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(eM+C)—Search engine optimization can be complex, challenging and ever-changing. Fortunately, there are many SEO tools to help marketers get the job done. In fact, many of them are free. These tools can provide a wealth of valuable information that can be leveraged in many ways, from the most elaborate segmented research to the most rudimentary tasks.

Let’s take a look at four of these free SEO tools:

Yahoo Clues
Yahoo Clues was launched in November 2010, with a major upgrade following in June. Clues provides a combination of behavioral and demographic insight behind any given search phrase. Marketers can use this data to better understand what prior and subsequent searches are typically done, who’s searching and where the searches originate (which can be invaluable for local SEO and link building). You can also compare terms against each other to see how different search strings have different intentionality. In the first example, we can see differences in what users typically want when searching for a road bike versus a mountain bike.

This data could be used by an online bike retailer to organize its sections. The mountain bike section should place an emphasis on parts, whereas reviews and content around performance should be emphasized for road bikes.

Engine Search Operators?
Not surprisingly, search engines provide marketers with extremely important and reliable data on the characteristics of websites. For example, entering “high tops” in Google followed by “site:” returns a list of the pages Google understands to be most relevant to the term “high tops” for Nike. This can be particularly important when targeting highly competitive keywords.

Another valuable search operator is related search. Google displays indexed results it believes to be related to the site. For example, inputting “related:” yields sites Google understands to be similar to the Mayo Clinic site.

This can be valuable insight for a link-building opportunity as well as competitive intelligence.

Most people in the search marketing industry know about SEOmoz, as its campaign software is very valuable for any scale campaign. Now that the service has shifted to a premium model, however, its free tools don’t get the attention they once did. But they can still provide a wealth of insight. Having it in one spot can be handy for quick projects.

One tool that’s particularly useful is the server header checker, which can be handy when spot-checking pages. For example, a quick way to tell if a site is splitting external link equity is to see how the server is handling and http://site versions of the page. If both are treated as a 200, there’s a chance your site is dividing link equity. This could be solved with a 301 redirect.

Majestic SEO
This tool has a premium component to it, but its free component provides some valuable data when researching the historical nature of a site’s link profile. Understanding how links to a given page have fluctuated can provide insight into how rankings have shuffled, the traffic patterns of a site and whether a site could be engaging in any unethical link acquisition practices.

To that end, Majestic SEO provides a great visual. If you notice a precipitous drop in rankings, be sure to check how your link pattern has shifted. If there’s been a large drop or spike, it could be affecting how engines are ranking your site. Majestic SEO can help troubleshoot and potentially stop future ranking losses.

Be sure to capitalize on the above free tools to keep your SEO campaigns in top form. Doing so could help you get the most out of your SEO efforts and could translate into a competitive advantage.

Dave McAnally is associate director of content solutions at Resolution Media.

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