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ARTICLE MarketingSeptember 10, 2014

SEO series, part 4: Five SEO tools for small businesses

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In the final part of our series on search engine optimisation, we look at five SEO tools, including Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, that you can use to help guide your SEO strategy.

Our search engine optimisation (SEO) series has covered SEO terminology, how Google works and how you can optimise your website’s SEO. Now it is time to look at some useful SEO tools that can help guide and inform your SEO strategy.

Brent Yorzinski, former SEO Product Manager at The Web Showroom, recommends you find an SEO tool that works for you, rather than falling into the trap of thinking you need lots of different tools.

“Many of them do the same sort of things,” explains Yorzinski, “so you don’t need a ton of tools, you just need the right tools.”

Getting the right SEO tools is the first step – the second is making sense of all the data that the tools provide. “There is a real danger that you will spend a great deal of time sifting through information without really knowing what to do with it,” says Yorzinski. “Often it is worth engaging with an agency or hiring someone who is an expert in SEO. Otherwise you need to invest a lot of time to fully understand the data.”

Five useful tools that could help you with your SEO strategy:

1. Google Webmaster Tools: free

Yorzinski describes Google Webmaster Tools as a “prerequisite” for anyone involved with SEO.

“Google Webmaster Tools is not overly complex, and it includes a lot of information and updates,” he says. “It gives you decent insight into your company’s website and provides alerts of any issues with the website.”

For example, if Penguin (one of Google’s algorithms) has penalised your website, Google Webmaster Tools can notify you about it.

2. Google Analytics: free

Google Analytics is the most well-known tool for tracking the results of SEO and other web metrics, but Yorzinski says it is also one of the more complex tools.

In fact, Google Analytics started out as an advanced tool that was originally sold to enterprise-sized clients, before Google bought it and made it available for anyone to use. “Google Analytics is beneficial for SMBs, as it is free and powerful,” says Yorzinski, adding that it allows businesses to track their return on investment and where their website traffic is coming from.

Having said that, Yorzinski cautions that using Google Analytics is not necessarily straightforward or easy. “Google Analytics is extremely complex,” he says. “You can set up goal tracking and tie it into other marketing campaigns, and you can get a lot of detail, but setting that up can be very complicated. I would advise business owners to sign up and explore it, and then see how complex the information is and the functionality that is involved.”

Useful links

The Web Showroom is a Sydney-based website design, online marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) company. It has worked with more than 1,500 Australian businesses.

3. Google Webmasters: free

Google Webmasters is not a tool, but rather a resource that provides information and step-by-step video guides about SEO.

Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam is featured in many of the videos – Cutts is as close as you can get to a celebrity in the SEO world.

“This is a free resource that explains details about SEO,” says Yorzinski. “It is a treasure-trove of information, which can also be a double-edged sword –finding what is relevant to SMBs is a huge task.”

Yorzinski adds that one of the most useful parts of Google Webmasters is that you are getting information directly from Google, rather than another person’s interpretation of information from Google.

4. Open Site Explorer: from $99 per month

Yorzinski believes Moz’s Open Site Explorer is one of the best paid-for SEO tools for SMBs.

One of Open Site Explorer’s main functions is to help users analyse website back links. This means that it shows the majority of links from other sites and which sites are pointing to your domain.

“With Penguin, links are important,” says Yorzinski, “so you need to know which links exist and what opportunities are out there. You need a link acquisition strategy – that should be the indirect goal behind any SEO strategy.”

5. Link Research Tools: from approximately $140 to $1,880 per month

Link Research Tools is more advanced than Open Site Explorer and bundles about 25 SEO tools into one solution. These bundled tools analyse more than just back links and allow users to compare data.

“Having 25 tools is useful and dangerous at the same time, because, again, you can get a lot of complex information,” says Yorzinski, adding: “For a small business that might have experienced a penalty in the past, they will be pleased that there is a specific tool in Link Research Tools for that.”

While Link Research Tools is more expensive than the other SEO tools listed here, Yorzinski points to the comparative benefits. “There is a large amount of data and it can simplify things quite a bit,” he says. “A few SEO agencies use Link Research Tools, and the higher cost versions are aimed at agencies.”

Related articles

Marketing SEO series, part 1: An introduction to 10 SEO terms

Marketing SEO series, part 2: Infographic – The wild, wild web: How Google works

Marketing SEO series, part 3: How to optimise on-page SEO