What we will cover
Three kinds of Google SEO tools
SEO is a big topic, so before we go through the tools themselves, we thought it would be helpful to divide them into four categories.
If you read our three-part series on the elements of SEO, you may recall that there are broadly two categories of onsite SEO: content-related SEO and technical SEO.
Content-related SEO is largely about finding and using powerful keywords in your content. Technical SEO is about tuning your website’s engine so that your pages load quickly and perform well.
We have divided the six most powerful Google SEO tools between these two categories. We have also added a further five snapshot auditing tools. These are super helpful if you want to access basic information quickly. Finally, we have included four further tools that play more of a supporting role to your SEO efforts.
Content-related Google SEO tools
Google Ads Keyword Planner
Although Google’s Keyword Planner tool is provided mainly for their Google Ads pay-per-click customers, you don’t need to run an ads campaign to access its basic functions.
You will find Keyword Planner under the Tools and Settings menu. If you want to generate keyword ideas for your content, select the ‘Discover new keywords’ panel. You can then choose between adding a root keyword or entering your website address (or a page from it).
Google will then produce a table listing example keywords and phrases. Each will display a rough idea of the number of monthly searches for that keyword, how popular that keyword is likely and how it is trending.
If you are running an active Google Ads campaign, you will get exact numbers of historical monthly searches instead of a range.
If you know which keywords you want to use, you can select the ‘Get search volume and forecasts’ panel on the first screen. You can then either manually enter or cut and paste your keyword list, and Google will pull up the search stats in a table.
Google Analytics is one of the most well-known Google tools. It tracks every user through your website and displays useful aggregate information about their journey.
For SEO purposes, Google Analytics can tell you what percentage of your traffic is organic (i.e. coming from search results), compared to traffic from social media sites and direct links (referrals).
It can also highlight the most popular pages on your website, which can help you to assess the effectiveness of your content marketing.
While Google Analytics is mainly focused on what happens when visitors are on your shop, the next tool looks at how those visitors found you in the first place.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is one of the most useful SEO tools in the Google toolbox. By pulling up its ‘Performance’ report, you can quickly see the keywords that are currently driving people to your website. You can also see those keywords for which your web pages are ranking, but that are generating few clicks. These are pages that may need an in-depth SEO audit.
The same information can also be collected from pages (i.e. your most popular web pages and those which are most visible to people using Google Search.
In addition to content performance metrics, you can check your site’s technical performance under the Page Experience menu option. This includes data on Core Web Vitals, which we cover later in the article.
Google Search Console is packed with other useful features, including a web address inspection tool and a facility for directly submitting sitemaps.
While you won’t get the granular detail provided by the other content-related Google SEO tools, Google Trends is a great tool for exploring topics and unearthing popular keyword terms.
As an example, if you are in business selling shoes, you can simply type ‘Shoes’ into the search bar. Google will present you with a graph displaying the rise and fall in popularity of the keyword ‘Shoes’ over time. You can use the filters above the graph to adjust the country, time period, category and type of search (web, video, YouTube, etc.)
You should see two columns beneath the graph. On the left is a table of topics, related to shoes. On the right is a table of related keywords. The tables are ordered by how much the topics or keywords are trending. This is indicated by a percentage value beside each term.
So, at the time of writing this article, the topic Pavers was trending in the UK (110% growth over 12 months) while the keyword ‘Alpha Walk Shoes’ had posted a 1,400% gain in popularity. The most trending keyword, however, was ‘Lil Nas X Shoes’. Instead of a percentage value, this was showing the word ‘Breakout’. This is Google’s shorthand for a 5,000% plus increase in popularity. The reason for the explosion of interest in this brand is clear when you look at the controversy these shoes have caused – but that’s way outside of the scope of this article.
Suffice to say, being aware of trending shoe brands is likely to be useful to shoe shop owners when planning sales campaigns.
All Google Trends data is presented as a relative value, so you will still need to use other SEO tools to dig down into traffic volumes, cost per click, competitiveness, etc.
You can explore topics and keywords further by clicking on them. This is a great way to locate trending keywords for hot blog topics.
Finally, if your business operates in different countries, Google Trends can be particularly helpful, because topic and keyword popularity can be refined by regions and sub-regions.
Performance-related Google SEO tools
In September 2021, Google started using a set of performance metrics, Core Web Vitals, as a ranking factor. In plain language, Google started placing web pages higher in its search engine listings if they met certain levels of loading speed, display stability and responsiveness.
Don’t worry about the terminology. You can check how your pages measure up using the PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply go to https://pagespeed.web.dev , enter the address of the page you are checking and hit ‘Analyze’.
Google will display a coloured circle with a number inside. You should also toggle between ‘Mobile’ and ‘Desktop’ tabs as the values are device specific.
These numbers and colours will soon become familiar to you, because they are used in all performance-related Google SEO tools. The numbers are a percentage value and correspond to the colours as follows:
- Red = 0-49 (poor)
- Amber = 50-89 (OK)
- Green = 90-100 (Good)
So, if you see an amber circle with the number 78 inside, you know your website is performing OK, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
PageSpeed Insights then provides a detailed breakdown of how you rate on the individual Core Web Vitals.
