SEO tools are something that every freelancer with a website or blog can use. A proper understanding of SEO techniques can provide greater exposure for your business by increasing the traffic to your website.
In this post, I’ll touch on some of the basics about SEO (or search engine optimization), share a few basic techniques, and provide a list of over 50 free tools that you can use to analyze how well your freelance website is doing in the search results.
What is SEO?
For those of you who are not familiar with SEO, the term stands for search engine optimization. It refers to statistics and tools that you can use to analyze how a website indexed by the major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, MSN, and others.
Ranking well in the search results can be important for a business because most people turn to the search engines when they are looking for a product or service. However, few people look at the results that appear after the first few pages. This means that if you are a freelance web designer and your web design site appears on page ten of the search engine results, prospective clients using a search tool are less likely to find your website than if your web design site appears on page one of the search engine results.
The matter is made even more complex by the fact that many search engines, such as Google for example, have recently started to personalize their search results to the individual user. For more details on this change, Danny Sullivan discusses personalized search engine results in detail at Search Engine Land.
In fact, search engines frequently tweak and update the algorithms that they use to determine search results. They do this so often that a whole field of SEO specialists has formed. Those who are really serious about getting the best search engine results or about understanding how their website is currently doing in the search engines should consult a specialist. (Personally, I’m not a SEO specialist, but I do think that most freelancers can benefit from using a few basic SEO techniques).
There are two areas that most freelancers will want to think about when considering SEO for their freelancing website–their website design and their content.
SEO in Your Website Design
There are some strategies you can use when you design your freelancing website to make sure that it is search engine friendly. We’ve covered a few of these strategies before in our post, 10 SEO Techniques All Top Web Sites Should Use, but in case you missed that post here those points are again:
- Pay attention to the title tag
- Make use of the description and keyword meta tags
- Include alt attributes on images
- Use title attributes and descriptive text on links
- Create a sitemap
- Publish content that is relevant to your site’s purpose
- Link out and receive links in from reputable sites
- Use social media
- Don’t use Adobe Flash or splash pages
A change to our original advice is that the Google and Yahoo search engines apparently no longer use the keyword meta tag. However, thinking through the process of what search terms (key words) might apply to your site is not a bad idea. It’s also important to remember that other search engines may still use the keyword meta tag.
SEO in Your Content
If you’re a freelance writer, you’ve probably been contacted at least once by a client or would-be client who has asked you to pack a piece of web content with an exact phrase, or phrases. The request can make for very awkward wording and, in a worst case scenario, make the content virtually unreadable.
The phrases or words that search engine users are likely to search for are referred to as keywords. The reason that a writer may be asked to repeat a certain word in an article or blog post is because the client may be hoping to achieve a certain key word density. Keyword density refers to the number of times that a keyword appears on a page. Theoretically, if a keyword or keyword phrase is used just enough times, the page in which it appears will rank higher in the search results. That is why some clients request web content that is packed with certain words or phrases. Using your keywords in the title of your page and in internal headings will also help your page range better for that phrase.
However, using a keyword excessively in web content is known as keyword stuffing. Those who use keyword stuffing mistakenly think that they are improving their rankings in the search engines. Actually, the practice can harm your search engine rankings. Even worse, keyword stuffing can frustrate your readers and cause them to mistakenly believe that your site is a spam site.
Many SEO specialists are now also recommending that content be optimized for something that they are calling social SEO. Social SEO simply means that your content is written with social media sites (such as Facebook and Twitter) in mind. It’s important to consider social media sites because more and more users are using these sites to discover content. If your freelance business blog ranks well in social media, it makes it that much easier for your clients to find you.
A Few More Words About SEO
Once again, it’s important to remember that search engines are constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of their users. Google, and other search engines, update their search algorithms regularly in order to improve the quality of the information that their engine returns.
Search engine optimization techniques that worked well a decade ago may not work well today. Likewise, search engine optimization techniques that work well today may not work well in a decade.
Over 50 Free SEO Tools
Now that we’ve discussed SEO theory, it’s time to share some free SEO tools. Keep in mind that most of the organizations that offer free SEO tools also offer paid SEO services. Some of these tools may represent trial offers, so read the fine print before downloading any tool.
As I stated earlier, if you are serious about using SEO for your freelance business website or blog it is not a bad idea to get a consultation from one of these companies. If you decide to get some help with SEO, remember that not all companies have the same level of expertise, so make your selection carefully.
Here is the list of over 50 free SEO tools by source (in alphabetical order by the site where they are found):
- Link Popularity Checker–Shows inbound links for Google, Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, Allintheweb & HotBot.
