How to Use This Free Tool to Intelligently Optimize Your Site

It’s no secret that I’ve had some trouble with my authority sites so far.  I’ve crafted an attractive design (in my opinion), I’ve written a lot of high quality, original content, and I’ve done a fair amount of work to attract real backlinks.

Nevertheless, Google doesn’t seem to like my site.  At least, not yet.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as me, with your site.  A lot of work, not a lot of results.  I think it’s the most common scenario, despite all the success stories you read online (simply because the people who fail usually don’t write about it).

Anyway, I’ve been playing around with this awesome tool lately that has given me a lot of great insight, and the good news is, you can use it almost to its full potential without ever paying anything.  I’ll explain…

How It Works & How It Can Help You (for Free)

Before I go into some detail about how this tool works, I want to first explain what it is and how you can make sure you don’t pay for it (if you don’t want to).  And yes, this is perfectly legal.

First of all, the tool is SEOMoz.  They have a free 30-day trial, and if you stick with the service, it’s $99/month.  That’s expensive.  And for good reason – it’s probably the most robust SEO service that exists today.

It’s not some kind of push-button SEO software that promises to magically build you high quality backlinks.  It’s a collection of tools that allows you to intelligently analyze and optimize your site.

Here’s what I recommend:

SEOMoz Free TrialStep #1: Sign up for the free trial.

Step #2: Set a reminder on your calendar 29 days from now to cancel the service, so that you aren’t billed for the following month.  I just put up a quick reminder on Google Calendar.

Full disclosure:  I’m an affiliate for SEOMoz.  As you know, I don’t promote products or services that I haven’t personally used and found helpful.  And again, if you follow my brief instructions above, you’ll see this is pretty much a no-risk, free trial.

Why I Really Like SEOMoz

I’m still in my 30-day, free trial, and as of right now, I don’t plan on continuing with the service and paying $99/month.  It’s not because I don’t think it’s awesome.  It’s simply because I’m only actively working on a couple sites right now that aren’t generating much money, so at this time, I can’t justify paying $99/month.

Open Site Explorer

What first got me interested in signing up to SEOMoz was using their Open Site Explorer (OSE).  You can basically look at any website online, see what kind of backlinks they have, what anchor text they use for their backlinks, and other valuable information.

There are of course other tools that do this, but I really like the way OSE pulls the information quickly and presents it.  For my authority site (Slow Carb Diet Experiments), I used OSE to “steal” backlinks from sites that are ranking on page 1 for my target keyword.

For example, there’s one site that similar to mine in that it targets the keyword “slow carb diet” within the domain of the site.  It’s currently ranking #8 for this keyword.  I took a look at the inbound links (and anchor text) within OSE, and here’s what I found:

There are 65 reported inbound links to this page, and the majority of them are internal pages, using the primary keyword as the anchor text.

The ranking page here is a page within the site (not the root domain), so this leads me to believe that most of the ranking “juice” is coming from the root domain.  Let’s check that one out.

Here, we see a lot more variety in the backlink profile, with nearly all links coming from external sources (which makes sense).  This is just a sample of some of the top backlinks (sorted by “Page Authority”, SEOMoz’s metric for how strong the page is as a backlink).

As I look at these backlinks, I see that most of them are blog comments on relevant blogs (in the health and food niches).  Look at the last one there: it doesn’t have the “nofollow” attribute. Of course, I promptly clicked on that link and left a comment on the blog.  The page that displays the comment is a PR2 page, and if it’s indeed “dofollow”, that’s not a bad backlink to have.

Now, this one backlink may actually do nothing for me, but this process goes to show you how easily you can get some of the same backlinks as your competition.  Ideally, if you can do a better job with everything else, you should eventually rank higher.  Now, we know Google is more complicated than that, which is why this is more of an art than a science.

SEO Analytics

It’s fun to play with the Open Site Explorer, but SEOMoz has a lot of other powerful features that can help you learn a bit more about your site’s optimization, and ways to improve it.

The first feature here that everyone likes is keyword tracking.  Upload a whole list of keywords that you’re trying to rank for, and each week, you’ll get an update on how you’re doing.  For my authority site, you can see it’s not going well:

However, for My 4-Hour Workweek, things are still looking good for me ranking for “make money online” (which I wrote all about here):

(Side note: Why do I have trouble ranking for low competition keywords on my other sites, yet find myself with amazing rankings for one of the most difficult keywords on this blog?  I’ll never know.)

There are also a lot of other diagnostics that you can view for your site, to see if there are any major issues which may be affecting your rankings.  Here are some examples from my authority site:

For each of these errors, warnings, and notices, you can dig down into more detail to see specifically what each issue is about.  In a lot of cases, some of these warnings are actually for situations that you expect to have.

For example, this analysis points out that my category pages don’t have meta descriptions. This is okay, because I don’t try to rank category pages within the search engines.

