Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of search newbies that needed to get up to speed, and fast. And even though they knew a lot more about search than they gave themselves credit, I was reminded of the awe inspired by their first look at search marketing tools. I’m a firm believer that the best way to get someone up to speed, be it a client or a new employee (and we all know you probably are on the hunt for one or the other), is to put tools in their hands so that they can discover the ins and outs of search behavior and Web site performance.
For the purposes of this column, I have omitted blogs, bid management and tracking apps and focused on free tools and text-book quality info designed to serve the masses. If I have omitted a particular resource, do forgive me. The rules of this game are that the tool must be free (no subscription or personal data required) and accessible to the greenest of the green when it comes to search engine marketing.
To get it out of the way, I am still mourning the Yahoo! (nee Overture) Inventory tool. Since the external tool’s monthly volume data is stamped January 2007, we all have about 1 month left before the data is visibly obsolete. Until then, I still used this tool to demonstrate how long tail economics translate to search. Next year I will most likely use a number of resources to do the same, including Wordtracker’s free keyword suggestion tool, with daily volume for a limited number of derivatives, and Keyword Discovery’s free search term suggestion tool. Of course, none of these should be confused with the paid-for products each of these firms offers. If anyone has a preferred tool that is free and easy to pull up when shooting from the hip, do share.
Once your students have picked up on the long tail, Google Trends hits a search behavior home run. Maybe it’s the pretty colors, but Google Trends always resonates best with prospects, clients and traditional agencies that are more accustomed to assessing television or print audiences. As intuitive as this is to you, I can guarantee that your uninitiated employees, prospects and clients will have a serious “ah-ha” moment after a few minutes with this tool.
From the search engine optimization front, there are no resources as free-giving as SEOBook.com and SEOmoz.org. The former, created by consultant Aaron Wall, has a beautiful glossary, which details even the most complex concepts in layman’s terms, as well as a very deep set of tools. He gives a nod to the latter’s own tool page. While some tools and tips are subscription-based, I have always found SEOmoz to be generous with resources, data and graphics that educate and benefit the industry as a whole.
For those who are well-versed with the entire toolset yet tired of visiting multiple sites to conduct an analysis, Miquel Camps Orteza has something for you. He is credited with building Xinu, a tool aggregator that is currently in beta. The offerings include a screenshot, diagnosis, domain data, rankings, syndication, social bookmarks, validations, indexed pages and backlinks for any site. While Xinu is not hosted by the creator, others can host it in their own language. An English version can be found on a few sites, including here.
And finally, one of my favorite new tools is BuiltWith.com, which delivers a very clean profile of any Web site and the technologies it uses. Simply drop in the URL to get a clean list of technologies the site is built with (thus, the name), as well as analytics and tracking tools employed and advertising technologies.
So while it is tempting to keep these tools to yourself, the old saying stays true; ‘tis better to give than to receive.