7 FREE SEO tools I check when someone tells me their SEO sucks

Close up of Studio Cotton founder Aime with her blonde hair tied up, wearing a brown dress and holding her hand to her mouth
Aime Cox
Founder of Studio Cotton
Aime is utterly obsessed with sharing heaps of small business and website advice that’s easy to action
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When a small business owner tells me their search engine optimisation (SEO) is bad, I NEED to know the answer.⁠⁠
Now, I like to pretend my boundaries are hella healthy and I defo don’t do excessive work for free – but when I get an email, Instagram direct message (DM) or comment from someone who is totes struggling with their organic traffic, you can bet your butt that I will be running it through one of more of these SEO checkers & tools because I NEED AN ANSWER.⁠⁠

🚨 BIG ALERT. I will not be doing it after this blog, because now y’all are on to me 😅 🚨⁠⁠

Anyways. It’s good practice to run your own website through my favourite SEO tools or their alternatives regularly. It’ll give you heaps of insight, and a list of simple actions to take to improve how highly and how often your small business appears in Google searches.⁠⁠
Now here’s the caveat. These SEO tools are all simple robots following pieces of code that help us work out what we need to do to please a much more complex robot.⁠⁠
When you are creating content and managing your small business’ website, ya gotsta please the real life humans who you want to be your customers. ⁠⁠
This means writing plenty of text, and making sure that text explains exactly what you sell, who it’s for, why someone should buy it, and how to give you some dolla dolla.⁠⁠⁠⁠

Without further ado, here’s the 7 free SEO tools I check when someone tells me their SEO sucks.


1. Ahrefs backlink checker

You can build the very best website on the planet – a website that says exactly what your customer needs to hear, in a precise and tidy format that Google can read and understand so dang easily. But. If nobody backs you up, you’ll just be tooting your own horn in an empty orchestra pit.

You have no idea how proud I am of that analogy.

When other websites link to your website, it’s like a digital stamp of approval. A lil connection from a buddy that says “Yep, this tooter is the best horn man in town”.

Dang, I lost my analogy powers.

Anyway. These links from other websites to your website are called backlinks. The more backlinks you have that help tell your business story, the better your SEO potential.

That’s where a backlink checker like my favourite freebie, the Ahrefs Backlink Checker, come in to play. This tool will give you a score out of 100 that estimates your domain rating based on the quantity and quality of backlinks.


SEO tool screenshot: Ahrefs backlink checker
Even with a relatively low score of 19/100, the Studio Cotton SEO is pretty darn wonderful. Still, this is a reminder that I need to re-prioritise link building.


In my experience, it’s very rare for a small business to score more than 50 – heck, even the lovely BBC only gets a 93. So whilst we’re never chasing a perfect score, in my experience anything under 10 is a very strong indicator that a website is in an SEO pickle.

Building backlinks should be an ongoing priority for any business, but if you’re scoring under 10 then bbz, get on it. Get. On. It.

And whilst this article isn’t just about backlinks, I would never leave you hanging. Check out 15 Incredible Link Building Strategies by Matthew Woodward.


2. A keyword density checker

As a rule of thumb, if you want your website or a web page to rank for something, ya need to write that something down 3 times.

Now I am certainly not saying that if you do write it down 3 times, you will rank top. That ain’t a thing. I’m just saying if you don’t write it down 3 times, you stand a much lower chance of ranking at all.

This free keyword density analysis tool by Internet Marketing Ninja picks up any single-word, two-word or three-word phrases on a page, so you can see what you’re telling Google your business is about.


SEO tool screenshot: Keyword density checker
Check out those two-word phrases on the Studio Cotton home page, sexy no? Although I am a little concerned about my lack of local terms.


Run your business website homepage through an SEO keyword density checker and read each group of repeated phrases. We want to see a good range of terms that are specific to your brand, products and customers. If your results are empty or generic, it’s time to prioritise some content creation and copywriting.


