Unveiling the Power of Free Versions in Premium SEO Tools

Unveiling the Power of Free Versions in Premium SEO Tools _ MediaOne Singapore

Unveiling the Power of Free Versions in Premium SEO Tools (Ahrefs, SEMrush, SpyFU, MozPro, etc.)

What do you do when you’re on a tight budget and need to get the most out of your SEO efforts? Some SEOs may suggest you take advantage of free SEO tools like Google Analytics and Keyword Planner, but let’s not lie to each other; these tools tend to be very limited. 

They can help you with some basic keyword research and analytics, but they won’t do much for you in terms of comprehensive SEO analysis.

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It would be best to have at least one premium SEO tool, such as AHrefs, SEMrush, or SpyFu, to level up your SEO game and compete with the top players.

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The problem is that these tools tend to come with hefty price tags, and for some budgets, this is simply not feasible. While free SEO tools may help, they may not be enough to give you the full insight into what’s going on with your SEO.

Don’t worry, though; we might have found a solution. You don’t have to splurge on the most expensive SEO suite right off the gate. It turns out that some of these premium SEO tools provide free versions that you can take advantage of until your business has grown enough to support bigger investments. 

These free versions are a great way to get acquainted with the features of each tool and even get some basic SEO insights. Plus, some of these free versions are very generous with their features and the data they provide. 

Ahrefs offers free access to their webmaster tools, SEMrush has a 14-day pro trial with access to all of its features, SpyFu has a free version with access to limited features, and Moz has a 30-day free trial.

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In other words, these free versions and trials should be enough to cover you for at least the first year or two while you’re still getting your business off the ground and learning the ropes. So, don’t be quick to part with your cash, not when you still have the freebies to help you get ahead.

Let’s get into the details of each free or trial version and see what we can do with it.  

#1. Ahrefs’ Free Version

Ahrefs stopped offering its 7-day trial. Instead, they have free access to their webmaster tool that runs almost similarly to Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) but with more powerful features.

Let’s show you what you can do with Ahrefs for free:

SEO Audit Your Site

Before you get down to optimizing any site for search engines, you must first ensure the site is in good shape from a backlink and technical standpoint. The free version of Ahrefs is the perfect tool for this job.

You don’t need to pay to audit the technical SEO health of a website. Nor pay to check if spammy links hinder your link-building efforts. 

Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool does all of that for free. It’ll scan the website, detect any problems, and tell you what needs to be fixed — more like what Google Search Console does, but on steroids.

How to set up the audit?

Easy and straightforward — once you’ve created your free account and imported your project from GSC, paste your site URL, hit “enter,” and off it goes. 

Ahrefs Webmaster Tool (AWT) will run a comprehensive crawl of your website and check for 140 predefined SEO issues. You’ll have a comprehensive audit report in less than 10 minutes. 

And that’s just one of the features you get with Ahrefs’ free version! Who said SEO success can’t be achieved on a budget?

Remember, while the free versions of premium SEO tools are great for getting started, they are no match to their paid counterparts.

Here’s what you should do:

After signing up, log into your Ahrefs, and type in the URL at the top. Then hit “enter.”

You’ll be directed to a page where you’ll be asked to verify ownership.

Click on “Verify Ownership.”

You can choose whether to import your GSC project or manually add one. We suggest the first one.

Once you have imported your project, click on “Start Crawl.”

Ahrefs will begin scanning your website, looking for any technical issues. Once done, you’ll have a comprehensive audit report in less than 10 minutes.

Keyword Research with Free Ahrefs Version

After completing the audit and ironing out any technical issues, the next step is to find out what keywords your website should be targeting.

Ahrefs offers a powerful keyword research tool, even in its free version. The best part is you don’t have to waste hours manually searching for keywords – just type in a seed keyword, hit enter, and Ahrefs will generate hundreds of related keyword ideas within seconds.

Using Ahrefs’ Free Keyword Generator

Ahrefs’ free keyword generator can help you discover up to 150 keyword ideas for almost any keyword you can think of. All it takes is a single click – enter a seed keyword, such as “SEO,” Ahrefs will generate up to 150 related keyword ideas.

