct an SEO audit, manage your social media accounts, monitor brand mentions, analyze content and more.
SEMRush even provides insight into display ads on Google and Bing. If you advertise your website on Google Ads or Bing Ads, you can use this tool to spy on your competitors. Among other things, SEMRush can reveal your competitors' top-performing keywords, ad copies, daily budget, traffic and estimated cost per clicks (CPCs).
Like Moz's Open Site Explorer, SEMRush is also available in free and paid versions. The Pro plan costs $99.95 per month and allows you to run up to 3,000 reports per day, with each report displaying a maximum of 10,000 results. The free version is more restrictive, but it's still a useful SEO tool that can help you climb the search rankings.
Choosing the right keywords is an essential step to planning an SEO strategy. While you can always use Google's Keyword Planner tool to research prospective keywords, AnswerThePublic is an alternative keyword research tool that's becoming more and more popular among webmasters. Available at answerthepublic.com, it scans social media networks, news websites, forums and other sources for questions relating to a topic and converts them into keywords.
To use AnswerThePublic, enter your website's main topic or primary keyword and click "Get Questions." It will then display several lists of related keywords, each of which features a different format. Under the "Questions" list, for example, you'll see related keywords structured as a question, whereas the "Comparisons" list displays related keywords structured as a comparison. AnswerThePublic can provide you with hundreds or even thousands of new keywords to target with your SEO strategy.
#6) Yoast SEO
If you're trying to optimize a WordPress website for higher search rankings, check out the Yoast SEO plugin. Available to download for free at wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo, it's the Swiss Army knife of SEO tools for WordPress websites. Once installed and activated, Yoast SEO will add a suite of new features to your website's admin dashboard that you can use to further improve your search rankings.
With Yoast SEO, you can set up breadcrumb navigation, use canonical URLs to prevent duplicate content issues, define focus keywords for posts and pages, create custom title tags and meta descriptions, preview the way in which search engines will display your posts and pages, create a sitemap and more. There's a premium version of Yoast SEO available for $89, but the free version contains all the aforementioned features.
#7) Google's Mobile Friendly Test
Now that Google has finished rolling out mobile-first indexing, using a mobile-friendly design is no longer optional to succeed on Google; it's a requirement. If you don't, visitors trying to use your website on a smartphone or tablet will experience performance issues. To see if your website complies with Google's mobile-friendly design standards, use the search engine's testing tool at search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly.
Google's mobile-friendly testing tool will analyze your website's code to determine if it's compatible on mobile devices. If your website fails the test, you'll see the message: "Page is not mobile friendly," along with the specific problems that caused it to fail.
Optimizing your website for first-page rankings shouldn't cost a fortune. After all, one of the benefits of SEO is its ability to drive traffic at little or no cost. That being said, it's always recommended that you consider hiring a reputable firm, like Horton Group, to do the heavy lifting. We have the knowledge, expertise and experience to provide proven strategies and informative reporting. If you need to speak with someone to get advice about your SEO goals, you can use our secure contact form, or you can call us during business hours at (615) 292-8642. We look forward to working with you!