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Marketers in small businesses need digital marketing wins. They don’t have as much freedom to spend budget without immediate ROI. When it comes to SEO (search engine optimization), they have to optimize for key performance metrics and appease search engine algorithms, all without breaking the bank.
Luckily, succeeding in SEO doesn’t have to mean spending an arm and leg. Here are the best free SEO tools any small business owner can start using right now to move the needle and supplement their SEO strategy.
Turn rankings into revenue
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Google Search Console
One of the most important tools in your SEO toolbox is Google Search Console because it helps you track numerous SEO metrics, like your backlinks, your internal links, the keywords you rank for, how many clicks you get from those keywords, and more.
It’s great for starting a site audit to see exactly how your website is performing.
Here are some of the top features that you need to understand to get the most out of Google Search Console.
Using free keyword research tools like WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, or Ubersuggest is only the first step toward optimizing organic search and generating organic traffic to your website.
One way you can think of the performance tab of Google Search Console is as a keyword analysis tool or keyword tracking tool. You can analyze the search terms you’re ranking for to better understand how your website is performing. Essentially, it’s a rank tracking tool.
You’ll find all this information in the performance tab.
In the performance tab, you’ll see this information about your web pages:
- Total clicks — the number of clicks all your web pages that have been indexed have gotten during the chosen time period.
- Total impressions — the number of times your web pages have shown up on a search engine results page (SERP). Think of this as the total monthly search volume for all your keywords.
- Average click-through rate (CTR) — how often, on average, your indexed web pages are getting clicked on.
- Average position — the aggregate of all your rankings for all the keywords that your website ranks for.
You can think of this information as a keyword tracker. It allows you to see the keywords you’re ranking for and to track how they’re performing over time.
You can also use this information to generate keyword ideas. If you see what you’re ranking for, you can then take those keywords, plug them into a keyword research tool, see what related keywords pop, and use them to drive your content marketing strategy.
This tool gives you vital functionality information for specific URLs on your website. For example, if you’re not sure if a page is showing up on Google, you can inspect it here.
This also shows you if indexing for the page has been successful, if the page is mobile-friendly, if it has breadcrumbs, and if it has a sitelinks search box.
Coverage tells you if you have any pages that aren’t showing up on Google. It also shows you the primary crawler that’s being used, along with the last time the page was crawled.
You can also see if some pages were excluded from being indexed. This might be because you have duplicate content on your website, for example, and have used canonical tags to show this to Google.
Sitemaps and removals
Sitemaps allows you to submit any XML sitemaps you have for your website. Removals is an important tool that allows you to request that pages on your website be removed from Google search.
Core web vitals and mobile usability
Core web vitals are a way that Google evaluates user experience on a web page. It checks three metrics:
- Aggregate largest contentful paint (LCP) — how quickly it takes to render the largest image or text block on a web page.
- Aggregate cumulative layout shift (CLS) — how much your website shifts when users load the website (for example, a paragraph or header might jump on the page when users are trying to click on it).
- First input delay (FID) — how long it takes your website to respond when a user clicks a button or a link.
Links is essentially a backlink checker that shows you the number of backlinks you have, what the anchor text is for those backlinks, what internal links you have, and who’s linking to you.
Bing Webmaster Tools
Like Google Search Console is an invaluable SEO tool for Google, Bing Webmaster Tools is the same for Bing. It helps with everything from testing your robots.txt files to helping you understand your search performance to looking at your backlinks and more. It even has a free keyword research tool.
The biggest problem with Bing Webmaster Tools is that it only gives you data on your performance on Bing. Since Bing only has 2.7% share of the search engine market, some of the tools aren’t as useful as others.
Here are some of the best features of Bing Webmaster Tools.
Though there are many free keyword research tools available, Bing’s is excellent. It has a huge keyword database of both long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords that you can search through. Though it’s specific to Bing, it’s still a useful tool.
The tool shows you impressions for the keywords, related keywords, and a breakdown by country. You can even narrow it down by language and device. Additionally, you can see the top-ranking web pages for your chosen keyword.
One of the best features of the backlinks tool is that it allows you to perform a competitive analysis by comparing your website to competitors’ websites. It also shows your top anchor text and your top links.
This is useful for outreach as it shows you which websites are linking to your competitors (and therefore whom you might want to approach to try to get backlinks).
Search performance on Bing Webmaster Tools is more robust than on Google Search Console. It gives you more information about your website on a single dashboard.
You can see what keywords you rank for (and how high you rank for them), but you can also see crawl errors, crawl requests, and how many of your pages have been indexed.
Site explorer is another tool that you can use to see how your website is performing. It shows you what URLs are performing well based on clicks, how many pages are indexed, how many impressions you’re getting, backlinks, and more.
