As a data nerd, I love a good tool — give me a software that can collect and analyze data in an interesting way, and I’m hooked. A lot of the SEO tools out there are incredibly powerful, and have a correspondingly expensive monthly subscription.
However, today I want to share with you the handful of powerful SEO tools that I use every single day as a professional SEO Specialist that are either free or super cheap. I am a firm believer that anyone can learn to do their own SEO, and that you shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage or sell a kidney to learn how to do it.
Great SEO Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
I want to make a little disclaimer here: the free and cheap tools I recommend in this article aren’t going to totally replace what some of the expensive pro-level tools can do for you, they just aren’t. But I think that most people can make a solid impact on their SEO with a bit of basic SEO theory and affordable tools.
Let’s Start With Some Free SEO Advice
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” which has to do with tweaking your content on the internet to make it easier for search engines to crawl, understand, and interpret it as valuable so that your content is more prevalent in search results.
Google’s #1 goal is to keep searchers coming back with their searches. If a searcher finds accurate, well-researched, well-presented information on a site that is pleasant to use then they are more likely to use Google again the next time they have a question. So it is important to keep that end-user experience in mind when working on SEO.
When in doubt, write for the reader not for the algorithm. Google is continually making updates to its algorithm to prioritize sites that prioritize the end-user experience. If you find yourself in a position where, for example, you could fit in another keyword but it would make the sentence clunky and harder to read, skip it.
There is obviously a lot more to Search Engine Optimization than that, but if you keep those few things in mind when you’re getting started, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
The Cheap or Free SEO Tools I Use Every Day
1. Keywords Everywhere – CHEAP
Keywords Everywhere* is one of those things on the internet that is so cheap and so good and so powerful and so simple to use that it almost seems like it must be a trick. It’s a browser extension that turns your SERP (search engine results page) into a keyword research machine. For a tiny fraction of a cent per search, Keywords Everywhere shows you search volume, competition, CPC, search trends, related keywords and more right on the page. It also works in other search engines like YouTube and Pinterest, and even adds volume and competition data inside of Google Search Console *mind blown emoji*
For a more in-depth look at Keywords Everywhere, check out this webinar I did with my friends at Showit a while back where I talk about blogging for SEO and the cheap and easy way I recommend going about it.
2. Google Search Console – FREE
Google Search Console is an incredibly powerful tool from our
overlords friends at Google. It’s the #1 tool I recommend for tracking your progress and rankings, seeing what search queries are sending traffic to your website, making sure your site is being indexed properly and more.
There are all kinds of great resources on YouTube about how to set up and use Google Search Console so I am not going to go into the details here, but I will say that setting up Google Search Console on your site is something I would consider a “must-do” when getting started with your SEO journey.
Want to know what else you should do to set yourself up for success? Get my guide to the 5 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your SEO.
3. Detailed Browser Extension – FREE
The Detailed extension gives you a lot of important SEO information about your website at a glance and for free. Without even logging into you website (or any other website for that matter) you can see the page title, meta description, word count, heading structure and more. This info can be great not only for keeping tabs on your own website, but also for competitive analysis — are your competitors writing better meta descriptions than you? Longer content? You can find out in seconds.
Also, don’t sleep on the ability this extension gives you to see your heading structure in the form of an outline. Having your headings properly formatted, optimized for your target keywords, and arranged in a hierarchical order is key for good on-page optimization.
4. Check My Links Browser Extension – FREE
Fixing broked or endlessly redirecting links is another significant part of the on-page optimization process, and the Check My Links browser extension makes finding those troublesome links a breeze. Pro-level tools like SEMrush will tell you what page a broken link is on, but sometimes the real challenge is actually finding the link on the page itself. Check My Links’ easy stoplight color-coded labels make it easy.
5. GTMetrix – FREE
GTMetrix is a page speed analysis tool with a robust free version. While page speed isn’t the huge ranking factor that some folks make it out to be, knowing how quickly your site loads and how well your site complies with the Core Web Vitals is helpful for having a general feel for the quality of the experience on your page. If your page loads too slowly, it doesn’t matter how great your content is, no one is going to stick around to see it!
Free Trials and Limited Versions of Pricey Pro-Level Tools
Ahrefs and SEMrush are probably the two biggest names when it comes to pro-level SEO tools, and for good reason. The full subscription grants you access to a huge array of tools and reports all geared toward SEO mastery.
I would argue that both tools can be overkill and lead to information overload for your casual user, but there are some features of both that are absolutely worth checking out.
If you are a little bit more advanced and have a week you can set aside to really work on your SEO, doing the 7-day free trial of SEMrush is absolutely worth it just for access to their site audit tool. The site audit gives you an in-depth look at all of the technical issues on your site, gives some information on how and why to fix each issue, and does an okay job of prioritizing the issues using the categories “errors”, “warnings”, and “notices”.
Now, I will say that it is very likely that you will become completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of technical issues this report digs up, and feel unsure of where to start or what is the most important to fix. This tool is not for the beginner or the faint of heart. If you decide you need some help, I do offer website optimization as a done-for-you SEO service.
Ahrefs, at the time of publication of this blog post, doesn’t have a free trial of their full product, but they do have a suite of free SEO tools that are available to site owners.
Truth booth, I don’t really love ahrefs — it just doesn’t gel with the way my brain works as well as SEMrush does (#teamsemrush), but I know and respect many SEOs who love ahrefs, and this wouldn’t be much of a guide to valuable free SEO tools if I didn’t mention free tools from one of the most respected names in the industry, now would it?
Okay, Take ONE Step
I know that guides like this can be super overwhelming. The paradox of choice is real.
If you were going to take one action after reading this blog post, it should be to install the Keywords Everywhere browser extension, purchase $10 worth of credits, and then make a Google search related to your business.
NEW TO SEO?
Let Me Show You Where To Start
When I tell people at conferences and social events that I’m an SEO Specialist, the #1 question I get is:
“Okay, so if I know absolutely nothing about SEO but want to get started with it, what’s the first thing I should do?”
So I put together this quick resource with 5 things a total newbie can do today to start making progress with their SEO. If you were to do everything on the list back to back, it would probably take you less than an hour. So why not get started?