Today I nearly smashed my head over a laptop when one of my clients called in violent hysterics and said all his site rankings sank down! It took me about half an hour to discover that the rankings “disappeared” in the tool the client developed himself for rank tracking… Sometimes the app failure just costs us nerves (like in this situation), but in some cases it can lead to really wrong decisions and waste of time and resources.
That’s why I decided to take a fresh look at 5 popular SEO tools out there and try them out myself doing quick site audits. Here’s what I found!
First, let me show the criteria for tools selection:
- I asked my friends, experienced Internet Marketers, to suggest SEO tools for review
- I only picked the so-called all-in-one solutions (that help manage most of the SEO tasks)
- Yes, I did Google “online SEO tools”
Well, probably not a 100% serious approach, but this review is not a thesis, just a single user feedback!
Second, here’s what I tried to do the using each tool – a quick SEO audit including:
1. Checking rankings for some keywords;
2. Retrieving site architecture and validating it for compliance with the SEO standards + analyzing page content;
3. Checking which sites were linking back;
4. Get more keyword ideas;
5. Generating reports and/or exporting data.
Here’s what I found!
1. The ranking module is simple to use, but ranks can only be checked weekly, so you cannot initiate a ranking update even if you really need it. This can seem not that critical, unless you deal with nervous customers!
2. The data on crawl stats and on-page optimization is well-presented in charts and quickly gives data to act on. The division into Errors, Warnings and Notices works pretty well, as you know straight away what needs to be fixed immediately.
3. I bet you’ve already tried the Open Site Explorer and have a good idea of how the tool works – the backlinks with anchors and stats are collected into a clear table.
It’s a little bit confusing though that the tool shows simultaneously internal and external backlinks and you have to filter the results to get the external ones only.
4. It took me a while to get to the “Find new keywords” tab – by contrast, this module is not significantly highlighted, so you can easily miss it (After you open the Campaign, click the small blue link “Manage keywords,” then switch to “Find new keywords”).
Another remark is that you’ll only get suggestions from your Analytics account, so if you are doing a site audit for the first time and you don’t have the GA credentials yet, the feature’s not going to work for you.
5. When you try to create a new report under the Reports tab, it actually gets scheduled not generated, so you can’t view and edit the data inside. It’s possible however to export data separately from each module.
What makes me feel disappointed about SEOmoz PRO tools is that it can take days to have your reports and data collected – sometimes we need the information pretty fast!
1. Unfortunately Raven doesn’t provide the rank tracking feature anymore.
2. Keyword research looks pretty decent, the tool pulls the data from Google AdWords, Wordtracker and Wordstream – and you can add any keyword from research to your keyword list.
3. Site auditor is nicely done and helps you quickly see crawlability and meta issues if any. I was really excited about the Page speed module, but my excitement vanished with very scarce data:
followed by a huge (really huge!) guide on how you can make your pages download faster. I’ve nothing against being educated, but I expected a little bit more detailed stats.
The tool also helps to find the pages with too little word count and duplicate content.
4. The backlink module works fine: the data’s collected quickly and there’s a handy backlink management module that’s really good for outreach (you can add all the necessary details, including the link type and the actions you need to take)
5. The reports are largely customizable – you can choose which data to include and in which order simply by dragging-n-dropping the tabs.
I’ve always liked Raven tools and do miss their rank tracking module. On the whole, these tools are very well developed and seem to be a decent all-in-one solution.
WebMeUp appeared about a year ago, but it’s already gaining popularity with marketers. On the whole I liked the tools, especially the unified interface – all modules are connected with one another and data integration looks perfect.
1. The rankings get checked automatically when you add the keywords to the project. The good thing is that the tool supports local search engines and checks positions every day.
2. WebMeUp has collected the site structure and analyzed pages according to availability and performance factors.
What I really enjoyed is that you can star landing pages for more specific analysis. It’s possible to assign specific keywords to specific pages to get better on-page recommendations. Though I don’t personally rely on the tips provided by automated tools, that’s still can be of use for beginner users.
3. Just as Raven, WebMeUp has found backlinks pretty fast, but I couldn’t find some of the latest links I got. I was curious enough to contact the support team, who said that the Backlink module’s in Beta and more data sources are to come in the nearest time.
