Nothing creates more value in the professional search marketing world than useful search engine optimization tools. From the simple "link:" command in Google, which shows how many sites link back to you, to the more advanced search tools at Yahoo! and browser plug-ins, the industry and engines themselves have a variety of tools available to get you started with SEO.
Remember that tools and technology, while powerful, must be used with caution. If you aren't able to translate the resulting data and convert it into meaningful, actionable steps, you might become more frustrated than you were before. SEO tools, as well as visits to search engine forums, blogs, websites and competitive reviews for your marketplace should be standard practice. (If you aren't clear on this topic, begin by reading "What Exactly is SEO?")
Here's a list of personal and feature-rich SEO tools to get you started:
1. Research links, get more and validate them.
Do you want to find out how many links are coming to you and where can you can request and add more? Type link:http://yourdomain.com into Google or Yahoo! (Yahoo! will redirect to Site Explorer). To find out where to add your site, enter allintitle: "add url" <your keyword here>. Another useful command is allinanchor: <your keyword here>, which will show all sites containing the anchor text (keyword). Optimizing anchor text is critical to a successful SEO practice.
To find out if your site is being indexed by the search engines, type in your domain name directly or enter site: www.yourdomain.com. More advanced tools can be found at www.linkhounds.com/link-harvester/backlinks.php.
2. Find out your site's popularity and page rank.
Page rank is part of what Google is famous for and monitoring it can provide one measure of how well your site is performing. Don't lose sleep over it, though; continue to build a content-rich, useable site and ranking will naturally happen. To view page rank, install the Google Toolbar and select the "advanced" option. It will display a ranking number from 0 to 10 for any website you browse to. For popularity checks, install the Alexa toolbar.
3. Get more keywords and search term suggestions.
Keyword research is one of the most important SEO exercises. You should start with the free tools and move to paid services, such as www.wordtracker.com and www.keyworddiscovery.com, for more advanced research. The Keyword Selector Tool at inventory.overture.com should be your first stop. Then move to Google's Keyword Tool. For more free suggestions, also try the tools from Wordtracker, www.keyworddiscovery.com/search.htm and Digital Point. A useful tool for finding related words is available at www.lexfn.com. Also visit www.google.com/trends to find trends for your keywords.
4. Use link popularity tools that show how sites are linking to you.
Link profiles and link project management should be cornerstones of your SEO strategy. You won't be able to sustain a high listing on search engines over time if you don't implement a link program. First you have to do some digging and research before applying your own strategy. Check out the link tools from Elixir Systems and Marketleap, as well as the tools from We Build Pages, which include anchor text information.
5. Check keyword density and build keyword clouds.
Build your own keyword clouds using tools from www.webconfs.com/keyword-density-checker.php, a great site for SEO tools. It's not only fun, but also very useful when reviewing your page for keyword density. A recommended number is 3 percent to 5 percent for a page of 600 to 800 words.
Jon Rognerud founded chaosmap.com -- a search marketing firm focusing on SEO, SMM, PPC, client strategy, and implementation.