This tool can help you to identify errors and warnings on your website that you may want to have your webmaster deal with. This includes problems like missing meta tags (including alt text and meta descriptions), HTML sizes that are too long, or titles that are too long or too short.
Google Analytics is a fantastic free SEO tool that helps you to understand dozens of different metrics that are critical to moving the SEO needle.
Though basic functionalities of Google analytics are easy to learn, the more advanced ones can be very difficult to master. Consider taking a Google Analytics Course to make the most out of this tool.
Here are some of the best features that you can use to understand how your website is performing.
Though the usefulness of this feature might be debatable, it’s nonetheless interesting because it gives you a snapshot in real time of how your website is performing.
What’s interesting is that these numbers will fluctuate in real-time, so you can see how long a particular user is staying on your website, what they’re reading, and where in the world they’re visiting from.
You can also see what devices they’re on and how they got to your website (for example, from Google search or from social media).
Audience is one of the more useful features in Google Search Console. It gives you a wealth of information about the people who are visiting your website.
For example, you can see the age and gender of visitors.
You can check out what your audience’s interests are.
You can see how engaged they are with your content.
You can even see how users navigate your website and what pages they land on and navigate to.
Acquisition shows you, as the name suggests, where your traffic is coming from.
You can see the source of your traffic, which is useful for knowing not just that you’re getting traffic from social media or from organic search, but what specific search engines or social media sources are giving you that traffic.
You can also connect Google Search Console to your Google Analytics account so that you can see that data within Google Analytics. Google Ads can be connected as well.
If you rely heavily on social media, the social tab will help you understand where your social media traffic is coming from and how much of it converts.
If website traffic is your focus, then the behavior tab is where you’ll be spending a lot of your time. There are a number of features here that you’ll find useful, starting with the overview.
The overview page shows you your pageviews for a given period, including your top pages. It also shows you the average time spent on page, your bounce rate, and your exit rate.
All of these metrics can be examined in detail as you drill down through the menu. For example, you can look specifically at the speed that your website is loading for visitors on average.
Site content lets you look deeper at how each of your pages are performing, including how much traffic they’re getting, how long people are spending on the page, and other metrics, like bounce rate and exit percentages.
Events is a useful tab that lets you see what kinds of actions people are taking on your website, like if they’re clicking outbound links or if they’re converting (like filling out a form to join a mailing list).
If you’ve set goals in Google Analytics, then conversions will show you if those goals are being met. For example, you might want to see how often someone is filling out a form or signing up for an email list.
You can also assign dollar values to those goals to see how much money you’re actually earning each time a goal is completed.
For ecommerce websites, you can insert a snippet of code that will track transaction data, like sales, purchases, and billing locations. It’s great for understanding exactly how much your website is generating in revenue.
Yoast SEO plugin
Yoast is a WordPress SEO plugin that has a number of powerful features in the free version that can help you make the most of your keyword research.
However, Yoast is much more than that. It helps with on-page SEO and technical SEO, too.
One of the things that the Yoast WordPress plugin excels at is on-page optimization. With Yoast, you can enter a chosen keyword phrase and get immediate suggestions on what you can do to make your content more likely to rank in search.
It includes sections where you can enter an SEO-friendly URL (a short URL with a keyword phrase), and it also has a spot for a meta title and a meta description.
What’s particularly useful about the on-page SEO features of Yoast is that they give you specific recommendations on what to do with your content so that it’s more likely to rank.
Yoast also includes a readability analysis, which can help you to make your content more readable (and therefore more likely to be read in full by audience).
Yoast also has a number of technical SEO tools. For example, Yoast will automatically create XML sitemaps and apply Schema to your website.
One especially useful feature is the ability to easily connect your webmaster tools to your website.
Rather than having to manually put the code on your website, you just enter the verification codes into Yoast, and it inserts the code on every page so that Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics will be able to display data about your website.
Another great feature of the plugin is the file editor. It lets you edit the robots.txt and .htaccess files without having to go into the backend of your website. While this is a more advanced feature, if your webmaster ever has to change these files, they’ll be grateful they can do it through here.
There’s also a premium version of Yoast that has loads of features — check them out here.
Google Mobile-Friendliness Test
Mobile-first indexing means that Google and other search engines are going to use the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking your content.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test lets you test out your website to see if it passes basic requirements to meet user experience expectations.
When you use the test, you’ll get a message like this if your website passes the test.
However, you might not completely pass the test. You’ll notice in the top-right corner that there might be issues you need to address, like this.
Most web traffic comes from mobile devices now, not desktop, which is why it’s so crucial to ensure you can accommodate visitors from all devices. Your search engine rankings will suffer if you can’t.
