I imagine the world of SEO to be very similar to the Wild West — unruly rebels (the SEO guys) versus county sheriffs (Google, Bing, Yahoo) who seem to be almost always one step behind, endlessly chasing their tails.
It’s a strange analogy, I know, but the SEO world is a very rough-and-tumble sort of place. Though Google (and other search engines) has constantly tried to fend off the rebels of the SEO world with constant new changes to their massive search engine’s algorithm, the experts of the SEO world consistently find workarounds that enable them to rank highly in search engines without necessarily abiding by the rules.
That said, there are still plenty of ways to develop a search engine optimized web presence without necessarily taking shortcuts. And although, for the most part, good guides like SEOmoz require a membership and are typically expensive, there are plenty of tools available out there to help any webmaster or developer optimize their website for maximum searchability.
Here are just a few of our favorites.
Alexa is perhaps the best tool on the web for determining the domain authority of a particular website. Essentially, Alexa allows users to easily look up individual sites, determining things like overall domain authority, number of inbound links, and a range of other factors.
But basically, Alexa is extremely useful for helping you determine how effective a website’s link-building techniques have been to this point, and search terms that they are effectively marketing their business towards (and receiving traffic from). Understanding where someone is getting their links from will not only help you find new means of developing links — whether it be through directories, or guest posting on similar sites — but will also help you understand the power of that company’s links.
It doesn’t matter if a website is receiving tens of thousands of inbound links from other sites if those aren’t from websites that are considered reputable. One link from the NYTimes is way more powerful than 10,000 links from Joe Schmoe’s blog.
Pagerank checkers are important because, like Alexa, they help us understand the overall authority of a page according to Google. Search for NYTimes.com, for example, and you’ll find that it has a Pagerank of 9, which is obscene. That means that it’s getting linked to and visited by many, many highly reputable sources.
If you’re just getting into the game, and you’re trying to compete with the NYTimes in search engines from an online news perspective, I would advise you to either look elsewhere, or to find a shrink.
Pagerank checker can help you to easily understand your competition — Google a search term you’re interested in that is local, specific, and not necessarily extremely competitive — by indicating the difficulty of competing with those companies on search terms. Check out the first 3 listings of terms you’re trying to compete with in order to find if it will be worth your time.
Google Adwords Tool
Though there are other, more diverse tools for looking up Google search terms, nothing really beats Google’s Adwords tool in terms of freeness. Using this tool, you can easily determine the competition levels of certain terms, and find terms that are significantly less competition, but still highly trafficked.
When you’re first breaking into SEO, you’ll want to go for terms with low competition, but with relatively high search rates. And depending on your business, you’ll probably also want to take location into account.
SEO Site Checkup
SEO Site Checkup allows you to easily find out what you’re doing well with your website — are your metatags working correctly? Is Google correctly crawling your website? — and what might be broken, or incorrectly displayed, or that you’re simply not doing. It’s an easy to use tool that provides you with a plethora of information that you probably don’t care about, but that can be extremely important from a webmaster’s perspective.
Google Webmaster Tools
Finally, Google’s Webmaster Tools also provide a great complement to SEO Site Checkup for determining what’s functioning well with a website, and what isn’t. Google will inform you of any crawl errors that its search engine might be having with your website, if you’re missing any important files, and if there are any serious errors — i.e. 404 errors — that are inhibiting the user experience, and thus impacting your search engine rankings.
Beyond that, the webmaster tools also provide you with a detailed breakdown of where your Google traffic is coming from, and where you rank for the search terms that you are targeting.
Real, good SEO for highly competitive terms takes time and lots, and lots of effort (and sometimes luck) in order to achieve. But these tools will give any webmaster, developer or business owner a good sense of what their competitors are doing well, what they might be doing wrong, and things that they can fix in terms of website design and a range of other factors.
There are tons of other tools available on the web, though, and these don’t even scratch the surface.
What are some of your favorite SEO tools?
Source: MSM DesignZ, Inc. is a Westchester NY SEO company specializing in social media, web and graphic design, and advertising.