The state of a website’s SEO health can be difficult to get a handle on. This is especially true for marketers with more tasks than time. There are a TON of free tools out there that can help, but how do you know which ones you can trust? How many tools do you need? When does it make sense to upgrade to a paid tool?

Here at Wakefly, we use numerous tools to help us identify, monitor, and analyze SEO data and traffic trends. While we do utilize free tools in certain instances, the majority of the tools we use are very powerful, and therefore expensive. Access to tools like these is just one of the many benefits of partnering with an agency like Wakefly.

While our business needs support the need for subscription based tools, many of the good ones also offer a free version. The features and functionality are often very pared down, but some of them can offer valuable insights when utilized correctly. When not utilized correctly, however, they can provide misleading data.

A Cautionary Tale

We recently had a client come to us because a colleague of hers had recently come across one of these free tools online. Out of curiosity, he ran their URL through the tool and was shocked to see that the website scored 0/10.

Our client was, of course, justified in bringing this to our attention and asking for an explanation. After some quick research and investigation, we found that the tool in question looked at only one aspect of a website. Only a grade of either 10/10 or 0/10 was assigned, depending on whether or not a very specific item was present on the site. Given the type of website our client manages, this item being present or not has absolutely no impact on SEO, so the tool was entirely misleading with grading her site with a 0/10. In fact, the website’s organic traffic has been steadily rising in recent years, even while the top competitor’s website has been losing market share.

You will likely not be surprised to hear that this very basic tool was built by a vendor that sells the specific item in question to websites that don’t have it. It was essentially a sales tool guised as an SEO tool.

After a quick explanation, it was clear that this was an unfortunate misunderstanding. And though it may generate a bit of a laugh in hindsight, there is an important lesson to be learned.

SEO is not an exact science. It is art grounded in data and requires a human touch to incorporate the big-picture ideas into the data to develop strategies and tactics. While some free tools may be able to quickly identify high level areas of your website to look more closely into, it is important to not rely too heavily on their results. It will be more effective for you to use them as a guide, rather than a rule.

Free Tools

As mentioned above, we do utilize a few free tools here at Wakefly to help drive SEO strategies for our clients. These include: