Update March 2013 – Its been over 8 months since this post was last updated and we’ve seen some quite significant changes to the tools in our comparison including an upgrade to Buzzstream, WebCEO and a big change in Raven Tools (more on that later). We’ve also checked the pricing is up to date and hopefully answered some of the questions left in the comments. We’ve removed DIYSEO from the comparison because its changed its product and no longer offers a comparable tool to the others in this review. Thanks for reading and as ever please leave your comments, feedback and questions at the end.
Whether you’re an agency, in-house or DIY SEO having the right tools for the job can make your life easier and your campaigns more effective. But as SEO becomes bigger business, the more tools we see released onto the market. The range is massive as well from freebies to big $500/ month subscriptions.
In this review I’m going to take a look at 6 of the most popular and talked about SEO tools on the market at the moment-
- Raven tools*
- SEOmoz Pro Tools*
- BuzzStreams link management tool,
- WebCEO Online*
- Advanced Web Ranking*
This isn’t exactly a like for like comparison as these tools each serve slightly different purposes and cater for different users but if you’re weighing up introducing these tools into your SEO process I hope this will give you some pointers as too what each tool can do and how their individual features compare.
At a glance
In a hurry? We’ve summarised the highlights of the SEO tools we’ve reviewed in this post in the table below, but please read on for the full reviews!
|Tool||Price||Buy it for||Recommended for||Sign Up|
|$99-$249/ month||Huge range of tools under one roof||Small to medium sized agencies||Sign Up|
|$99-$499/ month||Open Site Explorer||In-house SEO's||Sign Up|
|$19-$249/ month||Large scale link management capabilities||Serious link builders||Sign Up|
|$160-$4000/ month*||Enterprise level campaign management||Mid to large agencies||Sign Up|
|$49-$299/ month||Simple, fast tools||Novice SEO's and small agencies||Sign Up|
|$99-$1499/ one-off||Desktop solution with great rank checking features||In-house SEO's & large sites||Sign Up|
*Approx price converted from GBP for the sake of comparison
Introducing the tools
First up lets take a quick look at our contenders…
The Raven suite of tools* were originally designed for SEO’s (and by an SEO agency) but they now feature quite a few extra features for other disciplines of internet marketing so there’s Mailchimp integration, a Facebook page manager, Twitter tool and PPC ad management features. For the purposes of this review we’ll stick primarily to the SEO features. In early 2013 Raven removed the keyword rank tracking part of their system following pressure from Google so in this updated version of the comparison we’ll take a look at some of Raven’s other SEO features.
Raven is a fully hosted web app, like all the tools in this comparison, and its biggest selling point is the sheer amount of integrations it provides with 3rd party tools to pull all your campaign data together. It’s got a slick interface neatly integrating Google Analytics data to produce nice looking client performance reports quickly and easily
When we first reviewed Raven in 2010 we were excited by the electric pace of development as they rolled out new integrations and features on a regular basis. This is no longer the case but they are still refining the system and making improvements to the interface and reporting options. However we were disappointed by the decision to remove rank tracking, something which most SEO agencies and in-house marketers still consider an important part of their client reports.
SEOmoz* is probably the biggest SEO community around. It’s a subscription service which gives you full access to their tools including their new ‘web app’ tool- this monitors rankings, links and makes recommendations for the optimization of your site.
Like Raven it’s an evolving product and new features and pro tools are regularly added. The main attraction of SEOmoz pro membership is the access to their Linkscape data – an index of backlinks across the web which you can access via the Open Site Explorer tool or through an API.
SEOmoz made a couple of interesting acquisitions in the past year which expands their toolset and gives an indication of where they’re software is likely to be going. SEOmoz memebership now gives you access to Followerwonk, a twitter analysis tool and SEOmoz also brought local SEO tool GetListed, which is likely to mean an integration of more local SEO features inside the SEOmoz pro tool in the future.
Unlike our first two tools, BuzzStream is designed specifically to aid the link building process. It may be a little unfair to put it head to head with 2 tools which encompass other parts of the SEO process but as any SEO will tell you, links are the most important bit of SEO so if you get that right, you’ve got the hardest part of the job done.
