Top 7 Free SEO Tools for Small Business Owners

Search engine optimization involves a lot more than just keywords and XML tags. Effective SEO requires market research, competitive analysis, coding, evaluation of website analytics, content marketing, and converting visitors into customers or followers. Choosing the right tools is the key to accomplishing all the work needed for competent SEO. Fortunately, many of these tools are available for free:

1. Google Analytics

This is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of SEO professionals. All it takes is a few lines of code implemented into a website to unleash a treasure trove of insights about visitors, their actions on your website and their preferences.

One of the best features of this tool is the vast amount of learning and training resources available to beginners and advanced users alike. The free version of Google Analytics is powerful enough to be used by Fortune 500 companies; the premium version has, even more, features that can be used to fine-tune SEO, content and website layout strategies.

2. Google Search Console

Similar to Google Analytics, this tool is a must-have for website administrators, SEO practitioners, and internet marketers. Previously known as Webmaster Tools, the Search Console can be used to see how Google crawls and indexes a website so that improvements can be made.

One of the most powerful features of this tool includes the Disavow Link option to eliminate negative inbound URLs. Another useful function is the crawl report, which lists errors that should be corrected to improve page rank and search engine visibility.

3. Google Keyword Planner

Another fantastic free tool offered by Google; this one is actually part of the AdWords online advertising machine but it can be freely used to conduct keyword research and to analyze search trends.

It is important to remember that the estimates given for monthly search volume may not be accurate, particularly since Google intends to get users to launch AdWords campaigns. Nonetheless, this is a great tool to evaluate longtail keywords. Since the Keyword Planner is plugged into Google Search Insights, users can trust that their research will be current and congruent with ongoing search trends.

4. Moz Open Site Explorer

One of the most important aspects of modern SEO is to cultivate good backlinking practices, which can be greatly augmented with this tool by Moz, a very respected name in online marketing.

The ranking of websites by domain authority is very useful not only in terms of pursuing inbound links but also to get ideas on potential content and layout strategies. The Site Explorer determines the keywords that are actually working for websites based on visitors and content, thus allowing administrators to work on increasing the authority of their pages.

5. MozBar

This abbreviated version of Open Site Explorer provides a lot of functionality in a single browser bar. With a single click of the Moz button, the bar provides users with Domain and Page Authority metrics according to various search profiles that can be customized to account for the geolocation of the searchers.

With the MozBar, search profiles can also be changed with just a couple of clicks to learn more about the browsing and searching habits of audiences in other countries. With the premium version of this tool, users can also view the keyword difficulty for any search term or string, and they can also investigate the page optimization options related to specific keywords.

6. Yoast

Hands down, this is the best SEO plugin for WordPress websites. The best way to use Yoast is to install it at the same time the website is being created. By doing so, website administrators will be able to create the global metadata necessary to start publishing and optimizing.

Once new pages or posts are ready to be posted, the Yoast plugin examines the content and structure to issue SEO recommendations based on a traffic light scheme of red, yellow and green. Content creators who use Yoast regularly will notice themselves becoming more proficient in terms of creating blog posts, articles and new pages that are truly SEO-friendly.

7. SEMRush

This is the tool recommended by SEO professionals for advanced keyword research. The powerful features of SEMRush are intuitive and easy enough to use for the benefit of small business owners and website administrators who handle their own SEO.

For many users, SEMRush will feel as the only tool they will need for their online marketing needs. Users can access keyword intelligence for any website to learn how frequently those terms appear in search queries every month. SEMRush integrates with the SEOBook and SEOQuake products created by associate developers. The free version of this tool allows a few searches each day; with the premium version, users get more insight and freedom to explore more keywords.

In the end, becoming proficient with SEO requires some research to learn the basics followed by constant practice that can be accomplished by regular use of the tools listed herein. Small business owners who master the use of these tools will be well on their way to staying ahead of their competitors.

How Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm Change Will Drastically Affect Your Website’s Traffic [INFOGRAPHIC]

How To Make Search Engines Love Your Small Business Website

SEO or search engine optimization represents a set of techniques and practices used to optimize the website and raise its ranking in the search engine results page. When executed properly, it is an excellent way to increase traffic coming towards your website and is particularly useful for small businesses which don’t have the same budget for advertising as large companies do. However, bad SEO can have quite the adverse effect and could potentially result in getting your website completely omitted from the search results.

