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Issue #17 • May 2018

10 Tools and Services to Monitor Your SEO Performance

Metrics Website Optimization

Throughout this Tradecraft issue, you’ve been laser focused on fully understanding what search engine optimization is and how it relates to your online business.

You’ve done niche-specific keyword research, learned about optimizing your page speed, and built your domain authority with quality internal and external linking strategies.

You finally feel like you’re getting the hang of this whole SEO thing.

Where should you focus next?

Your SEO is only as good as the tools in your toolbelt.

That’s why we recommend putting your newly created SEO strategy into action by first finding the right optimization tools. No matter if you are focusing on next-level keyword research or lightning fast site speed, you’ll find tools to help you get there.

But first, let’s start with the SEO features found in your website platform to monitor SEO performance.

Tools within your website platform to monitor SEO performance

You may be surprised to know how many SEO capabilities are already built into your website management platform.

No matter if you host your website on WordPress, Squarespace, or Shopify, you’ll be able to improve your SEO in a few small tweaks to your content optimization process. Which platform is best for SEO? We’re reviewing each of the platforms in terms of SEO below.

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yoast-

WordPress (and Yoast SEO)

WordPress is the most popular website platform and CMS (or content management system) on the web with over 74.6 million websites. Some of the web’s most influential websites are hosted on WordPress, including The New York Times, CNN, Mashable, and eBay. It’s not only for top media companies but for new and expert bloggers alike. You can host a blog for free with WordPress.com, which has limited features, or self-host your website with WordPress.org.

When choosing to optimize your SEO on WordPress, most users trust the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s the number one rated SEO plugin on the web, and its features help you improve your rankings and optimize your blog and website content in a user-friendly way. We will use the rest of this section to review Yoast SEO with WordPress.

Pros:

  • You can optimize your website page for up to five relevant keywords.
  • It helps you avoid duplicate content and gives your content a readability score.
  • Yoast helps you not only optimize your text content but also your images.
  • There are no advertisements, even in the free version of the plugin.
  • Yoast is consistently updated by developers to follow Google algorithm best practices and anticipate changes.

Cons:

  • You have to separately download and install the Yoast plugin.
  • Too many plugins can slow down your WordPress load time, so keep an eye on this.

Cost:

Free to use Yoast. Advanced capabilities are offered in their Premium plan for $89 for a single website.

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Squarespace

Squarespace has become an instant favorite among creative entrepreneurs and bloggers who want to DIY their own website. You don’t need to know how to code with Squarespace’s easy-to-use templates. Squarespace makes the basics of SEO as simple to understand as their design platform, but it’s not as robust as WordPress.org’s capabilities.

Pros:

  • There are no added plugins to download and install with Squarespace because SEO capabilities are already included in the dashboard.
  • You can customize your blog post and website page titles.
  • Great reviews on customer support with many user-friendly guides for understanding SEO within Squarespace.

Cons:

  • Unlike WordPress, Squarespace’s platform doesn’t analyze how successfully you’ve optimized your content before you publish like Yoast does.
  • You don’t have as much control as you do with WordPress.
  • There’s more flexibility with WordPress SEO simply because you are hosting with your own system.

Cost:

Starts at $16/month for personal websites and $30/month for ecommerce shops.

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Shopify

Built specifically for ecommerce, Shopify has become a top choice for those who want to sell products through an online shop. Similarly to Squarespace, no coding skills are required when creating a Shopify website. While its SEO features are built into the tool, it does have some limitations.

Pros:

  • You can edit product descriptions and create tags within your product landing pages for better SEO.
  • Shopify sites typically do well in terms of site speed.
  • Payment security and checkout times are consistently praised by Shopify customers.

Cons:

  • Some website pages aren’t indexed by Google because the robot.txt is locked in.
  • Your sitemap is automatically generated for you, which means it could hide certain pages from being indexed.
  • There is a lack of subcategories, which could hurt your SEO efforts.
  • Shopify’s blog is not as robust as WordPress or Squarespace.

Cost:

Starts at $29/month for their basic plan.

Platform-specific SEO verdict

While each of these website building platforms incorporate several features that help you amplify and optimize your SEO efforts, you may be interested in more advanced tools.

You can get by with the built-in tools we’ve discussed so far, but if you’re serious about improving your SEO and attracting quality leads, we recommend looking into specialized site speed and keyword research tools.

Site speed tool recommendations

When analyzing your site speed, there are a multitude of options to choose from. Some are more advanced than others, so it’s good to establish what you specifically need a site speed tool to do before you dig into these recommendations.

Do you only need to test your basic site speed, or would you like in-depth suggestions on how exactly to improve your site speed? This will determine which tools may be best for you.

pagespeed-logo

PageSpeed Insights

If you’re looking for a free, easy-to-use tool that can assess your site speed, PageSpeed Insights is your one-stop-shop. You can simply input your domain name into the search bar, and the tool will rate your site from one to 100 for overall speed. It will also give you some recommendations to help you optimize your site for better speed performance.

