It takes the assistance of technology to analyze data, conduct research, validate code, and conduct other SEO site audit checks at scale.
The good news is that these tools don’t have to put your SEO budget into the red.
There are plenty of perfectly adequate, free SEO tools available to publishers and SEOs on a smaller scale. And many of these free tools give you access to the same functionality and data sources as the paid versions.
That means that once your needs have outgrown the free version, it’s an easy transition to the paid versions in order to continue on your journey of success.
In the meantime, check out this list of free tools you can use in site audits to get you started.
Free Content-Related SEO Tools
While we don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, we do know that good content starts with understanding the keywords people use and why they’re using them.
The following free keyword tools will help put publishers on the path to top rankings.
His SEO Ngram Tool helps you to better understand the keyword combinations that are most commonly used for searching.
The tool also generates a search term relationship map, grouping the different search terms into a visual map that shows the base keyword terms (primary connections) and the search terms that are related to it.
Below is an animation showing the main keyword in the center.
Around the main keywords are the primary connections which are variations of the main keywords.
Connected to the primary connections are the keyword phrases that are related to the second-level keyword phrases.
So it's: Main Level > Second Level Primary Connections > Third level keyword phrases
Animation of Search Term Relationship Map
The data can be downloaded to a CSV spreadsheet that shows word combinations that are frequently grouped together.
This is a highly popular tool, and it seems like everybody knows about it.
Nevertheless, it needs to be listed for those who haven’t yet heard about it because it’s a great tool.
The way Answer the Public works is you enter first your keyword phrase, and it will return a visualization map of popular keyword phrases that are divided by the kinds of questions, like who, what, where, when, and how.
A closeup of the ‘how’ section in the keyword data visualization:
Answer the Public also provides the keyword data in a spreadsheet format, conveniently organized by question type.
3. Ahrefs Free Keyword Tools
Ahrefs offers a multitude of free SEO tools that are worth exploring on their own. One of the tools that stands out is its Free Keyword Research Tool.
Ahrefs commented on the sources of the information:
“Our free tools connect to the same database as our main tools. The sources are as usual: Google Keyword Planner, clickstream, and data partnerships.”
Regardless of where the data comes from, the tool is a useful resource for generating article writing topics.
The free Siteliner duplicate content tool is a scanner provided by CopyScape (an anti-plagiarism service).
Siteliner’s top feature is its ability to identify pages within the site that have similar content. This makes it easy to spot opportunities for improving content.
It’s best for articles to feature content that is unique to each article.
Depending on how much content is similar, articles that share content can create a situation where Google may have to choose which page is more relevant and make one canonical.
Eliminating duplicate paragraphs across articles will help web pages differentiate themselves.
The scanner is limited to 250 pages. Nevertheless, it is useful to alert you to a possible problem with thin pages.
The Worldwide Web Consortium publishes an HTML checker that also checks what the heading outline (H1, H2, etc.) looks like on a web page.
This is a really great tool for checking out how Google sees your web page or a competitor’s web page.
Tick the “Show Outline” option in order to see how your heading elements look to a search engine.
The results can be eye opening and reveal issues with your website template.
Select the Show Outline Box to see headings on a web page. Then, tick the box to show outline. The free HTML validator will show you what your heading tags look like to Google.
The validator can sometimes choke on really bad HTML, but there’s a way to get around the coding errors.
Restart the process, but this time, check the More Options section and choose a document type. The heading checker will work, guaranteed.
Free SEO Website Crawler
6. Screaming Frog – Free For 500 URLs Or Less
Industry-leading site auditing software Screaming Frog offers a free version that’s perfect for auditing smaller sites that are under 500 URLs.
It’s a powerful way to crawl a site and learn if there are any problems.
Screaming Frog automatically provides information about your outbound links, internal links, your images, response codes that various pages give, and information about title tags, meta description tags, headings, images, and pretty much everything about a site that a publisher would want to check for site health and mistakes.
Screaming Frog allows you to set the user agent to emulate Googlebot, Bing, Chrome, and anything else you want in order to see how your site responds, providing a true insight into how the search engines and users are encountering your website.
Netpeak Spider is another crawling tool that has a generous free version that can crawl up to 100,000 URLs.
The tool provides data on over 80 SEO-related issues and checks on over 100 technical website issues.
It also has other functionalities related to competitor research.
Overall, the free version of the Netpeak Spider makes a useful complement to the free version of Screaming Frog, as they both have different features and present data in different ways.
Xenu Link Sleuth is the old-school SEO tool of choice when it comes to a free site crawler.
It’s described as a broken link checker and it does a great job of that. It generates a report for both internal and external broken links.
But, Xenu does so much more than check for broken links.
Xenu can output a report that provides a quick overview of page titles, orphaned pages, redirects, and pages that are not found (404 response codes).
Free Mobile SEO Tools
Mobile SEO is incredibly important. That’s why it’s essential to be able to test what a search engine results page (SERP) looks like in virtually any city in the world.
