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While Google is never going to reveal their “secret recipe” that is used to rank the billions and billions of web pages around, the company still wants to help you ensure your site is performing as well as possible.

To help with this, Google has launched a new tool designed to evaluate your website and rate how it follows the company’s SEO best practices and guidelines.

The tool is currently in open beta, but is available to all webmasters at web.dev.

According to the search engine, the tool is the end result of more than 10 years of learning and iteration.

“As the bar for high-quality experience continues to rise, users are quickly disappointed in a web experience that doesn’t deliver. And then they’re gone.

“We believe, however, the web now has the capabilities to overcome that challenge—to give all users the best possible experience wherever they are.”

The most useful part of the tool for most webmasters will be its SEO assessment, but it also includes audits for performance, accessibility, and more.

Specifically, web.dev can evaluate a website’s:

  • Performance: Audits for metrics like first paint and time to interactive to determine lag.
  • PWA: Assesses your page against the baseline Progressive Web App Checklist.
  • Best Practices: Looks for everything from HTTPS usage to correct image aspect ratios.
  • SEO: Checks for best practices to ensure your site is discoverable.
  • Accessibility: Checks for common issues that may prevent users from accessing your content.

All you have to do to evaluate your own site is enter the URL.

Along with some simple images rating your site’s performance, you will also be given a list of recommended improvements you can make, listed in order of how important they are. The recommendations at the top of the list will have the biggest impact on your site, while those at the bottom as more minute changes that will have little effect on your ranking – though they may improve your site’s overall performance.

Web.dev also provides detailed downloadable reports which can be printed or digitally shared with site owners, providing an easy-to-understand breakdown of your site’s performance on Google.

The tool generates an up-to-date report on a daily basis, so you can also quickly see how any changes you make affect your site’s performance.

Google Lighthouse SEO Audit Tool

Google has announced a new set of tools for its Chrome Lighthouse developers extension that may finally make the tool relevant for both marketers and business owners

The Lighthouse extension is adding SEO audit metrics that make the tool an easy and fast way to see how Google perceives your website and what needs a tune-up.

The browser plugin already contains audits for things like performance, progressive web apps, accessibility, and Google best practices, but the inclusion of SEO metrics make it an all-in-one way to review your website’s performance.

A small (but revealing) look at your SEO

Of course, Google isn’t giving away everything with their tool. It only contains ten of the estimated hundreds of  ranking factors, which Google seems to view as most-essential for the average webmaster.

“The current list of SEO audits is not an exhaustive list, nor does it make any SEO guarantees for Google websearch or other search engines. The current list of audits was designed to validate and reflect the SEO basics that every site should get right, and provides detailed guidance to developers and SEO practitioners of all skill levels.”

Google notes that they expect to add more metrics in the future.

What is included?

The ten SEO ranking factors measured by Google Chrome’s lighthouse extension are:

  1. Meta Viewport Element
  2. Title Element
  3. Meta Description
  4. Page has successful HTTP status code
  5. Links have descriptive text
  6. Page isn’t blocked from indexing
  7. Document has a valid hreflang
  8. Document has a valid rel=canonical
  9. Document uses legible font sizes
  10. Document avoids browser plugins

Do you need it?

The Lighthouse extension’s SEO audit feature isn’t an elite-level tool that takes hours to learn and understand. It is a quick, brief overview of just a few of your site’s SEO signals that might reveal some of the basic things you’ve been overlooking or neglecting. If you haven’t used it, I strongly recommend giving it a try and checking out your site through Google’s eyes.

Twitter has become an undeniable force in modern culture. Even if you aren’t signed up for the social media platform, you can hardly turn on the television without being bombarded by tweets and hashtags.

Every major news network solicits tweets from their viewers in order to get real-time responses to issues, and any new episode of a show is bound to have at least one hashtag hovering in the bottom corner of the screen.

But, those TV hashtags highlight one of the biggest problems with Twitter: few people actually understand hashtags or how to use them efficiently. Sure, we all know how to tag Instagram photos with them, or we slap a silly hashtag on the end of tweets to add a little more information, but the number of people actually using hashtags to organize and sort through the constant tidal wave of new tweets is actually quite low.

It isn’t that Twitter’s users aren’t smart enough to use hashtags more efficiently, but it is difficult to make hashtags a very useful sorting device without going through a middleman. Twitter’s search engine can let you broadly search hashtags, but if you want to actually make sense of the mess you most likely need an extra tool to help you out.

Ann Smarty from Search Engine Journal pulled together five such tools to help Twitter users everywhere turn hashtags into a vital part of their information consumption every day. If you want to be smart with your hashtags, these tools are the best place to start.

1. Twitter Chat

twitter-chat-tool

When Twitter began using hashtags, it didn’t take long for users to figure out that the tags can be used to create a conversation between numerous people. Rather than directly messaging an individual, you are able to put a topic or “chat title” in the form of a hashtag so users are able to create a real discussion. But, the conversation was still cluttered and not well laid out for the average reader.

