4 Tools You Absolutely Have to Be In the Habit of Using

While there are certainly things professional SEO's do and understand that provide value on par with what they are paid, there are some really obvious habits anybody can get into to discover what's going on with their site (and the search-sphere around it). The clients I've had that embrace these habits seem more 'in tune' with not only their industry, but how their projects stack up in it as well. The result is that they are more proactive in their involvement, which ultimately helps everyone accomplish their goals quicker. The best part? These things are free!

-Use Google News Alerts to monitor keywords and your brand.
News Alerts have to be one of the greatest things in the history of…things. I couldn't imagine doing my job without them. You can use Google to scour the internet for you and report back when your products, brands, names, or just big words are mentioned anywhere on the internet.

Set the frequency to whatever works best for you (fair warning, it WILL bombard your inbox if you set it to notify you whenever things come up). This is a great reputation management tool as well. Another really cool use I recently learned is to use the Google link operator to monitor new links coming into your site. Set that particular alert in real time if you're proactively building links and you'll see the links as soon as Google recognizes them. How 'bout that?!

-Give your site a once-through with a spider simulator when a new page launches or a site is redesigned.
Spider simulators are pretty common, and which one you use is a matter of personal preference really. They all essentially tell you the same thing. You will want to use these to make sure the content you can see on your site is in fact, being seen by the spider when it crawls. If it isn't, then you may need to look for other ways to get that content visible.

We have some internal proprietary tools that give us a much deeper analysis of a site, but you can get some at-a-glance high-level information about web pages on your site quickly. I still use Summit Media's spider out of habit from time to time. It's characterizations of the site in question aren't always 100% accurate, and I wouldn't give that "grade" much consideration in the grand scheme of things. However, the points it looks for on a page (image descriptions, use of header tags, etc.) are all pertinent and helpful in seeing some major issues on a page.

-Use Google Trends to see what the search economy in your industry is like.
This is another really great invention from Google I can't imagine living without. Ever wonder how much your top referrers stack up to the entire Google search? You can use this to see what kind of buzz is around your brand, if search volume around a term has seasonality, how offline promotions affect search buzz, etc. I think it’s a good idea for any 'client' to run the big keywords they are targeting through here at least every quarter. Just knowing how 'popular' a subject is may help anticipate lifts or drops.

-Use del.icio.us as a reference for popularity.
If you haven't used del.icio.us or set up an account yet, you really should. It's a social bookmark site where you can look at what articles/web pages other people in the network are linking to. You can learn a lot about 'buzz' around your brand, people, topics, keywords, and generally what's hot around the net. It’s also a great way to learn about the characteristics of content that draws people in. It's a big enough user base to get a decent sample space (and to compare across users) to get a sense of what's catching on and what isn't, and how people perceive it.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to dig in if you haven’t already. There are other tools out there that essentially do what I described above as well (some of that amounts to what your personal preferences are). But in the end, people who use tools like these as a force of habit in their routines will have a lot better view of what's going on with their site and the search space it resides in.

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


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