Thanks God tools exist! Our life as digital marketers would not be same without them, and not because we would not be able to do our job, but because tools help us automate the time consuming part (data retrieving and first analysis) so we can concentrate to what really matters: deep analysis.
Beware, though. I am not telling that you should delegate all your work to tools and to automate everything. Albeit being obvious, tools are good as far the people using them are good and able to inform their decisions with data and not being blindly driven by them.
However, without tools like Screaming Frog, Buzzsumo or Klear our lives would be pitiful and, if you are old like me, you can remember what meant spending days in creating giant Excel file so to audit a website.
The list I present here below is the first of an on-going series I will publish here on State of Digital, and it does not pretend to be a “ultimate” list neither to present all the tools present in the market, but those ones that I use on a daily basis or for specific tasks.
I will present a brief description of the tools (for those who does not know them), what are the main pros and cons in my very personal opinion, their pricing and, if existing, a list of links so that you can dig deeper into each tool.
Before I start, though, I remind you also that the list is biased by my nature as independent consultant, who provides auditing and strategic digital marketing services. Hence, if you do not see a tool listed, that does not mean that I do not know it or that I consider it a bad one; simply it is a tool that I do not use that much, if not at all.
For this reason, I urge you to help improve the quality and completeness of this series adding your own takes about the tools I cite, and to add your objective mini-reviews of tools I did not present in-depth.
Episode 1 – SEO Suites
I admit that I am not sold to any specific SEO suite, and that I use one or the other depending on many factors:
- The size of the website;
- Its nature;
- What the client is already using (if she using an SEO suite already). I do this usually in order to maintain a consistency in the reporting phase and for not obliging the client to learn a new tool. Said that, this does not mean I do not use more than one suite for each client.
Moz has a long story in providing SEOs with tools, being Open Site Explorer its most renowned one.
Its suite, Moz Analytics, substituted the Pro Campaign tool, but – as the same Rand Fishkin admitted in the past – it went live with bugs that made its use complicated.
Along the past 18 months though, many of those bugs had been fixed and new little but effective features have been and will be added.
Moz Analytics is a tool that every kind of SEO (from newbie to expert) can use, thanks also to the in-depth tutorials and regular webinars Moz offers, but I would especially suggest it if you are running an on-going campaign for small to medium SEO projects.
If yours is an enterprise web site, Moz offers a specific Enterprise Plan, but you may consider using the Moz’s APIs for creating your own tools, or to directly look for others enterprise solutions like Conductor or Searchmetrics.
- Moz Analytics is relatively simple to use and understand, even if (but this happens with all tools) people tend to use it not at its fullest.
- It has now its own Search Visibility metric, so that it is easier to confront Moz data with similar metrics by others’ tools.
- The Moz suite focus on three areas of digital marketing:
In the future it will include (or will be paired) with Moz Content, so that every main channel of Inbound Marketing (not meant in the Hubspot way, though) will be included;
- Moz Crawl, albeit not the best crawler in the market, owns a native algorithm for detecting near-duplicated content, something that is missing or needed-to-tweak-manually in others tools, or that you have to use in specific tools like Siteliner;
- Moz Analytics is part of the Moz Pro subscription, hence complemented by others tools, some of which of remarkable utility as Fresh Web Explorer or the Keyword Difficulty Tool, which sooner than later Moz will present in a new improved version.
- If you do PPC, you will not be able to see AdWords or Social Ads data in the suite;
- As said above, the Moz Crawler is not perfect, so it is better to not rely only on it when performing a technical audit;
- The Standard plan can soon turn out “tight” (only 5 campaigns);
- The number of keywords tracked per account is small (750 / 10 campaigns in the Medium Plan);
- It is only in English, and that can be a problem for automated reporting.
Moz offers 5 plans:
- Standard (99 USD/month);
- Medium (149 USD/month);
- Large (249 USD/month);
- Premium (599 USD/month);
- Enterprise (4,000 USD/month).
Albeit I know many people using Raven, it is surprising how few are writing about it lately, which is a shame because it is one of the best digital marketing suite solutions.
Every SEOs, from newbie to expert, can use it, it is great especially for small to medium SEO web sites, and it is, maybe, the best solution for boutique agencies.
- Raven integrates others tools’ data (Moz, Majestic, Google Analytics and Search Console, Wordstream et al) in a meaningful way. This characteristic is what makes Raven unique;
- The Google Analytics integration is almost perfect. 9 times over 10 you will not need to directly log in your GA;
- Since its UX redesign back in 2013, Raven is not only prettier, but easier to use;
- Raven has its own SEO and Social CRM, which really helps centralizing every moment of a campaign;
- Building reports templates is stupidly easy.
- The Site Auditor is quite basic. It will help you having a very broad idea of your website’s health, but if you need an in-depth crawl, then you should rely on specific tools like Screaming Frog, OnPage.org or Deepcrawl.
- The rank tracking section is not the best one in the market. To be clear: it is not bad, but it is based on Google Search Console data, which I tend to not trust that much when it comes to “rankings”.
Raven offers only two options:
- Pro account (99 USD), which can be used by up to four users;
- Agency Account (249 USD/month), which can be used by unlimited users.
In the YouTube page of Raven, you can find a good number of videos explaining the many facet of the suite.
