Today, over 90% of traffic comes through Google’s search engine.
Around the world, companies spend billions on search engine optimization (SEO) in a quest to improve their organic traffic.
And yet, while businesses are willing to spend freely on social media tools, digital subscriptions, SEO agencies and consultants, many overlook the invaluable information that you can gather from Google’s own free tools.
The suite of Google tools can unlock the secrets to higher rankings by giving you key insights about which keywords to use, which trends to follow, how to improve your site speed, how to improve your user experience, and much, much more.
This is a detailed step-by-step guide, with individual walkthroughs for each tool.
Let’s get started.
Table of contents
What is the Google algorithm?
The Google algorithm calculates over 200 factors when deciding how to rank websites. This is a closely guarded secret to stop people gaming the system.
Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving and we all have a part to play in it through the choices we make when we are browsing.
Ultimately the role of the algorithm is to serve browsers with the best content for their query. Google’s own stated mission is:
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”Google
Luckily, Google’s own free tools give you almost all the information you need to work out what Google wants to see from your website to help you rank higher for your keywords.
Google trends is one of the most trusted resources out there.
Because like all the tools I’m going to show you, it was produced by Google to analyze the popularity of top search queries in Google search across various countries, regions and languages.
You can’t get more accurate than Google’s own data.
How does Google trends work?
It uses visual graphs to compare the search volume over time, so you can see wether your content is going up or down as a trend. If it’s going up, Google will show you the % increase, so you can see how steeply.
You should aim for queries that are going up over time as it reflects user searches, user habits and user buying intent.
How to use Google trends to get more traffic
Below is a screenshot of the Google trends interface. As you can see, I’ve typed in ‘podcasts’ as it’s a term that I believe will have increased significantly over the past 5 years. I have set my setting to ‘worldwide’. You can do the same or breakdown your data by country.
From this insight, you can already see that podcast would be a great term to be able to rank for, since the trajectory is sharply upwards.
However, you can gain much deeper insights just below this graph. If you scroll down, here is a screenshot of the next section.
On the right it shows you all the related queries to your search. These are incredibly useful since ‘podcasts’ as a generic term will be very difficult to rank for with lots of competition from high authority sites.
However, you may stand a far greater chance of ranking for a related keyword.
From this particular search, it looks like ‘crime podcasts’ has some potential. I have highlighted these in red boxes. These insights give you several search terms you may want to include, such as ‘top crime podcasts‘ and ‘true crime podcasts 2019‘.
It’s good practice throughout your blogs to keep them updated to the current year. I would recommend updating this to ‘true crime podcasts 2020‘.
How to find long tail keywords using related search queries
Now that you know your related queries have an upward trajectory, you’ll be able to get ahead of the competition. You know you can anticipate more traffic for this key term in the months and years ahead so it’s worth putting in the effort to optimize your SEO.
If you wanted to dig even deeper into this keyword, you could try searching for ‘crime podcasts‘, and use the related queries in your article. See the screenshot below.
These rich keyword terms are invaluable for the SEO of your site as it uses Google’s own data to show you which keywords you may want to include that match the intent of your target audience.
Next, I’ll show you how to get more keyword ideas to help grow your blog or online business that reflect exact user searches.
2. Google predict (the auto type on Google)
This tool is the simplest of everything I’m going to show you. It is Google’s own search function!
As you’ll be aware, whenever you start typing a search query, Google tries to help you out by predicting what you’re about to write. This is based ENTIRELY on what other users have gone on to search for when they’ve typed in your query.
Look at the screenshot below. I used the same example to keep things simple. Look what came up when I started to write ‘crime podcast‘.
These predicted terms give me a brilliant insight into what other related queries and search terms my audience is looking for.
As you can see from the screenshot, I am currently in the UK. Therefore my search terms are localized to the United Kingdom. If I was in Australia, for example, my predicted search terms would be related to that particular region.
This is incredibly useful as it gives you many more ideas. It shows you which related search terms to use in your article to help Google understand that it is relevant to the query.
Using related keyword terms can help with SEO
People often use paraphrasing tools to discover more of these semantically related keywords. By including variants of the same keyword, it helps Google confirm that your article is a good match for the search query.
The best part of Google Predict is that it is based once again on Google’s data, which is based on the EXACT searches from other users.
Again, you can’t get more accurate than that.
So far I’ve shown you how to spot a growing trend and get related keyword ideas around that trend. Now I’m going to show you a different aspect of your website that’ll help you rank higher in Google.
Your site speed…
Your site’s speed does play an important role in helping you to climb Google’s rankings.
The slowest websites are almost unusable. They are guaranteed to sell nothing.
Here are the main areas affected by your website speed:
- Conversions and page abandonment. You’ll convert fewer visitors with a slow page and have higher page abandonment stats. This will cost you money.
- Visitor perception. Your visitors will see you as amateurish or untrustworthy if your page takes ages to load.
- Repeat business. Users simply won’t return if the experience is bad. Since the easiest people to sell to are your loyal users, this is very bad news.
- It’s a waste of your own time updating it. Nobody wants to spend ages saving each page draft or waiting for it to refresh.
- Google rankings. The Google algorithm rewards pages that provide users with good experiences. It penalises sites which provide bad experiences. Poor page speed scores will hurt your rankings. This will cost you money.
- Optimize voice search. The voice search phenomenon is the next big thing in SEO. By the end of the year, over 50% of all mobile searches will be voice search. And yet, the average voice search result is 52% faster than organic search. You have no chance of ranking with a slow site. Increasing your site speed is one of my top 7 tips. Read more about how to optimize your site for voice search in my definitive guide.
How can you test your site speed?
The easiest way to optimize your site speed is to visit the Google PageSpeed site.
Here is a screenshot of this site (http://davidmichaeldigital.com). I took this screenshot before I added most of my WordPress plugins, so it should be as close as it gets to optimal performance.
It achieved 95, which falls into the ‘good’ category.
I’ve highlighted three areas on this screenshot. The first area is my web URL that I wanted PageSpeed to analyse.
NOTE: If you have an SSL certificate on your site, make sure you ask it to test the https version.
I’ve also highlighted the mobile / desktop toggle, so you can check that your speed is optimized on both. As you can see on the bottom right, I’ve highlighted the view of my front page, which corresponds to desktop.
You can see that my score on Desktop is 95, which is excellent. I am happy with that.
However, this will slow down as I add more plugins. If you are already running plugins then your site speed might be slow already.
How can you speed up your site?
Good news! Google is about to tell you exactly how to speed up your site.
Once you have run the test, scroll down. You will see a breakdown that looks something like this:
Pay particular attention the amount of time it takes your site to achieve a First Meaningful Paint.
This is a term coined by Google. It is important because it relates to the part of your website that your users will actually see.
If your first meaningful paint is taking a long time, users will perceive your site as slow. In contrast, if your first meaninful paint is fast, then even if other parts take a while to load, your users will perceive your site as fast. This will affect your user experience and bounce rate, which in turn affects your ranking.
Bounce rate is the amount of users who visit your page but bounce straight off without taking any action. If your site is slow then your bounce rate will be higher, which tells Google that your content isn’t as good as other sites.
Note: User experience is CRUCIAL to ranking high on Google.
You can see from the screenshot above that my biggest opportunity on this site is to Reduce server response time (TTFB). If I expand that section, my screenshot looks like this:
What is TTFB?
TTFB stands for Time To First Byte.
The description above tells you what this means. It is the time your server takes to send a response.
In short, it is down to your hosting.
How can you pick a host that gives you the fastest site speed?
How to decide on the hosting to pick deserves its own blog piece. Read my article on Which web hosting to choose to optimize your Google rankings.
Here in this piece, I will keep it brief and simple.
Your hosting choices are down to you.
However, what you should understand is that shared hosting is often cheaper and slower (because it is shared). Dedicated hosting is often faster (but more expensive).
Essentially you will trade off speed and performance for a cheaper option. If you decide that speed and performance are the MOST important aspects of picking a web host, then you should be prepared to pay a premium for that.
Hosting is not an exact science but here are a number of popular web hosts, organized by low price (slower) and higher price (quicker).
Choosing which webhost to select is a personal thing because I understand that everyone is operating with different budgets.
- My pick for the cheaper options would be Bluehost because their support is excellent and WordPress is easy to install with just one click.
- Of the medium options I would recommend Cloudways because they are still only around $12 a month but return a good speed result.
