Search engine optimisation, or 'SEO', is absolutely key to the success of any business operating online (and, in 2016, if your business isn't operating online, it probably should be!). In this post I'm going to share a few resources that will help improve your understanding of search engine optimisation, along with some tools that can help you improve the visibility of your site.
1. Google's SEO starter guide
Bing, Yahoo Search and Duck Duck Go are all very well, but we all know that if your site isn't coming up tops in Google search, you are going to be missing out on traffic, leads and sales. So it's important to listen to what Google say about how to ensure good search rankings - and thankfully, they have a lot to say in very own free search engine optimisation starter guide.
Ahrefs is arguably the industry leading SEO backlink checker and competitor research tool - you whack in a domain name and get a huge number of insights about it, including a list of backlinks pointing to it, anchor text and more (all vital pieces of information for informing a strong SEO strategy). The full version is insanely useful - but comes at a price (a minimum of $99 per month). Thankfully, there is a free version of Ahrefs available, and although it's quite limited in terms of functionality, it nonetheless lets you see at a glance how authoritative a particular domain or page is - and this helps you determine whether it's a site worth approaching for backlinks or pitching guest posts to. You can also use the free version to get a (small) list of pages that are particularly authoritative when it comes to your focus keywords.
If you're a Wordpress user, you really should be using Yoast, a free plugin which evaluates your page content from an SEO perspective. A traffic light system will tell you immediately if the content you've created is search-engine friendly, and if it isn't, you'll get a list of practical suggestions as to how you can improve it.
4. Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO
Moz is one of the leading websites about search engine optimisation and provides a range of free and paid-for SEO tools as well as resources about the topic. One such resource is their Beginner's Guide to SEO - a comprehensive, 10-chapter guide on how to optimise your site for search. Well worth a read, particularly for those who are new to the whole area of SEO.
5. Google Search Console
If you've got a website, and you want it to perform well in search, then you've simply got to register it with Google Search Console. This is a free suite of tools which allows you - amongst other things - to submit your site to Google, check it for any crawl errors and view backlinks to it. As soon as you register your website, Google Search Console will helpfully send you an email with a series of steps you should take to maximise its visibility in search. And, when it comes to SEO at least, when Google tells you to do something, the chances are you should...
6. Backlink Watch
Don't be put off by the lo-fi look of this site and the slightly dubious looking adverts for backlinks: Backlink Watch is actually a very handy free resource. As the name suggests, it allows you to take a look at the backlinks pointing to any domain. Whilst not by any means as sophisticated as the likes of Ahrefs (see above), Backlink Watch nonetheless gives you quick (and free) insights on a domain's authority and the sort of links that may be pointing to a competitor's website.
7. Google Keyword Planner
Yep, another free Google resource. But another handy one! You'll need to set up an Adwords account first to access Google's Keyword Planner, but there's no charge for that unless you actually run some adverts. The Keyword Planner itself allows you to see how many searches there are for particular search terms - this allows you to hone in on some niche search phrases and optimise your site content accordingly to take advantage of them.
8. Hubspot's Website Grader
I've found Hubspot's Website Grader tool pretty handy over the years: you basically enter a URL (yours or that of a competitor or client) and it will tell you 1) how well your site is functioning from an SEO and inbound marketing point of view and 2) the steps you need to take to rectify any problems. It's a good 'sense-checking' tool.
9. Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land is a site that is packed full of SEO tips and news - and in particular, it's a good site to stay posted to if you want to keep on top of the latest Google algorithm changes and additions. If you want to know your Panda algorithm from your Penguin, and when the latest version has been rolled out, it's the place for you.
10. Google Webmasters YouTube Channel
The Google Webmasters YouTube Channel is, as you might expect, full of useful advice regarding SEO. For a good visual introduction to search engine optimisation, it's definitely worth subscribing to.
You may find the below resources helpful too:
- our 6 'must-do' SEO tips for improving your site's visibility in search.
- 55 SEO copywriting tips from Writtent.com.