Those new to the world of SEO may feel a little overwhelmed with all of the tactics that are needed to achieve higher rankings. A good starting place for newbies is Mark Jackson's search engine optimization column here at Search Engine Watch.
My purpose in this two-part column is to arm you with some good tools to get you started. There are too many tools to list them all here, so I'll only cover a few.
To make things simple, I'll break them down into categories: keyword tools; SEO site grader tools; linking tools; browser toolbars; and other SEO tools. Many of these tools have a free or limited version with the option to upgrade to a premium version for a fee.
I won't spend a lot of time here because I covered most of these in my articles on keyword discovery. Employing the right keywords can really make a difference in your SEO campaign. If you begin your campaign without taking the time to find, analyze, and validate your keyword set, then you run the risk of using keywords that won't perform well for you.
It takes considerable time for your SEO efforts to reach your ranking goals, so it might be months before you realize you needed to use different keywords. That would be a waste of time and money.
A good place to start is SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool. I like this one because it links to most of the other existing keyword tools, such as Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery, and tools from Google, MSN, and Yahoo. This one tool lets you explore many others.
SEO Site Grader Tools
If you have an existing site and would like to take a pulse on the SEO effectiveness, then these tools will help. They will analyze your site against specific criteria and produce a report, or even give you a grade. You can even use these tools on your competition to see how you stack up against them.
Website Grader is a great tool for running a health check of your site. Then it will provide a score that incorporates elements such as Web site traffic, SEO, social popularity, and other technical factors. It will also provide advice on how your Web site can be improved from a marketing perspective.
Another SEO site grading tool is Quarkbase. This tool provides a great way to find your site information, including social bookmarking statistics, Alexa ranking, and related sites and domain information.
You should be aware by now that the number and quality of external links that come to your site are an important factor in achieving good rankings. You need to be able to see how many URLs have links to your site and their quality, which is measured by its PageRank. A PageRank of 10 is the highest and rarest. You're looking for PR 3-4 and above.
SEO Pro's Link Checker will report all backlinks to your site. Be patient, it will take time to run this report. This tool will show the PageRank of the pages your URL is on. It will also tell you the number of links on the page and the anchor text for the link. You also have the ability to check the number of backlinks for all of the pages on your site, or just the top domain.
Another important factor in SEO is analyzing your internal links and identifying bad links. You'll need to isolate any that you have and fix them. Dead-Links will crawl your site, follow all the links and provide a broken link report.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a free service that provides a wealth of information about your site. After you've verified your site, you'll be able to check for errors, analyze your HTML tags important for SEO, identify top search queries, enhance 404 error pages, and much more. Yahoo has a similar tool with its Site Explorer, and Live Search has its Webmaster Center .
As I stated earlier, there isn't enough space to cover the numerous SEO tools, but these should help you get started. In Part 2, I'll cover some browser SEO toolbars and other SEO tools. If you have a favorite SEO tool that you've really found useful, please post it below in the comments or e-mail me.