The following is a guest post by Greg Snow-Wasserman, Content Maestro at WooRank. He has more than 7 years experience as a reporter, market researcher, and digital marketer.
The SEO industry is awash in auditing, tracking and reporting tools. Choosing the right tools or services can be overwhelming for the SEO beginner. When researching potential options, it's always worth-while to map out what you're expecting from your SEO tool and what your needs are.
So if you're in the market for an SEO tool for beginners, we've put together a list of some essential features and characteristics that any tool should have. Choosing the right tool for your job is going to make your SEO much, much easier.
What Are the Best SEO Features?
1. SEO Grade
You're new to the SEO game and you're looking for an SEO tool that will give you an idea of where your SEO stands now. That makes an overall SEO grade an absolute must-have for any beginner's SEO tool. Because maybe your website is already well optimized, both technically and content-wise. Or maybe you've got some problems with links that you don't know about.
Picking an SEO tool that provides you with an overall SEO score in a way that is quick and easy to digest tells you if you've got a problem worth investigating, something's gone horribly wrong or if your SEO is good enough for now.
2. Technical SEO crawler
Technical SEO is crucial to your site's success. It's what allows Google to find, crawl and index everything that's on your website.
Almost any SEO tool will detect the presence of a robots.txt file and a sitemap, but a good beginner's SEO tool will take it a step further and crawl your website in the same way Google does. And, ideally, it will find issues that Google looks for when it crawls your site:
- Duplicate content: Duplicate content can strike by accident. A good SEO tool will find technical issues that cause duplicate content that you might not know about.
- Broken pages and links: Crawlers, like Google, access pages by following links so they can't index content if your links don't work or your pages are inaccessible. A good SEO crawler finds links that lead to pages that return error codes.
- HTTP and HTTPS conflicts: Insecure sites are bad, and secure pages with insecure assets return big scary warnings. Your beginner's SEO tool will find these instances of images, videos, CSS and more hosted on insecure URLs.
3. Mobile Optimization
Mobile traffic is making up more and more of all organic visitors. So much so that Google has started going mobile first when indexing pages. For a beginner, a good SEO tool should, therefore, be able to determine how mobile friendly a website is and what needs to change to improve it:
- Touchscreen readiness: How easily can a user click a link or button without accidentally clicking another one?
- Mobile compatibility: Do any pages use Flash, Silverlight or other web technologies that don't work on all mobile browsers?
- Mobile viewport: Are page ratios set to conform to device screen width?
- Speed: How fast does a page load when accessed on a less powerful processor on a slower network?
Thanks to the aforementioned developments in mobile search, mobile-friendliness is an important ranking signal for Google.
4. Keyword ranking
Ah, the mean of SEO: keyword rankings. As a beginner to SEO, this may be what you're most interested in. So, of course, your SEO tool should include a feature that finds, tracks and compares your keyword rankings.
When evaluating an SEO keyword tool, make sure it includes these features:
- Search volume: People used to use Google's AdWords Keyword Planner to find search volume, but you can no longer do that unless you meet a minimum spend threshold. An SEO tool that includes search volume is a major plus.
- Ranking: Obviously you want to see where your site appears in SERPs for your keywords.
- Movement: Again, this is probably obvious, but you want to be able to see how much your rankings have changed over time.
- Competitor rankings: No website is without competitors, and knowing where your competitors rank is a big part of search marketing. The ability to add and track competitors is a must with your SEO tool.
- Ranking table: You're tracking competitors, but what about the other pages that outrank you? Your beginner's keyword tool should include the top ten for each keyword so you know who your competition is.
5. User-friendly interface
SEO can be, quite frankly, complicated and intimidating. And you're new to SEO, so any tool you choose should have a low barrier to entry. Obviously, every tool takes a click or two to figure out, but anything that takes more than that isn't for you.
Things that will make a tool easier for you to use are:
- Robust help center and/or knowledge base that you can search to answer questions.
- Clear, concise and actionable advice based on the current status of your website's SEO.
- Easily accessible, friendly and helpful customer support team.
- Clear layout, logical navigation, and generally well-thought-out user experience.
If you're new to SEO and don't know much about it, your SEO tool really should there to help you learn the ropes, get your feet under you and then grow with your knowledge. If you feel like a particular tool is throwing you in the deep end, it's probably not the right tool for you.
Fortunately, most SEO tools will offer a free trial period so you can get to know it a bit before committing. Take the time to try out every feature before making a decision to make sure that your first SEO tool will make your marketing easier and more effective without making your head spin.