Pros:

  • PageSpeed Insights analyzes your desktop and mobile speed separately so you can see where you need to optimize.
  • You can analyze your overall site speed and any specific pages within your website.
  • You can also assess the speed of your competitors’ websites so you know how you compare.
  • You don’t need an account to get started.

Cons:

  • Only offers basic recommendations for increasing site speed.
  • Other tools go more in-depth and have additional features.
  • Recommendations that are given are fairly vague and somewhat inaccessible without further research.
  • You are not able to specify a location when analyzing your site speed.

Cost:

Free to use.

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Webpagetest

For users who are looking for more features than what Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool offers, Webpagetest is an option worth considering. The report generated from the speed test is incredibly detailed, giving various areas of your website a letter grade from A to F. It also locates the root of the site speed issue, giving you specific recommendations for exactly how to fix it within your website.

Pros:

  • You can choose different browsers (like Google Chrome, Safari, etc.) when you are testing site speed for more accurate results.
  • Unlike PageSpeed Insights, you can test your site speed based on different locations.
  • It gives you a full performance review of every page of your website in one chart.

Cons:

  • Less user-friendly dashboard with an outdated, cluttered look.
  • It has distracting advertisements and logos throughout the website.
  • The line graphs are difficult to read for people who are new to SEO.

Cost:

Free to use

gtmetrix-logo

GTMetrix

If you’re still on the hunt for a site speed analysis tool that has a clean, user-friendly dashboard with advanced results, GTMetrix can be that tool for you. Webpagetest gives more of a page-by-page breakdown than GTMetrix, but this tool makes up for it in other ways.

Pros:

  • Not only does it give a letter grade for each aspect of your site speed, it also gives you detailed recommendations for each with links to the pages that need optimizing.
  • Site recommendations go more in-depth than the other two tools.
  • Dashboard is easy-to-read and understand for people who are new to SEO.
  • It gives you the ability to test different browsers and different locations.
  • You can download a PDF of your performance results.

Cons:

  • It takes a bit longer to load site speed results than Webpagetest and PageSpeed Insights.
  • No page-by-page breakdown chart like Webpagetest offers.

Cost:

Free to use.

Keyword research tool recommendations

Now that you’ve tested your site speed and are making tweaks to optimize your website, you’re ready to look into keyword research tools. By doing keyword research, you will be able to write optimized content that engages current readers while attracting a new audience.

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Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is the most popular keyword research on the web, making it the clear choice as you start your keyword research. It is used by SEO professionals and newbies alike, but it has some drawbacks worth noting.

Pros:

  • You can do hyper-local searches within the Keyword Planner, which is great for businesses who want to optimize their website for a specific location.
  • Google Keyword Planner comes in handy if you are planning to do PPC (pay-per-click) advertising campaigns because it will tell you the cost per click.
  • You can set up the Keyword Planner to automatically filter out keywords below a set volume amount.

Cons:

  • You have to sign up for a separate Google Adwords account to access the Keyword Planner, even if you already have a Google account.
  • It does not offer information on search trends, so you must look for this from a different tool if you’re interested in analyzing trends.
  • Not as user-friendly or intuitive as some of the other keyword research tools.

Cost:

Free to use with Google Adwords account.

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Moz Keyword Explorer

We are huge fans of the Moz Keyword Explorer at ConvertKit and regularly use it when creating our blog post and website content. Moz is one of the top leaders in the SEO industry, so it’s no surprise they are leading in terms of keyword research resources. To learn how to get started with keyword research using this tool, read our article on creating content for search engines and people.

Pros:

  • Keyword Explorer creates keyword lists for specific topics, helping to pair your keywords with other relevant searches.
  • Many users comment on the fast speed of keyword research results.
  • Easy-to-use dashboard with great UX design.
  • It analyzes monthly search volume, opportunity, and keyword difficulty all in one place.

Cons:

  • It it focused more on searches within the U.S. than international search queries.

Cost:

Free to use basic features. More features within the Keyword Explorer tool are available with a Moz Pro account, which starts at $99/month.

semrush-logo

SEMRush

Leading the pack in international search capabilities, SEMRush has become a favorite among PPC and SEO professionals. They specialize in gathering relevant, long-tail keywords in multilingual environments.

Pros:

  • It has more capabilities with analyzing international search queries than the Moz Keyword Explorer, including 135+ countries within its tool.
  • SEMRush will give you phrase matches so you can find other relevant search queries and keywords.
  • Keyword Magic Tool gives users the most common search queries with that phrase, which aims to help SEO professionals create a full list of keywords for their campaigns.

Cons:

  • You must sign up for an SEMRush account before analyzing any keywords.
  • If the search volume is deemed as “too low”, no data will be shown.

Cost:

Free to use with an SEMRush account, with advanced pro features starting at $99.95/month.

Which tools will you use to optimize and monitor your SEO performance?

What are the main aspects of your website that you want to improve? Take the time to think it through then decide which tools will best fit your needs.

We want to hear what keyword research, site speed, and website platform SEO tools you are excited to experiment with this month.

Let us know in the comment section below. We will help keep you accountable!

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Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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