It’s also useful to be able to check what your web page looks like in the most popular mobile phones. Pages that look great tend to convert better.
MobileMoxie provides a fully functional Mobile SEO Tools.
The MobileMoxie SERP checker shows you what the rankings looks like in a huge selection of mobile phone screens.
What makes this tool especially helpful is that it can localize to any city in the world.
Thus, you can test what the mobile rankings are for someone located in any city in the world. This is great for local SEO or for client work where you’re not located in the client’s area.
There is also a MobileMoxie Web Page Checker that can show you what your web page looks like in virtually any mobile phone. This will help you optimize your web page so that it converts the best across a wide range of mobile phones.
The tool is fully functional and can be used for free three times.
Below is the MobileMoxie SERP tester showing a side-by-side comparison of what your SERPs looks like in virtually any mobile phone.
You can also scroll through the local SERPs for any city in the world in virtually any language of your choosing.
Free Website Technical Audit Tools
The DNS Checker tool will check how well your site is resolving around the world.
This tool can help surface issues with the server settings that can affect the ability of Google and other site visitors from reaching a website.
I have successfully used this tool to identify why Google’s crawler could not reach a website, causing massive indexing issues. The cause was a bad server setting.
So, if search engines or users are having difficulty reaching the website, give the DNS Checker tool a try.
This online tool will check if your domain or IP address is on one of several popular blacklists. Being on a blacklist can affect email deliverability.
Free Website Security Audit Tools
Many SEOs don’t consider security as part of an SEO audit.
Security only becomes an issue after a site’s been hacked and the rankings dropped.
In my opinion, website security should be a component of an SEO audit.
A secure website is a major part of how well it ranks and encourages sales. That’s why I include a thorough security audit with every site audit I perform.
12. Free WordPress Vulnerability Scanner: WPScans
This free vulnerability scanner offers a quick but comprehensive scan of potential issues.
Create the report, then research whether or not your site has issues that need fixing. WPScans.com is a useful tool for beginning a security audit.
13. Free HTTPS Validator Tool: SSL Labs Security Checker
The SSL Labs Security tool will spot misconfigurations and security holes in your HTTPS certificate implementation.
Adding a server security certificate is touted as being easy, but that’s not always the case. This useful tool will help you diagnose hidden issues.
14. Free Drupal Security Scanner: Hacker Target Drupal Security Scanner
This comprehensive security scanner will highlight common issues with a Drupal-based website.
Free Website Performance Tools
15. GZip Compression Checker
The GZip Compression tool checks if your site is using GZip compression. Using compression allows your server to download your web pages quickly.
16. YSlow Performance Audit
The free YSlow Performance Audit tool is a comprehensive performance audit scanner. It creates a report of 23 performance rules.
GTmetrix Speed and Performance Audit is another tool that will generate various benchmark scores. Use these scores to understand where your site can be improved.
Bonus: Free Google Site Audit Tools
Google offers many SEO-related tools.
Aside from the Google Search Console, which is very important and is worth mentioning, here are other useful tools provided by Google for auditing and inspecting web pages and websites:
Page Speed Insights offers web page speed feedback.
Rich Results and Structured Data Testing Tool has been consolidated with the Rich Results tool. This helps diagnose issues with your structured data and confirms whether the structured data qualifies for rich results.
The structured data validator does not verify if your structured data conforms with Google’s guidelines.
Google Lighthouse is a tool that’s built into Chrome. It is also available as a Chrome Lighthouse Extension.
Google’s Lighthouse is an incredible suite of web performance analytical tools.
Learn More About Google Lighthouse: A Technical SEO Guide To Lighthouse Performance Metrics
The Lighthouse SEO report focuses on how well the site can be indexed, which is an especially useful feature these days.
Lighthouse can be used to diagnose on-page issues related to the code and to help find out what’s making a site slower plus it offers tips on how to improve those shortcomings.
Lighthouse is a must-learn tool for everyone who wishes to improve their site performance metrics.
Be Prepared For SEO Success
The quality of free SEO audit tools has continued to grow in usefulness and sophistication.
Publishers and SEOs have the ability to automate hundreds of SEO tasks without paying a thing.
Take the time to learn how to use these tools and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how powerful these tools are.
Success in SEO is never guaranteed or a sure thing.
But the opportunities for achieving your goals have never been better than they are now, with the help of these free SEO tools.
Featured Image: Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock
In-post images #7 to #9 created by author, January 2022
B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements
Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.
The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:
After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.
The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).
The Struggle With Images
Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.
Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.
Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:
- How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?
Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.
More Uses Cases, Please
Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.
The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.
Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.
Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.
The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.
- 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
- Focus less on verticals
- Provide more use cases
Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.
Google Product Managers Weigh In
The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:
- It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?
Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:
- Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
- For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page
However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.
Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.
Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?
The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.
Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.
Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.
Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.
Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.
The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.
Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.
However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.
Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.
A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.
Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M
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