Unlike Raven, BuzzStream has continued down the path of being a very specialist tool which is going to be most useful for SEO’s who are engaged in large scale link building campaigns which involve a lot of research, direct approaches to webmasters and purchasing of links. They realised some new features and a new interface in 2012 which we’ll look at in this review
AnalyticsSEO is one of a new breed of enterprise level SEO tools designed to manage the SEO process from start to finish. AnalyticsSEO* was an appealing tool to include in the update to our review because while it boosts enterprise features its pricing starts from £99/ month, which is comparable with the other tools we’ve looked at.
AnalyticsSEO offers a wide range of tools to help with each step of the SEO process and as with Raven and SEOmoz (to a lesser extent) gives you a single management facility for all your SEO activity.
Web CEO is one of the oldest names in SEO tools having been producing a desktop SEO tool for over 10 years. We’re taking a trial run of their relatively new ‘online’ version* which has a SaaS subscription pricing model similar to the other tools we’re looking at in this report and a 100% web based interface (no software to install). Given how established WebCEO is as a tool its surprising how little you tend to hear about it in the SEO world and I have to admit when I’ve used it myself in the past (probably 5 years ago!) I never really got on with it but I’m coming into this trial with fresh eyes and this online version is miles away from the slightly clunky desktop software I remember.
Like Raven and Analytics SEO, WebCEO online is an all in one package designed to help you manage your campaigns from start to finish with keyword research, link analysis and rank tracking all under one roof.
Advanced Web Ranking* is one of the first “SEO tools” I ever used. Back when a Raven was, well a Raven, and SEO was about keyword rankings and getting listed in DMOZ Advanced Web Ranking (or AWR to the lazy writer) was powering the keyword ranking reports being produced by SEO agencies the world over. These days AWR is still the de facto solution for anyone looking for reliable a desktop based rank checking tool but with its latest incarnation the AWR team have included a number of additional features which take it beyond just a very good rank checker and position it as a contender in our all in one SEO tools comparison.
Unique to the tools we’re looking at here AWR is a desktop tool rather than an online SaaS solution. The issue with that is your data is essentially confined to one physical machine rather than being available online (in my past agency life we actually had a dedicated AWR machine which even sat in its own office!). There are also a few benefits to a desktop application – stability and uptime being the most obvious but also speed. Where Raven, SEOmoz et al can take days to return your ranking results, AWR will start updating as soon as you setup your report. There’s also no limit to the number of keywords or ‘projects’ you can setup with any version of AWR, unlike most of the other tools here which cost more the more you use them.
The software works on PC and Mac and costs from $99-$1500 depending on the version you go for.
OK lets get into this, we’re going to run through the main features of each of the tools, this is by no means a full run-through, you’d be here all day if we covered every feature of every tool so I’ve concentrated on the most important aspects which I’ve defined as:
- Rank checking, Keyword monitoring, SERP’s analysis – whatever you want to call it!
- Link building and monitoring
- Onsite optimisation and technical analysis
Running rank checking to lookup your websites position in search results is the oldest and most established form of SEO reporting. Search rankings are far more fluid these days so its often argued that rankings aren’t as important as they used to be- but still, we all want to be number one for our trophy keywords.
As we mentioned at the top, Raven Tools withdrew their ranking tool from their toolset in early 2013. This was extremely disappointing for anyone using the tool primarily for its SEO features, especially as this was the one thing which Raven did better than most other tools. Anyway its happened so if you’re looking for an SEO tool which checks ranking results, you’ll need to look elsewhere, or use an additional tool alongside Raven.
Here’s a screenshot of how Raven’s rank tracker used look, for posterity!
