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SEO Tools we recommend – Free & Paid for 2021

SEO Tools we recommend – Free & Paid for 2021

Tools we recommend to have before starting a checklist:

 

Free Tools

1) Google Search Console (GSC)  I use this to find and fix technical issues, check for and fix crawl errors, monitor indexing, CTRs, traffic etc. Please go to google search console and verify your domain to get all the data related to your website.

 

2) Google Analytics – This detailed beginners’ guide will help you navigate through Google Analytics and how you can use that data to help boost your traffic.

 

Paid Tools

3) Ahrefs – This is by far, the best investment I’ve ever made. It helps me analyze my competition, do keyword research, get competitor keywords etc. Not to mention, their blogs on SEO are pretty great. You can try the trial for $7 with this link. If you want more features  than the Ahref’s basic plan can give you as well as a google ad software, then you can also opt for Semrush

 

4) Siteground – If you’re looking for hosting for your website which is user friendly with a cpanel, I’d definitely recommend this one. With google always pushing user experience (latest page experience update due in 2021), speed is going to be a huge factor.  I’ve personally seen my rankings really improve when you switch to fast hosting.

 

5) Astra ThemeWhile we are on the topic of speed, we need to make sure your website design theme is not javascript heavy. I like to use the Astra because it’s super fast, customizable and makes my website look slick. 

 

6) LinkWhisper – Internal links is a BIG deal. It has shown to increase website traffic close to 40%. However, manually going back and updating all articles – Yikes. LinkWhisper is a great alternative that I’d recommend. It cut the time I invested in updating manual links by more than half. 

 

7) Festinger BHW – If you’re using WordPress, this website can save you $100s in themes and plugins. It has a collection of over 3500+ WordPress themes & plugins, everything you’ll need to set up a custom site on your own. I use this quite a lot for my own projects. WordPress themes are under the GNU Public License so this is completely legal and the owner has a great reputation in digital marketing forums. 

Actionable Tips

  1. Speed! Speed! Speed!

How fast does your site load?

 

Google uses site speed in indexing pages, and this affects page speed as well, and page speed has a huge correlation with user experience.

 

Google is always gearing towards user experience and nothing says that like the latest page experience update (most likely goes up in 2021).

 

The metrics for this update include:

 

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) which aims to measure your site’s loading speed; measures the time it takes your main content to load,

 

First Input Delay (FID) which measures load responsiveness; correlates user experience to unresponsive pages, and

 

Cumulative Layout Search (CLS) which measures visual stability; correlates user experience to unexpected layout shifts,

 

This is in addition to previous metrics like Page Speed and Mobile Friendly updates and others.

 

The point of all this information? Optimize your site to be blazing fast!

 

That said, fast web hosting is very important. It affects variables like server speed, scalability, caching, and more. The more efficient your host, the better.

 

Here are a few other things you can do:

 

Compress JavaScript, HTML, and CSS files, and optimize them by removing unnecessary characters and comments.

 

Use image formats accordingly (say JPEGs for photos and PNGs for graphics) and don’t forget to compress them.

 

GTMetrix is a page speed test tool you can use to measure and tracks your page speed. It shows your site’s performance and gives tips to help you improve. It can also send notifications when pages slow down.

See detailed analysis here.

 

Alternatives to GTMetrix include Pingdom and Google Pagespeed Insights.

 

  1. Use Short URLs

As far as SEO strategies go, this is as easy as it gets. Using shorter URLs makes for better results.

 

Backlinko recently analyzed almost 12 million Google search results and according to them, short URLs produce slightly better rankings than longer ones.

 

Their analysis reports that the top 10 pages usually average about 66 characters in their URLs—so you should maintain 40 to 100 characters for the best results.

 

You want to avoid URLs like mysite.com/blog/articles/12/23/019/seo/seo-checklist; too far from the homepage, and

 

mysite.com/this-is-a-very-long-list-of-very-actionable-search-engine-optimization-tips; seriously?

 

Instead, use URLs like mysite.com/seo-checklist

 

So, you should set your permalinks in the settings > permalinks portion of your WordPress website. The one we use is: /%category%/%postname%/

 

An analysis by Backlinko showed that including keywords in URLs increased click-through rate by a whopping 45%—higher CTRs are definitely good for ranking.

 

A URL like mysite.com/seo-checklist easily tells users and search engines that this page talks about SEO tips.

 

  1. Use a CTR-Friendly Title 

Simply put,  a title tag specifies a web page’s title. 

 

Keep your title between 50 and 60 characters so that most of it will be visible (bear in mind that character width varies).

 

Craft compelling titles (makes for better user experience and improves CTRs) and include keywords in them (the closer to the beginning of your title,  the better)—just don’t overdo it.

 

  1. Meta Descriptions, make them meta

Your meta description basically translates to a short summary of what that page is about. 

Include your keywords, but don’t force it.

 

Focus instead on crafting enticing meta descriptions that users can’t resist, to take your CTR to the roof.