Mobile-first and responsive web design are a must!

Considering the fact that over a half of all internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, it’s important to have a website which is mobile-first, or at least responsive. This is one of the key factors the search algorithm looks for when ranking your website, so make sure to avoid spending all your time, effort and resources into making a desktop-first website only to have it outranked by the competition. Well, the optimized mobile-first website allows for a better mobile user experience, which is another factor you have to take into consideration.

Create a Blog

Search engines absolutely love blogs. To be more specific, they love well-written and regularly updated content and blogging is by far the easiest way to generate content regularly. You can use it for a number of different purposes, such as keeping the public up to date with the latest website developments or answering any questions customers might have. Additionally, a blog is an excellent way to engage with customers as it allows them to leave comments and reviews, which is known in the industry as passive content.

Produce Engaging Content

Once you’ve set up both your website and the blog, it’s time to fill them with content. All the content you produce must be original, relevant and most importantly engaging. The best way to ensure that is to use content and keyword research, which will give you information about how people search for products and services and incorporate that information into your content creation process. Use appropriate title tags and meta descriptions for each post you make and don’t forget to properly name and optimize the images.

Use Appropriate Keywords

Once you’ve done the research, it’s time to incorporate those keywords into your content, using the best available keyword research tools. They are vital for any SEO strategy, as they help both the users and search engines with figuring out what your website is about. The best way to do this is to separate the pages on your website that have content on and use separate keywords for separate pages. By doing that you direct the customer towards a page which is best suited for answering their questions. Avoid overstuffing your articles with keywords, as this will only get your website down-ranked by the search engines.

Focus on local SEO

Setting organic search results aside, you also want to rank well within local pack listings. To start, you should open up a Google My Business page with proper description, category, contact information and information describing the purpose of your business, high-quality profile and cover picture and if relevant, closing and opening hours. NAP or name, address, and phone number consistency are also important so make sure to make that information accessible from every page of your website. Finally, work on getting reviews from your customers. Although Google reviews are considered to be a top priority, don’t forget to focus on reviews from sites like Yelp and local directories.

Use Analytics to refine your strategies

Measuring and evaluating the results of your search engine optimization efforts is vital for success, as it provides vital information you can use to further tweak and improve your SEO strategy. Google Analytics is an excellent tool for measuring organic traffic over time and providing you with information regarding your target audience. This includes what browser they’re using, from where and when did they access your website, how long they’ve stayed on each page, etc. You can use this insight to further improve the visitor’s browsing experience.


Focus on Social Media Marketing

One of the best ways to grow and maintain your brand’s influence is to use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other niche communities. Include links to your social media profiles on your website and maintain them regularly. Social media is excellent for engaging with your customers, and also provides you with additional marketing without any cost. Google and other search engines rank interconnected websites higher than those with no social media links. And it works wonders for positive brand association and awareness.

Author bio: Steven Clarke is a digital marketing specialist at SEO Adelaide. In his spare time, he likes to write about his ideas and share them with the world. Steven is a regular contributor to several websites.

 

The Go-to Checklist for Launching Your Website

The coding is finished, your pages are filled with content, and your website is complete. You can finally hit that “publish” button for your website to go live. But, wait. Before you hit that button, you’ll want to be absolutely certain you’ve crossed every “t” and dotted every “i”, because going live with a site that is riddled with errors and inconsistencies looks highly unprofessional.

Think about all the details behind your website. Have you double checked whether there are any broken links? Are all the hyperlinks correct? Have you labeled the pages and meta descriptions properly? Are there any spelling errors on your page? Is your contact form working?

Here are some of the most critical things to check when launching an error-free website.

Design Checklist

The design of your website is like your storefront. It showcases all your information, while allowing visitors to navigate seamlessly through the pages. Here are a few things to check when you’re reviewing the designs of your website:

  • Check for improper spacing

Sometimes, there may be awkward, inconsistent spacing after your header, between paragraphs and on either side of a bulleted list. Go through each of your pages to confirm the spacing is easy on the eyes.

  • Ensure that the website is responsive

By now, having a responsive website is a must. Check every page of your site on various devices to ensure the site adjusts properly to different screen sizes.

  • Colour, font, and image size consistency across pages and devices

You want to ensure that your page is consistent throughout all the pages. Look through each page and check that the font matches.

