This post was originally published in May 2019 and updated in August 2020.
Here are three awesome stats to turn your head.
- There are now six billion searches per day on Google. (Up from 3.5 billion in 2019!)
- 53% of web traffic comes from organic SEO, compared to only 27% from paid search.
- The first page of results on Google gets 71.33% of all clicks, compared to only 5.59% on pages two and three.
If you’re a marketer, this means one thing:
It’s time to get cracking on those SEO strategies!
The problem is SEO won’t work if you approach it in a hit-and-miss manner. Guesswork and “publish and pray” will do nothing to get you a top position on Google.
What you DO need for great SEO is hard data and a strategic roadmap to success, which you can get with solid, well-optimized content and solid SEO tools.
These tools are expensive, and maybe beyond your startup’s monthly budget.
Not to worry, though! I’ve put together this guide just for you. In it we’ll look at:
- A list of the best free DIY SEO tools out there
- Step-by-step guidance on how to use each tool
- Free SEO tools you should never use
- Plus, I’ll show you my favorite paid tools (for when you’re growing and ready to make a bigger investment)
Ready to rock Google’s SERPs?
Let’s dive in!
Did you know? I teach a proven, one-week SEO writing course. Learn more about my SEO writing course here.
Free DIY SEO Tools: 5 Keyword Research and SEO Agency Tools
Need to find profitable keywords for your content?
Try these five tools for free.
(Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links. However, don’t worry! I never promote tools I don’t personally use – and love. ♥)
1. Free Trial: DIY SEO Tool SEMrush
SEMrush is one of my personal favorite tools for keyword research. (I use the paid version, but you can totally use it for free if you’re just starting out!) It’s incredibly comprehensive, and packed with everything you need to discover profitable keywords for targeted traffic and leads.
To begin, head over to SEMrush's signup page. All you need are your email and a password to create your own account.
Once you create your account, you have two options:
- Sign up for a free trial (where you can test the complete arsenal of SEMrush’s tools for 7 days)
- Use SEMrush’s free version (you’ll have limited searches and access to data, but that’s OK for starters)
To start your free trial, click Get Free Trial. If you’d rather go for the free version, click Skip Trial.
Now, let’s get into how to use SEMrush for free!
If you chose to skip the trial, you’ll go straight to your SEMrush dashboard. It looks like this.
To begin, choose one of your seed keywords. (Keyword research always begins with brainstorming seed keywords. Get the details on this in my in-depth guide.)
Type your chosen keyword into the search box at the top of the dashboard. For example, let’s say you go with writing tips as your seed keyword.
Once you click Search, you’ll be able to view specific data on your chosen keyword such as:
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty score
- Keyword variations
- Related keywords
Did you know? I walk online writers through and demystify every step in keyword research in my proven, one-week SEO writing course. Learn more about my SEO writing course here.
Here are four great tips for using these analytics:
- Go for a search volume of above 1,000
- Go for a keyword difficulty score of below 40 if your site is new. For older sites, you can go for below 60.
- Use the Keyword Variations section to find other keywords to target.
- Use the Related Keywords section to find amazing secondary keywords to sprinkle in your content.
If you scroll down, you’ll find the top sites ranking for your chosen keyword.
Are the results accurate?
You bet! Head over to Google and you’ll find that Copyblogger does indeed rank #1 for writing tips.
Of course, using SEMrush’s free version comes with a downside and that’s limitations.
- You’re limited to 10 searches per day. If you click a link to view a report, that counts as one search.
- You’re limited to 10 results per search. For example, the Keyword Variations section (which leads to the Keyword Magic Tool) lists 13.6K keyword variations. However, you’ll only be able to see 10 of them.
- You won’t be able to view your keyword research history.
For a list of all the limitations in your free SEMrush account, check out SEMrush's blog.
Don’t worry. If you chose the free trial, you can always downgrade to the free account by emailing [email protected].
2. 10-Day Free Trial: DIY SEO Tool Mangools KWFinder
If you’re just beginning the content marketing journey and you need a few keywords to jumpstart your website, you can use the 10-day free trial of Mangools KWFinder.
To start, sign up for a new account. (What’s great is you don’t need to add your credit card information for the trial. When your 10 days are up, your account will simply expire and you can decide whether or not to go for the paid version.)