 

In addition, Google truncates long descriptions so maintain 50 to 160 characters.

 

Yoast SEO is a plugin for WordPress sites that can help you improve your ranking in SERPs by optimizing your pages—think keywords, titles, meta descriptions, finding and fixing deadlinks, and much more.

 

Installing the plugin is pretty simple:

  • Log in to your WordPress site (this takes you to your dashboard),
  • Click on ‘Plugins’ on the left-side menu.
  • Click on ‘Add New’ and type ‘Yoast SEO’ in the search bar.
  • Install the plugin
  • When the plugin comes up, click ‘Install Now’ to start installing.
  • Once finished, click on ‘Activate’. It has appeared where the ‘Install Now’.

Once you’re done, you can now configure the plugin.

 

While there are a number of premium reserved functions, you get most of the important ones on the free version.

 

Check out this comprehensive Yoast SEO user guide; beginner’s guide.

 

Rank Math is an alternative you can explore.

 

  1. Internal Linking

This simply means linking to other pages on your site.

 

For SEO best practices, link using similar terms that inform about the page being linked to.

 

For example, if I’m linking to a site about SEO plugins for WordPress, I would make the text: “here is a list of WordPress SEO plugins” and insert the link with the anchor text “Wordpress SEO plugins”.

 

Just don’t use the same link text on two different pages. This would confuse Google into thinking they’re the same.

 

Don’t just link to any page on your site. Internal linking also helps the linked page rank higher (not as much as external links), so link to really important, high authority pages on your site so they can improve too. 

 

Link Whisper makes it easier for you to identify internal linking opportunities.

 

  1. External Linking

This is the exact opposite of internal linking.

You basically link to pages on external sites (high quality; trustworthy sites!). 

 

This tells google that your page is well researched and it helps users with access to more information, especially if you provide a stat. 

 

Don’t overdo it, though. 2-3 links per article should be more than enough.

 

  1. Optimize Images

When users can see your images, it makes them more likely to stay on your page. Google, however, isn’t as good at recognizing images—so help them (and yourself!) by:

 

  • Saving Site Images With The Keyword Name

Say you take a photo, change whatever generically generated (IMG….jpg) name to one that describes the image more. For example, cat.jpg or black cat.jpg, or…—you get the memo.

 

  • Optimizing ALT Tags and Captions.

Alt tags are displayed to users using screen readers (usually visually impaired users) as well as when images fail to load. Make them descriptive and use captions wherever possible.

 

They can also help you rank for image searches as well. And don’t forget about the video production as these links from Vimeo and Youtube are essential.

 

Have at least 2 to 3 images (use more for longer posts) as they improve user engagement and ultimately, encourage viewers to spend more time on your site. This is very good for ranking.

 

There’s a host of other things you can do like selecting the best file type, resizing, and reducing images as well.

 

Smush is an image optimizing plugin for WordPress that you can use to resize, compress, optimize, and lazy load images to make your page blazingly fast.

 

The free version allows you to optimize 50 images at a time.

 

  1. Optimize For Mobile-Friendliness

It’s a no brainer.

 

Smartphone users constitute the majority of internet users and page visitors, so it makes sense to optimize your site for mobile phones—since they don’t exactly have the same screen real estate as PCs.

 

Google’s Mobile-friendly test is a free Google tool that checks if your site is optimized for mobile devices.

 

  1. Backlinks

The best for last? Or maybe the most difficult for last.

 

Google has listed backlinks as one of the top 3 factors when indexing pages.

 

It’s clear. If more pages link to you, then you must be providing value. But it’s not that simple. The quality of the sites that link back to you is also a major factor. That’s why it’s quite hard.

 

High authority sites may not link to yours—unless you give them reasons to. Some ideas would be to conduct interviews of industry-experts and make a round-up post. Most of them would link back to/share your post.

 

Semrush’s backlink checker is a tool that displays high-quality backlinks of any site, pages most linked to,  outbound links, followed as well as nofollow links, and more. You can use Ahrefs also.

 

You can easily use this tool on your competitors’ websites to see those pages that are linking to them and try to target them also. 

 

You can also build backlinks by guest posting on high-quality blogs. Or you could tag relevant influencers and tell them about it. They might just take on some publicity tasks/social media sharing for you—which would be very good!

 

Conclusion

While this list is far from conclusive, it contains well known, proven techniques that can help you get the most out of your content.

 

Even if you’re unable to apply them all, employ as much as you can, while bearing in mind the 3 most important search ranking factors according to Google: content, links, and RankBrain.

 

Be Patient

Wait, I thought we were talking about SEO tips? 

We still are.

 

When it comes to SEO, especially the user experience aspect, it does take time to see improvements in SERPs as Google needs to analyze user interaction with your site over time to decide if it should rank higher.

 

So do not expect your page to jump to number 1 for competitive keywords overnight. 

 

Improve your site on every parameter, and monitor your progress over a few months.

Ryan Griffiths
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