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Google is often criticised for not providing enough information about their algorithm, when changes are made and how we can help improve our websites. However, Google most certainly can’t be criticised for providing free tools for SEO that actually help us to identify areas of weakness and make decisions.
You’ll no doubt have come across a few of these, but there are always new tools being provided by Google to help with SEO, so let’s dive in.
If you can only use one of the free tools that Google provides for SEO, then you must be using Google Search Console (GSC)! Over the past 18 months, the tool has had a major overhaul and is significantly better than it was before. During this time Google has listened to the webmaster community and either improved, removed or added to the reports that were in the previous incarnation of GSC.
So what does Google Search Console do for you? Well, nothing per se, however, it provides you with a large amount of information that Google has on your website, information that you are unlikely to get from elsewhere. Below are just a few of the reports that you can use to help improve your website from an SEO perspective:
- Performance Reports // Click, Impression and page level data. This report will also provide you with information on those keywords you can no longer get in Google Analytics.
- URL Inspection // Take a deep dive into what Google sees when they crawl your website. Is it mobile-friendly, which canonical does it see, etc?
- Coverage // 40X, 50X, and much more is now provided at page level.
- Security & Manual Actions // If your site has either been penalised or has been affected by Malware, or potentially been hacked, this is where Google will let you know about it.
If you want to know what Google thinks of your website, then this is definitely the tool that you need. It’s free, it’s easy to install, you’d be mad not to use it!
If you are working in SEO then you are going to need to report on your work, heck, if you are in digital marketing or business generally you want to know what is happening on your website, how users are interacting with it and how they got there.
Google Analytics provides all of this and more with over 280 different reports making it – in my opinion – a must-have tool for any website regardless of the size or type of business that you work in. The way that Google Analytics has evolved since being introduced is phenomenal, and with the addition of Google Tag Manager and Data Studio (see below), it is becoming more powerful and easier to use for those non-techies.
Reporting is the mainstay of any SEO campaign, understanding what is working, what isn’t, and where the biggest impact is coming from. If you are a digital marketer then you are more than likely going to need to report to key stakeholders as to the ROI of the campaign that you are working on, this is where Google Data Studio can come in.
Before the introduction of Google Data Studio, you were likely just utilising different packages and bringing them into a spreadsheet to help speed up the reporting, or you were paying for a third party tool. Well, Google Data Studio enables you to connect multiple Google products and a large range of third party tools to create a report that is flexible in one place.
As you use Google Data Studio more often and get familiar with the way it works, you are able to change the layout, enabling it to fit in with how you present internally. You are able to download the report, share it via email or embed it on to the web in a secure location. The options that are available with the Google Data Studio is almost endless and it’s still being added to. You get all of this and Google provide the tool for free, so you may no longer need your paid subscriptions.
Need to add a pixel to your website but need to pay a developer to install it? Have an in-house development team but need to wait for other priorities to be completed before your tags are uploaded? Well wait no more, Google Tag Manager will help solve all of these issues.
With GTM, you can use the platform to add in an array of different tags quickly and efficiently. If you need a marketing tag added, you can do it within 5 minutes with GTM, want to add some Schema markup to the website, yep, Google Tag Manager can help here as well.
One thing to consider here is that it can get complex, especially when you are creating triggers using ReGex and custom code. I’d definitely recommend that you speak to an expert if you are going beyond just the basics, or read the help documents that Google have provided.
Not sure if your current layout works for you and your customers? Want to test the colour, location, messaging? Then Google Optimise is the tool for you. Natively built into Google Analytics, it allows you to let the data guide you on the decisions that you are making, test what works and tailor a compelling user experience.
Designed to integrate and work with a range of existing free Google tools, Google Optimise will enable you to quickly and with limited knowledge of code make the changes that will help you grow your business.
One of the most underrated tools in this list is Google Trends, especially when it comes to conducting keyword research. As it states within its name, Google has provided tools that compare estimated traffic for different search terms, topics and categories across a range of geographies. Understanding if the term or topic that you are targeting has been trending up or down is extremely useful, or to identify an upcoming phrase that you haven’t come across but should.
If you need extra data, then you can always take a look at the Trending search section that will provide you with all the information that you need.
Want to understand more about your audience but not sure how you go about it? Well, Google Surveys has you covered.
Creating a survey to understand your audience or to get further information about a campaign you are running couldn’t be easier with Google Surveys. You need to sign up or login to your Google account and head to Google Surveys. From here, it is simply about putting together the questions that you require information on and choosing the right audience to answer them. Once the survey is ready to go, hit submit and the survey will be sent.
One thing to note is that although using the tool is free there is the potential that you will need to pay for the number of people that fill out the survey.