Here’s what you should do:

Let’s assume you’re marketing a wedding videography service in your region. Follow this link to find Ahrefs’ Free Keyword Generator.

Here, you can type in a seed keyword related to your business, such as “wedding videography,” choose your country, and then hit “Find Keywords.”

Ahrefs will immediately provide you with a list of related keyword ideas. You can go through them and pick out the ones with decent search volume and aren’t too competitive (with low KD (Keyword Difficulty) scores).

We suggest you prepare a spreadsheet to store all your collected keywords, with columns for the keyword, search volume, and KD. That will help you track what keywords to target in your SEO campaigns.

If the generated keyword is too broad to target, you can feed it back to the generator to explore it further and break it into more granular keyword terms. 

The best part is that this tool isn’t limited to Google. It also works with YouTube, Amazon, and Bing, allowing you to discover more keyword ideas and uncover new targeting opportunities.

Using Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty Checker

Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty Checker is a great tool that helps you identify how difficult it is to rank for specific keywords. All you have to do is enter a keyword, and the tool will give you an estimated range of how hard it is to rank the keyword on a scale of 1 to 100 — with “1” being very easy and “100” being extremely hard.

It considers several factors, such as the number and quality of each keyword backlink. A lower KD means you have a better chance of ranking for the keyword.

For example, the keyword “wedding photography price” has a KD of 23, while “wedding photography packages” has a KD of 4. That means ranking for “wedding photography packages” is easier than “wedding photography price.”

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How to Use Ahrefs to Check for Keyword Difficulty:

Remember, not all keyword ideas generated in the previous step will indicate their KD score. So, you’ll need to use Ahrefs’ KD checker to determine whether a keyword is worth pursuing.

To check, follow this link to go to Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty Checker and enter the keyword you want to check.

Ahrefs’ Free SEO WordPress Plugin

Your article may rank in the top 10 of Google’s SERP for your target keyword, but after a while, you may start to notice the ranking dwindling. That could be due to issues with content freshness, backlinks, or on-page optimization.

Ahrefs’ free SEO WordPress Plugin is a great tool to help you optimize your content for better search engine rankings. It helps monitor your website’s performance by giving you a comprehensive overview of the content and backlinks.

Think of it as a content audit tool that lets you spot well and underperforming pages across your site, helping you understand your overall content health score.

It also provides data on the number of referring domains, organic traffic, keyword rankings, and a series of recommendations on what to do (do nothing, merge, rewrite, exclude, merge & redirect, etc.) to increase your page’s visibility in the SERPs.

We suggest downloading and installing the plugin if you have a WordPress site. 

You can download the plugin here.

Other Free Ahrefs’ Tool Features You Can Take Advantage Of

  • Ahrefs’ Free SERP Checker: Ahrefs’ free SERP checker will show you the top 10 results for a given keyword along with the Domain Rating (DA), URL rating (PA), backlinks, estimated traffic, and keywords within the page.

That can help you evaluate your competitors and their content, allowing you to create better content with a higher chance of ranking for your target keyword.

Here’s how you want to use this feature:

Evaluate the top 10 search results and determine the search intent. Analyze each page’s content titles, URL structure, and meta description to understand what works/doesn’t work.

Ahrefs’ free website traffic checker shows how much organic and paid search traffic a given domain gets. 

It’s a great way to understand the health of your competitors, find new keyword ideas, and readjust your content strategy accordingly.

If the page gets a decent number of organic visits, you can also use this data to understand how your competitor uses SEO and what sort of content works best for the keyword phrases you’re targeting.

Here’s what you should do:

You want to start by monitoring the top 10 performing pages in the subdomain mode. See how much traffic they’re getting, how quickly it changes over time, how many backlinks they’re getting, the average number of words per page, etc.

#2. SEMrush’s 14 Days Pro Trial

Let’s put it this way: You have 14 days to take advantage of all the features SEMrush offers. During this free trial period, you could do a thorough competitive analysis and use their keyword research tool to find high-value search terms.

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After 14 days, your plan will be downvoted to the free version, but you will still have access to their backlink and keyword tracking tools.