The signup process is super easy. Simply fill in the blanks with your information, head over to your email, and click the confirm link they send you.
What I love about KWFinder is its user-friendliness. You can view important keyword data on your dashboard, complete with:
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty score
- SERP overview
You can also refine your search by clicking Filter above the list of keywords.
Let’s say you want to filter for a search volume of 1,000 and a keyword difficulty score below 50.
Click Set Filter to view your results.
Want a comprehensive dive into using this tool for SEO (plus SEO writing tips and hacks)? Check out The Expert SEO Content Writer Course.
3. Free Version: DIY SEO Tool Moz Keyword Explorer
Another great tool to add to your toolkit is the Moz Keyword Explorer. Moz Keyword Explorer has a paid version, but let’s dive into what you can do with the free version.
To start, you’ll need to create an account on the platform.
On your dashboard, you’ll be able to see which tools you can use for free (and which are locked until you get the paid version). You can also see how many queries you have left (Moz Keyword Explorer’s free version allows you to get 10 queries per month).
To start using the keyword explorer, type your keyword into the search field.
Click Analyze to view your results.
The Moz Keyword Explorer is great because it shows you everything you want to know about a keyword in one glance. Plus, it has extra features that most other SEO tools don’t have. These are:
- Organic CTR: Learn how many clicks come from organic instead of paid search.
- Priority: According to the MOZ Q&A Forum, Priority “was conceived to aggregate all the other metrics – Difficulty, Opportunity, Volume, and (if you choose it) Importance.” The higher the priority score, the better your keyword.
Moz Keyword Explorer is also unique because you can view unlimited search results with a free account.
For example, say you want to view the complete list of keyword suggestions. All you need to do is click See all suggestions at the bottom of the keyword suggestions preview.
This will allow you access to the complete list of suggestions for your keyword.
4. Free DIY SEO Tool: Answer the Public
If you’re looking for a simple tool that gives you information on exactly what people are searching online, Answer the Public is a great place to start. This tool churns out a list of Google and Bing’s autosuggest features to show you keywords actual people are using.
To start using Answer the Public, type your keyword idea into the search field and click Search.
What you’ll get is a bunch of keywords and keyword ideas for your content.
Here are the results you’ll get (complete with cool visualization).
- Questions: The top questions people are asking about your keyword. For example, “tips when writing a book” and “tips when writing an essay.”
- Prepositions: These are keyword variations people use when they search for your keyword using certain prepositions. For example, “writing tips for beginners” and “writing tips in English.”
- Comparisons. Keyword variations based on words such as “or,” “versus,” and “like.”
- Alphabeticals. These are keyword variations listed from A to Z. As you can see, the list is comprehensive!
- Related. These are keywords similar to your seed keyword.
5. Free DIY SEO Tool: Ubersuggest
Ubersuggest is another free SEO tool you can add to your toolkit. What’s great about it is it’s super easy to use, clean, and simple.
To begin using Ubersuggest, head over to its homepage and type your seed keyword into the search bar.
When you do, you’ll get information on:
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty
- Paid difficulty
- Cost per click
Two tips to keep in mind if you’re doing paid search:
- Go for keywords with lower paid difficulty…
- …but higher cost per click.
(These apply to paid search, but why not use this information to weigh the value of organic keywords as well?)
When you scroll down, you’ll be able to look at data like mobile or desktop usage, clicks on SEO results, and the age range of searchers.
- Desktop searches convert better than mobile searches, so go for keywords with higher desktop volume.
- The higher the clicks on SEO results, the better your keyword. As you can see, “writing tips” has 2,314 clicks, making it a profitable keyword.
- Going for a higher searchers’ age range is a good idea if you want to target people with buying power.
On the same page, you’ll also be able to see other keyword ideas to inspire you…
…plus, great content ideas from your competitors.
What’s great about Ubersuggest is you have a clean way to export your data. All you have to do is copy the keywords to your clipboard.
Create a new doc in your word processor and paste from the clipboard to get a copy of your list of keywords.
Free DIY SEO Tools: 10 SEO Checker Tools and SEO Web Page Analysis Tools
Want to know how your site is doing in the SERPs?
