When I first came online waaaay back in 1996, I knew nothing about the Internet. I knew you could look up information, which was a Godsend to me since I’m a writer, and that I could play Internet games. (Some seventeen years later, I haven’t gotten over that. I still play games when I have free time.)SEO Tools Man

Then, around 2003, I got an email that I had no idea was spam. Yes, I was that gullible at the time. And it seemed interesting. All I had to do was sell memberships to this jobs site, a place where they made the people pay to see the jobs, while the employers could advertise for free. It was like a turnaround of Monster or CareerBuilder, and I thought that was pretty cool.

And it just seemed like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want access to the best jobs available?

But I was so newbie green that I had no idea how the whole online marketing thing went. But I learned. I joined forums, and I used EVERYTHING that was free. I had no capital to invest at the time. I was still writing my 9th book and not being paid well, and something had to change — ME.  So, I started learning everything I could about Internet marketing and one facet of it that really excited me, SEO.

I had a couple of software programs that I used, which to me were really cool at the time, but now, I see how really not so very cool they were. You have to be careful. Some of the things that sites and software tell you to do are just not right. SEO is an animal that changes its spots on a moment’s notice, and you have to be ready to march to the right drummer or you’re toast. These would be over-optimizing now, and well… Can you say Panda or Penguin?

So, this week, I decided to check out some of the free SEO sites available and see which ones were good, bad, or just non-existent. Here’s what I found:

  • SEO Gadget’s Content Idea Generator, V2

This is awesome! This tool is a Google Doc that you download to your Google Drive account. Then, you just copy the spreadsheet and use yourself for whatever niche you’re writing about. You enter what you’re writing about and the spreadsheet does the rest. Though mine wasn’t able to access Digg content for SEO, for example, that could be just because no one has Dugg any SEO stories lately. But it pointed me to stories in Google & Bing News, Reddit, Topsy, Blog Catalog, and other great places to see what people are writing about and to get ideas for writing myself. Since content is King again, this is something I will be using. It’s also a great way to research a niche. Get it here.

  • Website Analyzer at Visible.net

This tool isn’t quite as snazzy as some, but it will give you a quick snapshot of a website that it fairly comprehensive. You can see the meta information, keyword densities for words used on your page, internal & external links, etc.  Though some of the advice is helpful for people who aren’t really into SEO, it’s pretty general. However, this will give you advice on how to improve your website if you’re just a webmaster wanting to improve his or her SEO. You can get it here, but lots of plugins will do the same for you, such as SEOQuake or SEO Site Tools for Chrome.This tool is a tad more comprehensive, however.

  • SEMRush

OK, yes. I write for their blog, but… it’s a good SEO site, free or paid. For the free version, you get the same information as paid users, but it’s truncated. You won’t get all of the results for things like backlinks, SERPs positions, pay-per-click information, keyword research, and rankings. You will see the first 10 results, but well… I need to see the whole enchilada, if you know what I mean. So, I have a paid account there and I use it for all of the things I mentioned above, except PPC, which I don’t mess with.  I’m an organic search girl.  SEMRush is most definitely worth a try, especially if PPC is your thang, and the paid account is very helpful. If you want to check out the site and see how powerful the information it returns is, just click here for the upgrade page and a free two-week agency-level membership. It’s awesome! No strings. If you want to poke around a bit before signing up for the freebie, enter the coupon code “MAGNASITES-427W59S8” to get your free two-week trial.

  • Soolve

Looking to do some keyword reearch? What if you could search for ideas at Google, Wikipedia, Answers.com, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, and Yahoo all at the same time? Check it out. I did a search for “gardening,” and here’s what came back:

soolve results

Each of those keywords opens to the page the word sits on so you can see competitors and whatnot. I like this as a place to start, along with Ubersuggest and Wikipedia.

This is a very cool preliminary evaluation tool. Looks great, and will produce a .pdf report for you with all the pertinent information.  It will show you Meta info, internal/external links and even social info. But what I love about this site is the awesome .pdf report you get with the analysis, if you care to download it. Again, the information is pretty general, but if you just want to pull a report and show it to a potential client, it rocks!

Of the five sites, obviously, I like SEMRush the best or I wouldn’t be paying for it. That said, it is lacking some important aspects for the lowest levels of membership, such as branded reports. That’s not a huge deal to me. What matters is getting numbers I can show to my clients. SEMRush helps me to do that.

But if you’re looking for keyword research, Soolve and SEO Book are great places to start. Anyway, check these tools out. They’re worth a look and you may start using them on a regular basis. You really can’t compare apples to oranges, and these sites may be useful to you for different reasons. It’s worth a peek.

Some of the information I got back was false, though. For example, I was told that there was no robots.txt when their was or that robots.txt was blocking all search engines, when it was not. But what do you want for free?  Overall, you’re getting some information that you need to either fix your own site or to make a sale by showing other webmasters where their sites are falling short. What’s better than that?

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