The following might surprise many people, but I have to state I don’t use any SEO tools. There are many out there SEOquake, SEMrush, MajesticSEO, SEO Spyglass, but I chose not to use them. I should state that I do use the SEO tools provided by Google. The funny thing is I have the tools but prefer not to use them. The reason for this is simple. The tools are designed to show all the fine points of SEO, which may sound great, but for me the focus should always be to look at the big issues first. You don’t need a tool to see these issues. Now I’m not saying these tools are useless, they serve many useful purposes, but I find that get all I need from main Google tools: Google tool bar, Google Analytics, and Google’s Webmaster Tools. Also, if you focus your attention on the fine details like keyword density, frequency, prominence and proximity, and non-title meta data, you might miss the major reasons your site isn’t ranking.

Problem – Page rank: With the Google tool bar, you can instantly see what your page rank is. A low page suggests a major issue with your web site. The following seems to apply to all sites: for local businesses to be competitive they need a page rank of 3 or 4. For longer cities or more non-niched local terms a page rank of 4 or 5 is needed. For national terms a page rank of 5 or higher is needed. This is a major factor that even with good on-page optimization is hard to over come.

Solution – Link building: To combat the weakness in your page rank you need to find good quality links. Sometimes you can also use Google bombs links to target niche keyword rankings.

Problem – No content: The Panda updates of 2011 really made a distinction between what is good and bad content. Shallow content is no longer an acceptable practice on the web. Each page of a web site must be content rich and use unique content. You don’t need a tool to spot pages that lack content. If there is very little text in the main content area of the page, then you are probably going to have an issue.

Solution – Add content: Adding content to content poor pages may seem obvious, but it is one of the most over looked solutions. The reason is many site owners worry that content will impact the look of the site. Personally, I feel content enhances it. I see sites as sources of information, I’m not there to be wowed by design. For product pages add user comments and avoid using generic product descriptions.

Problem – Poor navigation: A site’s navigation is a huge ranking factor. How you construct your navigation impacts how deeply your content resides, the theming of your site, and ultimately it determine whether or not you are ranked. Poor navigation has many telltale signs: 1) non-indexable links
2) links lacking targeted keywords
3) deeply linked content

Solution Re-organize: Sometimes you need to clean house with a site. You need to create a list of all your pages. Create categories and sub-categories to allow you to easily file the pages into the right areas. A site map uses the same methodology. Try to layout you site so that every page is easily accessible. Also, consider using breadcrumb links to aid the internal navigation of your site.

As a site owner or SEO focus on these big factors first then worry about the finer details. Amazingly enough, if you focus on the things mentioned above, generally you don’t even need to worry about the other things.