  • Headers, paragraphs, and lists are functioning properly

The HTML coding of your paragraphs and lists can sometimes be distorted. Go through your content to ensure these are spaced properly and have the correct paragraph style.

  • Ensure that your site loads fast

Page load speed is one of the most important factors that govern your bounce rate. Always check your pages’ performance in Google Page Speed Insights or Pingdom Speed Test to test and analyze page elements. The above tools also offer advice on what page elements you need to optimize for speed.

SEO Checklist

Making sure your website is SEO friendly is extremely important if you want your website to rank on search engines. To avoid getting punished by Google after your website launches, try some of these best practices to launch an SEO-friendly website.

  • Check for dummy content

When creating a website, many developers use dummy copy to stand-in for anything that hasn’t yet been written and finalized. Try using a Lorem Ipsum Scanner to check your pages are free of all dummy content.

  • Create an XML Sitemap

A sitemap tells search engines about the organization of your website’s content. If you want your site to get ranked, make sure you have a sitemap to improve the crawling of your website. Plugins like Yoast SEO make this super simple.

  • Proper metadata are in place

Metadata allows search engine crawlers to find information about your website. These metadata provide information and a description of the content on your page.

  • Check that all tracking codes are functioning

You might have all the codes implemented on your website, but are you sure all of these are running properly? If codes are forgotten or placed incorrectly, any conversions or visits to your website may not be tracked.

  • URL redirections

If your site is new, then you may not encounter the issue of URL redirections. However, if you’re trying to redirect old pages to a new page, it’s important that a 301 redirect is in place.

If you use WordPress, the Redirection plugin is a handy tool for this.

  • Contact information is up-to-date

To rank locally on search engines, make sure that your contact information is up-to-date. This includes your office hours, address, and phone number. The information needs to appear on your website and match your local business listings. It’s essential that in every place your information appears across the web, your information is exactly identical, down to every piece of punctuation.

Content Checklist

In addition to your website’s backend and design, review all the content on your website.  Here are a few things to look at:

  • Correct any inaccuracies

Whether it is your “about us” page, contact information, and product or service pages, ensure that all information provided is accurate. This includes the service areas of your business, product information, and most importantly, any pricing and promotions.

  • Look for spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes

Having great content for your website is amazing, but having improper spelling and other grammar mistakes can be off-putting for visitors. Have an editor or content specialist review your website and check for any spelling and grammar mistakes. 

  • Duplicate content

This is critical, especially if you want to rank highly on search engines. Run your website through tools like, Copyscape, to ensure that there isn’t any duplicate content.

  • Hyperlinks in content are directing to correct pages

Often times, we link to other pages to drive users through the website. Ensure that the proper web pages are hyperlinked, and that they are of relevance of the content on that page.

  • Check images and alt-text

Make sure that your alt-texts are relevant. This will help search engines to index your images.

Functionality Checklist

  • Test your forms

Your contact form, newsletter sign-up form, or any forms found on your website need to function properly. You wouldn’t want a customer to submit an inquiry that never gets to your email inbox. This can cause you to lose out on potential customers. 

  • Social sharing features are working

In a social world, having social sharing features is important. Make sure your social sharing buttons are working and the content is optimized with the correct description and title.

  • RSS links

If your website has an RSS feed, make sure it’s easily accessible by your visitors. The RSS feed is great for websites with blogs for your customers to subscribe to.

  • Thank you page is in place

After submitting a form, ensure that a message or page is in place for your customer to know that their request has been placed. A code can also be placed on your thank-you pages to track conversions and leads.

  • Third-party tools and extensions are integrated

Ensure that your CRM, e-Commerce, and any other WordPress or website extensions are working properly and aren’t affecting the functionality of your website.

Your website showcases your brand online and a poor website can affect your business. Before launching your website, go through this checklist so you can confidently hit that “Publish” button.

Author Bio:

Rebecca Hill is the Outreach Coordinator at TechWyse, a premium content marketing and SEO agency in Toronto, Canada. When she isn’t building relationships with bloggers and influencers in the marketing world, she can be seen rooting for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 2 Essentials for Making Your WordPress Website Load Faster

If your website is slow-loading, then you’re losing visitors hand over fist.  What many website owners don’t realize is that even though WordPress has created a revolution in DIY websites, they don’t do much to prevent unsuspecting newbies from creating sites that load like it’s 1999 when we were all using dial up.

