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Should you rely on free tools to audit your business website?

(Google Photo)

Q: Can I get by with using free website audit tools or should I consider a pay service for my business website?

A: Despite the popularity of social media, it’s still important to have a website that properly articulates what you have to offer and is something – unlike social media – that you own and control.

A common mistake that many small businesses make is that they have a website created and assume they’re done – the “fire and forget” approach.

Just as keeping up with changes to labor laws, tax code and other dynamic areas of business is necessary, the same is true with your website.

Most small businesses can benefit simply by taking advantage of the free tools available and spending the time to learn how to use them.

Routine tasks

Making sure you routinely perform the technical tasks that will give your website a chance to be seen through Google search is important, or you could end up with an amazing business that’s virtually invisible to the online world.

While all the technical terms may be overwhelming, it’s not something you should completely abdicate to others, as that’s the easiest way to be exploited.

Whether you plan on doing it yourself or hiring an expert, having a basic grasp of the fundamentals will serve you well. Remember, every expert you’ll encounter started at the same place as you – knowing nothing.

You don’t need to become an expert, just as you don’t need to be a CPA to have a grasp of accounting principles.

Analytics

There’s never been a better time to be in business from the standpoint of free information about what your customers want or how they interact with you online.

Since Google is the most powerful search engine, you’ll want to do as much as you can to update your website to rank well – often referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

It all starts by analyzing what your current website is doing by using Google Analytics, which is free and extremely powerful.

It will be like drinking from a fire hose at first, but over time you’ll learn to track certain metrics regularly to monitor your progress as you make changes.

If you’re new to this tool, there are lots of beginner’s guides to help you get started.

Google also offers a free tool called Search Console that is specifically designed to help you measure and improve your chances of being in Google’s good graces.

Third-party tools

If your website has fewer than 500 pages, a popular free tool for finding broken links, redirects, errors, metadata problems, duplicate pages and other issues that will impact your website is available from Screaming Frog.

Another free tool that can be very helpful in building your strategy is SEOquake because it allows you to quickly analyze any website via its browser plug-in. This will allow you to gather intelligence from your competitors’ websites.

If you have a large website, rely on e-commerce to generate revenue or just want more than what the free tools offer, we’ve found SEMrush to be the most helpful for our needs.

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