Google PageSpeed Insights
Google PageSpeed Insights is an essential tool for understanding how quickly pages on your website load. Since page speed greatly impacts user experience, it’s an official Google ranking factor. The faster your web pages load, the better.
When you run your web pages through PageSpeed insights, you’ll get information on several important factors related to page speed:
- First contentful paint is when your browser shows the first piece of content to a user. It needs to do this quickly to pass the test.
- Largest contentful paint is how long it takes a user’s browser to show the largest piece of text (or image) within the viewport. Just like with first contentful paint, this needs to be done quickly (within 2.5 seconds) to pass the test.
- First input delay is how much time it takes for something to happen on your website after a user interacts with it in some way (like by pressing a button).
Finally, cumulative layout shift is how much content in the browser shifts or jumps as it loads. As with the other tests, the lower this metric is, the better.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a critical tool for businesses of all sizes, but especially for small businesses.
Google My Business has a number of features that help you show up on Google and other search engines, but given that Google My Business is the top-ranking factor for local search, it’s critical that all businesses set it up.
First, it allows users to leave reviews on Google for your business. Given that one of the largest ranking factors for local search is the number and quality of reviews your business has, the more reviews you get on Google, the better.
Google My Business has other useful features—you can put your business hours up, include information on your products and services, and you can even build a website through it.
First, you can use it to see data like page authority and domain authority for results on a search engine results page (SERP).
Second, you can use the link analysis button to take a look at the links to those websites. This information helps you understand how you might compete with these websites for the keyword in question.
Third, it includes an on-page highlighter that shows you keywords and links on a web page. You can use it to analyze your own page, or you can use it to analyze a competitor’s page to look for competition opportunities.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a keyword research tool that gives you a wide variety of searches related to the keyword in question.
You can use this data not only to find new long-tail or short-tail keywords to target, but you can also use it to better understand what your audience is searching for generally so that you can better create content—or even products/services—that match up to their needs.
Once the results populate, you can click on each one and go immediately to a SERP on Google to see what pages are ranking for that keyword phrase. You can then analyze the competition and consider how you might produce content that would compete well.
With Google SERP Simulator, you can enter in either a URL on your website or a title and meta description to see exactly how that data would show up on Google.
You’ll also get suggestions on how to improve your title or meta description. If your meta description is too long or your title tag is wider than the display limit on a SERP, you’ll get info on how to fix it.
You can also turn on additional features that show, for example, a heatmap of how users look at a SERP result, what ads will look like on the SERP, and even what structured data might show up (like ratings or votes).
Moz Local Listing Score
Moz Local Listing Score helps you to understand how your business displays across the top online directories.
Citations on websites like Google, Bing, Facebook, and other directories are critical components of SEO—they help your customers find you across a wide variety of search engines.
The benefit of the tool is that it helps you find opportunities. Your industry might have niche directories that it would benefit you to be on. This tool shows you these directories so that you can get your website listed there.
BrightLocal is a local-search-focused SEO tool that has a free trial option (no credit card required).
This tool is especially useful for small businesses that need to show up on local search results—if your business has a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure customers in that area can find you.
Similar to Moz Local Listing Score, you get data on your reviews/ratings across various directories, information on your citations, and how you’re ranking on Google.
While the paid version has more options, like the ability to build new citations for $2/website, the free version is great for understanding how you’re performing on local search.
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that’s free for up to 500 pages on your website.
Screaming Frog has a number of useful features, helping you discover issues like duplicate content on your website or URLs that have been blocked on your robots.txt file.
It also helps you understand your website’s architecture, evaluating internal linking, which is a critical SEO practice that allows you to pass authority from one page on your website to another.
Whitespark is another local-search-focused SEO toolset that has a number of free tools.
One interesting free tool is the local search ranking factors checklist tool. You can enter your business’ information and get a free report that shows you how you’re doing on local search, along with opportunities to increase your rankings.
Another useful tool is the Google My Business (GMB) explorer.
You can use this to check your own listing to see if it’s been claimed or not, but it’s more useful for competitive analysis—you can see what your competitors’ GMB looks like so you can look for opportunities to outrank them, such as trying to get more reviews than them.
Another great free tool is a sheet of printable instructions on how to leave a Google review on desktop and mobile. This is useful for brick-and-mortar businesses—you can hand out the sheets at your front desk when you ask customers to leave a review.
Other free and paid SEO tools
Some other great free tools include:
- Chrome extensions and toolbars
- Google Ads, a PPC tool (includes Google Keyword Planner for cost-per click (CPC) analysis)
- Google Trends
- Online broken link checker
While free tools are great, you might also want to consider investing in paid SEO software, like:
Get a complimentary SEO audit
Every business can use the help of SEO tools, and they don’t need to be pricey to get results. With these free tools, you’ll be in great shape to level up your SEO.
Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.