SEO tools I used to grow my sites to 20k+ visitors/month
SEO & analytics help grow site traffic
Whether you're working on your own blog, a news site, or building a product, you absolutely must care about your site's SEO. If your site is not optimized for search engines, it is harder to find, leading to fewer visitors and potential customers. SEO tools can help you improve the usability of your site, making it easier for users to find the information they are looking for.
These are the tools that I use to monitor and enhance my sites' performance. The can help you build a site that is easier to find and use, too.
ahrefs webmaster tools
You only need to spend a few moments researching SEO online before ahrefs pops up somewhere in your results. In addition to their incredible blog and studies on how search works on the web, they provide a fantastic suite of free tools for monitoring and improviing the SEO on your sites.
I have found ahrefs webmaster tools to be absolutely invaluable in keeping an eye on my sites' content. Once you register a free account and verify that you have control of the sites you want to monitor, ahrefs will kick off a weekly audit of all the pages on your domain. It will check for common pitfalls, and give your site a health score from 0-100. If you're a dev, it may be helpful to think of it as a linter for SEO.
I've used it to find and fix countless problems with my sites, from broken links to missing Canonical URLs, removing unnecessary redirects and finding opportunities to link existing articles to one another.
You will get weekly audit reports in email, which let you know when things change - this can be helpful in situations where things out of your control end up affecting your site. Ever had someone take down an article that you link to? Ahrefs will find it.
Google Search Console
My adoption of Google Search Console come from what I learned taking Monica Lent's Blogging for Devs course.
Google Search Console gives you reports on how and when people see your site pop up in Google Search results. Note that it won't track people on your site like Google Analytics and Fathom do - just your performance in search. This is a useful litmus for your site's organic growth and authority. If you're investing in sharing your expertise and building a searchable site, your performance on Google Search Console should grow over time. In other words, you can see whether you're gaining traction via SEO or not.
To get started, you'll need to register your site with the Google Search Console. Verifying your ownership takes a few quick steps, and doesn't require you to add Google Analytics (which is helpful if, like me, you've chosen Fathom for its privacy-first features).
Best of all, it's free! Just register and follow instructions to add a DNS record, or upload a file to a specific place to verify that you own the site you're interested in monitoring. You should make sure to have a sitemap on your site - they're easy to generate, and worth the time to get right. This is what Google's crawlers primarily use to index your articles for search results.
I use the Search Console to make decisions about things to write about next, and track the progress of my site over time. At the moment, Google will keeps 16 months of your site's traffic history around for you to analyze, but that history starts once you've registered you site with the Search Console. So, the sooner you get set up, the better!
Fathom is privacy first analytics for the web. According to their site, Fathom is a Google Analytics alternative that doesn’t compromise visitor privacy for data. We revolutionized website analytics by making them easy to use and respectful of privacy laws (like GDPR and more).
If you've never paid attention analytics for your web properties, Fathom will be a revelation - it's super useful to have an understanding of which pages on your site are getting traffic, where that traffic is coming from, and what times of day are most busy.
If you've used Google Analytics in the past, you may be surprised just how freeing it is to use an analytics tool that prioritizes analytics. You really don't need to know who is on a given page - instead, focusing on the content on your site which is being visited, and the journey readers take to get there is a super useful tool to have when you're researching and writing new articles.
It's great, and puts your readers' privacy first. Google's advantage is quickly vanishing due to new regulations, and privacy tools that are being built into browsers and operating systems. Fathom does a great job of providing value without fishing for every minute detail about your readers.
Fathom is lightweight and ridiculously easy to use. The Fathom team provides docs for a variety of platforms and JAMstack site builders, including Gatsby, ConvertKit, Next.js, Vue, Webflow, Wordpress, and quite a few more.
I've written a bit about my experiences with Fathom before. You may want to check out my other articles, including: Why I switched to Fathom for Analytics and How to add Fathom Analytics to your Remix.run app
Self-host Fathom for free - Fathom Lite
If you're hesitant to pay for Fathom, they do also provide an open source version called Fathom Lite - you'll need to configure and host it yourself, but it should give you an idea of what Fathom's premiums service is like.
If you're interested in trying out Fathom's paid service, use my referral link for a discount to get you started.
I use Cloudflare to manage the DNS records for all of my sites. In addition to having a really straightforward UI for DNS management, they offer a host of other features to keep your sites running well. This includes automated protection for DDoS attacks, maintenance mode, and performance enhancements such as origin server optimization and caching.
Cloudflare provides a Free Tier that will work for most personal sites. You'll need to set up an account, look for the instructions to add your domain to your Cloudflare account, and then update your DNS settings as needed.
Because I own domains from a variety of registrars, it's really nice to be able to manage DNS for all of them in one place. They also provide a ton of other great dev tools, like Cloudflare Workers, which you can use to add interactivity to your site.
The pitch for f5bot is simple - as they say, it is a service that will help you to "Get an email when you're mentioned online!".
It's completely free, and takes just moments to set up - you just need to create an account, and set up keywords for the service to track. When your keywords are mentioned on Reddit, Hackernews, or Lobste.rs, you'll get a tidy little email in your inbox.
Notifications come very quickly - in my experience, I see them within minutes of my sites being mentioned online. This is hugely helpful because it allows you to respond quickly, strike up a conversation, and make a connection with the people who are sharing your work. Those connections are the backbone of building a great personal brand online.
You can set up any search keyword you want, so if there's a competitor or topic that you're hoping to keep an eye on, it's great for that, too.
Overall, I highly recommend f5bot - it's an incredibly useful tool, it's free, and it couldn't be easier to set up.
If you're going on the SEO-improvement journey for your sites, you might find these helpful:
- Why I switched to Fathom for Analytics
- How to add Fathom Analytics to your Remix.run app
- Don't center-align paragraph text - this is utterly unrelated to SEO, but c'mon, do better.
- SEO for Devs - I absolutely cannot recommend this free course enough. Monica Lent has a masterful understanding of SEO, and I've learned a ton from her over the years.