Remember, SEMrush has two pricing plans: SEMrush Pro account and SEMrush Guru account. The Pro account gives you access to all the basic features, such as keyword research, backlink analysis, and website traffic monitoring, while the Guru account gives you access to more advanced features, like historical data, content marketing platform, Google Data Studio Integration, Keyword Cannibalization Report, Content Auditing, Plagiarism Checks, etc.

Here’s what you want to do with the trials (remember, we have no plan to pay for a subscription). Just take advantage of the 14-day free trial, and before the 14-day elapse, cancel the plan. 

You want to kick off your SEO campaign by streamlining these four tasks:

  • Keyword research
  • Link Building Tools
  • Competitor Research
  • Site Audit

The 14-day trial period should be enough time to complete these tasks and formulate an SEO strategy: 

Step #1: Benchmark Your Current SEO Performance

What’s your current SEO stat? Where does your website rank for your target keywords? How many backlinks do you currently have? 

As a baseline, here are three things you need to observe:

  • Organic traffic
  • Keyword ranking
  • Backlinks

These insights will give you a comprehensive picture of your overall SEO performance (historically and current). 

  • Organic Traffic: Organic traffic is the number of visits your website receives from non-paid sources, especially organic search results. You can use SEMrush to track organic traffic for your website. 

After signing up for the free trial and entering your credit card details, click the “Domain Overview” tool.

Here, you can enter your domain name, hit search, and then the “Organic Search Traffic” tab to see how many visits your website gets from organic search results (based on the selected period).

Analyze Your Competitors’ SEO Strategies

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Nor guess which keywords to target, the content to create, or the links to build.

Instead, look into what is already working for your competitors and replicate those efforts. 

By analyzing your competitors SEO efforts, you can:

  • Capitalize on their weaknesses
  • Replicate their strength
  • Prioritize the most critical SEO tasks

Here’s what you want to do:

Step #1: Identify Your Competitors

First, go to the “Organic Research” tab in SEMrush and type in the URL of your website. Next, navigate to the “competitors” tab to see a list of your competitors.

You can scroll down to see a list of your website’s top 100 organic competitors, the keywords you share in common, and the level of commonness (as a percentage).

Look at the top 10 most relevant competitors.

Step #2: Find Your Competitors’ Valuable Keywords

Once you have identified your competitors, the next step is to find out which keywords they are ranking for and which you don’t target yet.

Each of these keywords can be a source of potential traffic for your website.

Go to the “Keyword Gap” tab in SEMrush and enter your domain in the first “Root Domain” field and your tp competitors’ domain in the following “Root Domain” fields. 

Hit “Compare”, and the tool will produce a full list of keywords with information about search volume, ranking position, keyword difficulty, search volume trends, CPC and more.

Go through the list to identify the keyword opportunities to capitalize on.

Step #3: Audit Your Competitors’ Backlinks 

A website’s backlinks are like its backbone. They’re what makes it strong and competitive in the SERPs. 

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They represent a vote of confidence — the more (high-quality) backlinks you have, the better your website will likely perform in search.

You want to use SEMrush for a backlink gap audit.

You can start by opening SEMrush’s “Backlink Gap” tool, inserting your domain and competitors’ domains, and hitting “Find Prospects.”

The tool will compare your competitors’ backlink profiles and present you with a list of domains that link to your competitors but not to you.

You can click the drop-down arrows to get more specific information on each link, like its domain authority, target URL, specific anchor, the date the link was first seen, and so on. 

We suggest you export the whole file by clicking on the “Export” button at the top right corner of the page and save it for further analysis.

#3. SEMrush Free Account

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SEMrush’s free account is a great tool for anyone who wants to get started with SEO and SEM without investing too much money. 

Here are a few things you can do with SEMrush’s free account:

  • Perform Keyword Research
  • Perform a Competitor Analysis
  • Analyze Your Website’s Organic Search Traffic 
  • Track Your Keyword Rankings
  • Manage Your Social Media Accounts
  • Monitor Your Local Listings
  • Run a Technical Site Audit

And much more…

We can  broadly categorize what you can do with SEMrush into three:

  • SEO
  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media

Here’s how to use SEMrush’s free account to optimize your website for better search engine ranking. 

1. Perform a keyword research

SEMrush allows you to run up to 10 daily keyword searches on their free version using the Keyword Magic Tool or the Keyword Overview.

