For Help with SEO, Try This Free Browser Toolbar

Part art and part science, search engine optimization is not for the faint of heart, what with its ever-changing rules and potential for spectacular disasters. The stories of JCPenney and DecorMyEyes, in particular, have recently provided a vivid illustration of how not to do it.

Yet SEO has become a necessary part of doing business on the Web--companies that don't do at least some basic keyword optimization of their Web pages put themselves at a significant disadvantage relative to their competitors.

I've already looked at some clear "don'ts" in the area of SEO, including keyword stuffing and cloaking your content. I've also outlined some of the basic things any business should do. Now I'd like to highlight a free browser toolbar that was just updated and stands ready and waiting to lend a hand.

Webmaster Tools

SEO, of course, is the process of making small tweaks to your Web pages such that they are more likely to be ranked highly on Google and other search engines. Essentially, what that means is that when someone searches on keywords that are highly relevant to your business -- "composting services," say, if that's what your company offers -- your business will be among the top 10 listed by the search engine.

Or so you hope. It's certainly possible to achieve that kind of success without any SEO, but a little optimization can go a long way in helping you get there--particularly given that your competitors are probably doing it too.

I've already noted webmaster tools that can help, such as SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer -- which is free for up to 1000 links with metrics -- and Yahoo's Site Explorer. It's definitely a good idea to use some such tool to monitor your search traffic, rankings and backlinks. Another one, however, is the MozBar, a free SEO toolbar also from SEOmoz for both Firefox and Chrome.

Custom Search Profiles

The MozBar offers easy access to key SEO tools and data while you surf the Web. Users of the toolbar can see SEO metrics at a glance while they're browsing, and an Analyze Page overlay exposes metrics and page elements.

A search engine results page (SERP) overlay, meanwhile, offers detailed link metrics for Google, Bing and Yahoo.

With the Firefox version of the software--which was just updated this week--users can also create and run custom search profiles by search engine, country and region or city. This can be particularly helpful if you have a chain of stores in three different cities, for example, or if you are keeping tabs on the search results for a particular term in several different countries.

You can even save up to 10 search engine profiles that you commonly use and quickly open and compare the results for each.

IP Location at a Glance

Other new features in the freshly updated Firefox version include enhanced keyword and link highlighting, making it easier for users to quickly see all of their company's followed links, for example, or just the links that link to external sites.

Users of the new Firefox version can also now export their SERP results along with all of the high-level link data shown in the SERP overlay.

A new button, meanwhile, shows the country where the Web site currently being viewed is hosted; a click on that flag reveals more details about the location and IP address. Clicking on the IP address provides immediate access to WhoIs information.

A Chrome Update on the Way

A video demonstrating MozBar in action is available in Thursday's announcement of the new Firefox release. A similar update will be released for the Chrome version of MozBar sometime in the coming months, SEOmoz says.

Compatible with Linux, Windows and Mac, the MozBar could be a useful tool to help your business stay on top of its SEO.

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