Google Analytics is any search marketer’s go-to tool of choice. It provides real-time and historical insights on your site’s performance, including a breakdown of traffic sources and user behavior. With the information provided by Google Analytics, it’s possible to learn from your campaign and make adjustments to improve your performance, but if you want to truly perfect your strategy, Google Analytics isn’t enough. There are serious gaps when it comes to keyword research, competition analysis, and visibility into factors that affect your ranking.
Thankfully, there are plenty of free tools available to complement Google Analytics and give you all the information you need to succeed in your inbound marketing campaign. Here are 10 of our favorites:
SEO Book actually has several different free tools available on their website, including a keyword checker tool, a local rank measurer, and a competitive research tool. Here, you can also download several Firefox extensions to integrate your SEO monitoring with your natural web browsing experience. Examples are the basic SEO toolbar, which produces competitive and search data and displays them in search results, and the Rank Checker, which automatically updates your ranks in major search engines. This site is best used for research on your target keywords and competitors, but it’s especially convenient because it offers so much functionality.
Before you get deep into your SEO campaign, you need to think about your target keywords. It’s true that specific keyword optimization tactics are no longer as effective as they used to be, but it still pays to know your competition and look for low-hanging fruit whenever possible. Wordstream offers several free keyword tools that you can use to perform background research and prep your campaign for success. Their niche tool is especially useful for companies trying to uncover niche opportunities within a general field or topic. You can perform keyword discovery searches up to 30 times for free.
Open Site Explorer is a moz application that accurately calls itself the “search engine for links.” Type in your own URL and get a full list of all the inbound links currently pointing to your site. This is useful when you want to audit or reevaluate your current link profile, but it’s even more useful when you want to learn more about your competitors. Type a competitor’s URL into the search bar and gain valuable insights about their link building strategies. Learn from their mistakes and compare your own inbound link efforts to theirs on the “Compare Link Metrics” tab.
Remove’Em is a paid backlink removal tool, but the reports they generate are free to use. This tool is great for determining the current state of your anchor text. Remember, over-optimizing your anchor text for a given keyword can actually warrant a penalty from Google, so it pays to proactively scout for any discrepancies. Through this tool, you’ll be able to see how many external links a given domain has, including which anchor text supports those links and percentages of each segment of anchor text. With this information, you should be able to easily clean up your external links.
In case you didn’t know, a robots.txt file is a text file that should be in your home page. The purpose of this file is to inform web crawlers about which directories, files, and sections of the site they should not be allowed to see. This robots.txt generator by Yellowpipe Internet Services allows you to quickly and easily generate a robots.txt file that exactly fits your needs. All you have to do is download it once it’s generated, and then upload it to your site.
Much like the robots.txt generator, this tool is designed to quickly and easily create a complex data structure. Schema microdata is important because it feeds information to search engines in a very specialized, specific format. Basically, it makes it easier for search engines to pick up information on your site and populate that information in search results. This tool offers schema formatting for people, products, events, organizations, movies, books, and reviews, and there’s even a free plugin for WordPress. Simply input the information, and the tool will generate the HTML code you need to use onsite.
Speed matters to SEO. Sites that load faster get ranked higher than their slower counterparts, so it pays to keep tabs on your site’s loading speed. Use Pingdom’s website speed tool to regularly check in on your site loading speed. Google Analytics offers a similar functionality, but this tool goes into far greater detail, breaking down every file that a browser downloads and how long it takes to download. It can help you identify any bottlenecks or obstacles that are preventing your site from loading as fast as it should. Check it once a week or so.
In a modern content marketing and SEO campaign, you should worry more about your customer experience than your specific keyword rankings. However, it’s still valuable and rewarding to learn how you rank for which keywords. SERPs’s free keyword rank checker is the perfect tool for the job. You can check your domain’s rank for any given keyword, including a ZIP code to see your rank for a specific local search, on either Google or Yahoo!. This is especially valuable since Google Analytics doesn’t offer any specific information on keyword rankings.
If you’re interested in an easy, convenient way to get more SEO insights for your campaign, try integrating Moz’s SEO toolbar (for Chrome or Firefox). The toolbar will highlight links and keywords, and will analyze page overlay to give you more insight into how Google sees your page. Search engine results pages (SERPs) are also broken down and illustrated with detailed metrics on each result—and you can create customized searches to mimic a local search from anywhere in the world. You can even view social media metrics for some popular platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Simply Measured offers a suite of different free analytics apps for several social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The free tools here do have limits, such as the Twitter Follower Analysis app only working on the first 10,000 followers for a given account, but that should be plenty, especially for a search marketer just starting out. Simply post the URL to your company’s social media profile, and Simply Measured will generate a fully customized report analyzing your current user base, as well as how many people interacted with your brand. It goes far beyond the limitations of social media measurement within Google Analytics.
While these tools aren’t necessary for every search marketer, they do offer valuable information and capabilities that you would miss with just Google Analytics. Try them out—after all, you’ve got nothing to lose. It can be overwhelming to deal with such volumes of data, but the more raw information you have to work with the better. Over time, you can narrow down your toolset and hone in on the metrics and research tools that matter the most for your campaign.