SEOmoz still lets you monitor your rankings through their web app software. By default this starts to make it look like a much more attractive Raven alternative. However we understand they may also be under pressure from Google to remove their rank tracking or risk losing access to Google’s API’s. Anyway for now rank tracking is there and appears to be working well. The layout is user friendly and you can track up to 3 competitors rankings. SEOmoz run rankings once a week. This is fine for client reporting but many SEO’s prefer to run rankings on a daily basis to monitor trends more closely, that’s not possible with SEOmoz even if you want to pay a premium, although this probably won’t be an issue for most users.
As an aside, while on the subject of rank tracking, if you’re looking for a rank tracking tool which runs results every day AuthorityLabs software is worth a look. AuthorityLabs were the data provider to Raven tools before they removed their ranking results and they run rankings daily so you can quickly spot positive or negative ranking trends. We may include it in full in the comparison report in future, although it provides no additional functionality beyond rankings.
AnalyticsSEO like SEOmoz also has a built in rank checking feature under its ‘competitive position’ tab. Ranking results have some nice filtering options to help make sense of large keyword data sets and there’s several different views to help analyse your comparative performance month on month. Like SEOmoz, Analytics SEO has caps on the number of keywords you can monitor ranging from 2000 to 200,000 keyword checks across different search engines.
A great additional feature of rank tracking in AnalyticsSEO is the Universal Search monitoring which shows you which of your keywords are ranked in universal results like image search, Google places, Google news among others. This is going to be a really useful feature for users who regularly rank in universal results like news and ecommerce sites.
Web CEO has many of the same ranking report features as the other tools we’ve looked at here and a nice clean, easy to use interface which took me a little while to get my head around but has all the features you’d expect in there once you get your head around the layout. Keyword allowances seem a little ‘tight’ (only 90 keywords on the $49/ month package) but you can track up to 20 competitors. I’d probably rather have less competitors and more keywords but others may feel differently. Also worth noting is that WebCEO will only look for rankings 3-5 pages deep on their monthly plans. What this means is if you’re on the cheapest plan you can only monitor keywords you are ranking on the first 3 pages of Google for. It depends how you use ranking reports whether this will be an issue for you or not. Personally I like to use keyword rankings to monitor the overall health of my rankings, so movement on the 8th page of Google results is important because it shows something happening and helps to spot trends early. If however you’re only interested in knowing where you are for your money keywords, which you’re already ranking well for this won’t limit you with WebCEO.
WebCEO do offer a Pro plan now that gets over this limitation and offers unlimited keywords up to 10 pages deep at an additional cost.
One interesting and potentially quite valuable feature of the rank tracking in WebCEO is the ability to localize search results by a city or postcode – potentially very useful if you compete on search terms like ‘car hire’ where you may rank for searches near to your business address but not on a national basis due to localization.
The tie in with other tools in the system like the keyword research tool and SEO analyzer (more on this later) is quite slick. Its an increasingly well integrated tool and one which, although limited in places is an increasing competitor to Raven. What WebCEO lacks in complexity it makes up for somewhat in speed. You can fly through the tools both because of significantly faster page load times than Raven and because the interface is so much simpler than tools like Raven and AnalyticsSEO which might help this products appeal for beginners.
Advanced Web Ranking, given its name and the fact that rank checking used to be its raison d’etre, is, as you’d expect a heavyweight contender when it comes to the best rank checking tool we’ve looked at. There’s a lot of good reasons to use AWR as your rank checking solution even if you’re running the other all-in-one tools we’ve gone through here. Because AWR runs locally there’s no keyword limits so you can check the rankings of 10,000 keywords on every search engine, everyday if you so wish. You’ll need to set it up to retrieve data via proxy servers if you are serious about extracting this much data from Google and this requires the Enterprise version ($399) or higher. If you set the request rate low enough (the frequency with which you make a request to Google) you can get away with retrieving keywords in the thousands per day without a proxy though. Just bear in mind the more keywords you track, the more difficulties you’ll run into, Google does not like you using this type of software or doing any rank tracking really.
The biggest benefit of AWR’s rank tracking is the granular, daily keyword analysis you can conduct. This is especially useful for closely analyzing keyword historic data. If you’ve recently felt the effects of Google’s algo updates where your keywords may be bouncing on a daily basis then this can prove to be a very useful feature and the fast, clean AWR interface is the best tool for this sort of job once you’ve got used to the slightly overwhelming UI.
