Let’s be honest, quality search engine optimization (SEO) services  in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg and Baltimore do not come cheap. That’s why we are always surprised when clients either never use Google’s free tools, or do not use them to their full potential. Read on for a brief tutorial on SEO basics and how you can use the free tools Google offers to businesses.

Keyword Planner

What it does: This tool within Google AdWords is intended to help with pay per click (PPC) campaigns by showing keywords, their average number of monthly searches, competition for the phrase and suggested bids.

How you can use it: Because you are not required to have an active campaign within AdWords, the Keyword Planner is free to use. You can use the Planner to test if your keywords receive adequate traffic. You can also use the tool to find other high-value keywords that to incorporate into your website content. Finally, use the Keyword Planner to determine if a specific page on your site is being read by Google in the way you intended.

To determine if your keywords drive traffic:

  1. On the starting page of Keyword Planner, select “Get search volume data and trends.”
  2. Enter your keywords into the text field, each on a separate line. Avoid using general keywords. Instead, try long-tail ­– or very specific –
  3. Be sure to add location targeting to get a relevant and an accurate estimate for the service area of your business. (Pro Tip: If you are interested in targeting York, PA, add the negative keyword “New York,” which will tell Google to filter out data and keywords related to the Big Apple.)
  4. Click “Get search volume.”
  5. Compare search volume with competition. If the search volume appears low, but the competition is high, this is an indication that you might want to target a different set of keywords.

To find other relevant keywords:

  1. On the starting page, select “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
  2. Enter a few keywords into the first text field, each on a separate line.
  3. Ignore the landing page and product category. These are more helpful for PPC campaigns than for basic SEO purposes.
  4. If desired, enter your location and the locations your business services.
  5. Click on “Keyword options” and turn on the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”
  6. Click “Get ideas.”
  7. Click “Keyword ideas”
  8. Click “Download ideas”
  9. Open the .csv in Excel and sort the data first by search volume, then by competition.
  10. Choose keywords that have healthy search volumes with medium to low competition.

To see what Google sees on a page:

  1. On the starting page, select “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”
  2. Leave the first text field blank.
  3. Enter the URL of one of your pages into the second text field.
  4. If you can find an appropriate category within the “Your product category” field, select it.
  5. Click “Get ideas.”
  6. Review the list of “ideas” Google suggests. This will give you insight into how Google reads your page.

Search Console

What it does: Search Console, formally WebMaster Tools, allows website owners to check the health of their websites by providing information such as crawl errors, search analytics, sitemap submissions, security alerts and more.

How you can use it: You can use Search Console for a variety of SEO basics. Submit your sitemap, check for crawl errors and monitor for manual actions. You can also use Search Console to see which keywords Google has determined represent your entire site, as well as monitor backlinks.

To see keywords Google has decided represent your site:

  1. Click “Google Index” on the left-hand side.
  2. Click “Content Keywords”
  3. To investigate a keyword further, click on it. Google will tell you how often the keyword is used, if there are any variants used and even on which pages the keyword appears.
  4. Decide if these keywords accurately describe your business. If there is a disconnect between what Google thinks your business is and what you know it is, you are going to need to rethink your SEO and content marketing strategies.

To monitor backlinks:

  1. Click “Search Traffic” on the left-hand side.
  2. Click “Links to Your Site.”
  3. Look for sites that appear unrelated to your business. If you notice irrelevant websites that are linking to your site, you need to clean up your back

Analytics

What it does: It is probably easier to list the things Analytics does not do. Analytics is a free tool offered to any website owner that tracks traffic, as well as other data depending on how well – and extensively – you set up your account.

How you can use it: Unlike Search Console, Analytics supports filters, allowing you to see your true traffic values, bounce rates, average session durations, etc. You can also create goals to determine how well a campaign or piece of content is performing. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Analytics’ capabilities, but – believe it or not – there are site owners who are not using these basic settings.

To properly structure your Analytics account:

The best way to structure your account is to add at least three views to every property: Unfiltered, Test and Master. The Unfiltered view of a property acts as a “control” for testing new filters or configurations. The Test view allows you to test filters and configurations without potentially sacrificing legitimate data. The Master view should be the view that has the most accurate filters and configurations set.

  1. To add a new view, click “Admin” on the top center of the screen.
  2. Click the button under “View” and select “Create new view.”
  3. Enter the name and select the appropriate time zone.
  4. Click “Create View.”
  5. To add a filter to a view, be sure that you are under the view in which you want the filter.
  6. Under “View” click “Filters.”
  7. Click “+Filter.”
  8. Name the filter based on what it does. For example, if you are filtering out your own IP address, name it “Business IP Address.”
  9. To filter out visits from your IP address, click “Pre-defined.”
  10. Select “Exclude” from “Select filter type.”
  11. Select “Traffic from IP Address” from “Select source or destination.”
  12. Select “That are equal to” from “Select expression.”
  13. Enter the appropriate IP Address in the text field. (To find your IP Address, you can simply google “What’s my IP address.”)
  14. Be sure that your filters are in order. Your IP filter should usually be first, then hostname filter or spam referral filters.

To set up goals:

  1. Determine which actions you wish to measure. For example, you can track how many people fill out a form or download a PDF.
  2. For this exercise, we will walk you through measuring PDF downloads. Begin by adding an event tracking code to the CTA or button that triggers the download. Instructions on how to do this are here, but you may need a web developer to help you.
  3. You will need to decide a name for your event. There are three parts: Category, Action & Label. You can also define Value. If you are working with a web developer, you will need to pass these along to her.
  4. To test the code, go into your Analytics account, under the Unfiltered v Click on “Reporting” then “Real-time.” Now click “Events.” Finally, click “Events (Last 30 min).” On a separate tab in your browser, visit the site and complete the action tied to the event. Flip back to the Analytics tab and check to see if the event has been recorded.
  5. To set up the event as a goal, click “Admin.”
  6. Select the view in which you want to set the goal.
  7. Underneath “View” click “Goals.”
  8. Click “+New Goal”
  9. Select “Template” and click “Continue.”
  10. Add a name to the text field describing the goal.
  11. Select “Event” and click “Continue.”
  12. Fill in Category, Action and Label according to the code you used for event tracking. If you set a value for the event, fill in the corresponding field.
  13. Click “Verify this goal” to test your configuration.
  14. Click “Save.”

These are some introductory SEO tools that anyone can access and use. However, if you are ready to go beyond SEO basics for your site, give us a call. The digital team at Gavin can help you optimize your site and drive conversions.