Is your small business Web site regularly attracting tons of new visitors who convert into customers? Excellent; take the day off, go to a movie, buy yourself a new gadget. You deserve to celebrate. But if your site isn’t getting the results you’d like, it’s time for search engine optimization.
At a high level, SEO involves finding the keywords your potential customers use to find the types of products and services you sell; adding those keywords judiciously to your site’s pages; and building a network of links pointing to the pages on your site, among other things.
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The following 10 free SEO tools can help draw targeted traffic to your Web site content. You’ll notice that many of the tools in this roundup come from Google. Because Google searches account for about 65 percent of all Internet searches, it makes sense to use Google tools for your SEO efforts.
If you need a little more background on SEO, be sure to read Search Engine Optimization: SEO Tips for Small Business, SEO Tips: How to Increase Traffic With Keywords and SEO Tips for Small Business: How to Get Good Links.
And now, here’s our pick for the 10 best SEO tools for small business.
1. Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Google’s free tool is designed for marketers who want to find the best keywords for their Google AdWords campaigns. But it’s extremely useful for organic (unpaid) SEO efforts, too. It can give you a sense of how often people use a particular keyword, or variations of it, in Google searches, and how competitive a keyword might be to rank highly for it in Google search queries.
The tool is simple to use. Type a keyword or phrase you want to research, and Google will show you several stats by default:
Advertiser competition. The shaded bars are designed to help you quickly determine how competitive a keyword is. A keyword with a fully shaded bar is highly competitive. This can indicate that the keyword will be more difficult to rank highly for in organic search results, compared to keywords with only partially shaded bars.
Local search volume for the prior month. This column represents the number of queries performed using the keyword you typed and variations of it. The data comes from searches performed on Google and its search network. The numbers are specific to your targeted country and language, which you can easily change.
Global monthly search volume. This indicates the approximate average monthly search volume for a keyword over a recent 12-month period in all countries and languages.
Generally speaking, use Google AdWords Keyword Tool to find keywords that aren’t highly competitive, yet have a decent search volume (at least 300 if you’re a one-person business or 1,000 or more if you’ve got, say, a dozen employees).
Google AdWords Keyword Tool can also suggest keywords based on existing Web pages, among other capabilities. It should be the first tool you use when you start to brainstorm keywords or new content for your site.
2. WordPress. Search engines love blogs, so if you aren’t currently blogging, give it a try. WordPress is widely seen as the best blogging platform.
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“It’s 100 percent free, very well supported, and has loads of add-ons that cost little or nothing to use,” said Thomas W. Petty, CEO of the Bay Area Search Engine Academy, which offers SEO workshops in Sacramento and San Francisco. Read Petty’s helpful guide to setting up a WordPress blog.
FYI, TypePad also gets kudos, as some people believe its interface is easier to use than WordPress’s.
3. Google Analytics. If you haven’t set up a Google account and added Google Analytics tracking code to your site or blog, you should. Simply put, it’s a fantastic tool for learning about what attracts visitors to your site — including the keywords used to find it — as well as where visitors come from, how many pages they typically visit on your site, how long they stay on your site and tons more.
With Google Analytics, you can set goals to measure how your site is meeting business objectives; view multiple Google Analytics accounts in one dashboard; export information in PDF, XML, CSV, CSV for Excel, and TSV formats; share your analytics info with others — the list of things you can do goes on and on.
4. Google Insights for Search. While Google AdWords Keyword Tool shows you the volume of searches conducted using specific keywords, Google Insights for Search gives you a sense of the trends in keyword usage.
Specifically, you can compare search volume across chosen time periods (from 2004 to the present), geographic areas, categories and a lot more. Google Insights for Search will show you the keywords that are rising in popularity. This information can help you target the best keywords for new site content, such as blog posts.It can even help you spot potential new business opportunities. For example, let’s say your targeted keyword is rising in popularity overall, and Maryland is the U.S. state showing the most interest in that keyword. Perfect — you may have discovered an opportunity to expand your business to Maryland.