TwChat allows you to take those hashtags and monitor them in real time. It also lays the tweets in a more cohesive way, so that you can more quickly read and understand the conversation. Best of all, it is super simple to use, free, and doesn’t require downloaded software.

2. TagDef

TagDef

Originally, there was an unspoken rule that hashtags should be easy to understand at a glance. Obviously, this rule has fallen apart over time. Hashtags tend to be a combination of slang, inside jokes, and promotional material that makes no sense without context.

With the help of TagDef, you won’t have to worry about not being caught up with the latest American Idol hashtag or the slang younger people are using to keep up with the meaning behind hashtags popping up in your feed. The tool lets you search a hashtag and get the meaning instantly. You can also edit and add your own meanings. TagDef acts like Urban Dictionary exclusively for hashtags (and potentially a little less focused on profanity).

3. Hashtags

Hashtags Tool

Hashtags gained its reputation as the largest hashtag database on the web, but there is much, much more there. The site includes analytics, how to articles, blog posts, a chatroom, a forum, a hashtag dictionary, events, trending hashtags, popular hashtags (long-term), and even more.

4. Tagboard

tagboard

Of course, hashtags aren’t limited strictly to Twitter. The history of hashtags goes all the way back to IRC chats, but they have spread to nearly every major social networking platform out there. Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Vine have all implemented the organizing tool. Tagboard takes hashtags from across all those different platforms and displaying them all on one page. You can even use it as a social network dashboard, allowing you to like, share, or retweet as you desire without ever having to leave the site.

5. Hashtagify.me

hashtagify

There is no rule you have to use only one hashtag per post. In fact, many add three or more hashtags on a large number of their posts, but it can be hard to see how they are related from Twitter’s site. Hashtagify helps you see how different hashtags are related and their usage patterns, as well as offering in-depth analysis in their pro version. They also have active breakout alerts, so you can always be the first to know about the new cool hashtag.

Despite everything that has changed in SEO over the years, keywords have always maintained their importance. A good SEO campaign can only be made from a foundation of the right keywords to work from. No matter how great the rest of your strategy is, it will be weakened by the wrong keywords, because they simply don’t have the potential for return that others do.

Selecting the right keywords can be an arduous task though. You have to gather data, and then analyze the massive amounts of information so that projections on returns can be made. Gathering all that data isn’t quick, and that means it is expensive.

Startups with limited budgets or without access to paid SEO tools just don’t have the resources to do the type of expansive data gathering that quality keyword selection requires. Or so it used to be. There are several free tools out there which can often do huge amounts of keyword research for you.

A single one of these tools may not be able to do the heavy lifting that the expensive top of the line programs offer, but by implementing a few of the free tools into your workflow you can cover almost all of the ground one expensive program would.

It will always take time and effort to analyze data for projections on return for specific keywords, but it is worth the effort. With just the three free tools Marc Purtell suggests over at Search Engine Journal, you will find you can more efficiently make informed decisions about your keyword selection, and soon you’ll be on your way to a better SEO campaign.

 

Visual Link ExplorerSometimes it helps to step back and get a more visual idea of your link profile, but until now the only way to do this was to export all of your links to Excel and create a bunch of charts. CognitiveSEO has released the Visual Link Explorer to make the whole process easier and let you see your link profile all at once in a visually comprehensive way. It can also be used to help easily explain a profile to clients or even help figure out why you were penalized by Google. You can view competitors backlinks to analyze them and stay ahead of your closest competition.

One of the things this visual tool is best at is showing the importance of deep links and homepage links. It is always hard to explain to clients why it is a bad idea to direct all links to the homepage, and the way the Visual Link Explorer depicts your links is perfectly suited for showing how building a deep link profile as well boosts you site’s overall authority.

Judging overall link quality is also made incredibly easy and quick. In this tool, the lowest-quality links are placed closer to the center of the clusters of dots while the best link are portrayed with larger dots further away from the center.

There are a ton of other ways you can use the Visual Link Explorer to analyze your link profile, and any SEO worth their salt understands the importance of a your profile. Kristi Hines has more ideas for how the tool can be used at Search Engine Journal, but needless to say, I think it is a must have.

So what SEO tools are out there, available online, to save you time and money?  Are there any that are worthwhile?  I actually think so.  Some of the big ones that I use include Yahoo Site Explorer and the Google AdWords Tool.  There are several other tools that people use, some of them cost to use, some of them are free.  (The above tools are free.)  So what’s worth using?

Well, Chris Boggs from Search Engine Watch has put together a really nice list of different quality SEO tools.  For the most part, I think his list is solid.  Not sure why he’s an IE man (I won’t question that too much, it can only lead to something bad), but his choice of tools for search engine optimization is solid.

One tip he mentioned that I think is worth saying again – make sure any of the methods in which the tools help you are things you already know how to do!  It’s worth extra time to learn how to do it manually first.  Then you can go on to find a tool to save your time and effort, and still have the skills that tool applies towards.