BuzzStream doesn’t have a ranking function so we can’t make a comparison there.
Links have historically been, and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable future the biggest part of most SEO campaigns, so having a robust tool to manage and monitor your link building activity is pretty essential.
This is where BuzzStream comes into the mix. Managing links and link prospects is what it does. The tool works as a CRM for link building activity and helps you to keep track of your contacts and conversations with potential link partners. This is particularly useful for agencies as link data can be reused across campaigns to reduce the number of new contacts which need to be made to get links. Or if you’ve got an in-house SEO team having all your data in a well maintained CRM like Buzzstream will pay dividends when one of your team leaves, taking their link relationships with them.
When you setup BuzzStream you add a bookmark to your toolbar which allows you to add new link prospects to your BuzzStream database in a pop up window, this is a pretty powerful feature as it automatically scans the site to try and grab contact details off the page like an email address, phone number or contact form, this pre-populated fields in your CRM entry making the process of adding sites to other system quicker and easier.
The contact finding works faster than the equivilent feature in Raven and also grabs info like Twitter ID’s and Facebook pages in a flash to help you build up your link building database.
One of the best features of BuzzStream’s link management and a feature which is much improved since we originally looked at the tool 2 years ago is the email management facility. To save an email conversation in Buzzstream you used to have to BCC a copy of it to a buzzstream email address – that was fine, but a bit messy. Nowadays Buzzstream is fully integrated with your email account so your entire message history (or that of your team) is recorded against a contact in Buzzstreams contact database. If you’re having 50 conversation streams at once while doing link outreach, having this message history in one place without searching your inbox is an absolutely massive timesaver. Clever stuff. In fact BuzzStream’s system is quite intuitive when it comes to link building workflow so actions like a link changing to active will also change the contact status – from a management point of view this means you can always be in top of where link building projects are at, and for link builders it gives you a task list of links prospects which still need attention.
Since we first reviewed BuzzStream they’ve introduced a number of nice new features including an ‘outreach’ module which helps you craft templated emails to link prospects or partners using mail merge style features. For anyone who remembers the early link building tools which let you mass mail hundreds of link exchange requests that’s not really the idea of this system, its best used by researching and adding quality link prospects to the database first and then using the outreach to introduce yourself and your proposition, then following up replies with a personal response.
More recently Buzzstream have launched a much improved interface and added a host of new features. The tool now scans your prospect lists to automatically find things like contact details (emails, twitter accounts, facebook pages etc) to make outreach a bit easier. This is a feature which many a tool has tried to get right and in my opinion, frankly, they all fall well short of the mark – saving you a couple of seconds over finding contact info manually but costing you a couple of seconds in cleansing and checking false positives. Anyway, Buzzstreams implementation of contact finding is better than most I’ve seen.
They’ve also built in tools for link prospecting directly from search results pages.
Raven tools also boasts a powerful link management facility and the pro account lets you manage up to 50,000 link prospects. Raven also has a system for adding links to the link manager using a
Firefox Chrome extension you hit the ‘add link’ button and a popup opens similar to the BuzzStream system. A note on this since we originally reviewed the tool, Raven have discontinued support for their Firefox toolbar. This may be personal preference but I found the firefox toolbar far more responsive than the Chrome equivalent. The Chrome bar doesn’t seem to play nice with other popular Chrome extensions like SEOmoz’ Mozbar and it doesn’t load until the page is fully loaded costing valuable seconds when researching link prospects. You can still download the firefox toolbar, although it doesn’t seem to work properly with my latest version of Firefox.
Raven also added a contact finder similar to Buzzstream’s although we haven’t had much success with this – the tool takes up to a minute to run as it scans the site for contact info and in most cases it doesn’t return particularly useful results. In almost all cases you’re better off just looking for contact details manually on the site whatever tool you’re using in my opinion.