- For those who want maximum speed to optimize Google rankings in every possible way, I recommend Closte. The advantage of Closte is that it also scales when you grow. This means you only pay for the traffic you actually get.
Which host did I use to achieve my Google PageSpeed result?
Interestingly, my site was hosted on Bluehost when I returned my 95 PageSpeed result. This goes to show how important other aspects of speed optimization really are. It also proves that it is possible to achieve a good overall speed with a cheaper host. Bluehost is definitely one of the cheaper web hosting options at just $8 per month. I agree that it works well for simple sites, especially if they are text heavy.
However, I must caveat this by mentioning that I barely had any plugins installed at this time, which can slow things down for hosts that use a shared server.
If you look again closely, you can see my PageSpeed test was actually red for TTFB, so my server wasn’t performing as well as a faster, more expensive option may have.
Below is a screenshot of my PageSpeed test when I have opened up the section that says: Eliminate render-blocking resources.
I have highlighted the section that says ‘There are a number of WordPress plugins that can help’.
This is true.
The one I use is called Autoptimize. It helps me cache certain parts of the page, and loads my content in a certain order to speed everything up.
It is also free.
What actions do you need to take to optimize your site speed?
To keep things simple, here they are:
- Run a Google PageSpeed test.
- Make sure you are happy with the host you have chosen as this is a big factor on speed. If you want to switch hosts then it is easy. I would recommend reading my much more detailed piece on how to increase your rankings through site speed.
- Bluehost is cheap ($8 per month) and works well for simple sites. Closte is more expensive ($25 per month) but is quicker with a higher performance.
- Install the Autoptimize WordPress plugin to speed up your site further.
Great. Now that your site speed is optimized, here is Free Google Tool number 4…
Why conquer just your local market when you can take over the world?
Market Finder is a useful tool for expansion. It’s also very quick and simple to use.
First, you enter your URL. The tool then auto-detects your website categories. I’ve found it to be very accurate, but you can also add and remove categories as you please.
The screenshot below highlights the related categories from my website.
When you click the confirm categories button it’ll show you where your best opportunities for growth are.
This will be based on a combination of factors which you can reveal as you hover your cursor over each of the countries it’s recommended.
As you can see, there is a big opportunity in the marketing sector in France.
Better still, the Google Ads recommended bid is low, which indicates that this market may be less competitive.
Why is Market Finder so useful for boosting your Google ranking?
Knowing which countries have an expanding market for your product or services is invaluable because of one SEO secret that I learned from ranking guru, Neil Patel.
If you follow his videos then you may have heard of it too.
He talks about… translating your website.
This seems simple, but surprisingly only around 2% of websites are translated across more than one language. Although you may be writing brilliant content in English, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to rank for similar terms in France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina… the list goes on.
This one tip can open up your content to those markets that Market Finder suggests.
It seems obvious. Of course people are searching for detailed knowledge in their own languages.
The best part is that you actually stand a far better chance of ranking for great content in French, or German, or Spanish because their terms are less competitive than their english counterparts.
You can find great translators on websites like Fiverr.
Bonus tip, if you speak multiple languages and enjoy writing, try being the translator yourself. There’s a largely untapped market of translating for SEO purposes for all kinds of websites.
If you want to pick a limited number of languages to translate into, move your cursor over the map to discover which other countries make up the top five, just like I have done below.
Masterful Mobile is a learning and inspiration tool. It will show you what others in your sector have done so successfully, so you can apply it to your own site.
Masterful Mobile shows you sites that rank highest for User Experience in your sector.
You just have to take their best bits.
But first, you may be wondering…
Why is User Experience (UX) important to your Google ranking?
Google takes over 200 factors into account when deciding how high to rank your website in its search results.
However, one of the most important areas (and something Google places huge weight on), is the way that users react to your website.
If users stay on your website for a long time, purchase something on it, or engage with your content, then Google will reward you in rankings.
It will treat your audience’s reaction to your content as a positive endorsement of your site. All of the websites that rank in the top 10 of Google score highly for User Experience.
If, however, a user leaves your site straight away, Google will see that interaction as a negative endorsement.
Websites with a great user experience (UX) appear high in the rankings, even if they don’t have as much heavily-optimized content as some of the sites above them.
How does Masterful Mobile help with your UX?
Take a look at the screenshot below. It’s from Masterful Mobile’s interface.
