Free or cheap tools for Search marketing success

The world of search engine optimization is awash with scores of tools that promise to make a marketers job easier.

Wading through all these options can be a daunting task and not a few of these products are quite expensive.

But take heart.

These tips offered by Search experts during the recently concluded SES (Search Engine Strategies) Toronto 2009 conference could help you avoid a ton of labour and expense.

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Before presenting the list of free or low-cost SEO tools offered by Search gurus it’s best to begin with the caveat offered by Ken Jurina, president and co-founder of Epiar Inc., an Edmonton based SEO services provider.

“No single tool will answer all of your problems,” Jurina said. “But there are a few you can use in combination to help you accomplish what you need.”

He noted that many tools are developed by little known software companies, but can be accessed from sites we very likely already use.

“Firefox and Google for instance are terrific sources of free goodies. All you need to do is do a little snooping.”

Jurina was one of the presenters of the segment titled Tool Time: The Search Marketer’s Free-to-Cheap Goodie Bag.

Here are his top picks:

Web Developer toolbar — The Firefox Web Developer Toolbar is one of the most useful tools you can have for Web design. It brings together functions related to Web development, validation services, and links to standards and other documentation.

SEO Quake:  Allows Web masters and marketers to view tons of important SEO parameters inside the toolbar and/or search bar.

Ice Rocket: An invisible tracker that counts the visits your blog receives along with other important blog details.

Google GEO Search: Enables users to view their rankings within different geographic regions for paid and organic listings in Google.

G-Site Crawler:  This is a site map generator for Yahoo and Google. While use of Google Sitemaps fosters optimal site indexing by Google, GSite Crawler helps you generate the best Google site map file for your Web site.

BackTweets:  Searches for links from Twitter (shortened and unshortened) pointing to your Web site.

SpyFu: Allows you to spy on competitors organic and paid keywords. The paid keyword information includes competitors’ daily budgets, clicks, average cost-per-click.

Google Insights for Search: With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.

Jurina, of course, also mentioned his company’s product.

Each time your ad gets clicked on by visitors who aren’t real prospects or don’t make a purchase, your budget gets spent on site visits with a high bounce rate, but low conversion rate, said Jurina.

Even ad impressions without clicks hurt the bottom line, he said. “Each non-click lowers your click-through-rate and lowers your Google Quality Score.”

To remedy this, he recommended Epiar’s negative keyword list tool.

Amanda Watlington, owner of Searching for Profit, a Charlestown, Mass.-based a marketing consultancy firm also provided her list of favourite tools:

Google Webmaster Tools:  This collection of free tools to help Web masters make their Web site more search engine friendly and identify problems.

Web Developer toolbar: Watlington enjoys using it to parse elements, linearize pages and see how her client’s Web sites look with Java script and CSS disabled.

SEO for Firefox: Similar tool to SEO Quake but created by SEO Book.

Search Status: Provides information on any website including page rank, Google category, Alexa rank, Compete rank, SEOmoz Linkscape rank, and incoming links.

Xenu Link Sleuth: Broken links are an irritant to users that could mean lost revenue to your Web site. Xenu Link Sleuth is old, but still relevant tool for identifying broken links along with many other Web site issues.

WordStream: This keyword management tool can tell you which key words you should spend your time and money on to boost your pay-per-click ratios and your SEO campaign.

Crazy Egg: Ever wish you could actually tell which part of your site people are focusing on? Crazy Egg shows you where people are clicking and where they are not. You can use this knowledge to re-design your site.

“With the mad rush to social networking sites, getting a handle on what site’s your business is on can be a challenge these day,” says Watlington.

Here are some of her social networking tools:

Know Em: can aid in your social media management by keeping track of your user name identification of all your social media profiles.

Quantcast: Allows you to view statistics of all Web sites.  “Know thy neighbour. This is a great tool to analyze how your Web site matches up against your competition,” says Watlington

Trendpedia: Like Google Trends, this tool gives you’re a snapshot of the most frequently searched keywords and themes on the Web.

Widgetbox: Watlington says this is the world’s largest marketplace to purchase or create widgets.

Do your clients complain that you site takes to long to load?

YSlow from Yahoo analyzes Web pages and suggests ways to improve their performance based on a set of rules for high performance Web pages, says Bryan Eisenberg, founder and executive vice president of Futurenow Inc. a New York-based interactive media consulting group.

Eisenberg also likes Fen-Gui. This tool helps Web developers find out how people view your website or photo and which areas are getting most of the attention.

Smush it  “does exactly that,” says Eisenberg.

Smust it, removes unnecessary bytes form image files and optimizes images without changing their look and quality.

After it runs on a Webpage it reports how many bytes can be saved by optimizing the page’s images. It then provides a downloadable zip file with the minimized image files.

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