Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved from a fringe activity to a necessity for modern business performance. If you aren’t doing it, you can bet that your competitors are. And their efforts are probably connecting them with new customers on a daily basis.

What exactly is SEO? Anything you do to make your website and other web content more visible to people searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say that a user wants to know more about the black pearl necklaces. They enter those 3 words into the search bar of Google and are given more than 82,000,000 results. Honestly, that’s how many web pages the search engine finds across the globe.

In order to locate those results, Google uses bots that consistently scan websites and create an index of relevant results. The search engine uses algorithms to then rank the millions of pages. If you sell black pearl necklaces and are ranked in the top 10, you’ll get prime billing on the first page of results. If not, you could be buried deep in the pages.

To boost your performance in the rankings, you need to help your website be considered more relevant by Google’s bots and algorithms. These efforts are aptly called search engine optimization.

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How Necessary Is SEO?

Some entrepreneurs look at SEO as an unnecessary hassle that’s only necessary for certain industries. Others see the value of it but are simply overwhelmed by the prospect. But the search industry has become an integral part of modern life, so you’ll miss out on reaching new customers and scoring additional sales without it.

Let’s look at Google, as it’s the undisputed champion of search. There are 99,000 searches taking place around the world every second, meaning more than 8 billion take place in a day.

Given the scale of searches on the platform, it’s safe to say that numerous individuals are searching for your products or services on a daily basis. It’s true that your website will appear in Google results even if you don’t do an ounce of SEO, but what good is a placement on the fifth or tenth or twentieth page?

The answer to that question is “not much.” It brings to mind the old question about whether a tree makes a sound if it falls in the forest when no one is around to hear it. If your website is on the seventh page of results, for example, it will not make much of a sound.

These Google user stats tell the story:

  • 28% choose the first result on the first page
  • 15% click the second result
  • 11% click the third result
  • 8% click the fourth result
  • 7% click the fifth result
  • 5% click the sixth result
  • 4% click the seventh result
  • 3% click the eighth result
  • 2% click the ninth or tenth result
  • Fewer than 1% do anything on the second page

As you can see, your ranking is your search engine lifeline. And without optimization, you will likely never get where you need to be.

Start Small and Work Your Way Up

There’s no doubt that the world of SEO can be complex. Every self-proclaimed guru has their own interpretation of Google’s algorithm, leading to contradictory analyses and ever-changing strategies.

So where do you start? With manageable and actionable goals. There’s no need to aim for the top ranking this quarter. If your business can just move from the fifth page to the bottom of the first page, you’ll be on the right track.

All that matters is that you’re making progress. So resist the urge to tackle massive endeavors like your search rankings all at once. Even if you have all the capabilities in the world, you’ll dilute your ability to get things done.

As Jesse Sumrak explains:

Too many objectives will muddle your priorities and make it difficult to achieve anything. Prioritize a handful of objectives, and focus your time on meeting your key results. Spread yourself too thin, and you likely will fail to meet any of your objectives and key results.

You can start your SEO efforts by focusing on certain aspects of your website’s performance. Maybe you need to improve your metadata or develop more backlinks. Perhaps duplicate content is hurting your rankings.

Assess the situation and then identify your top 3 areas for improvement. If you have the bandwidth, it’s possible to work on the trio simultaneously. But there’s no shame in spacing out these priorities so that you’re able to give a significant effort without distracting from the other business needs calling for your attention.

The 11 Best Free SEO Tools to Help Your Business

The good news is that there are lots of free SEO tools that can help you along the way. Each tool will help you focus on certain aspects of optimization, so once you’ve outlined your priorities, you’ll be able to select the ideal tools to help you get the job done.

1. Sitechecker

A user-friendly tool that allows you to identify rankings for various keywords. These reports also show how your competitors are performing, allowing you to refine your strategies and find new ways to boost your ranking.

2. CanIRank

When projecting your ability to rank, an asset like CanIRank becomes essential. It provides insights into your ability to compete for competitive keywords. On top of that, you’ll get actionable tips for improving your chances in the future.

3. Exploding Topics

As CanIRank reveals, some keywords can become so contested that it’s hard to muscle your way into the picture. That’s where Exploding Topics comes in. This tool helps you pinpoint trending topics, so you can benefit from their strength before the competition makes it harder. Simply search categories relevant to your business and you’ll find prime opportunities for new keywords.

4. Siteliner

There are SEO breakdowns impacting your website right now. You could search page-by-page to find many of them, but a tool like Siteliner does it automatically and efficiently. Broken links? Blocked pages? You’ll get them all in the Siteliner report, as well as data on how fast your site should be loading.

5. Animalz Revive

Like Siteliner, this tool scours your website in search of SEO-killing issues. But rather than evaluating multiple factors, Animalz Revive focuses on content. You’ll learn which content needs to be reworked and gain insights into just how much traffic your improvements might bring in.

6. Wordtracker Scout

Some of the best keywords out there are already being used by your smartest competitors. With Wordtracker Scout, you can identify them on other businesses’ websites. You’ll be able to find which keywords that are getting the highest search volume and have lower usage in the industry.

7. Detailed

Here’s another resource to help you assess the competition and borrow their winning strategies. Detailed ranks your industry’s highest-traffic websites, so you can visit the top dogs to research the keywords and tactics they’re using. You can even get lists of where these sites’ backlinks are coming from, potentially opening the door for future SEO opportunities.

8. Woorank’s Chrome Extension

This tool provides an actionable checklist of SEO enhancements for your website. It’s an easy way to conduct ongoing site evaluations, with a scoring system that helps with benchmarking and improvement.

9. Seobility

One of the most robust free SEO tools, Seobility is designed to crawl your site like a search engine bot. You’ll get detailed reports on issues such as blocked pages, slow loading times, and metadata errors.

10. Screaming Frog

As with Seobility, this handy tool scours your website and leaves no page unturned. The results can be eye-opening. For example, you might learn that duplicated content exists on 2 or more pages. Or there could be mistakes in your header formatting that could impact your ranking with search engines. The only way most business owners find these is with a tool like this that digs into the details.

11. Google Analytics

Are your SEO efforts working? You can use a couple of measuring sticks to answer this question. First, there’s your actual ranking on the results pages. Second, it’s important to look at how users are interacting with your site. Google Analytics provides these insights, so you’ll know where your traffic originates, the time they’re spending on your site, the pages with the highest bounce rates, and lots of other valuable data that will enable you to be more effective in the future.

More Free Business Tools

Which of these tools will be most impactful for your business? That depends on your unique industry, methods, and goals. The good news is that they’re all user-friendly and free of charge, so you can experiment to find the ideal matches for your unique situation.

If you’re interested in expert training that can improve the copywriting, videos, and other content on your website, visit our library of free business courses. These resources can help you deliver a more memorable experience for site visitors, a key factor in developing better brand loyalty.

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