While there are plenty of paid tools out there that can be used to tackle a variety of SEO tasks, there are also a number of free tools that are useful, as well. Many of the free tools have been developed by some of the best SEO minds in the industry and each has its own strengths and advantages.
Let’s start with some basics…these tools assess very basic aspects of on-site SEO and don’t require a lot of explanation. That said, the basics are still important and using the right tools to get a quick overview of a site’s on-site SEO is important.
Meta Tag Analyzer from SEOCentro – quick snapshot of a page’s META tag lengths, relevancy to page content, anchor text of links and other useful basics.
Keyword Density Analysis Tool from We Build Pages – while the importance of keyword density is hotly contested in SEO circles, it’s still a good idea to know the keyword density is of a page…if for no other reason than to know if you’re being “spammy”.
SEO Browser – see your site like the search engines see it…no layout, no graphics, just the down and dirty content that they can index. Very useful.
Website Grader from HubSpot – a quick and very high level overview of a site’s overall search engine friendliness. It doesn’t provide much actionable information for SEO industry insiders, but for site owners it will provide a great snapshot and provide them with some valuable information regarding what goes into a search engine friendly website.
Now, on to some bigger and better tools…
This is the tool used most often to research a site’s inlinks. The report is easy to run and easy to understand. In order for the report to accurately reflect the number of links back to site from outside sources, you must configure the result by choosing “Except from this domain” and “Only This URL” from the drop down menus.
Rank Checker from SEOBook.com
There are many instances when you want to know where a site and individual pages of a site rank for a long list of terms. Searching manually would take more time than you’re willing or able to spend. Thanks to the genius of Aaron Wall of SEO Book, all you need to arm yourself with is a Firefox plugin.
Aaron has created a video introduction to his Rank Checker tool – watch it. As I said, this is a Firefox plugin – therefore you must be using Mozilla Firefox in order to use it. If you don’t have Firefox, go download it.
SEO Toolbar from SEOBook.com
It seems as though I have some sort of connection to or bias in favor of SEO Book and Aaron Wall, but the fact is that he just builds some great tools – tools that I can’t imagine being without in carrying out my day-to-day tasks assessing and optimizing websites.
It is wildly useful and kills a hundred birds with one stone – pages indexed, domain age, Compete uniques, Diggs, Stumbles, you name it…if you’re going to try out only ONE TOOL as a result of reading this post, this is THE ONE. Aaron has also created a video introduction to the SEO Toolbar – watch it, too. Again, this is a Firefox plugin, so you will need to install Mozilla Firefox in order to use it.
Why not get the information straight from the horse’s mouth whenever you can, right? This free keyword tool from Google gives you two keyword research options to choose from: 1) research by specific term; or 2) input your site’s URL and the tool will generate terms for you based on your site’s content. There are also a variety of filters available to help you fine tune the results provided by the tool.
If I had to choose just one keyword suggestion tool, this one would be it. One reason I love it is because it separates the results for each term by search engine. The SEOBook tool also provides data for Google Trends, Google Traffic Estimator, Yahoo! Suggest, Google Suggest and more. A great tool…almost hard to believe it’s free.
This is great information, especially for niche sites, because some have a wider audience of Google users, while others have a greater audience of Yahoo! users. Since each search engine develops its own algorithm, the criteria for ranking well in each search engine is different. If your target audience is made up of primarily Yahoo! search users and you optimize primarily for Google, you’re hurting yourself.
Other Invaluable Firefox Plugins
Web Developer Toolbar – this will let you do everything from turning off images to disabling Java & cookies to validating CSS & HTML directly from the browser window.
SEO For Firefox – yep, you guessed it…another tool from SEO Book. One of this tool’s most useful functions, in my opinion, is that it allows you to highlight the NOFOLLOW links on a website page. And yes, there’s a video introduction for this SEO Book tool, too. Aaron covers all his bases.
RankQuest Toolbar – like the other toolbars, this one provides a wide variety of useful information, including an on-demand keyword density analyzer and “show META tags” function, plus much more.
One Last Standalone Tool
Xenu’s Link Sleuth – broken links are bad. I haven’t found a tool yet that provides more thorough or useful information regarding a site’s broken links than this tool. Not only does it report the existence of a broken link, but it also reports the pages on which the broken links are found – very useful in resolving the issue.