[Guest post] Free SEO toolbars and what they can tell you

There are dozens of different SEO toolbars available for free download. Some of them are ok, some are nothing by malware, and a few are really useful. Right now there are two toolbars competing for the top spot- the one produced by the folks at seobook.com and the one downloadable from seomoz.org. Both SEOBook and SEOMoz offer paid subscription services but their toolbars are both completely free.

 

Let’s start with the SEOBook toolbar.

Here’s a quick list of the most useful features:

-The PageRank bar, which instantly displays the PR of any site you happen to land on. The higher the PR, the more power the site has when it comes to ranking well in search engine results pages.

-A clickable basic info icon gives you the site age, when it was last cached by Google (a good indicator of how active the site is), whether it is listed in popular directories, and a brief rundown of social media activity related it. Any business looking for a fast way to analyze their competitors can use this feature to see how involved in Twitter and social bookmarking a website is, for example.

-Access to link analysis tools like Yahoo Linkdomain and Open Site Explorer. If you want to see who links to your site or any other, this is the best way of doing it quickly and for free.

Rank Checker. Tracking your progress through the search engine results pages by hand takes a long time. Rank checker lets you set up automated tracking of any website’s position in Google, Yahoo, and Bing rankings, for a given set of keywords.

-The SEO X-ray tool shows you page metadata, but it also examines frequently used keyword combinations. These are central to establishing relevance to a particular topic (at least from a search engine’s point of view), so making sure Google can detect your chosen keywords is vital to SEO success.

And the SEOMoz toolbar?

It has plenty of features, but the most prominent are:

-The mozRank metric, which this company’s answer to PageRank. The biggest problem with PR is that publicly-visible values are only updated once every few months. mozRank gives a more up-to-date measure of the quality and quantity of a site’s inbound links.

Link highlighting. You can choose to highlight all links, just dofollow links, or just nofollow links. If you’d like to know if a site allows dofollow links (recognised by search engines) in forum comments, this is an easy way of finding out.

-The Page Elements tab extracts headers, meta tags, and other useful information. It’s handy for checking the basics of on-site SEO.

-Ever wondered what a Google search crawler sees when it visits your site? The Crawl Test tool will unleash a fake search bot and send you an email summarizing what it finds.

-A SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Overlay tool lets you see information on all the sites ranking well for a particular search phrase. If you’d like an idea of how strong the competition for a keyword is, this is one way of finding out. You can also use the Keyword Difficulty Tool for this, although it’s sometimes busy and priority is given to paying customers.

Neither toolbar takes up a lot of space and it’s quite possible to have both of them running at once. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to get useful and interesting data out of the tools contained in them. Whether you’d like to know more about what goes on behind the scenes of your own site or someone else’s, just downloading the toolbars and experimenting can be very informative.

 

Jess Spate is an independent SEO consultant based in Cardiff, UK. She works for clients in the travel and outdoor industry, including outdoor stores, travel blogs, and Marriott time share resale resources.




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