Can’t keep up with Google’s ever-changing Panda and Penguin updates? (You’re forgiven: the algorithm changed more than 500 times in 2012.) Still using the same underperforming keywords? Wondering why your site’s page rank crashed over night? Search engine optimization requires constant attention; you cannot simply optimize a few pages for a popular keyword and then forget about it. SEO rules continue evolving to emphasize content quality and sociability. Your competitor are refining their sites’ optimization strategy – you must refine your SEO approach, too.
In 2013, resolve to stay ahead of the curve by putting the best SEO tools to work for your website. From discovering new keywords to tracking content engagement, these four free online tools will help jump-start your website’s SEO.
Discover New, High-Performing Keywords: Google Adwords Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator
Finding keywords is more than simply identifying a word or phrase; these keywords also need to be a high commercial value for your website. High commercial value balances search frequency and CPC with competing pages and popularity; the best keyword phrases have a high search frequency without being plastered all over your competitors’ websites.
Google Adwords Keyword Tool helps you tailor your keyword search based on a specific category, ranging from arts & entertainment to jobs & education. Refine your keyword ideas by country, language and device (e.g. computer v. mobile). Check out Google Trends to see how often a word is searched relative to other trending terms. Use the “phrase” match type to generate a list of keywords and then download the results in a CSV file for analysis in Excel. Use the data to evaluate your competition’s strength (estimated average CPC) and keyword popularity (global monthly searches) to determine a keyword’s commercial value.
Keep an Eye on the Competition: SEMRush
This advanced online SEO tool combines the best of advanced keyword searches and competition research. Track how your site (or your closest competitor’s site) is performing on Google and Bing. Find hidden keywords used by your competitors, track the most commonly searched terms, and compare performance for the most expensive and competitive keywords. The free version, while limited to 10 queries per day and 10 results per query, includes all the bells and whistles of the paid version.
Track Analytics and Content Engagement: Google Analytics
Google Analytics offers comprehensive information split between five main categories: audience, advertising, traffic sources, content and conversions. If you are just getting started with SEO, not all of this data may be relevant and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Start by identifying your current conversion rates and content engagement levels. What pages have high bounce rates? What content is the most popular? Is one menu option more popular than all the others on your homepage?
One of Google Analytics’ most useful features is the visual breakdown it offers users for content interactivity. From your Google Analytics account, go to Content -> In-Page Analytics. From here you can select any page on your website (such as the home page), and compare content popularity. To track your content’s “sociability”, go to Audience -> Social -> Engagement. You can track unique social actions (e.g., tweets or re-shares) and total social actions taken. Wondering exactly what visitors do on your website? Go to Audience -> Behavior -> Engagement for an in-depth breakdown, including visitor time spent on each part of your site.
Analyze Site Speed: GTmetrix
Are your bounce rates high? The culprit may be your site’s slow load time. Today’s web is faster and more efficient than ever– and today’s web user is in an even bigger rush, especially when accessing mobile website. According to GTmetrix, studies show that users leave a site if it hasn’t loaded in 4 seconds. GTmetrix tracks site load time, using both Google Page Speed and Yahoo! YSlow to grade a website’s performance. If your site clocks in at a slow speed, GTmetrix will offer recommendations for how to speed things up.
Moving Beyond Page Rank: Tracking Content Quality and Sociability
These four SEO tools are one part of a holistic approach to creating quality, engaging content. Obsessively tracking page rank or refining keyword phrases can only take your website so far. Content quality is just as important as content optimization. Yes, keywords matter. But when creating your content, don’t lose sight of its themes and relevancy.
Social media integration matters, too. “Sociable” content – as defined by shares, likes, tweets and comments – signals to Google that your content is relevant and, consequently, should be ranked higher in search engine results. The Google+ social search platform, for example, prioritizes content that is also liked by friends on Google+, although this search feature can be toggled off.
While extremely useful for enhancing website optimization, even the best SEO tools in the world can’t make up for poorly written or inaccurate content. Use these tools to help refine your SEO strategy and track your performance. But remember, at the end of the day, you are creating content for customers, not search engines.
Let us know what tools you’re using for SEO in the comments below!