You’ve landed on this page so you know search engine optimization is important in order to grow your business’ presence online. SEO software helps you by quickly identifying site issues that are holding you back and opportunities to increase your website’s visibility. But where do you start and what tools can help you along the way?
Top SEO tools for small businesses
There are hundreds of SEO tools out there, making it overwhelming at times to choose from. For any business beginning their SEO effort, the tools chosen should focus on helping with the following:
- Website performance and analytics
- Local SEO listings
- Business listings and citations management
- Technical SEO audit
- Keyword research
And for any small businesses looking into SEO software tools, budget comes to mind. The following list of tools are either free, freemium, or extremely low cost.
Google Analytics (free)
Purpose: Website performance and analytics
If you’ve got a website, Google Analytics is where you start. It’s the very basis of tracking your site’s success. Google Analytics gives insight into how your visitors find and interact with your website. By understanding who your website users are, how they found you, and the actions they take on your website, you can use that information to strengthen what's working for your digital marketing efforts and improve what's not.
Google Analytics breaks down your data into four major sections:
- Audience: Get to know your audience. View your business' demographic, where they're from, what device they're searching from, etc.
- Acquisition: See which channels are bringing in traffic to your website. (Organic traffic, paid, social media, direct, referral, email, etc.)
- Behavior: Understand how users navigate your site. See which pages your visitors land on when entering your site, how long that stay, each page they interact with, and what page they exit on.
- Conversions: Set up conversions to track the conversions and actions users take on your site. (signups and subscriptions, downloads, purchases, first time callers, etc.)
Bonus: Google Analytics is the most popular integration for marketing software companies - you’ll have no trouble connecting and collecting your website visitors behavior.
Google Search Console (free)
Purpose: Website performance in search
Another must have. Google Search Console is one more of Google's foundational search performance and analytics tools. Beyond what Google Analytics shows you with traffic and user behavior, Search Console monitors the way your site appears in search, the search queries you appear for, and much more. Use Google Search Console to conduct keyword research, submit sitemaps, and identify and resolve any site issues it discovers.
Local SEO tools
For any business that has a physical presence that customers either visit or the business comes out to the customer, a focus of local SEO is essential to having your customers and potential prospects find you. Ranking in SERP locally is determined primarily by three major factors:
- Relevance: Relevance to the searcher’s query
- Distance: Proximity to the searcher’s known location
- Prominence: How well known your business is (links, online listings & directories, reviews, etc.)
The following tools are both business listings to help determine your relevance, distance, and prominence to searchers and business listing management tools to help you keep up with the accuracy of your business information online.
Google My Business (free)
Purpose: The #1 online listing your business needs.
Google My Business is a separate listing within Google’s search engine specifically for local businesses and organizations. Local stores and service providers relevant to a user’s search query are shown on a map and each listing includes the business’s hours, phone number, address, website, and other essential information that people may look for on a business’s website.
If you own a brick and mortar business, setting up Google My Business listing is essential to you getting found by potential customers. It’s free to use and easy to set up and maintain. Through your GMB listing, you can:
- Appear in Maps and Google’s Local Pack
- Review and respond to customer reviews of your business
- Share photos of your business and let customers do the same
- Manage your hours of operation and other business information
- Get insights into listing’s performance
Business listings and citations management
Any mention of your business' name and contact information is considered an online citation and for businesses that are focused on local SEO, it's critical for that information to be consistent across the internet. This is known as NAP consistency (Name, Address, Phone number).
While NAP consistency is a known ranking factor for local SEO and important for search engines, it's also equally as important for the people that are interested in contacting or visiting your business.
Moz Local ($129/year)
Purpose: Managing local citations (NAP consistency)
Moz Local automates your business listing management by automatically syncing the business information you provide to Moz with all other listings across the web. With Moz Local, you can ensure that your business maintains NAP consistency and that users always come across the correct information when discovering you in local search.
Alternative: NAP Hunter (free)
N.A.P. Hunter automatically performs searches for various combinations of your business's name, address and phone number information to compile a list of all your business' listings and profiles across the search engine. Download a csv. of all your citations and begin to manage the places your business shows up in local search.
Technical SEO tools
While web analytics tools like Google Analytics give you what at times seems like an overwhelming amount of information about your site, visitors and their behavior, it doesn’t give you the underlying reasons why. Having a technical SEO tool can show you website issues are are holding you back.
AHREFs’ Webmaster Tool ( free for website owners)
Purpose: Website audit
Recently, AHREFS released their free Webmaster Tools solution, allowing anyone that manages a website access to their easy-to-use dashboard. Within your dashboard, you can:
- Monitor the health of your site with their Health Score
- Domain Rating
- Fix site errors based on priority ( notices, warnings, errors)
- See https status code errors & redirects
- View all backlinks to your site
- Discover how much traffic is coming to your site and from where
- See the keywords you're currently ranking for
- Find opportunities and suggestions for internal linking within your site
Screaming Frog (free up to 500 URLs per site)
Purpose: Website audit
Screaming Frog gives you a ton of information about your website and depending on your familiarity with search engine optimization, it’s sometimes more than you know what to do with. From a beginner to an SEO expert, Screaming Frog is as complex as you make it. But as a small business owner, you can use this web crawler to:
- Check all the status codes for each page of your website to ensure things are working properly
- Look at your URL structure (make sure these are relevant each page, but concise.)
- Discover any orphaned pages (pages with no internal links on your site)
- Audit your page titles for missing titles, duplicates, length, etc.
- Check that each page has a meta description
- Discover broken links (404s)
Check out Screaming Frog’s quickstart guide to auditing your website.
Keyword research tools
What are your customers searching for? What do they want to know about the products or services you offer?
Answer The Public (free, but limited searches per day - make them count)
Purpose: Keyword research and content ideation
Answer The Public is a visual keyword research tool to stir up ideas for content marketing. By entering a topic or keyword related to your business, Answer The Public generates a stream of questions real people ask online. This should give you an idea of what kind of content and answers your audience is searching for online.
Google Ads Keyword Planner ( free)
Purpose: Find keywords relevant to your business
This tool isn’t just for those focused on paid search ads. As another of Google’s free tools for users, Google’s Keyword Planner gives you insights into keywords you’d like your business to rank for. Upload an existing keyword list you have to dive into search volume and other data or enter your website’s URL to have Google find relevant keywords already on your site. You can also use this to find the keywords your competitors are going after.
Google’s search results (free)
People are curious creatures and search engines are our proof. In fact, there are 3.5 billion searches through Google per day. Why not use the search engine to your advantage?
Let's say you own an automotive repair shop that specializes in European cars and particularly bimmers. Your prospects and customers are relatively local to you, but would travel a little farther for the right service. Perform a local search with a keyword relevant to your business and explore the SERP.
You’ll notice paid ads above followed by Google's local pack displaying other close by shops. Below the map, you’ll find more organic search results. It's within these results that you'll find the PAA Box, a goldmine for content ideas and opportunities.
“PAA Boxes,” known as people also ask, are related questions that appear in the SERP in an accordion styled dropdown. You can use PAAs to gather more insight into related questions users search for to optimize your existing content or inspire new content for your site. This will likely improve your content’s search intent and lead to increase in rank.
Bonus: Add Keywords Everywhere as a Google Chrome extension to get even more keyword ideas out of search. View Related searches as well as trends and seasonality.