The limitation is that you will only see the top 10 results for each keyword and only run ten searches daily. 

So, 10*10 = 100 keyword results per day.

2. Analyze Competing Websites for Free

Again, SEMrush allows you to analyze up to 10 domain names for free with their Domain Overview tool.

Whether running a competitor analysis, pitching to a new prospect, or just researching in general, the tool has a wealth of data to explore and work around.

Here’s the data you can get from Domain Overview:

  • Which keywords does the domain rank for (in both paid and organic search)
  • How many keywords do they rank for in total
  • How are the positions distributed for the keywords
  • Branded vs. non-branded keywords
  • The number of backlinks to the domain
  • The top traffic-driving keywords

And so much more 

3. Track Your Keyword Rankings for Free

The Position Tracking Tool in SEMrush will allow you to monitor where your website stands in the SERPs for up to 10 keywords.

Here’s how you can use the tool:

#1. Set Up a Project: As a free user, you can only set up one project (with 12 standalone toolboxes).

#2. Enter your website’s domain

#3. Add all the competitors you’d like to track

#4. Create a list of up to 10 keywords to track

#5. Set up your location and device combinations

You can monitor your ranking to a local level (up to the zip code / postal code), which is particularly helpful if local SEO is your priority.

You can even set up an alert to be notified when your rankings change.

Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Use the tool to monitor your website’s rankings and your competitors.
  • Identify discrepancies between your positions and theirs and any new keywords they’re ranking for.

4. Run a Free Website Audit 

SEMrush allows you to crawl up to 100 URLs with a free account. That includes crawling any domain name, subdomain, or subfolder. 

Here’s what will be presented to you after the crawl:

  • The overall health score of your website
  • A detailed report of all the issues found on your website, such as duplicate content, broken links, and missing meta tags
  • A simplified breakdown of each issue and suggestions on how to fix it
  • A thematic report to help you gain a clear insight into how your website is performing in terms of SEO

Thematic reports will include:

  • Crawlability: Can search engines crawl your website quickly?
  • Security: Have you implemented an SSL certificate correctly?
  • Internal Linking and Site Structure: Is there a clear hierarchy in your website? Are there any hidden pages, deep pages, or orphan pages?
  • Structured Data and Markup: Is there any issue with implementing structured data markup?

#4. SpyFu Free Account 

SpyFu’s free account isn’t as comprehensive as the premium version, but it’s still extremely useful. You can find the keywords with the best potential for new pages with the free account. The tool will tell you how many searches each keyword gets and how hard it is to rank for it (Keyword Difficulty).

The only limitation you’ll have with the free account is the limited number of keyword ideas it generates.

Here’s what you want to do:

Hover to “Keyword research” and click on “related keywords.” Enter your seed keyword and select your region. You’ll get a list of related keywords sorted by keyword difficulty, search volume, and CPC (cost per click).

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You can also research your competitors’ organic keywords. SpyFu’s free account will give you the top 10 organic keywords your competitors use, rank, and monthly organic clicks. It’s a great way to determine which keywords to target with your SEO strategy.

Enter your competitor’s domain name and click “search.” You’ll get a list of your competitor’s organic keywords and estimated monthly SEO clicks.

You’ll also see their improved ranks, newly ranked keywords, and lost ranks. It’s an excellent way to monitor your competitor’s SEO progress over time.

#5. Seobility Free Account

Seobility is another premium SEO tool offering a free version.

You can use the free version of the tool to find backlink opportunities.

The best part? You don’t need to be an SEO expert to use the tool. Seobility’s intuitive dashboard makes it easy for anyone to identify backlink opportunities from authoritative websites in their industry.

Use the tool to find your competitor’s backlinks and see what type of backlinks they’ve been building. See the number of backlinks they have, their domain authority, anchor text, and target page. You can use this data to create a more effective link-building strategy for your own website.

Enter your competitor’s domain name, hit enter, and watch as the tool does its magic.

The Wrap Up

So now you know the power of free versions in premium SEO tools. From keyword research to backlink opportunities, there’s no limit to what you can do with the free versions of premium SEO tools.

You don’t have to splurge on expensive SEO tools when the free versions are just as powerful. Give them a try and see for yourself.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.

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