3. An SEO report generator

There are probably hundreds of SEO report generators online, and I wouldn’t say that my pick, SEOptimer, is special – but it is the one in my browser history so I keep going back.

This free report highlights some key areas of SEO and gives letter-based scores on performance.


SEO tool screenshot: SEOptimer
I’m a big fan of praise, and SEOptimer loves giving Studio Cotton great results.


Big warning though! These reports aren’t very intelligent, and they’ll often pass you for things that aren’t really good enough. Always read the results and ask your human brain “is this really good enough?”.

For example, SEOptimer will pass/fail a page title and page description based on character counts – but those counts mean sweet fluff all if the letters you’re using don’t spell out exactly why your customers should visit your website.


4. WAVE by WebAIM

WAVE by WebAIM is technically a website accessibility evaluation tool. It helps us to understand how our website is creating barriers or reinforcing barriers to our business for people with a diverse range of abilities and differences.

Now Google loves an accessible website which means WAVE does an impeccable job of highlighting SEO wins too.

My favourite is the ‘Structures’ tab, which highlights how your website uses headings to create a content hierarchy.


SEO tool screenshot: WAVE by WebAIM
Perfectly nested headings saturated with the Studio Cotton keywords


You might be surprised by how rubbish the text in your headings are for describing your business and products, so check those H1s-H6s to make sure they contain the information your customers need to navigate your website and understand your offering.


5. GT Metrix website speed checker

It’s no secret that Google ain’t a fan of slow websites, and that’s because humans aren’t fans of them either.

You might be familiar with another speed tester, Google PageSpeed Insights, but in my experience GT Metrix is way more thorough and a more realistic report into a website’s performance.


SEO tool screenshot: GTMetrix
The first time I ran this test, I discovered my pop-up was seriously slowing down my user experience. I just turned down the appearance frequency et voilá


It will provide a list of issues that are negatively impacting your business’ website speed. Some of these factors may be outside of your control – but the ones that aren’t – fix ’em,


6. A broken link checker

Broken links are a sign of a poorly managed website. Even worse, they make for terrible landing pages for your potential customers.

A nice lil SEO tool like this aptly named Free Broken Link Tool by the even aptlier named Dead Link Checker will run through a website page or a full website and pick up every non-linking link.


SEO tool screenshot: Broken link checker
Seems like I have a couple of links to client websites to fix


It usually grabs a few semi-erroneous social media links too, but don’t worry too much. This is because the social media platforms often require someone to log in before viewing a page, and the broken link checking tool ain’t cool enough for Instagram.


7. Google Chrome Developer Tools

If you use Google Chrome, right click anywhere on a website and click ‘inspect’ – boff! That’s Google Chrome Developer Tools.

Now click on the Application tab, head to the Frames section, and open the Images folder – boff! Those are all of the images on a page complete with names, pixel size and kb size.


SEO tool screenshot: Google Chrome Dev Tools
Ok, my image names aren’t perfect – but they’re about 10,000x better than a cheeky IMG3033.jpg


Big images are the #1 SEO killer, now you can see how well you’ve followed my legendary website image management guide (also available to save on Instagram).


And a shoutout to my favourite SEO tool, RankMath

RankMath doesn’t make it on to this list of free SEO tools because I can’t use it to check your SEO. But I use it all the dang time to check on our own, and that of our clients.

RankMath is a plugin that can be added to any WordPress website, and unleashes an insane amount of pointers, checkers and SEO tools that are utterly and completely free.

It has a keyword density checker. It has multiple SEO report generators, it highlights how you use headings and includes a broken link and 404 checker. And it’s free.

I mean, there is a paid version which I love too – but if you’re a WordPress user, treat yo’self and get RankMath for freeeeee.

And if you’re not, dip into my favourite 7 FREE SEO tools I check when someone tells me their SEO sucks – and reap the SEO rewards.

The first version of this blog appeared via my Instagram account, @studio.cotton. If you like bitesize marketing advice and weekly-ish Q&As, you might want to give me a follow.


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