Want to strategically plan your way to the top, plus beat your competition?
Check out these 10 free tools.
Did you know? I walk demystify every step in keyword research and SEO for online writers in my proven SEO writing course. Learn more about my SEO writing course here.
Free DIY SEO Tool #1: SEMrush’s Off-Page SEO Analysis Tool
To check out your site’s SEO in SEMrush, simply head over to your dashboard and type your URL into the search field.
You can select whether you want to do a domain overview or keyword overview.
Select Domain Overview and you’ll see your domain authority, organic search traffic, and backlinks. You can also check out your organic and paid search traffic trends.
- Authority Score. This number refers to your domain authority. New sites are ranked one, while more established ones can go up to 100. The higher your domain authority, the stronger your site.
- Organic Search Traffic. This tells you how many organic visitors you’re getting, plus how many organic keywords you’re ranking for.
Scroll down to see the top keywords your site is ranking for.
- Backlinks. Backlinks are inbound links from other websites. Click the backlinks tab to view more detailed information…
…and scroll down to see who’s linking to you and which pieces of content they’ve linked to.
Want to see how you’re doing against competitors?
Go back to your dashboard and type your domain into the Domain Analytics search bar. Then, add your competitors’ domains and click Add Domain for each.
This allows you to compare your site with theirs.
Free DIY SEO Tool #2: Moz’s Free Tools
Moz’s tools aren’t only for keyword research. They have great SEO analytics tools, too (you can use the limited versions for free).
To start, click Free SEO Tools at the top right of your dashboard.
Let’s look at the tools one by one.
MozBar is amazing because it lets you see page authority and domain authority without leaving the page or SERP.
To start using it, you’ll need to download the extension. (Don’t worry, it’s totally free and takes only a few minutes to download.)
Click MozBar from the Free SEO Tools dropdown menu, then click the download button.
After you’ve downloaded it, go to your extensions options and select MozBar.
Click on the blue M to activate MozBar.
When you do, the extension will appear on your browser. Visit any site to instantly see its page authority, links, domain authority, and spam score. (All this data is included in the free version. To unlock more data for MozBar, you’ll need to go for Moz Pro.)
2. Link Explorer
Moz’s Link Explorer allows you to view your site’s domain authority, linking domains, inbound links, and ranking keywords.
To use it, simply click Link Explorer from the dropdown menu and type your keyword into the search field.
Click Analyze to view your results.
Just like other free Moz tools, you only get 10 free queries per month.
3. Check My Online Presence
This tool is great if you run a local business. It helps you discover if your website is listed accurately and consistently across all web directories.
Using it is super easy. Simply type in your company’s name and address to get started.
Free DIY SEO Tool #3: Check My Links
Worried your site has broken links but don’t have enough time to check them one by one?
Try Check My Links, a Chrome extension you can use as you browse. It highlights broken links so you can see what needs fixing at a glance.
To start, you’ll need to install the extension on your browser. Click the Add to Chrome button and select Add extension in the pop-up box that appears.
Once you see the extension on your toolbar, click it and select Options.
Check the boxes depending on your preferences and save when you’re done.
The next step is to visit a page you want to check. When you land on the page, Check My Links will ask your permission to access it.
Click the extension and reload the page.
Here you go!
As you scroll through the page, you’ll see each link highlighted in green, yellow, or red.
Free DIY SEO Tool #4: Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider
If you want a quick way to make sure your website’s SEO is running on all cylinders, check out Screaming Frog's SEO Spider. It checks for:
- Broken links
- Page titles and meta descriptions that are missing, too short/long, or duplicated
- Duplicate content
- Redirect chains and loops
To begin, download SEO spider to your computer.
Here’s what you can get from the tool’s free version.
Free DIY SEO Tool #5: SEO Plagiarism Tools
Worried about unintentionally toeing the line between taking inspiration and copying? Use a free SEO plagiarism checker to make sure your content is totally unique. The two below are solid and easy to use:
- The SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker – Copy and paste the text you want to check, or upload a file up to 2,000 words in length.
- Small SEO Tools Plagiarism Checker – This tool has the copy-and-paste and upload features as well as the option to import content from Google Drive or Dropbox.
Free DIY SEO Tool #6: SEO Title Tools and Snippet Tools
A compelling title and meta description can mean the difference between people clicking and people ignoring you.
So, before you push that publish button, it’s a great idea to test drive your meta title and description first.
Here are three free tools that allow you to do that.
- Portent’s SERP Preview Tool. This tool makes it easy for you to stay within the recommended meta title and description length.
- Ezlocal’s Title Tag Length and Meta Description Length Check Tool. This tool offers the same guidance, with the added option of pasting any string of characters from another source.
- Google SERP Simulator. This tool allows you to actually preview what your meta title and description will look like on the SERPs.
Want in-depth training on every tool involved in building a strong online brand through SEO and organic content marketing? I teach a six-week implementation course for content marketers in The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
Free DIY SEO Tool #7: SEO Site Checker Tools
If you want a quick overview of your site SEO, these tools are gold.
- Free SEO Analysis Tool. Neil Patel’s tool allows you to scour your site for speed, broken links, warnings, and critical errors. It’s easy to use and you can see all the data at a glance.
- Sitechecker. This free checker gives you an in-depth look at your site’s technical SEO. You can view your site’s critical errors, warnings, and more.
What I love about this tool is how simple yet detailed it is. Click any of the cards to dig into your site’s main issues. For instance, let’s look at the Critical Errors card.
Free DIY SEO Tool #8: SEO Submission Tools
If your site is new, you won’t have any links that’ll help Google’s spiders crawl your pages.
To submit your site to search engines, use these two free tools.
- Entireweb. Simply fill in the blanks with your URL and email address and click Proceed. Go to your email and confirm by clicking the link you receive. Your site will then be submitted to the top search engines like Google, Bing, AOL, and more.
- AddMe.com. This free tool allows you to submit your site to the top 20 search engines in one shot.
Free DIY SEO Tool #9: WordPress SEO Plugins and Tools
If you use WordPress as your content publishing platform, you need these free SEO WordPress plugins.
- Yoast SEO – This is the #1 WordPress SEO plugin for a reason. It gives you all the tools you need to optimize your posts right inside the WordPress platform. Yoast SEO even includes analysis and suggestions to improve your SEO.
- SEO Press – This is an easy-to-use tool that will help you optimize your content, improve your SEO, and boost traffic and social sharing – all from within WordPress.
Free DIY SEO Tool #10: Google Trends (YouTube SEO Tool)
Did you know you can search for topic trends on YouTube with Google Trends? Simply enter your search term and select “YouTube Search” from the last filter category.
The data shows you how popular your keyword is with YouTube searchers.
The Next Step Up from Free DIY SEO Tools: 4 Paid SEO Tools Worth Investing In
Of course, you shouldn’t stick to free SEO tools for a lifetime.
Reason #1: Paid tools are brilliant because money is put into hiring talented professionals to research, develop, and maintain them. (The same way quality ingredients make your latte with Ruta Maya organic premium roast coffee beans more expensive than the free instant coffee you get on your cafeteria lunch break.) ☕
I’ll show you an example.
Imagine you want to find the keyword difficulty score for “writing tips.”
Here’s what you get on the free tool Ubbersuggest.
Looking at that low score (24) you’d think, "WOW! I can rank for this keyword in no time!"
But head over to KWFinder and look up the same keyword.
Here’s what you’ll get.
Oops! Looks like “writing tips” is more difficult to rank for than you thought. Plus, you’re going up against big names like Copyblogger and Grammarly.
Without the paid tool, you would have gone ahead and tried to rank for this keyword even though your site is new and your odds are low.
Reason #2: You don’t want limits. Free versions of paid tools are extremely limited, and which big dreamer wants to work with limits? (Hint: none of them.)
So yes, free SEO tools are great to start with.
But the moment you have the budget for premium paid tools, I say go right ahead and buy them.
Here are four I recommend.
SEO Tool #1: SEMrush (Paid Version)
If you’re starting out and want just one paid SEO tool, definitely make it SEMrush.
I personally use it for my keyword research and SEO analysis, and it’s pure gold. 🥇
I’ve already given you a hint of SEMrush’s awesomeness with the free version, but here’s what you’ll get when you go for the paid version.
