This guest post is by Matt Hooper.
One of the best ways to get traffic to your website is through search engine optimization. If you do the work yourself the traffic is free and will keep coming. There are countless tools out there but below are a few simple tools to get you started.
Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin
One of the most important actions you can take to improve your site’s rankings is to optimize the site first. Too often we start building links to our websites and try to get them ranking for our selected keyword phrase before we are even sure if the site itself is optimized.
There are a lot of SEO plugins for WordPress. Some are paid plugins and some are free but in most cases they usually perform the same task. Their job is to analyze the page and make sure that it is optimized as much as possible. Imagine that you have a long check list of items that need to be included in each page or post before it gets published on your website. Instead of manually checking each item of that list, the plugin takes care of this for you.
As I said, there are a lot of plugins out there but I find Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin to be the best I’ve tried. One of it’s best features is that it can be found in the WordPress plugin repository for free.
Google Keyword Tool
When optimizing your article for search engines, you need to first make sure that you are targeting the correct keywords. Correct keywords are ones that have a balance of low competition and a high volume of searches.
Again, there are expensive tools out there that will help you perform keyword research but a good place to start is with a tool provided by Google. This tool was designed for people conducting Adwords campaigns so that they can see which words they want to bid on. You can use this tool to see which phrases are being searched for and how high or low the competition is.
A quick search for “Google Keyword Tool” will bring you to the right place. When using the tool, make sure that you are checking exact match terms and not broad match, which is set by default.
SerpIQ isn’t entirely free but you can use the free trial for as long as you need and the only limitations are that you can’t perform as many tasks per day as you can with the paid versions. This tool gives you three basic tools, a keyword discovery tool, a competition analyzer and a on-page analyzer.
The keyword discovery tool lets you take a certain keyword or phrase and provides you with similar keywords. This is similar to the Google tool but doesn’t give you an indication of competition.
The competition analyzer takes a look at the top 10 ranking sites and creates a report detailing the level of competition. It looks at a wide range of factors including back links, domain age, etc. It gives you a better understanding of your chances to rank for that keyword. This is the tool that I use most often.
The on-page analyzer takes a look at a certain page and tells you how well it is optimized. Yoast’s plugin will do this for your own site but this tool is useful for checking out your competition or for getting a second opinion on your own site.
After you have discovered which keywords to rank for and you have optimized your posts or pages, it’s time to check the rankings of your site. SerpFox is another tool that has a free trial service and a paid upgrade.
The free trial can be used to monitor 10 keywords which is adequate enough for most smaller blogs or websites. One of the best features with SerpFox is that it will tell you your rankings for different areas. For example, if you are in Europe and you want to see how well your page ranks in the US, you can use this tool to do that.
The other reasons for using a tool like this is to make sure that you aren’t influencing the results. When you are logged into your Google account and you perform a search, your previous searches can impact the results that are displayed to you.
Finally, SerpFox is web based so it will monitor your rankings when you aren’t connected to the internet. You can also view a graph and see how your rankings have changed over time.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
These two tools can be used for many things but there is one feature that I like when the two are linked. To begin, make sure that you have setup Google Analytics and Webmaster tools for your site.
Then in the Standard Reporting tab choose the Traffic Sources tab in the sidebar. Under that tab you will see Search Engine Optimization and a sub-category called Queries. This is what we are looking for. If your Webmaster account has not be linked to your Analytics account you will see a notification for you to link them. Follow these directions and make sure that the two are linked.
When they are linked, you will be able to see all the different search queries that your site has been included on. By digging through this section of your analytics you will be able to find some keywords that you are already ranking for that you may be able to rank higher for if you optimized the pages a little more.
Too often people get convinced that they need to spend a lot of money on expensive SEO tools. When you are performing research on a small blog or website, the tools above will often serve you well enough.
What are your thoughts? Have you used any of the tools above or have you discovered other tools that have helped your SEO efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Matt Hooper helps smart people, vibrant small businesses and energetic organizations build an internet presence. He does so by providing online WordPress Training either for groups or one-on-one. He is also happy to give out the occasional web host coupon whenever possible.