You can also compare your site’s SEO metrics against a competitor.  Here’s what mine looks like for the competitor I was researching above:

Interestingly, SEOMoz seems to like my site more than my competitor for most of these metrics.  This analysis compares my root domain to my competitor’s, so it’s not actually looking at the sub-page which is ranking well for the keyword I’m targeting.

This suggests it might be a good idea for me to try and get a sub-page to rank for “slow carb diet” instead of my root domain.  I can do a lot of the same internal linking that my competitor did, and see if my stronger root domain will push the internal page higher than this competing site’s page that’s currently on page 1.

I still think there may be some kind of domain penalty in play for my site, considering I don’t currently receive any long-tail traffic from Google.

Other Cool Research Tools

Aside from analyzing your site’s on-page and off-page SEO, there are some other cool research tools to play with.

The keyword difficulty tool is interesting if you’re researching a new site and want a quick and easy way to figure out how difficult a keyword is to rank for.

According to this tool, the keyword “slow carb diet” is highly competitive.  Here’s a look at the analysis:

There are a lot of other research tools (included within SEOMoz) I won’t go into much detail on, that you can play around with.  Here are a couple more I’ve tried and liked:

  • Followerwonk – Analyze your Twitter account (followers, their followers, etc.). Find out things like what time is the best time for you to tweet, given the activity of your followers.
  • On-Page Report Card – Pick any URL and keyword, and get a report card generated that tells you how well-optimized the page is for the specified keyword.  One thing I really like about this report is that it warns you of certain areas where you may be over-optimizing, which has become a critical issue with Google’s ranking algorithm recently.


As you can see here, there’s a lot you can learn just by only using the free 30-day trial, and I have no doubt that there are people out there with more time who can do a lot more than I did within the 30 days.  Once again, here’s what I did:

Step #1: Sign up for the free trial.

Step #2: Set a reminder on your calendar 29 days from now to cancel the service, so that you aren’t billed for the following month.  I just put up a quick reminder on Google Calendar.

If you’ve used SEOMoz before and know of any other helpful things you can do with it, please share in the comments!

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13 Responses to “How to Use This Free Tool to Intelligently Optimize Your Site”

  1. Looks like a great tool. I use the free non-sign up version of OSE sometimes but it is very limited compared to what you have there.

    I am tempted to sign up, when I’ve got some time I probably will.
    Joe recently posted… Examples of Good Authority Sites


    Eric G. Reply:

    Sounds good, Joe. Yeah, the non-sign up version of OSE is still pretty helpful, although it is limited as you said. If you do sign up, let me know how you like it.


  2. Misleading title! It’s not free, it’s “free trial”. Seems to me like a “shareware” post. Anyway, good effort for researching & writing this post.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Well, if you only use it during the trial period, it’s free. :) And I’ve shown you how you can completely analyze your site in that 30-day period, which is pretty good value considering you won’t pay anything.


  3. Hey Eric. Yet another great review and summary of a worthwhile product. I’ll sign up for the trial. Personally, it looks like the ongoing cost is reasonable in terms of potential ROI… $100mnth to have that sort of info at your fingertips should provide far more than the outlay in return. Thanks.
    Greg @ Australian Home Business recently posted… Case Study: The impact of making page 1 of Google on web traffic


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Greg – I agree that the $99/month is probably worthwhile, however for me personally, I’d either need to be working with several sites or one site that are already earning decent money.

    Until then, I’m fine using the free 30 days to at least go through and optimize one site (although you could do many more in 30 days if you have the time).


    Greg @ The Home Business Hub Reply:

    Ah yes…. If we had the time! The joys of being a part time blogger!
    Greg @ The Home Business Hub recently posted… This is hot! New website to uncover what other websites bloggers own!


  4. Thanks for the tip. I’ll try it out for the 30 days trial and come back with feedback. I hope it’s going to be useful and worth 99$ next month.
    Cristian Stan recently posted… Best Electric Stove/Fireplace Reviews 2012


    Eric G. Reply:

    Let me know how it goes, Cristian. And obviously if you don’t feel it’s worth it, be sure to cancel before the 30-day period expires.


    Cristian Stan Reply:

    I’ll do that, Eric. Thanks! Have a nice week!
    Cristian Stan recently posted… Best Robot Vacuum Cleaner Reviews 2012


  5. i HaVE been using this site SEOmoz for ages ..and its got a trial mode(try now) for users that signed up long ago and its free to use upto 3 to 5 credits everyday
    on many tools.. I sure would sign up for a membership if i had the money..but still getting some value


    Eric G. Reply:

    Good to hear it’s still providing you with value – I agree, I would pay the $99/month if my sites’ revenue could justify it, but for right now, that’s not the case.


  6. Oh I completely love SEOMoz, it will specifically what you wish and will it utterly well.


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