Meanwhile I looked at the backlink management module, which lets you track some of your critical backlinks. The tool regularly checks the presence of these links and alerts if a link’s gone.
4. Keyword ideas are grabbed by WebMeUp using multiple services, the tool can also mix words to create more variations as well as localize your current list of phrases.
5. In addition to data export, WebMeUp lets users generate reports using 4 main templates: Monthly rankings report, On-page SEO report, Off-page SEO report, Website SEO report. Reports can be white-labelled and scheduled to be sent to certain recipients.
What I miss most in WebMeUp is integration with Google Analytics, which is one of the features to be released soon. The overall user impression after doing a quick site audit is pretty good!
Definitely, SEMrush is more known as a pay-per-click analytics tools in the SEO industry, however recently some new features were developed by the team, so now you can also manage lots of your organic SEO using the tools.
1. The position tracking module in SEMrush is in Beta, but already looks promising: using the PRO plan, one can add up to 10 campaigns to track 500 keywords. The tool also lets you add competitors to compare your positions with theirs and set up e-mailing reports.
2. SEMrush doesn’t currently provide modules for on-page and content analysis. Just seeing how many new features have been added recently, it’s possible the SEMrush team will release new modules for SEO.
3. Surprisingly, the tool didn’t provide any backlink data for websites that are about 1 year old (I tested a domain with lots of backlinks and vice versa – with few), then I went on in with a very established and popular domain – the tool revealed about 1,400 backlinks, which seems to be too little (especially considering that there were lots of duplicate backlinks).
The columns cannot be filtered in any way, so you can only export the stats and manage them in Excel.
4. Keyword suggestion can be divided into 2 parts: keywords for organic search and keywords for advertising. The approximate cost per click, as well as the historic data for keyword search volume would be useful before you launch a pay-per-click campaign.
5. There’s no separate Reports module, but you can quickly export any data from any module. There’s quite an interesting option – to order a customized data report (if you need to track something really specific, as the Japanese keywords for some local search engine not supported by default).
SemRush does a good job as a website audit tool in terms of both organic and PPC analysis. Though I’d love to see more backlinks for “younger” domains, as well as generate on-page reports.
1. The keyword rankings are checked automatically, as you add them to the project. Further on, the checks are done on a weekly basis.
2. After I added a website to the project and opened Site Auditor, I wasn’t really happy to see a review of a single page (index page):
Also I was confused to see that lack of the project keywords in ALT attributes was seen as an “SEO issue”. There’s no correlation page-keyword and it’s pretty hard to optimize the whole website this way. One page limit analysis is part of the Free plan, but even with paid options (Silver, Gold, and Platinum), you’ll have up to 1,000 pages analyzed per site.
3. The Backlink module of WebCEO showed 20 backlinks to my website. To see more or to see ANY backlinks of competing websites, I’d have to upgrade. Well, this is really sad, considering the amount of free tools offering at least some backlink data…
4. You can get keyword suggestion in WebCEO using Google Adwords, Google Analytics (the keywords already bringing traffic) and from competing sites (“Spy on competitors” tab). However, at the time I was testing the tool, there was a notification stating “The Keyword tool is experiencing temporarily technical problems with the Google AdWords API. Some reports can be partially or fully unavailable.”
So, probably the tool will need to integrate with other keyword services to provide more detailed data.
5. There’s no separate Reports module, but you can export data in every module.
On the whole, I wasn’t really comfortable doing SEO audit in WebCEO – though the tools are not overstuffed with features, you cannot feel the flow of an SEO process.
From the taken five options, I’d probably go with either Raven, or WebMeUp, or SEMrush for the tasks described – they offer nice features, timely stats, and customizable reports. And they managed to provide me with most data when doing quick site audit the fastest way.
In most cases however, even the most feature-rich all-in-one SEO solution wouldn’t be fully sufficient for ALL of your SEO tasks. Just take your time to test-drive more options to get the most suitable collection of tools!
And which tools do you prefer for such site audits?
Inessa Bokhan is the co-founder and chief internet marketing manager at SEOlots (http://seolots.com), an SEO agency for small businesses. Iness has been working as a copywriter (software development and marketing topics), pay-per-click manager, and has provided strategic consulting to search marketing clients. She’s keen on cycling & skiing and loves cats!