Both Raven and BuzzStream will also monitor your existing links and alert you if they’re changed in the future for example if they get removed or the site owner adds the ‘nofollow’ tag to them, reducing their SEO value. BuzzStream will also tell you if the number of outbound links on the page has jumped up, another sign that the links quality may be reduced.
Raven offers a link reporting module which will be useful for agencies running link building campaigns for clients and needing to report on monthly link building activity. There are also some built in link research tools powered by Majestic SEO. These are going to be a useful addition to small businesses and DIY SEO’s who don’t want to pay for additional subscriptions on more advanced link research tools.
Currently the SEOmoz web app doesn’t offer any link management functionality. It does provide comparative data in its dashboard showing your currently link profile against the competition. You can also research links using SEOmoz’ link analysis tool Open Site Explorer. While these reports are useful they’re not really joined up as a single system- this would be my biggest criticism of this toolset at the moment- its too disjointed and not presented in an actionable way – knowing that a competitor has more links than you doesn’t help you to close the gap and build links yourself!
For agencies or in-house SEO’s who are looking to build a business case for link building SEOmoz does offer some useful tools. The link visualization tool, hidden away in the ‘labs’ section of SEOmoz for example builds cool little graphs which are great for giving clients a snapshot of how their links stack up against the competition.
AnalyticsSEO has a slightly different approach in their link building toolset. When you setup a new site on the system they’ll pull in and analyse your link data and start monitoring your links. Within AnalyticsSEO there’s a number of lists of ‘open link sources’ like web directories, article and press release sites which you may want to target for links (depending on the type of campaign you’re running) and the software will also attempt to provide you with lists of relevant high quality websites like universities to target for links. You can also manually add link prospects to the system.
Whether you find this system useful or not will depend on your level of experience and approaches to building links. I can see this being very useful for agencies or in-house departments with junior members of staff tasked with link building who may not be experienced enough to pre-qualify whether a link prospect is valuable or realistic so working off the recommended targets set by AnalyticsSEO would be a good approach. For more experienced link builders or those who have a specific way of building links (like link baiting for example) the process based environment of AnalyticsSEO might be a bit constraining and BuzzStream or Raven, which leave the link research and prospecting up to the user, would probably be better options.
Its also worth noting that AnalyticsSEO builds some impressive looking graphs and reports off the back of your link reports which will be great for dropping into presentations if you can get your head around them!
Similar to AnalyticsSEO, WebCEO offers a number of submission based link building tools, slightly confusingly bundled under the “Submissions” option rather than something like “Link building”. This is really the biggest downfall of an otherwise promising toolset for me. Given the huge slant towards link building as the most important part of almost every SEO campaign I’d really hoped to see more in the way of link analysis and link building tools than a raw link count and a few submission tools. There is a ‘partner links’ tool which fulfils a similar role to the equivalent link database tools in Raven, Buzzsteam and AnalyticsSEO but using this wouldn’t be particularly practical for anything more than a small scale link building campaign with no apparent option to import links either automatically or manually or a toolbar for rapid addition of link partners to the database.
AWR’s ‘Links’ tab does contain some link analysis information, although this stops short of what you might call ‘link management’ – there’s no CRM features like Raven or BuzzStream and you can’t add or delete links, instead AWR really just shows you your backlinks and their related metrics as reported by SEOmoz’ linkscape index. This is a fine added bonus to the rank checking tool and if you’re not actively building links will give you some insights. The historical view of link data in particular is nicely implemented but this is severely hampered by the infrequency of updates to the Linkscape database. This would be far more useful if it used Majestic SEO data (which is more up to date) and then provided SEOmoz’ mozRank scores next to each link which Majestic discovers. If you have a lot of links or are a heavy user of AWR with mutiple sites you’re likely to need to pay for API credits to use the links tool in AWR.
Its worth noting the makers of AWR have a sister product designed wholly for link management.
If you’re purely looking to manage your links BuzzStream has the best functionality here but Raven isn’t far behind. AnalyticsSEO has a process led approach which is well worth a look. SEOmoz undoubtedly provides a great source of link research data, its just a shame their tools for managing and making sense of that data aren’t better integrated with the pro web app. AWR’s link offering feels like its in its infancy – there’s some useful data there for beginners but expert users will want to delve deeper.