- MSN Position Search–MSN Search for up to 15 keywords on one domain.
- Page Rank Search–Google search results with PAGE RANK bar and inbound links.
- Yahoo Rank Position–Shows Yahoo rank position, number of entries indexed.
- Google Rank Position–Shows Google rank position, PAGE RANK, number of entries indexed, DMOZ and Google Dir status.
- Google vs Yahoo Graph–Graphically shows the top 50 in Google and Yahoo linked.
- Keyword Density Analysis–Determines density of one, two, and three word phrases.
- Multi Datacenter PageRank Checker–Checks page rank values across all Google data centers.
SEO Book (You must register to use these tools.)
- Rank Checker–Checks the rank of your site on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- SEO Toolbar–Allows you to view SEO data as you browse.
- SEO for Firefox–Adds SEO information to Google and Yahoo search results
- Myriad Search–Meta search that examines Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves.
SEOMoz (You must be logged in to use these tools.)
- Open Site Explorer–View site’s analytics on custom API.
- Linkscape–Professional inlink tool.
- SEO Toolbar for Firefox–Linkscape as a toolbar for Firefox.
- Term Target–Examines a specific page to see which keywords are used.
- Popular Searches–View the most popular sources for a specific date on a number of well-known sites including Technorati, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Yahoo Buzz, Google Hot Trends, eBay Pulse, AOL Hot searches, Lycos, Ask, and Amazon.
- Trifecta–Provides an estimate of the importance of a page, blog, or domain.
- Term Extractor–Analyzes a page and shows keywords.
- GeoTargeting Detection–Checks to see if your website is set up for geo targeting searches.
- SEO Toolbox–Includes many free SEO tools.
- SEMToolBarTM–Downloadable toolbar lets you view SEO information as your browse.
- Search Engine Optimization/KSP Tool–Provides Google and Yahoo search engine statistics for specified keywords.
- Check Server–Looks for issues that prevent your site from being crawled by the search engines.
- View Page Source–Shows the source code of a URL.
- Domain Age Tool–Determines the age of the domains entered.
- Domain Stats Tool–Enter domain and find out domain age, number of pages indexed, and number of backlinks.
- HTTP/HTTPS Header Check–Lets you examine the HTTP headers from the web server after you request a URL.
- Search Engine Friendly Redirect-Enter URL–Checks your redirect to see how SE friendly it is.
- Website Keyword Suggestions–Provides keyword suggestions along and keyword traffic estimates for the entered website.
- Backlink Anchor Text Analyzer–Blacklink analyzer that shows URL and anchor text.
- Check Yahoo Page Rank–Allows you to check the Yahoo WebRank of up to five URLs at a time.
- URL Rewriting Tool-Creates Mod–Rewrites rules to convert dynamic URLs to static looking URLs.
- Search Engine Spider Simulator–Displays page content minus code.
- Similar Page Checker–Compares pages for similar content.
- Keyword Research Tool–Tool returns similar keywords found in the meta keywords of sites searched by your choice of nine search engines.
- Link Appeal-Enter UR–Rates for link appeal.
- Link Popularity Checker-Enter URL–Displays backlinks on five search engines.
- Search Engine Position Checker-Enter URL/Keyword–Displays top 50 for nine search engines.
- HTML Header View–Shows HTTP headers the web server is sending.
- Web Page Analyzer-Enter URL/Keyword–Checks copy for optimization.
- WebSEOAnalysis–Comprehensive website analysis. (Exclusive)
- Keyword Battle–Shows how your site ranks for a particular list of keywords (Exclusive)
- Keyword Analyzer–Allows you to determine the percentage of keywords in a particular page.
- Duplicate Content–Lets you compare content between two URLs.
- HTML Validation–Determines whether a list of URLs are valid according to W3C standards.
- PageRank Check–Lets you check your site’s page rank.
- Multi DC PageRank–Lets you check your site’s page rank across multiple data centers.
- Indexed Pages–Shows which pages on your site are indexed in Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
- Link Popularity–Shows the number of incoming links to a URL.
- Reputation Tracker–Tracks recent social media mentions of your site.
- Domain Info–Provides the current status of your domain name.
- Site Submitter–Allows you to submit your site to major search engines and directories and includes recent traffic statistics.
What About You?
We’ve provided some basic information about search engine optimization. We’ve shared some SEO techniques. We’ve also listed some free SEO tools for you to explore.
Do you use search engine optimization for your freelance website or blog? What tips do you have? What are your favorite tools?
Share your answers in the comments.