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If you are practising SEO at home or you are new to SEO and want to get the inside scoop on what tools to use to make your workflow more efficient, then this post should help you out. My colleagues and I all work in a very professional environment, using the best tools that we can find but these tools often cost hundreds or thousands of £’s. When I work at home on my own personal projects I find that I need a comparable set of tools – albeit on a significantly reduced budget.
This is a problem I have found common among search specialists; given that we often have a couple to a few small projects at home there isn’t the same requirement for high end tools capable of managing hundreds of different accounts. Also without proxy servers and a dedicated fibre optic broadband line you can be limited in some areas.
That said there are many tools out there which are available for either a nominal one off fee or are completely free to use. Some tools are used online others need to be installed on your computer. One of the most attractive aspects of SEO is that so long as you have a laptop and an internet connection you can pretty much work from anywhere. They say that a bad workman that blames his tools, which is something you should never need to do if you follow the recommendations in this post.
This is an intrinsic part of any campaign; being able to track where your keywords are ranking within different search engines. At home I tried out a few simple tools and ended up choosing a program called CuteRank, this costs around £30 and will track multiple websites. It can be scheduled to run and also offers useful graphs that plot the rise and fall of keywords over time. It provides a convenient graphic representation of keyword rankings, tracking each one to within 100 places (first 10 pages). It seems to be able to identify paid listings and does not seem to suffer from personalised search results, delivering accurate figures every time.
There are free tools out there such as the “Rank Checker” plugin for Firefox, but I have found these to be quite limited in terms of functionality and they generally do not offer tracking over time. You will also find that results vary from time to time which reduces their effectiveness and usefulness.
Notepad is the free app which comes as standard with Windows PC’s, but it is very limited in terms of the GUI (Graphical User Interface) and functionality. MS Word is quite expensive and is not a true text editor due to the formatting applied to font. There is free equivalent software available on the market such as OpenOffice, which provide all of the same functionality as MS Office applications but is open-source and free.
For free easy to use and functional software I use NoteTab, which has a light free version that is highly versatile. It counts the number of characters selected, which is useful for writing Meta, and also has a number of other very useful functions like splitting words onto individual rows.
NoteTab is also useful for editing html documents as it does not apply formatting to text. The Pro version of NoteTab is around £30-£50.
My personal choice is FileZilla which is a very powerful and free tool used by millions worldwide. Coming from an IT background this is the ftp client of choice for most IT departments. Other free ftp clients include CuteFTP and CoreFTP, both are inferior pieces of software to FileZilla.
Free Google Chrome and Firefox plugins are ideal for this kind of work; you still need to use your head but they will reduce the workload. I would suggest the following plugins all of which are free to use:
These tools will give both on and off page information about a website, and can be used to identify missing elements such as alt tags, or dig deeper into a website’s link profile.
Firebug is a great tool for analysing a website, more useful if you understand code as you can make real-time changes to code in Firebug which will take effect on your screen. This can also be useful when unpicking the code from a website.
Yahoo Site Explorer is a great free tool used by the majority of the SEO industry and is used to look at the back links going into a website. This can be utilised to perform competitor link analysis in order to find sources of new links to your website. This is completely free to use and doesn’t even require you to log to access it.
Form fillers and submission tools
There are quite a few tools on the market and none of the good ones are free, although many will allow a free trial they will be limited in use. I use Submiteaze at home which is a great tool again this costs under £50 and allows you to create unlimited profiles for different websites. The recent features added allow you to easily complete forms filling in all of your company information. As far as using them for submitting to free directories, that is up to you but personally I think it is a waste of time using the directories provided.
There are however some nice Firefox plugins such as AutoFill which literally auto-completes forms based on the data you have entered. You can use multiple profiles and as it integrates directly into your web browser it is one less step to take.
The following websites are great and free to use, they each offer a unique and useful service which is relevant to SEO. Most do not require you to make an account to use but others do, none of them charge to use the service and so are great pages to bookmark in your browser of choice.
http://www.further.co.uk/free-website-spellcheck – This checks a domain for spelling errors
http://www.whatsmyip.org/http_compression – This checks to see if Gzip compression is enabled
http://validator.w3.org/ – This will check compliance to W3C HTML standards
http://www.geo-tag.de/generator/en.html – This tool will generate Meta GEO Tag code based on the location you enter
http://www.whois.net – This will show you information about a domain, who owns it and its age etc
http://news.netcraft.com – This site will scan to see what type of server the website is hosted on. An alternative to this is Server Spy which is a free Firefox plugin.
With these plugins, websites and free / cheap tools you can be setup and ready to optimise your website for less than £100, which is a pretty small initial investment. These tools will give you an edge on someone that isn’t using them; some are indispensable regardless of other tools you use. As you start to see results you will be able to justify spending more money of more advanced tools later on.
Like most of life it is really hard work, perseverance and experience that make the difference between a good job and a bad job. The right tools can make a job easier but only if used properly.