Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vitally important effort to make sure websites stay relevant, have the proper characteristics recognized as important by the major search engines, and to create as much “organic” web traffic that comes to visit the website without responding to a paid advertisement. Organic searches are very important, because Imforza notes that an estimated 70% to 80% of web users ignore the paid advertisements and about 93% of all web experiences begin with the use of a search engine.
Global Market Share of Search Engines
While Google is by far the most dominant of the major search engine providers, it is not the only one to consider. Even though the usage of the alternatives to Google is minuscule, there is some opportunity on those systems to have a higher ranking in the search engine result pages (SERP), because there is less competition.
Statista reported in January 2016 the following usage for the major search engines:
- Google – 88.36%
- Bing – 4.85%
- Yahoo – 3.30%
- Baidu (Chinese) – 0.73%
SEO Best Practices
Simple things like using header tags properly (h1 and h2 tags) make quite a bit of positive improvement in SEO results. Another simple fix is using URLs that do not contain spaces, strange characters or underscores in the URL. An example of this would be the URL, http://www.example.com_# 3 get more traffic/. This URL is not so good. Search engines would recognize this webpage easier if the URL was this instead: http://www.example.com/3-get-more-traffic.
Webmasters can do much of the SEO work. However, for complex and large websites, it is a good idea to consider outsourcing the SEO work to an organization that specializes in SEO. In this way, the website has the best current SEO practices and the website stays up-to-date with SEO improvements.
The algorithms of the major search engines are constantly changing. Some of the changes are not obvious. When SEO rankings of web pages suddenly drop for no apparent reason, it is because of the search engine algorithm change. Google is notorious for making changes that are supposed to improve the web user experience.
Many times the improvements for web users come at the expense of the business owners of the websites, who worked so much to get the website to have good SERP results for important keywords. This is why there is a constant need for SEO work on every website.
Best SEO Tools
There are many free SEO tools and specialized Google SEO tools that webmasters find useful to improve the SEO of websites. The best practices for SEO include conducting a rigorous website analysis to determine where there might be problems with SEO and how to correct them.
Here are some of the free SEO tools that are useful for webmasters:
Google SEO Tools
- Google Search Console – This was previously called “Google Webmaster Tools.” This is a free tool provided by Google to help webmasters use the Google system more effectively.
- Google made a significant effort to localize the relevant search engines results. Using the geo-location of IP addresses capabilities, when a search engine user enters a generic search term such as “plumber,” the search engine results come back for plumbers in the nearby local area of the user. Webmasters are not necessarily in the same physical location of their clients. Using Google Location Changer temporarily changes the location of the user. This is useful when conducting a keyword or key-phrase research.
- Sometimes it is helpful to see how the Google search engine “crawls” (examines) a website. The Fetch as Google tool shows how Google views a website.
- Google makes use of a marker file for Google Analytics Solutions, which a webmaster places on a website. This indicates to the Google search engine the need to scan the website and add the information to the Google index. The Google Analytics Checker looks for the existence of a proper connection to Google Analytics.
- The Google Search Results tool shows the exact summary information that Google displays for a website that appears in the organic search results. The information shown includes,1) the title of the web page, which should not exceed 70 characters; 2) the URL of the webpage using the best practices format discussed above, and: 3) the Meta description, which should not exceed 160 characters.
- Google Keyword Planner is a free tool used to learn about the popularity of keywords and for decision-making in paid advertising campaigns using Google Adwords.
- Google Trends shows the current popularity of keywords and phrases that users are searching for using the Google search engine.
- Google Consumer Surveys allows businesses to create surveys and get information about consumer preferences.
- Google PageSpeed Tools analyzes site performance and how fast web pages display.
- Google Content Experiments allows webmasters to test different content design for better website performance.
- Google My Business allows website owners to get a local listing in Google.
- Google Alerts allows a webmaster to get email notifications of news and monitor certain topics of interest.
- Google Tag Manager allows webmasters to update changes in website tags quickly.
- Google Disavow Tool allows webmasters to remove incoming links from low-quality websites that have harmed the SERP ranking of the web pages.
Other Free SEO Tools
- Website Grader shows site ranking.
- Free SEO Report Card gives a site report.
- Found SEO Audit Tool notes any SEO issues.
- Online SEO Overview Tool gives a website overview.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider has a free “lite” version that helps fix SEO problems.
- Keyword Rank Checker and the Keyword Research Database assist with keywords.
- Backlinks are useful to check the quality of any links.
- Broken Links identifies links needing repair.
- Canonical Tag Checker guides the search engines to index the correct webpage when there are webpages with duplicate content, such as when the home page for a website is both website.com and www.website.com.
- Common Keywords identifies the most used keywords on a webpage.
- GTmetrix evaluates a website’s responsiveness and makes recommendations to increase performance.
- SEO Quake Toolbar gives information about links, traffic, social media, and keywords.
- Hootsuite is a tool used to manage social media links.
- Bing Webmaster Tools shows how Bing and Yahoo rank sites for keywords.
- Copyscape checks for duplicate content that search engines penalize.
- SEO-browser shows what a web page looks like to a search engine.
- Keywords Cloud shows an easy-to-understand visual representation of keyword frequency on a web page.
- Meta Tags Analysis is a tool that checks for Meta titles, Meta keywords, Meta descriptions, and Meta robot tags.
- Microdata Schema shows the microdata usage for webpages that helps search engines display more relevant search results.
- Outdated HTML Code is a tool to find the HTML code that no longer works with the newest browsers.
- SEO Friendly URL tool shows the web pages with URLs that search engines have difficulty recognizing correctly.
- Site Loading Test determines how fast a web page loads.
- Sitemap looks for the existence of a sitemap, which search engines find useful when scanning a website.
- Social Media Checker creates a report showing all the website links to social media.
- URL Redirects shows any web page redirects that interfere with the proper search engine indexing of websites.
- Ubersuggest makes recommendations for keywords.
- Outdated Content Finder shows content that needs an update because it is too old.
- Majestic SEO (free version) gives information about the quality of backlinks.
- Xenu Link Sleuth is a website crawler that looks for broken links and gives information about web page code size, content type, and HTTP status.
- Traffic Travis gives useful information about web site traffic.
SEO Tools with Free Trials
Some of the powerful SEO tools offer a free trial, which includes:
- Moz Pro Tools (30-day free trial) gives information about links, the ranking of the website and identifies SEO problems with the Crawl-Test Tool. Other Moz tools help with page optimization, keywords, and create a to-do list of items needing adjustment for improved rank, increased performance, and functional improvements of the website.
- Woorank (14-day free trial) is a ranking system that gives detailed information about a website.
Google offers many free SEO tools to improve the SERP results of web pages. One of the most important factors in ranking high on the organic search results is to focus on localized keyword phrases and make sure to apply for a local listing in Google My Business index.
There are so many free SEO tools to improve a website’s SEO that this should encourage webmasters to make the effort to work on a website’s SEO issues. The best practices approach is to make a systematic strategy for SEO improvement and to check a website for SEO problems regularly.
Good quality SEO efforts are ongoing. As the search engine algorithms change and improve, the SEO efforts need to adjust accordingly. This is why so many companies prefer to outsource the SEO work to keep their websites in the best shape possible regarding the best practices of using SEO.