Specialists can offer custom consultancy and analytics, and there are a number of free tools on the web that can help marketers understand the benefits of their organic search campaigns.

Effective search engine optimization should be a competitive priority for you this year, as Brafton has reported that 85 percent of enterprise marketers are investing in SEO.

Quality content is the heart of any search engine optimization campaign – and any website, for that matter. But producing good, optimized content is just the first step to SEO. Marketers have to analyze how content impacts their rankings, traffic and conversion. Specialists can offer custom consultancy and analytics, and there are a number of free tools on the web that can help marketers understand the benefits of their organic search campaigns.

Here’s a look at five free SEO tools I recommend.

Google Keywords Tool
This is probably the most basic tool on the list, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Competitive keywords that are relevant to your audience and your content are essential to successful SEO. The Google Keywords Tool.

At a basic level, the Google Keywords Tool allows you to compile and export a list of search phrases with their corresponding search volumes, helping you decide which terms to focus on when laying out your SEO strategy.

The tool is geared toward a PPC strategy, with the “competition” field indicating the number of other advertisers bidding on a particular phrase – not the number of other organic listings. Nonetheless, it offers value to SEO marketers when conducting keyword research.

SEOMoz Toolbar for Chrome and Firefox
This may be the best SEO plugin for a browser ever created and it’s free. (Mostly.)

Ever look at Google results pages and wish you could easily understand your chances of ranking above a competitors’ site? The SERP Overlay feature from the SEOMoz Toolbar can help you do just that. The mozBar.

This plugin displays stats on page authority, domain authority and the number of inbound links to pages and domains directly on search engine results pages. With the plugin activated, these stats will appear on the bottom of every page you navigate to on the web.

The SEOMoz toolbar also offers one-click access to check indexed pages across Google, Yahoo and Bing.

While this plugin is free, you will need to be a PRO subscriber of SEOMoz.org to access their proprietary tools, also easily accessible from the toolbar. Whether or not you’re a subscriber, this is a must-have for any SEO.

Rank Checker for Firefox
Want to check your website’s ranking for specific keywords across Bing, Yahoo and Google? How about how your site ranks in other countries? Rank Checker can do it.

Once installed, Rank Checker can be accessed from the tools menu in Firefox. You have the option to enter a single keyword or copy and paste larger lists of up to 100 key phrases. Then, enter your domain name and get started. Website rankings for each keyword you input appear as Rank Checker works through your list – and it’s fast. Rank Checker.

Perhaps the best feature of all is the ability to export the results to a .CSV file. This makes it easy to combine data from other excel spreadsheets, such as search volume stats from Google’s Keyword Tool.

To download the plugin, you’re required to sign-up (for free) to the SEOBook.com website, and this is my personal favorite free SEO tool.

Google Webmaster Tools
Signing up for Google Webmaster Tools should be the first thing you do after registering your domain name. Once you signup and verify your website, you will have a direct line of communication with Google. Google Webmaster Tools.

With Google Webmaster tools you’re able to let Google know which geographic locations you target. In addition to defining your audience, you can see which search queries your site is ranking for, what your click-through ratio is for those queries and sites that link to yours.

You’ll also be alerted to any issues that Google may have crawling your site so you can correct them. This makes it easy to find and fix dead links. Plus, when you update your site or add pages, you can easily generate a new sitemap right through Google Webmaster Tools.

There are myriad other features within Google Webmaster Tools including video sitemaps, site performance statistics, change of address/URL redirection help and site recommendations – with more being added all the time.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics works hand-in-hand with Webmaster Tools, but is a separate tool in its own right.
Analytics offers an overview of activity on your website. It offers data on referral sources visitors use to find you, where they live, how long they spend on your site and, importantly, the path they travel as they navigate your site.

Knowing where consumers enter and exit a site is key to understanding what converts visitors, and Google Analytics provides this information.

When developing an SEO strategy it’s also important to know which keywords perform well in conversions. With Google Analytics you can create comprehensive reports segmenting Google’s data to show which keywords convert, and you can also generate info on the traffic sources that convert. Google Analytics.

For the more advanced SEO, Analytics lets you create A/B multivariate experiments to test the effectiveness of variations in landing pages. Any adjustments to content on a page can have a dramatic effect in how well that page converts.

Simply put, Google Analytics is THE tool for understanding your website’s visitors and refining your SEO strategy.

All of these tools can be used to enhance and assess your SEO strategy, but it’s important to remember that content relevant to your target audience is the backbone to a search engine optimization campaign. Investing in content development is becoming a competitive necessity, as we’ve reported that firms plan to increase content spend this year.

Check out Brafton’s blog on planning for content marketing success to learn about strategies that can help produce engaging web content.

Jim Kensicki is the Senior Director of Content Marketing at Brafton. He leads a team of Content Marketing Strategists in our Boston and San Francisco offices, working with them to deliver superior service and search consultancy to clients. Prior to joining Brafton, Jim led the sales division of a successful tech startup. He has over a decade of experience creating and executing successful online marketing strategies for major brands. When he's not Brafton-ing, you'll find Jim traveling the globe and/or cooking elaborate meals to varying levels of success.