If you already know what SEO is and why you should care about it, I won’t waste your time — feel free to skip ahead to the, “5 Free Tools to Help Build Your SEO Strategy.” section.
If you’re not yet sure or convinced of why SEO matters for your blog or business, start here.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means setting your blog, website, social media, products, or videos up in a way that is ideal for search engines.
A proper SEO configuration can help you be the result that shows up on page 1 of Google, Pinterest, YouTube, Amazon, or any other searchable platform and dramatically increase your reach and the traffic looking at your product or page.
It’s about increasing your organic (free) reach by understanding what the searcher wants, and showing the search engine how you provide it to them.
Note: From this point on, I will refer to “searchers” and “traffic” as “customers” because whether you sell a product or not, you’re eventually (I assume) hoping to monetize your website in some way.
Why should I care?
If you don’t show up when people are looking for your product, page, or service, then your competitor will. You’ll lose a lot of potential sales because you weren’t even in the running.
SEO best practices give you an improved chance of being there when your customer is looking for you.
Think of the last time you googled a question or searched for a product. How many pages were you willing to search through before you clicked on one? I’d imagine one, and for less than one percent of you, maybe two.
Most of us don’t even scroll very far down on page one. Over 30% of people don’t even go beyond the first result.
“The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR [Click-Through-Rate] of 31.7%.” — Backlinko
That’s the power of building your SEO strategy.
What are some of the key things search engines look for in SEO rankings?
The search engine you’re using — whether it’s Google, Pinterest, Amazon, YouTube, Bing, or something else — is running a business.
They’re looking for the website, video, or product that will give their customer (the searcher) the most relevant answer or product.
How does an algorithm gauge relevance to the searcher’s intention?
For Google, which is the focus of this article, it uses things like backlinks (the number of websites that link to your website as a source of information), shares (the number of people who found enough value in your website to pass it on to others), and consistency (how frequently you offer answers to relevant questions — a one-off answer is weak, a lot of relevant answers shows expertise).
It also judges your website based on load time (how long it takes for your page to fully load once it’s clicked on), session duration (how long people stay on your website) and bounce rate (how many people click away before it has fully loaded) to decide on the strength of your page.
While SEO is complex and these only scratch the surface of the complicated algorithm best practices, let’s get into the free tools designed to help you with these tasks.
5 Free Tools to Help Build Your SEO Strategy.
Disclaimer: These tools are completely free to use in the capacity I have described them and you do not need to purchase anything if you don’t want to. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links should you choose to go with a paid upgrade which helps to support my small business. Thank you for your support!
Answer the Public is a free visual key phrase generator. It takes the search term you provide and generates commonly searched questions or phrases relevant to your keyword.
Why I love it:
It gives you insight into why people use the keyword. You’ll be able to see if a keyword you think is perfect for your site may not be after all, because people don’t search it the way you think they do.
It also gives you long-tail keyword ideas for relevant topics that you can use and try to rank for — I often use it to generate blog post topics that will be rankable, relevant, and useful for my target market.
Browseo.net is a tool that allows you to see what the search engines see when they crawl your website. It strips away the styling and lets you see it objectively from the algorithm’s perspective.
Why I love it:
By focusing on the simple data, you’re able to quickly see what words the search engine would logically rank your page for based on the information you’re giving it. It also clearly shows your header tags (H1-H6 — the things you’re telling Google are the most important on your page), the number of external links you have, and any redirect errors.
The META information is also clear (for example, you’ll be able to see if you’ve provided a description for your website or if the search engine is trying to put one together for you).
SEMRush gives you user-friendly access to the keywords you’re organically ranking for and helps you find new keywords to target or places to expand your reach.
It shows you any backlinks you’ve accumulated, can track keywords over time, and can crawl your website for errors.
Why I love it:
SEMRush shows you the organic keywords your page ranks for, how it ranks, and the value of each keyword (how much advertisers are paying to rank for that same word).
My favorite tool is the Topic Research tool. You can type in a topic and it will give you content ideas to rank higher for that keyword and expand your reach by analyzing who is ranking for that keyword and why.
4. Google Console.
Google Search Console is a free service Google offers that allows you to help Google understand your website.
You’ll rank on Google SERPs (search engine results pages) with or without using the console. The search engine will crawl and index your page regardless, but it is helpful to get an understanding of (and take back a bit of control for) how you rank across Google.
Why I love it:
Google Search Console gives you reliable insights into its algorithm and how it impacts your website.
It gives you access to any pages that have linked to your website, troubleshoot any issues it finds when crawling your page (like an issue with mobile, for example), and request Google reindex your page if needed (due to changes or updates).
Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that is constantly looking for the keywords based on your searches.
Why I love it:
Even when I’m not consciously looking for related keywords to my Google searches, it is there. It reminds me of the opportunity in every search to drill down to a niche keyword and make an impact on my SEO rankings.
While the metrics behind the results cost money (“credits”) to obtain, I find it effective to use these keyword ideas and plug them into other keyword tools to double-check their opportunity for ranking and relatability to my page.
SEO is an always-important and ever-changing game, so keeping up with the tools designed for SEO is a great way to understand it and keep your knowledge up-to-date.
Remember: SEO is a long-term game and not every page on your website needs to rank on its own — it can be useful to create resources that interest people who are already on your page, (i.e. posts geared toward turning a visitor into a subscriber or customer).
The key to success is always to provide relevant and engaging content for your customers.