If you’re a copywriter, website broker, digital marketer – whatever – in this digital day and age, you need to have a pretty good understanding of SEO tools and best practices to make your content as successful as it can be, for both yourself and your clients.
It’s no longer as simple as cramming as many keywords into your posts as you possibly can. You need to be savvier than keyword density, or Google is going to write you off as spam, and your rankings will take a major hit.
If you’re just starting out, and wondering where to begin wading into the waters of SEO, here’s a starter pack of easy to use SEO tools to help you optimize your content and bring in more traffic, without being flagged and penalized by Google.
The Google Keyword Planner
Few SEO tools are more crucial to understanding where to begin structuring a page and its content than the Google Keyword Planner. This tool can help you determine which keywords are going to bring in the most traffic, and helps you to structure your content and topics around those keywords.
Though keyword density and stuffing isn’t considered a good SEO practice, there’s no doubt that having a natural, frequent amount of repetitions is going to help your pages rank better for searches related to those terms.
The Keyword Planner used to be a free tool, but now you have to set up some ads to get the tool. There are a few clever workarounds to this, but for the most part, it’s clear that Google expects you to use the Keyword Planner in conjunction with a PPC ad campaign, so it’s going to be tough to use it without setting one up.
But hey – what better way to test it? Set a budget, and see what your keyword selection prowess can do.
Take the Keyword Planner for a spin here.
The Moz Chrome Extension
Moz is a fantastic free SEO tool that allows you to get a quick glance at your (and other sites) pages, and the pertinent information to see how SEO practices are helping or hurting.
The Moz extension will give you any page’s domain authority (DA) when turned on, and when maximized, a host of other useful information, including page authority, basic link metrics (more in-depth analysis is available with their paid plan), meta keywords/descriptions, H1 text, and more.
Get the Moz browser extension for Chrome here.
Aside from their handy toolbar, the blog over at Moz is a great way to keep an eye on what Google is up to. Their articles are accessible for both beginner and advanced SEO enthusiasts alike, and provide in-depth information and updates on changes in the way Google works.
You can view a full timeline of Google algorithm changes here.
Varvy – The Google Guideline Checker
This is a rather unique SEO tool that gives your pages a second look to ensure that you’re following the best practices needed to put together pages that Google won’t penalize you for. Google uses several algorithms to penalize sites using unethical SEO practices to boost their rankings, so make sure your site isn’t one of them.
This one is easy-peasy to use, and best of all, it’s free – just input your URL, and Varvy gives you a full, visual breakdown of the parts of your page that are working like they should, and alerts you to red flags that could be affecting your Google rankings.
Everything from security to alt text is covered in this report, and it takes less than a minute to generate. Aside from the obvious keyword strategizing, there are a lot of technical aspects of a page that Google pays attention to when indexing, and Varvy helps you identify those points.
Curious? Check out Varvy here
Yoast SEO – The WordPress Plugin
If you’re running a WordPress site, Yoast has you covered in-house, with a plugin that can optimize your content in real-time, and make sure your strategy stays on target. The free version of Yoast SEO is loaded with handy features that will save you time when engineering your content. I’m a big fan in particular of the ability to set a focus keyword for each post, to optimize the copy for that page.
The premium Yoast SEO tool is worth its weight in gold as well, with a redirect manager that will keep those pesky 404 site bugs from diminishing your rank, unbeknownst to you. When used in conjunction with an algorithmic SEO tool like Text Tools, it’s particularly handy, allowing you to set multiple focus keywords to ensure your content stays relevant and ranked.
Yoast SEO is a motherlode of tools and SEO gadgetry, bundled into a nice, neat plugin package – learn more about Yoast SEO here.
Ahrefs – Still the Best Tool for White Hat Link Builders
Building incoming links to on reputable sites is a great way to build trust with Google, and show them that your content is relevant. The practice of white hat link building goes back to the ‘good neighborhood’ mentality of SEO, by producing backlinks to your content on sites that aren’t spammy, and that are high authority, not only boosting your own traffic, but helping to boost your rankings.
Getting the full picture of your link profile is a little technical, but there are lots of great SEO tools and programs that make it easy. Ahrefs is a fully comprehensive tool for content marketers and website brokers that gives you an in-depth look at where your links are coming from, and how they’re affecting traffic to your pages.
Big name digital marketers like Neil Patel have sung the praises of this tool, and for good reason – it’s the most accurate, comprehensive look you’re going to get at how far your site’s reach is spreading across the web.
Ahrefs is a high-end platform with a monthly subscription rate, but you can give it a try with a free trial to see how you like it first.
Get a free trial of Ahrefs here.
Text Tools – Because Obviously
Shameless plug time – this article wouldn’t be complete without it. The above suggestions are absolutely an excellent place to start implementing actual SEO tool strategies into your content creation, but the reality is, you need to take it a step further if you’re going to outrank sites much larger than your own for a particular keyword.
Text Tools takes keyword research a step further, and gives content creators a list of semantically related keywords to their pages, to help them reach a broader audience. It’s not about keyword stuffing or beating the system – it’s about getting the information you need to make your content more relevant to your readers, which will help your pages rank better organically.
Text Tools is easy to use, and extremely cost-effective, so it’s great for creatives that are still scaling their business and don’t have the funds for high-end services like Ahrefs.
Take a new approach to your keyword usage, and build traffic with natural interest – get Text Tools.
Pingdom – The Site Speed Optimization Tool
Aside from keywords, backlinks, and sitemaps, site speed can really affect how Google indexes your site – slow sites are going to be penalized both by Google and users, and you’ll notice sky-high bounce rates if your pages are taking too long to load.
Pingdom is a handy free SEO tool (with paid pricing options) that gives you an in-depth analysis of your site, providing you with a score, and an itemized list of where your problems and strengths lie with your site’s load time. You can choose the location the test server is in, and identify where to put some work into optimizing your site for your visitors.
Check out Pingdom here to get your site speed optimized.
Remove ‘em – Anchor Text Optimization Tool
I’m kind of in love with this idea. There are so many people out there still over-optimizing their anchor texts and diminishing the quality of those hard-earned links in the process.
This tool takes a look at your anchor text, and gives it to you straight – you’ll get a comprehensive breakdown of the links used, and whether they’re over-optimized to the point of being at risk of getting a penalty from one of Google’s algorithms.
Percentages highlighted in red are cause for concern, but as the site says, this doesn’t necessarily apply to brands, which shouldn’t negatively affect your site. Your target keywords are the ones to pay attention to here.
Remove ‘em is another great free tool with paid premium plans – check it out here.