The Think With Google toolset provides you with a vast array of different data points to help support your campaign and back it up with data. The tools are designed to help improve your brand’s marketing, web performance, analysis, digital experience, and more.
If you are looking to gain more information about your audience, sector or just some statistics to build a case study for a particular campaign then Think With Google is the place to be. They provide Consumer Reports, Marketing Resources, and Advertising Channel information to get exactly the data.
This set of tools can provide a comprehensive data set to really dig into your audience and find the information that will set you apart. It’s a tool that is very frequently forgotten.
We all know that we live in a mobile world right? No! Where have you been? Well, since the so-called mobilegeddon in 2015 we have all been preparing our website to be mobile-friendly and to conform to new practices that Google have been pushing.
To help us with that, Google provides the mobile-friendly test tool that enables you to check if your website is indeed compatible. Google has also enabled you to check your website within GSC also, so there is no excuse to not have a mobile-friendly website.
The tools provide you with a very definite yes or no answer as to whether the website is mobile-friendly, and if it is not, it provides you with a list of suggestions for you to resolve the issue.
Google Lighthouse was built and provided free for us to use with one goal in mind – help improve our website performance. The tool is run using Chrome and provides you with an array of different tools looking into Website Performance, SEO, PWA, Accessibility and Best Practices.
Each of these reports provides you a lot of data and suggestions that will enable you to improve the performance of your website, not just from a search engines perspective but also from users too. There is a clear correlation with a fast website and better user experience.
Don’t believe me? Then take a look at what Lighthouse can do for you in this video from Google:
Google announced that page speed was a ranking factor way back in 2010 and since then there has been a push from digital marketers and webmasters alike to make websites as quick as possible. This is even more important today as it was back then as we are now in a mobile-first world, and ensuring that your website loads within 2 seconds is the benchmark.
Since the announcement, Google has introduced Google Page Speed Insights and Lighthouse to help us improve the speed of our websites. The Page Speed Insights tool, once run, will provide you with a list of suggestions that you can pass on to your development team to implement. If your website is built on one of the open-source CMS’ such as WordPress, then there is a host of plugins that can help with this.
As well as the desktop tool, Google Page Speed Insights is available as an extension of either Chrome or Firefox which enables your speed on a page level. There are other ways you can check your page speed including via Google Analytics, but also tools such as GTMetrix and Pingdom provide information on how you can speed up your website.
If you are either a small business or a business with a physical presence, then you need to be looking into Google My Business. Having gone through multiple iterations and names – Google Local, Google Places for Business – Google My Business has been adding lots of different features over the past 12 months that are really exciting.
The introduction of features such as Posts, Local Ads, Menus/Services and Purchase buttons all add to the experience for the user, but also provides you with another opportunity to interact with your clients.
Once you have set up your Google My Business profile and filled in all the details, you may notice that you will start seeing it appear within the SERPs when people search for your brand or related terms. The profile will also appear in Google Maps, so it is essential that you keep it updated.
Tip: When you add your website URL to GMB, head over to Google URL Builder first and add in some tracking code. This will enable you to know how many visits you are getting from your Google My Business profile.
Google Alerts has been questioned on a number of different occasions as to it’s accuracy and reliability, but there is no doubt it is a very important part to many digital marketers.
If set up correctly, Google Alerts can keep an eye on a certain topic or area with regular updates of the latest information directly to your inbox. You can choose the frequency of update so that you can keep on top of any brand or topic mentions that you need to react to.
There are many different ways that you can use Google Alerts, and the RSS function that is available is perfect for adding to your favourite RSS reader and/or combining it with other sources.
Google Search – Use of Boolean, etc.
One of the most overlooked tools in an SEOs toolkit is the search engine itself. Google enables you to utilise Boolean logic and a range of different advanced search operators that will narrow your search down.
- cats AND dogs:
- cats or dogs:
You can use advanced queries together as well. So if you are looking for all the pages that discuss the topic “fitness” on the Mashable website then you would look to string something together like “site:mashable.com intitle:fitness”. Alternatively, you may want to see what subdomains you have on your website but only get the www. in the search results that you try, this can be achieved by trying “site:mashable.com inurl:-www” which will provide you with a list of results that do not have the www. within the URL.
This can be extremely powerful and can be used for a large number of different SEO actions including link acquisition and prospecting.
So, there you have it, our list of 14 free tools from Google for SEO. Whether you are looking to conduct keyword research, see how your website is being viewed or track what is happening with your visitors, then Google has you covered with these free tools.
What are your favourite tools from Google? How are you using them that is enhancing the way you work and the results you are getting? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!