My SEO SEM Toolbox, Internet Marketing Tools
by Kristjan M. Hauksson - 21.04.2006
Most of the time, search engine marketing basics remain unchanged. But for a beginner, optimizing a web site for the first time can be an intimidating assignment-and it's definitely not for the impatient. Over time I have collected over 400 URL's bookmarked under SEO & SEM Tools (this does not count all the programs I've BETA tested or purchased). Of all of the hundreds of programs and services I have seen and tested over the years, I use about 10 or 15 regularly.
Buying the URL
I believe this is a fundamental factor in successful search engine marketing for two reasons. The first reason is the name. It seams obvious, but a good name (or part of a name) is the basic element of how search engines index sites. The better your name, the better your results. Secondly, any URL with a legacy (or established history on the internet) can really do you good, particularly if it has been owned by a company that used it for similar a purpose as you intend for your services.
I know of many examples where companies purchased a "new" URL for their website only to later find out that it had been used before. When you are buying a domain, use the Web Archive (The Way Back Machine) to check if it has been used before (and if so for what). You don't want to get stuck with a URL that was previously used as a space for malicious content!
Choose Your ISP Well
Most web owners do not realize this, but any host may not be the best host. Actually some hosts can be really bad (and up-time is not the only factor that needs to be considered).
Is your ISP doing virtual hosting? If so, are they hosting sites that have been banned or penalized by the search engines? Some Web hosting companies can damage your SEO/SEM work faster than you can say "banned from Google." To check this I do some research on other webs hosted at the ISP that I want to do business with. The thing is that if there is anyone on your IP block that has been banned, this will affect all the other sites. Try to get your unique IP address.
Most free services are worth exactly what you pay for them. When you are choosing your hosting company, try measuring the download time of an individual page from their server, do an up-time check on it, find out which server hardware and software they use, and check to see if they support SSL for your site. These are the basic questions... there are many more ways to check your ISP's performance.
You might use the free version of the Server Checkservice at Net Mechanic to evaluate your hosting company. Other options are the Advanced Network Monitor, also mentioned later in this article, and SiteUptime.com. All are free site monitoring tools. Yet another online tool I've found very useful is the DNS Report provided at http://www.dnsreport.com/. This is a great tool to spot any early signs of trouble.
Page Rank and Link Popularity
Vocabulary like "Page Rank" and "Link Popularity" are terms that you need to familiarize yourself with, if you already haven't.
In short, Page Rank is a technique used by Google to determine the relevancy of particular pages, and Link Popularity is used to measure how many links point to your site. The more links the merrier. To find out your link popularity, try the free Link Popularity Check Tool from Axandra or just search for that kind of services on the net. There are loads of them out there...
Google has something called Application Program Interface (API). If you know some ASP or PHP basics and some XML you can even produce your own tools for Google SEO and SEM. You can read everything about this service at Google and get your special API key there. As an illustration try googlerankings.com.
Keywords and Search Phrases
Then there are the keywords... some say this is the most important part of Search Engine Marketing. Keywords are words or phrases by which you want your site to be found. The words that you feel are the most important might not be the words that people are actually using to find you, so do your homework here. This is a fundamental part of Search Engine Marketing basics.
I use free programs like Good Keywords, Yahoo's Overture Inventory (this is for the US, It can be found for many languages), Google adWords, and then of course the search engines themselves. As an option try the WordTracker, a Keywords tool on steroids.
HTML and Other Behind-the-Scenes Stuff
Browser compatibility is another issue that you might want to keep in mind when doing some SEM. For that you need to try your web out in all the major browsers and platforms, PC and MAC to make sure everything checks out ok.
Getting Seen by the Search Engines and Directories
Some say that you should never submit to the most important players, just get a link from another web and they'll come to you. Better yet, get a link from a site that is related to your material/content and has a high Page Ranking. You might inherit parts of their status. But first things first, is your site ready for the Web Wanderers that some people call Spiders and others Robots (and some Crawlers)?
Will the search engines be able to get to the material that matters... your written text? I often use the Poddle Predictor, a little tool hidden on the Internet (you can find it at gritechnologies.com). This free online spider prediction tool does a lot for you in foreseeing how the search engine spiders/robots will read through your web.
Your Site is Ready, Let's Start Submitting
You should bear in mind that when you get indexed at Google, you also get seen on AOL, Go and HotBot. This can save you a lot of time and effort. I use bruceclay.com and their search engine relationship chart to know who is using whom, and how.
In my experience, the best way for visibility is to mix the two, submitting and gaining link popularity. To start achieving link popularity, you might want to start by getting indexed by the major directories like Yahoo, Dmoz, Joe Ant, and GoGuides to mention few.
Stats and Up-Time
Ok, your site is up and running... but how is it doing? The best way to monitor the vitals is to enlist the help of a good statistical tool. I am not talking about a plain counter! No no. Given that you are serious on this, you need a tool that helps you know as much as you can about your site.
Is my Internet Marketing campaign working? How many visitors are coming? What pages did they view? What is the bounce rate? From where are they coming? Countries? Referring URL's? and so on...
It is also very important to know the up-time of your web. What If your ISP server is down when the spider comes visiting? Monitor your up-time and don't accept anything under 100%. For this you can use free tools like Advanced Network Monitor. It runs from your computer and you can print out its report and send it to your IPS if something happens.
SEO/SEM Articles and News
A very underused tool, and one of the best ways to be on your SEO/SEM toes, is to keep up with the news. I recommend that you subscribe to a few Search Engine related newsletters like Chris Sherman's Search Day from SearchEngineWatch.com. The ISEDB.com newsletter is also good. And then there are WebProNews, SEO Chat, and many others. As with other Internet-related items, use the search engines to find it, then try it and throw it out if you feel it does not help.
SEO /SEM Tool Box Conclusion
Regarding search engines and using them as marketing tools, there are no absolutes and you can find many, many, MANY tools that can do the same task. Therefore I recommend testing until you find your partner in Search Engine Marketing. And then when you find your partner it should not be like in real life where you stay faithful until death do you part.
On the contrary, do online SEO tool box inventories regularly, maybe once a month or so. I tend to fall into the "stay faithful" category, but I am really trying to break that habit.
As for other tools not mentioned above that I have tried and used over the years, there is http://www.marketleap.com/, the infamous Google tool bar, the FireFox web developer toolbar, searchbliss.com, SEO Elite, Xenu, Webrankinfo.com, Submit Wolf, and SurfOffline, to mention only a few.
Note: If the tools that you are using are not updated regularly by its vendor, beware! They might be out-of-date and doing you more harm than good.
Kristjan Mar Hauksson
Director of Internet Marketing