Digital PR | SEO | Tips | Tools
5 Min read

Top 5 Free SEO tools

Written by Rebecca Moss
@bexmoss

We frequently speak about backlinks and how to measure the quality of a link with the right metrics, how to detect a PBN and SEO audits, but in order to find all the related information we have to rely on tools.

Those that any digital PR and SEO agency extensively uses are MOZ, Ahrefs, SEMrush and Majestic; for website audits there are crawlers like Sistrix, DeepCrawl, Searchmetrics and Botify. Keywords can be tracked in tools like Linkdex or Accuranker. If you are doing digital PR, you need a media database to store all your contacts and to track emails and communication. If you are using only one of those tools, you are aware of the price that comes with such names and you probably have an idea of how expensive your SEO venture can become. What we often forget though is that we have free tools at our hands that provide a wealth of useful information.

1.    Google Search Console

It almost seems too obvious, but it is often overlooked. If you have Google Analytics installed for tracking, it only takes a few clicks to get access to search data in Google Search Console. It is important though to understand that it will only start data collection after it has been set up, but once it does, the data is extremely valuable. There are two types of information we would like to point out here (there is of course more but this is not meant to be a post about Search Console only).

Ranking data

Search Console provides information on search queries, how your website ranks for those queries, how many impressions it triggered in Google and how many clicks. You can trace your rankings back in time and compare certain periods to each other. Export that data and knock yourself out in a rank analysis. What is your best performing keyword?

Screenshot from Search Console ranking data

Technical errors

In the section “Coverage” Google conveniently tells you about those things that are wrong on your website. If the Googlebot has encountered a 404, it will inform you about it. If a URL has a noindex tag or is blocked by robots.txt, it will inform you; redirect issues, duplicate content, indexation issues – that and more will be reported in Search Console.

Screenshot of technical errors in Google Search Console

2.    Bing Webmaster Tools

This next tool might seem less obvious at first – who is using Bing anyways? But all jokes aside, Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent of Search Console for Bing and it also provides useful insights. It almost looks like a fancy paid crawling tool and it is even easier to download different types of technical reports about your website than it is in Google Search Console. You can auto-verify a website if you have Search Console set up and you will see that it looks all very similar.

SEO audit data

You can manually start crawls, or scans how Bing calls it, for up to 10.000 URLs per day. It then provides similar insights as an audit crawler, e.g. it flags title tags and meta descriptions that are too long, missing alt text on your images and assigns a priority to those.

Screenshot from Bing Webmaster tools that shows errors

In the Site Explorer, you can easily see the whole website architecture and it even suggests keywords for you. What more could you possibly want?

3.    Google Trends

Yes, we know what you want: keyword data and trends. If the year 2020 has taught us one thing, it is how quickly things can change. A year ago, nobody would have searched for “online networking”, “covid free hotels”, “travel with social distancing”, “how often should you wash your face mask” etc. This makes it ever more important to watch trends. Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, do not even have enough data on those new types of search queries to provide good search volumes, but we have Google Trends and it is free!

Without even feeding any information, we get a suggestion of what the world is interested in:

Screenshot of suggestions in Google Trends

You can use this as inspiration for your next blogpost. All of a sudden you know what the world is talking about that week.

If you are interested in a specific topic or keyword, you can see how interest evolved over time:

Screenshot of the graph in Google Trends for the term "lockdown"

It is no surprise that there was no search interest in the term “lockdown” before February 2020. This graph helps you discover spikes in interest or seasonality.

Google Trends also suggests additional keywords:

Screenshots of Google trends related queries for the term "lockdown"

That is already a wealth of ideas for your next pieces of content.

4.    Alsoasked.com

If you want to add some spice to your new content, approach some popular questions people ask. You might end up appearing in the “People also ask” section in Google. Which better tool to use than AlsoAsked? All you have to do is enter a search query, choose a location and let the magic work:

Image of alsoasked.com for the term "travel destination"

All we did was enter the search term “travel destination” and we end up with at least 10 content ideas for pages and blog posts we could create. It is fascinating which connections this tool is able to make: The question “Where can I avoid crowds?” leads to the busiest cities and the least travelled countries. The question for the most beautiful country in the worlds brings us to the cleanest and dirtiest places to visit. It is a treasure chest of content ideas. Why haven’t you tried it yet?

5.    Screaming Frog

We have already touched on the crawling tools to audit your website. Bing Webmaster Tools does this job and there are crawlers like DeepCrawl or Botify that you can use. But there is one that every SEO uses and no matter how fancy and shiny other tools are, we always fall back onto this one: the beloved Screaming Frog. It is the stethoscope of the SEO analyst and you can use it for free for up to 500 URLs. Isn’t that amazing?

The little frog provides similar insights like Bing Webmaster Tools and tells you if your title tags and meta descriptions are too long or too short or missing. Apart from that, you can analyse all your internal and external links, get information on response codes and redirect chains, noindex and canonicals tags and it even informs you about pages on your website having the same or very little content. API integrations such as the one with Google Page Speed Insights, analyses performance data of every single URL on your website and there is so much more. It always amazes what such a small, green animal can do.

Screenshot of a screaming frog crawl

With Screaming Frog, you can export all data and all types of issues into Excel, rearrange the data the way you want it and create your own reports. This is very useful if you encounter issues that you cannot fix on your own and that a web developer should look into.

And if your website is bigger than 500 URLs and you only have budget for one SEO tool, Screaming Frog is the one to go with!

Bonus: Yoast SEO plugin

We have a little bonus tool for the WordPress users in the room: Yoast SEO plugin. It lets you handle the most important SEO specifications for your website, e.g. the robots.txt file, the XML-sitemap, title tags and meta descriptions, noindex tags – all of those things that you would otherwise ask a developer for help, you can now handle on your own.

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Post published on Friday October 30, 2020