This screenshot shows the role of mobile in today’s society.
What this tool does is show you which websites perform well on UX metrics, so you can study their features and mimic what makes them so successful. It might be their layout, their landing pages, their link structure, their calls to actions.
Seeing which sites are the most user-friendly can help you improve your own user experience. You can search by sector and by region for sites that have the best UX.
Take a look at the screenshot below.
Follow the lead of brands in your sector that are famed for their user experience. This will lead to lower bounce rates and more page engagement from your audience.
This will help you rank in the top 10 of Google.
Google Adwords is a paid tool. You have to pay for ads that appear at the top of the search.
You’ll recognize how they look. Here’s an example below.
But hang on…
I said at the beginning of this piece that I was going to show you six FREE Google Tools.
In this section, I’m going to show you how to use the insights and other helpful information that Adwords can offer, without actually paying for a campaign to go live.
I’m going to particularly focus on using the tool to help you with link building and outreach. This is crucial to building your Domain Authority which will help you rank higher on Google.
How can Google Adwords help you rank higher?
One of the most useful parts of the Google Adwords platform is its data on audience size, keywords, cost per click etc. This will help you optimize your website for search engine rankings, regardless of whether you go ahead with your ads or not.
The Google Adwords interface starts by asking you to define your products and services. As an example I have put WordPress related categories.
Already I can see that this is a big market. The audience size is over 4 million people per month.
Next, you’ll be asked to pre-write your ad. You can see my draft above. Whether you go ahead or not, this is great practice at writing attention-grabbing content within Google’s word limits.
When I finished posting this ad, I immediately paused it so it wouldn’t actually run.
If you are doing this for the first time then click the settings button at the top and switch from smart mode to expert mode. Once you do your interface will look like this.
You will have a red bar running along the top of the page that confirms that your campaign is paused.
Click on the tools and settings. From here, select Keyword Planner.
Since several of the tools I’ve shown in this blog have already talked about how to get keyword ideas, I want to focus on search volume and forecasts.
That’s because, as I mentioned earlier, I’m going to show you how to use Google Adwords for link building and outreach. This is one of the key metrics to help you rank in the top 10 of Google.
On the next screen you will be asked to add some relevant keywords. Then you’ll be shown how they are likely to perform.
The key is to write down some of the keywords that you already rank for. You don’t need to rank in the top 10 for these terms, you just need to be getting some traffic through them.
I will show you why this is important later in this section.
You can see from your cost per click that the more specific and competitive the term, the higher it will cost. You can also see the likely volume.
How will ranking for high value keywords help your SEO?
This knowledge is incredibly useful for a number of reasons:
- You can learn how lucrative your different keywords are
- You can discover the volume of impressions
- It will help you build partnerships with sites in a similar sector, with similar business goals
How does getting backlinks from similar websites help your SEO?
Building backlinks like from websites in a similar sector to your own is crucial for Google’s algorithm.
Even better is when the backlink text relates to the subject of your article. This tells search engines that you are an expert in your sector, which means you are significantly more likely to rank in the top 10 of Google.
The key is to identify sites that run paid ads for keywords that you rank for organically. This will help you build strong and influential partnerships with them. These relationships can help you build backlinks and rank higher in search engines.
A simple outreach email might say:
‘Hi, I noticed that you were running ads for the term digital marketing. I receive a lot of traffic for this term organically, so wondered if you would be interested in collaborating in some way?’
How can you rank even higher for keywords you already rank for?
The more expensive the paid ad cost, the better your bargaining position will be. For example, let’s look at a screenshot with some different search terms.
Let’s assume for this example that you are getting some traffic through each of these search terms.
The two most lucrative words on this list are digital marketing and marketing advice.
Next, you need to Google these terms. Here is a screenshot of the search ‘digital marketing’.
The section I have highlighted shows the paid ads.
You now know that these three companies are prepared to pay £1.30 per click for these terms.
Since you are researching terms you already receive some traffic through, it’s likely that you will be able to help these sites and develop a partnership that will benefit you both.
The best part is that when closely-related sites give you a backlink for a relevant keyword, you will rank even higher for this keyword than you did previously. If the copy on the backlink itself has a relevant search term, its effect will be even more powerful.
If you enjoyed reading this blog piece, check out my article on how to start making money fast with your blog, even as a beginner.