We’re not going to delve too deeply into Core Web Vitals in depth here, but say you see a red triangle next to ‘First Contentful Paint’ with a value of 3.1s underneath. This is telling you that the first graphic of your page fully renders in about three seconds, longer than the recommended 2.5 seconds. You need to ask your developer to attend to this.
If you see a green spot next to ‘Cumulative Layout Shift’ (CLS) with a value of 0.026 underneath, congratulations. Google has recognised that your web page is nice and stable and doesn’t deliver jarring ads.
(PS. We ran PageSpeed Insights on a page we knew delivered intrusive ads and the results were a Performance rating of 37 and a CLS of 0.43. Ouch! These things do matter!)
Lighthouse is one of the least well known SEO tool, but it is basically PageSpeed Insights built in to Google’s own browser, Chrome.
To collect SEO performance data on a page you’re browsing, you can select the Chrome menu icon (three dots), followed by ‘More Tools’ and then ‘Developer Tools’. A panel will open on the right hand side and you can click ‘Lighthouse’ on the panel menu (if you don’t see it listed, click the arrows for more options).
Next, choose from the five options listed under ‘Categories’. For SEO purposes, make sure ‘Performance’ and ‘SEO’ are checked.
Under ‘Device’, Select either the ‘Mobile’ or ‘Desktop’ radio button and then click the blue ‘Generate Report’ button. Within a minute, Lighthouse will spit out two of those familiar coloured circles, one for Performance and one for SEO. Ideally, you want nice green circles with scores of 90+. If either circle comes up red (scoring 49 or below). You can check out the fine detail, including your Core Web Vitals, in the sections below.
If you are on a Windows PC, pressing F12 or CTL+Shift+C while on Chrome will also access Chrome’s Developer Tools. Mac users can press Option+Command+C
Snapshot auditing tools
If you don’t have time to study your metrics, and just want an overview of your website’s health, there are five Google SEO tools you should get familiar with:
Safe Browsing site status
The number one factor that will wipe you from the face of the internet, and eliminate your traffic, is the presence of malware on your website.
Fortunately, this is very, very rare but it is always worth running an occasional safety check.
The Safe Browsing site status tool is found on the Google Transparency Report site (don’t ask why). Locate Google Safe Browsing in the menu, and then click the ‘Site status’ tab.
Enter your web page address, click the magnifying glass, and within a couple of seconds, you should get a nice green tick and a ‘No unsafe content found’ message.
Test My Site
Test My Site is a lightweight performance audit tool accessible via the Think with Google website. Simply add your web address to the box, hit the search button and wait for your results.
Test My Site will tell you how long, in seconds, it took to load your website on a mobile device and whether that is fast or slow. You can scroll down to read some tips on improving performance, and there is also a link to request an in-depth report by email.
This tool can be a bit temperamental, but it can be useful for a quick mobile website health check.
To rank well on Google, your website has to provide a good user experience on mobile devices.
As the name suggests, this browser-based tool is a simple way to test a live web page to make sure it works well on smartphones and tablets. You won’t get the in-depth metrics provided by other tools, but you can pick up on anything major that is affecting user experience.
Search Console Highlights
This is a relatively new Google SEO tool and provides a great snapshot of your best performing content, and how people are currently finding you. Search Console Highlights takes high level data from both your Google Analytics and Google Search Console reports, and displays them in a handy summary.
Rich Results Test
Certain code added to your web pages will help Google to display your search listing in the most useful way. This is known as ‘schema markup’, and lies behind those cool features such as site search boxes, image carousels, cinema listings and recipes.
Google’s Rich Results Test tool will identify schema markup on your web pages and list the features these correspond to. Google Search Console provides more detailed information on pages with rich results.
Additional Google SEO tools you may find useful
Finally, here is a brief rundown of four extra Google tools which can support your SEO efforts.
By adding keywords to Google Alerts, you will receive email alerts when new content is created using them. This can be a good source of inspiration for your own content creation. It can also reveal what content competitors are putting out there.
Google My Business
While SEO is all about ranking on Google Search, there are other Google properties that can make sure you are seen in other prominent places on the web. Signing up for Google My Business (GMB) is one of the first things any businesses should do.
GMB is the gateway to Google Maps and will also enable customers to leave Google reviews. There is even a ‘blog’ feature you can use for posting updates and promotions.
Optimize allows you to tweak on-page content and measure the effect. While it’s not strictly an SEO tool, it can help you to improve user experience, indirectly boosting SEO by boosting engagement signals.
Google Marketing Platform
Google Marketing Platform is a great way to organise your SEO tools and integrate them with Google Ads and marketing tools.
Now you have an idea of the Google tools you need in your SEO toolbox, it’s a great time to learn how to use them to maximum effect. Find out about our professional SEO services, and book your spot alongside a Vu SEO supremo!
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