Here’s an open secret for anyone starting a website: Google loves SEO. It makes their job easier. They provide free Starter Guides To SEO. They provide a very deep and detailed guide to website best practices. And best of all – they provide free SEO tools that you can wield to improve your website. If you are starting out and looking for just beginner SEO tools – this is huge.
No need to buy expensive software. No need to get in-depth training courses for only $$$. There are plenty of amazing tools out there – but with a little know-how, you can start getting search traffic to your site with these free tools from Google. Here they are and how to use them…
The Google Search results are the heart of SEO. There’s a couple ways that I like to show how to use it for anyone just starting out.
First, you can use Google Instant to find keywords. I’m sure you’ve seen Google Instant – but you may have not realized it’s value. When you go to Google.com and start your search, Google will try to suggest search terms on the fly with terms that other people are already searching for.
When you are a searcher – this feature is convenient. But when you are looking for language and a keyword theme to use with your blog post or new webpage – it’s critical data.
Using Google Instant not only helps you come up with the language that people are using, but it also gives you access to the long-tail of search.
For example, if you have a brand new running blog, you aren’t going to be able to get traffic from terms like “running shoes.” But… you can use Google Instant to find other more specific and achievable keywords…
Ok! We’ve got some keyword ideas. Now we can use Google Search to check out the competition.
This next step is simply looking that the search results to see if your blog/website would be chosen to get into the search results.
This step requires a bit of an SEO’s eye. However, you can develop it by asking yourself if you would click on a result if you were doing that search. If they don’t look like good results – then you have an opportunity to provide value. You should especially note if Google is returning old results, forum posts, or bulk answer sites. If you see low quality results – that means that Google is desperate – and needs you to provide that content.
Here’s an example for the search “running shoes that help prevent shin splints”
Ok – so we’ve got some keywords and some idea of the competition. How do I get an idea of how many people are searching for these terms? That’s where we turn to Google’s Keyword Planner.
You can find the Keyword Planner by setting up a free AdWords account at adwords.google.com
The Keyword Planner has a ton of amazing uses – but we’re mainly going to be using it for ideas and to get estimated search volume per month for various keywords.
Just type in potential keywords or your product category into the field (one per line), then search.
You can also filter and sort to get even more ideas.
But what if you want to get ahead of the keywords, so to speak, and write about trends. What language and topics are becoming more important? That’s where Google Trends comes in.
Google Trends is a fascinating tool just for the curious, but is super useful as a beginner seo tool and expert seo tool alike. Basically, it takes Google’s search data and plots it historically.
You can use it to find out trending topics, and to compare trends between different topics and keywords. In the above screenshot, you can see that ‘running’ as a topic as really been trending up over the past several years.
You can also see that ‘swimming’ is hyper-seasonal, and that ‘hiking’ has actually been trending slightly down. Data like this can really inform not just your SEO strategy, but also your strategy for your entire website.
Google Trends also breaks down trends by country – and gives you peek at ‘rising topics’ that you can use to get ahead of the keywords – and find out what specific topics are getting a lot of press and attention.
Google Trends also has a forgotten cousin called Correlate that you can use to generate even more ideas.
Search, Keyword Tool, and Trends are Google’s top “external” tools – but what many people don’t realize when looking for beginner SEO tools is that often your most valuable data is already owned by you and provided by Google (if you have them set up correctly).
Google Analytics is Google’s free piece of website analytics software. You must sign up for a free account and install the code on your site to get the data. It is simply a must-have for anyone running a website, because it gives you all sorts of data on your website visitors and how they are interacting with your website.
There is a ton of data to sift & sort in Google Analytics – too much to cover here. But – for SEO purposes, be sure to look at your Landing Page report to see what is doing well.
The general rule of thumb is that if something is working – do more of that. Sticking with our running blog example – if, for whatever reason, you are getting a lot of traffic around variations of ‘running shoes’ – you should do more of that.
You can also look at your Content –> Landing pages to see what are the top pages that people initially land on (and if you want to get advanced, go ahead and use an Advanced Segment to sort only organic traffic).
Again, you can see what types of posts and pages are doing especially well in search…and do more of that.
So far – all of these tools require a little bit of analysis, and depending on your editorial and business/personal goals – you may not want to have SEO as a factor in your content strategy. But you do want a more technical tool just to tell you if you are doing anything wrong from a more technical perspective.
That’s where Search Console comes in.
Google Search Console, like Google Analytics, is a free service that you can sign up for. To get the data, you have to verify your site by connecting it with your Google Analytics account, uploading a verification file, or by implementing a tag on your site.
Once you have a verified site – Google starts giving you a wealth of SEO related data. It tells you how many pages the Googlebot is indexing, if there are any errors, and any other problems it might find with your site.
Most importantly, it gives you keyword and search performance data under Search Analytics.
Most of the data is self-explanatory, but absolutely essential. It’s a great beginner SEO tool not only for the data, but also because it helps you understand more about Google, SEO, and how bots understand your site.
SEO is all I do all day long, and I use Google’s tools and Excel for 90% of my work. And even for beginners – that’s all you really need. I’ll cover some other useful tools in future posts but next time you see an ad for a $$$ SEO training course or tool that promises “tons of traffic!” – run, and give Google’s free tools a try.
Check out my guide to Ahrefs to see what you can do with a paid SEO tool.
Find more ideas for SEO content here.
Check out my deep dive with Google’s –
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