Search Engine Optimization or SEO, the process of improving your site in order to get more traffic via search engines like Google and Bing, is an important part of doing small business online these days. In fact, efforts to create sites and content that will be properly optimized for search engines and thus draw a wide audience have been undiminished by the so-called social media revolution with its emphasis on use of social sites like Facebook, Twitter and others to market content and drive traffic.
Happily, a wide variety of tools exist to help even the novice navigate the deep and sometimes stormy waters of SEO. Here are tools that can help you out in your efforts to develop a site that draws visitors and hopefully the customers you need for your small business online.
Search engine optimization tools. Aaron Wall’s toolkit is the gold standard. It has tools for do-it-yourselfers and SEO professionals alike. We call so many our favorites, it’s hard to know where to begin pointing them out. Try the “Keyword Suggestion Tool” — start with one keyword and it will help by suggesting others. The SEO Toolbar for Firefox is also outstanding — it gives you immediate access to details about any site you visit (including your own site or blog!). Quite a number of valuable tools are free. The “Premium” tools require a paid membership which also gives you access to training materials and the exclusive SEOBook Community where Aaron answers questions. SEOBook.com
SEO dashboard. With Raven Tools you get an impressive online dashboard to help you manage your Web sites, blogs and social media presence. Raven is set up as an online software service. You log in to perform SEO research, monitor your progress and get access to reports. You can even manage Twitter, Facebook and WordPress blogs all in one place from inside the Raven control panel, saving time. Our favorite features: it helps you track and analyze traffic from social sites such as Twitter and Facebook. We also like the Design Analyzer and Quality Analyzer tools that instantly analyze key elements of a website, including the impact of your design on SEO. Raven Tools
SEOmoz tools. SEOmoz also provides a variety of tools to improve your SEO. Our favorites include Open Site Explorer, which lets you check a domain to see up to 10,000 links to it — you can see where you’re getting visibility and compare with competitors. It also offers something called “mozRank” which shows how popular (in terms of links) a webpage is. (MozRank is also included in Raven Tools subscriptions.) Some tools are paid and some are free. SeoMoz
Webmaster tools for running a website better. Liam Delahunty recently launched his webmaster tools. It includes time-savers, shortcuts and idea-generators for those managing blogs and websites. Our favorites: a bookmarklet that you add to your browser bar that allows you to do a one-click search of any blog you’re on to see if they accept guest posts. Need a good headline for an article? The Topical Brainstorming app generates ideas for blog post titles in seconds, just by plugging in a keyword. If you’re looking for simplicity and productivity tools to save time, you’ll find 50 tools here. Topical Brainstorming is currently free. Others require a subscription. Online Sales
Get listed for local search. Go ahead…see how your business is listed at Google, Yahoo, Bing and other local search engines. Simply plug in your business name and zip code, and this tool checks your listing status in under one minute. Ideal for businesses with local offices or stores. Also has educational resources to help you understand what to do to improve your presence among those searching for local businesses. Basic service is free, but also offers ancillary services you can purchase. GetListed.org
Grade your website or blog. HubSpot puts out some valuable tools that enable you to test and benchmark how you are doing online. Called “Grader” tools, there are grader tools for websites, blogs, press releases, and even book marketing for authors. You can also grade your social presence on Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. All are free. Outstanding tools for newbies. Grader.com
Do-it-yourself SEO. DIYSEO consists of tools designed for small businesses. Aimed at the do-it-yourself market, it is best for those who are still learning about SEO, who need step by step guidance. You get a dashboard suggesting activities. There’s a free report card for your website that uses smiley faces and grumpy faces to help you understand where you’re doing well and where you need improvement. DIYSEO.com
SEO checklists and activities guide. Another tool designed for do-it-yourselfers is Lotus Jump. It contains an online dashboard and checklists of activities to help you build backlinks and attract traffic. The focus here is on activities such as creating social profiles, answering questions on Q&A sites, using bookmarking sites, blog commenting to develop buzz, adding content at relevant sites, and submitting to key directories. Check out our review of this service. LotusJump.com
Pay Per Click tools. If you do any pay-per-click advertising, such as with Google AdWords, you know how easy it is to waste money. These tools help you make the most of your advertising dollars. Among the tools are a calculator for ROI (return on investment) for your PPC ads. There’s also one for calculating whether CPM (banner ad) campaigns are profitable — and numerous others. Designed for marketers and online entrepreneurs who purchase search ads. PPC Blog
Majestic SEO. We’ve never used Majestic SEO, although we’ve heard of it, because it always seemed like a tool set for advanced SEO users, not small business owners. Luckily, there’s a recent review of one feature, the Majestic SEO Site Explorer. You’ll also find discount coupons contained in that review. If you’re a professional SEO or consider yourself advanced, check it out. Majestic SEO