Personally, I suggest you this video.
I include SEMrush in this SEO Suite analysis because, since last year, it introduced a new section (Site Audit), so that now you may use SEMrush for Keywords Research (Organic and Paid), Link Analysis, Technical SEO and Social Media.
Be aware, though that I would not recommend it as SEO suite right now (see “cons” below), but knowing how well the people of SEMrush work, I am confident that in the next future it will be a fully operational suite.
- The SEMrush Organic research section probably is one of the most complete in the market;
- Competitors analysis. A less known function is the one letting you to do competitors ‘analysis on a single URL base’ (if that URL had been recorded by SEMrush);
- “Striking distance keywords”, a tool that lets you discover low hanging fruit keywords opportunity you already own quite easily;
- Ad Copies (in the Advertising Research section), which is wonderful also for SEO because it let you understand what kind of copywriting and tone of voice works better, and how visible is each ad;
- The Domain Vs Domain tool is an underestimated great tool, as it offers a wide range of option for confronting (and visualizing) up to five domains;
- SEMrush offers data from substantially every country, so that it ideal for International SEO;
- The tool is localized in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese and Russian, and SEMrush has dedicated teams for support and evangelization.
- The Backlink section is not exceptional, but has improved from its initial “beta” version. Said that, I would not stop using specific tools like Majestic, Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer;
- The Site Audit is better than then Raven’s one, but still useful only for a first review. Moreover, the crawled pages’ limit are relatively small;
- The Social Media Tool by SEMrush is still on beta, and right now it offers a basic overview of your social media activities.
SEMrush offers three plans:
- Pro (69.95 USD/month);
- Guru (149.95 USD/month);
- Business (549.95 USD/month), which is the only multi-users plan.
Consider that the gap in features offered by the Pro and Guru plan is quite big (e.g.: 5 project vs. 50), so that it may be more convenient going for a Guru subscription.
Rishi Lakhani created the best “independent” advanced guide to SEMrush, which lacks only of a the Social Media tool analysis.
It is quite surprising how people does not talk more about SISTRIX, because it is one of the most complete suites I have experimented with.
Very well known and used in its native Germany, SISTRIX it’s expanding fast in all Europe, somehow inspired by the SEMrush experience, but still you can find some hiccups in how its websites are localized.
With respect the SEO suites I described before, I would not recommend SISTRIX to newbies SEOs. I am not saying either that they cannot learn using it, but the learning curve is quite steep.
- You can do almost everything you need, from auditing to on-going to competitive analysis, without leaving SISTRIX. In fact, you can subscribe just to the module you truly need
- Social, which is right now offered for free if you subscribe to 1+ module.
- The SISTRIX visibility index is one of the most accurate I have seen and, thanks to its “pins”, it is possible to contrast it with Google updates;
- In the Optimizer module, you can easily insert up to 10K keywords and label them for any SEO project you create. For instance, I tend to label them both for TOFU/MOFU/BOFU and section of the site, so that I can have segmented by search intention monitoring;
- With SISTRIX it is possible, and relatively easily, to analyze the SEO performances of a site section by section. This is particularly useful in order to individuate what part of your website is suffering or if a change made, for instance in the categorization of an ecommerce site, presents us positive uplifts. Obviously, you can do this same analysis on a competitor site;
- The visibility index chart allows you to compare your own visibility metric with others sites’ ones. This is useful not only for competitive analysis, but also for monitoring – for instance – how a migration is going;
- The Link section is pretty good. Albeit it is not at the same level of a link analysis dedicated tool, it is quite precise and useful for taking meaningful decisions.
- For a solo marketer or a small agency, subscribing to all the modules is not cheap;
- As told previously, the learning curve is quite steep, and the “working-progress” localization of the site does not help it (e.g.: the English site links to German-still pages);
- The UX needs to be improved. Some of the best functions are not intuitive to find (gear icon, I am looking at you!);
- The Social module is pretty good, but totally focused on how the website pages are performing on social. If you need to analyze the performances of your social media profiles, you will need to look for another tool;
- Quite surprisingly, SISTRIX still have a section called PageRank… I think they should get rid of it and eventually consider to substitute it with its own version of DA/PA;
- The SISTRIX crawler does not offer the in-depth analysis crawlers like OnPage.org, Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl do, but it gives you the possibility to search through the HTML code of the pages it crawled, something that others SEO suites do not provide.
- The competitive analysis inside the Optimizer projects is quite poor. For instance we cannot compare our rankings with the competitors ones, as it is possible in others suites.
SISTRIX is not cheap if you want to use all its six modules at once. Said that, its modularity allows you to buy only what you really need:
- 1 module: 100 Euro /Month;
- 2 modules: 200 Euro/Month;
- 3 modules: 275 Euro/Month;
- 4 modules: 350 Euro/Month;
- 5 modules: 400 Euro/Month.
Other SEO Suites you would like to consider
What I list here below are others SEO Suites, some used by many Search Marketers, but whom I do not know well enough so to present an objective review, or whom I used in the past but not recently, so that probably I am not aware about the improvements (or not) those tools had recently.
Here you, reader, are called to collaborate on this post. If you use one the tools I list below, please tell us what are its pros and cons in the comment.