SEO is the foundation of every sustainable digital marketing strategy, especially when paired with great content. It makes sense to use some of the very handy (and very free) SEO tools out there to the benefit of your business.
Here we’ll take a look at the most common ones and what they do aside from Yoast SEO. We all love Yoast, but it’s not enough to take your SEO game to the next level.
Let’s get to it!
Google Search Console
The first of of Google’s tools (originally launched as Webmaster Tools back in 2006), Google Search Console has been a mainstay of professional SEOs for over a decade.
Search Console can tell you important things like:
- How many people viewed your site in the search results
- How many people clicked on your site in the search results
- The click-through rate (CTR) of your pages in the search results
- Your site’s average position in the search results
That’s what you’d review most often. You just set a date range and away you go!
That’s not all it can do, although the new rebranded version is missing some features from the original version we knew up until 2018. Still, it’s useful for carrying out these tasks:
- Researching which links and domains are pointing toward your site
- Disavowing links from disreputable sites
- Request indexing for specific pages in case Google didn’t pick it up
- Manage errors Google’s experiencing with pages on your site
- Check the performance and usability of your mobile pages
- Address any manually enforced penalties Google may have put on your site
We use it everyday to watch the search engine clicks go up, but be warned: it can take 3-4 days to see a day’s full data (to our disappointment every day).
This is easily the most well-known of Google’s free SEO tools, and for good reason. It provides pretty intense data on your website performance, including:
- Sessions, users, and pageviews
- Bounce rate and time spent on a page
- General demographic data
- Site speed (as measured by users’ browsers)
- Geographic data
- Day and time of day
- Where your traffic comes from
- What your visitors do on your site
There are paid services out there with more intuitive layouts, but few of them are deep enough or customizable enough to match Google Analytics itself. That’s why most web analysts use it as their platform of choice.
Google Search Console vs. Google Analytics
Google puts a lot of free analytics and SEO tools out there, and they all serve a different purpose. A lot of newcomers confuse Search Console and Analytics, but they serve very different purposes:
- Search Console metrics for people using a Google Search
- Analytics measures deeper metrics about user behaviour once they’re on your website
You’re not alone in thinking that they might as well roll the two into one platform, but that’s not generally how the Big G rolls. It like to create purpose-built tools and then facilitate integrations between them if they prove useful.
Google My Business (Formerly Business Manager)
While not purpose-built for SEO, Google My Business does play a significant role in your search presence. It plays a huge role in local SEO in particular, providing these things to users interested in your business:
- Location data via Google Maps
- Reviews from customers based on a 5-star rating
- Hours of operation
- Phone Number
- City or province
- Quick links for directions and the website
- Photos to humanize your brand
- Quick links to your social profiles, including Facebook reviews
When you set up Google My Business you can actually divide the dashboard into different locations, giving specific people access to specific location (with their own varying levels of permissions, just like other platforms).
From the GMB dashboard you can:
- Add, delete, or manage other locations (great for franchises)
- Respond to customer reviews and flag ones you feel are unfair
- Set your business hours
- Post content updates, accessible right from the search results
More to the point, you can reap these benefits from this free SEO tool:
- Get featured in the “local pack” of the top three results for searches
- Appear more often for voice searches, especially local ones
- Analytics about your business listing, including click-to-call data (super handy!)
You don’t need to set your business for a specific city, either. You can set an entire service area, like a cluster of cities, province, or state. For example, a restaurant with a fixed location should play to its strength with an exact address, while a towing service should cover a service area to avoid being filtered out in a wider area.
GTmetrix for Site Speed
This is definitely for the tech-savvy out there, but it’s also an invaluable free SEO tool that you can show to your development team, consultant, or agency.
GTmetrix was made by a team in Vancouver that actually started by providing website hosting services (and still does). It measures the time it takes to load, and even tells you which elements on your page are taking too long to load!
The waterfall reports are particularly useful in handing off site improvements to developers because they can see exactly which elements on the site are causing issues, and (in many cases) why.
You can also see aggregate speed data in Google Analytics to get a better view of how your visitors experience page loading speed on average, but the deepest metrics you can look at are things like Server Response or Redirection Time.
Pro Tip: don’t panic if GTmetrix shows you a single slow report. All websites rely on servers, and every server experiences peak usage times as well as hiccups. Only panic if you see it constantly, on different days, and different times of day.
It also gets puritanical with scores—we’ve seen a site with an amazing load speed of 1.4 seconds get a score of 30%, which is bonkers. So make sure you take the top-level metrics with a grain of salt.