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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about making your website easily found and properly categorized or indexed by search engines. When done properly, SEO can help your web page rank higher on queries which means more traffic, which means more customers, which means more money and as a business, we imagine you like money.
When trying to rank well on Google for search terms that are relevant to your business, there are what are known as “white hat” techniques which basically mean they’re sanctioned, acceptable to the search engines. Without getting into what white hat SEO means, it basically comes down to not doing shady stuff to get search engine optimized.
On the flip side, there are the sinisterly named black hat methods. Black hat SEO techniques try to ‘game’ the sytem and manipulate rankings by doing things that are shall we say, dodgy. They try to deceive the search engines into believing your site is more credible than it actually may be. If you use black hat techniques, you do so at your peril. While your “hacks” may work for a while, they may not be good forever. More importantly, you could find yourself not in favor of the Google Gods and be penalized by them and other search engines which could hurt your ranking and result in near total removal from their index. Yes, ouch!
We’re not going to get into black hat methods primarily because we don’t know what they are and primarily because we are a group of law-abiding internet citizens. But you can do things on the “up and up” and to that end, here is a run down of the best free SEO tools and resources we could find for business SEO. As you’ll see there is no magical formula so SEO is an investment of time, but if you’re willing to become a student and use some of these tools, it could have an appreciable impact on your business.
So without further fanfare, here is our list of 18 SEO software applications, diagnostic tools and valuable information sources:
For Background information
1) Google’s very own SEO tutorial is a great starting point. It is complete with a full explanation of the SEO basics from start to end. This is all you need to really understand the ins and outs of SEO basics and it’s coming right from the horse’s mouth.
With an understanding of how SEO works, let’s move on…
Quick and Easy Tools
A Little More Advanced
4) Ranking checker by SEOmoz is a cool ranking tool that allows you to export data in csv files so webmasters can track their site’s progress. There are limits on how many keywords you can track on the free service, so it might be of less use to bigger sites but for smaller sites or those getting started, it may be useful especially as a starting point.
5) Fiddler is one of the best free web debuggers available to webmasters. What’s nice about it is that there are plenty of help forums online (for example, Fiddler on StackOverflow) which means the community is active and your questions may be answered by others. Please note, it only runs in Windows.
6) Raventools offers a pretty advanced diagnostic service. It is usually not free, but now offers a 30 day free trial which might be worth taking advantage of.
7) The SEO Toolset tries to have it all in one place. This is definitely worth a look, not all of their tools will apply to each entrepreneur, but some are certainly of use.
8) The webmaster toolkit also offers a range of tools, some better than others. We are not fans of the Keyword research tool, however, the spider simulator and meta tag generator are both worth a try.
9) We Build Pages put together 4 pretty strong tools: a header checker, search combinator, keyword density analyzer, and a spider viewer.
Browser plugins (convenient for easily accessible real-time SEO data while surfing the web)
11) SeoBook offers three free Firefox plugins. First, the SEO toolbar offers a few useful tools, but nothing unique. Second, The Rankchecker is a pretty cool tool; it offers csv-exportable data, which is great for webmasters that want to track their progress over time. Finally, Seo for Firefox is a very popular choice. This tool provides an enormous amount of accompanying information right on every Google search. All these tools do, however, require Firefox – download for free here.
12) SeoQuake is an alternative plugin for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari that offers some of the same features (but it’s not as advanced) as SeoBook.
13) Chrome SEO is a nice SEO tool specifically for Chrome users. It presents a lot of basic data quickly and in a user friendly fashion, but not the most advanced analysis.
Backlink and Keyword Specific Tools
14) Backlink Tracker keeps tabs on sites that have backlinks to you. It gives alerts when these links are removed or converted to nonfollows as well as daily status reports.
15) Anchor Text Analyzer allows you to see exactly what text is hyperlinked back to your website. This has a large effect on the quality of the backlink (is it a keyword or an irrelevant phrase?). This tool works relatively well, although sometimes misses text.
16) Backlink Summary allows you to check out the competition. Compare the number of backlinks to your site with those of your competitors (which the tool auto-finds). It only gives quantity analysis (ignores the quality of backlinks). Furthermore, the competitor autofinder is not flawless. However, it’s worth a look!
17) Overture built a keyword suggestion tool.
18) Google AdWords is one of the more useful tools that we’ve found for keyword analysis.
So now you have 18 (it’s actually 20 – we screwed up) that can provide you different insights into your website SEO and how to improve them. If there are others that have been helpful to you, please leave them in the comments so we can add them. And if you’ve found any of the tools above to be less valuable, let us know that as well.