When it comes to managing your SEO, there are hundreds if not thousands of free SEO tools out there. Many of them are free, many are not. Some of them are easy to use, others require a PhD-level education.
But it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
If you want to know what you need for your website and to improve your SEO, it’s not much. Here’s a list of six must-haves and should-haves that I recommend.
1 – Google Analytics – Necessary
Of course, you need some kind of analytics. I prefer Google simply because Google is the largest search engine and it makes sense to use the same tools they use to track and measure certain SEO signals.
Plus, GA version 4.0 just launched, and I’m amazed by how many new features and functionalities are available. The additional insights were only previously available after considerable customizations and third-party tools. Now, it’s much easier to measure user interactions.
If you currently use GA, you might want to upgrade now.
2 – Google Search Console – Necessary
To understand how your website is performing in Google (such as how many times your site came up in searches, was clicked on, under which keyword, and for which page), you need GSC. It’s also a vital tool to learn about any issues Google finds on your website so you can address them.
Through GSC, you can submit sitemaps, track errors, fix penalties, and disavow toxic links among others. There’s also Bing Webmaster Tools, but now they can easily pull in domain information from GSC.
3 – PageSpeed Insights – Necessary
One of the most important ranking factors is page speed. It also affects your conversions. Due to the preponderance of mobile device usage (and Google is now 100% mobile), load times are critical to SEO. PSI scores your page speed, and gives you a list of issues you need to fix or improve.
You also need to test every page, too. In fact, this week Google made it clear that one page can actually affect your entire site. In other words, your website’s weakest link can hurt your overall rankings and not just that page. So if only one page is slow, Google might derank your fast pages, too.
4 – Google My Business – Important
You want to manage how your business appears in Google Search and Maps, and how people find you, call you, and discover your services. So claiming and optimizing your GMB profile is important for regular SEO and local SEO.
Also, remember that claiming your profile also creates a conduit between you and Google. So if any issues come up, such as responding to reviews and reporting fake reviews, your GMB account will help.
5 – Google Add-Ons – Optional
Although not entirely necessary, Google offers a variety of useful tools to help you in your efforts to increase your rankings and your traffic.
- Google Tag Manager – GTM simply centralizes your external scripts from third-party tools, concatenates them, and makes them easier to load and manage. I manage all my analytics, conversion tracking, paid advertising tools, and more from one simple location.
- Google Rich Results – Google often uses metadata either to understand what your page is about or for different types of search results — and not just links. This tool tests to see if your site is eligible for rich snippets and tells you what kinds it finds. Schema markup code is one of them.
- Google Site Kit – I use WordPress. GSK adds all the necessary Google scripts and tools I need (including Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, AdSense, Google PageSpeed Insights, etc) with a few clicks. Plus, you get a search funnel snapshot of each page, which will give you an overview of that page’s performance — including traffic sources, search impressions, bounce rates, and top queries.
6 – Third-Party Technical Tools – Helpful
There are several tools that I use and highly recommend. One of them is Screaming Frog‘s SEO spider tool. With it, you can find crawl errors, broken links, 404 errors, bad redirects, duplicate content, missing tags, even spelling and grammar errors, and so much more.
This single tool can do a variety of things in one fell swoop, which saves me time and money. Also, by connecting it with your Google assets (GA, GSC, and PSI), it can do a deeper dive and offer better insights.
Of course, the above tools are not for SEO research. (If you want to know more, I’ve written about them here, here, here, and here.) But they are important if not essential to properly track, measure, and improve your SEO.
Do you have a preferred free SEO tool? Let me know what it is and why.