- Up to 10,000 rows of data on your searches (compared to just 10 in the free version)
- Up to 3,000 keyword reports (compared to just one in the free version)
- Track up to 500 keywords at once
- Pro: $83.28/month billed annually or $99.9/billed monthly
- Guru: $166.62/month billed annually or $199.94/billed monthly
- Business: $332.28/month billed annually or $399.95/billed monthly
SEO Tool #2: Ahrefs’ Suite of Tools
If you’re going to buy SEO tools, make sure Ahrefs is on your consideration list. Purchasing a plan from Ahrefs gives you access to their entire toolkit, including:
- Keywords Explorer – A comprehensive keyword research tool
- Site Explorer – Check your organic search traffic and backlink profile
- Content Explorer – Research popular content and see what’s getting engagement
- Rank tracker – Track your SERP rankings and compare to your competitors’
- Site Audit – Crawl your entire site and get a thorough look at how it’s performing, SEO-wise
- Alerts – Get alerts whenever you’re mentioned online, whenever you earn or lose backlinks, or when your keyword rankings change
- Lite: $82/month billed annually or $99/billed monthly
- Standard: $149/month billed annually or $199/billed monthly
- Advanced: $332/month billed annually or $399/billed monthly
- Agency: $832/month billed annually or $999/billed monthly
Did you know? I walk content marketers every step in the top tools and processes to use in their content marketing process, in The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
SEO Tool #3: BuzzSumo
Sure, you can write splendidly around a keyword and see your content shoot to the #1 position in Google…
…but how do know your audience will love what you write about it?
This amazing tool shows you EXACTLY what your audience loves by giving you a list of top-shared articles and blogs around your keyword.
Is BuzzSumo technically an SEO tool?
However, I’ll argue that topic research and keyword research go hand-in-hand. When you find the golden combination of profitable keywords + on-point topics, your content will fly.
To use BuzzSumo, enter your keyword/topic into the search box to see top-shared blogs and articles surrounding those terms. Analyze what’s doing well, the angle they used, and how you could do better.
With BuzzSumo, you can also check what’s working for your competition. Simply type your competitor’s domain in the search box to see their top-shared content.
- Pro: $79/month billed annually or $97/billed monthly
- Medium: $139/month billed annually or $179/billed monthly
- Large: $239/month billed annually or $299/billed monthly
Writing content around random keywords and topics (even if they’re profitable ones) won’t guarantee you content marketing success. What you need is content strategy. Check out The Content Strategy and Marketing Course to learn more.
SEO Tool #4: Mangools KWFinder (Paid Version)
Mangools KWFinder is a must-have if you’re going into paid tools. It’s the easiest keyword research tool out there, plus it’s more affordable than other tools.
Already using the free trial of KWFinder? Simply upgrade to the paid version after your 10-day trial.
- Basic: $29.90/month billed annually or $49.00/billed monthly
- Premium: $39.90/month billed annually or $69/billed monthly
- Agency: $79.90/month billed annually or $129/billed monthly
4 Free DIY SEO Tools to Stay Away From
Before we end, I’ll list four SEO tools you should avoid. (Warning: Don’t touch #3 and #4 with a ten-foot pole!)
- AtoZ SEO Tools. You don’t need AtoZ SEO tools. Why? You can get all of them free from other, more reputable sources like Moz Keyword Explorer, the free version of SEMrush, and more.
- Small SEO Tools Article Rewriter. Don’t use this tool, or any rewriter tool in general. Unless you’re into black hat SEO — which you’re not. 😉
- Shared SEO Tools. These are tools bought by a merchant and shared by a bunch of people using VPNs. Nope, nope, nope.
- Nulled SEO Tools. Nulled SEO tools are the equivalent of pirated software. In other words, they’re stolen tools. Need I say more?
The Best Free DIY SEO Tools for SERP Ranking Success
Here’s the thing.
You can guess which keywords will get you success on Google’s SERPs and “publish and pray” yourself to mediocre results. 🙏
OR you can invest in quality SEO tools and consistently strategize your way to the top.
I know you’ll pick the second option. 😉
Now, the mic is over to you!
Which SEO tools caught your attention? Which do you plan on trying out first? Have you tried any of them, and what did you think of them? Do you have a favorite SEO tool I missed mentioning?
Comment below and let me know!