Yes, that premium WordPress theme you have looks great, but when you try to stick numerous 2 mb photos you took with your fancy new phone, you might just be bringing the whole thing to a grindingly slow halt.

Here are the two most important things you should do to lighten up your site so it loads faster.

1.  Reduce Your Image File Size

Of course one main source of website bloat has always been images.  We all want fancy, beautiful images to grace our websites, but if you’re not careful they can be the prime reason your website loads slower than most visitors are willing to wait around for.

Reducing your image file size is the first place to start, especially if you’re using a new WordPress themes which features any of the following:

  • Parallax backgrounds
  • Hero images
  • Header sliders

Also consider your blog post feature images, which can line up on your blog home page like a parade of heavy, slow buffaloes and take eons to download.

But you chose smaller sizes when you inserted those images into your post, right?  Doesn’t that reduce the image file size?  Not always.

Here’s what trips up lots of website owners…

Some WordPress themes will stick a full-size image where really all that’s called for is a tiny image.  But the image is small!  you say.  Not quite, and here’s why.

The displayed image might be tiny, but unless you’ve fixed things, when someone visitors your site, it is first loading the full-size image, then shrinking it on the spot to display it smaller.  Total waste of resources.

There are two ways to handle the image problem in WordPress.

You have a choice in how to reduce your image sizes.  You can use photo editing software (pre-upload), or you can enlist the services of a plugin (post-upload).  Personally, I prefer the first method.  Both give the same result, which is exporting your original (heavy) image into a lesser quality (lightweight) image.

But I don’t want bad quality images that look grainy!

Nope, I didn’t say you had to re-export your images into bad quality images.  I recommended “lesser quality”.  Trust me, you won’t be able to tell the difference between a quality measure of 99 and one of 80.  You’ll be cutting the weight down significantly, but not the perceived quality.

This image weighs a gargantuan 460 KBs when exported at a quality rating of 99.  If I turn the rating down to a quality of 75, I can’t really tell the difference and now the weight is down to 72.9 KBs!

For further reading on the image optimization, I recommend this article which covers everything from how to choose the right image format, downsizing the resolution, and compares different online tools and WordPress plugins currently available for reducing image file size.

Let's see how many MBs when can load on there!

Let’s see how many MBs when can load on there!

2.  Cache Your Site

Images aren’t the only things that slow down your website’s load time.  Your website can be large (because of images) or it can also be complex (because of scripts).

Another reason to cache your site.

Shared hosting will suspend your account if your website uses too many resources.  Scripts that constantly run to the database to create portions of your website aren’t necessarily bad, but once you get a lot of fancy plugins going, that’s a lot of script-grabbing taxing the database.

Plus, once you add lots of traffic to the scene, you’re really dealing with a major slowdown in load time.

JS files are now literally heavier than entire websites used to be.

Modern websites almost always have some javascript on them. For a while, that wasn’t the case, but now JS is back in full force and everybody’s using it.

The problem?  A Javascript file may literally be bigger than an entire website was 10 years ago.

Back in the day, the general rule of thumb was you weren’t supposed to use images that were more than 30-70 KBs.  You also weren’t supposed to make websites that were more than 800 pixels wide, and each page was to be no more than 100 KBs.

Now javascript files are like 100 KBs each, and sometimes there are like 5 javascripts on one page!  Plus plugins!  And plugins use javascript too, so you can imagine how ginormous fancy websites are these days.

So, what do cache plugins do, exactly?

Cache plugins will create a text version of your website.  Instead of calls to database, and having to run all the functions in the PHP script to generate the pages, it’s taking the output of all that and creates a static file of the final HTML.  Then all it needs to do is serve up that one static file whenever someone visits your site.

Cache plugins also put your site on a diet, trimming the fat in several ways to make it lighter so it loads faster.  Here are some of those ways:

  • Minify.  This means stripping the white space out of your javascript and CSS to make those files smaller.  This includes tabs, comments, spaces, and new lines in the CSS files.
  • Grouping of files.  Will combine several script files into one, making it possible to have fewer http requests.  Also does this for CSS files.
  • Packs JavaScript scripts.  

The bottom line.

Examine your photos, and cache your site, that’s really it.  To test the results of your efforts, use tools.pingdom.com or the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to see how fast your website actually loads.  Keep tweaking until you get the speed you need.