I’ve long been a believer that there’s parts of the SEO process which just can’t be properly automated. You really need an SEO expert to diagnose onsite optimization problems and get the most out of your website because while there’s checks you can run and things you can do automatically, no tool will ever be able to spot all the things a human can.
None the less I’m all for anything which streamlines the process. Raven has a couple of tools to help with onsite SEO. The Quality Analyzer & design analyzer tools grade your website out of 100 on basic SEO stuff like use of heading tags, inline styles and page download times. Some of the recommendations here are fairly marginal and are more likely to confuse novice users than actually do them any good, for example restructuring your heading tags is unlikely to help you with SEO in all reality.
This is really only scratching the surface of onsite optimization though and if you’re serious about improving your pages you need to be looking at this in more detail. As you can get the same reports for free, elsewhere this can’t really be considered a feature of the raven package.
The SEOmoz web app takes a crawl of your website and uses the data they gather to make recommendations for onsite optimization. The types of issues it will identify are duplicate page titles, missing meta description, missing pages and even opportunities to improve the keyword prominence on the page to make a quick win in your rankings. The dashboard is fairly simple to use and the recommendations are nice and clear.
I think this is a powerful feature and one I expect to get better with time but right now I think its usefulness is limited. My previous critisisms of this tool have been eliviated somewhat by recent updates as well. The time it takes to crawl your site used to be an issue, often taking 4 days to return crawl data for a relatively small website. Now crawls seem to complete faster and be more complete. However, while the information is useful, much of it can be retrieved from Google’s own free webmaster tools and I do wonder what level of user this information would be really appropriate for. SEO experts will most likely already be aware of the issues which get flagged by the crawl while novices might struggle with the implementation (despite it being made quite simple). This is definitely still a promising feature but right now I feel somewhat limited.
Similar to SEOmoz, AnalyticsSEO gives you a checklist style list of actions to complete in its ‘Site audit’ and ‘On-site’ sections and provides grades on each point so you can see areas which need improvement. For example the screen below shows me I have a number of dead links on my site, drilling down using the ‘optimise’ button will show me which pages have errors which need to be fixed.
This type of report could be great for beginners but could also be misleading. For example the pages indexed in Google report tells me I have 13,00x less pages indexed by Google than my competition, indicating this is a critical issue, which it may well be – but it may just as often mean I have a smaller site or my competitor has serious internal duplication problems with their own site. And here inlies the problem with all of these onsite SEO tools for me – technical SEO is rarely black and white so while some of this stuff will be very helpful, again for junior staff tasked with analyzing a websites onsite SEO, any changes to your website made for SEO purposes should be done under the instruction of an experienced consultant – no tool we look at here can replicate the human touch and to be honest its unfair to ask them to.
WebCEO’s* onsite SEO offering comes in the form of its ‘site auditor’ and ‘SEO Issues’ tools (side note: in general one issue I have with WebCEO is the naming conventions of the various tools were quite confusing and the workflow seems disjointed – I think beginners may struggle to find their way around, which is a shame because once you’re familiar with it the UI of this tool is really quite nice).
The WebCEO tool scans your site for broken links and displays where exactly a broken link is found on a page (including line number in source code) and what is the link that is broken. The ‘SEO Analysis Report’, now called ‘SEO Issues’, provides an onsite keyword optimisation check and general optimisation analysis providing a user with recommendations on how to fix the found SEO issues. Site Auditor produces a report where a user can specify pages and keywords to be analyzed. The Site Auditor now scans very bigs sites (up to 50,000 pages) for broken links and other errors which was previously a limitation of the tool.
Under the ‘research’ tab in AWR you’ll find a few tools which help with onsite optimisation. The website auditor tool is the most useful, similar to the SEOmoz Web App the dashboard will show you errors and warnings about things like broken links but dig a little deeper and you’ll actually find that AWR have built a pretty decent we crawler tool into their software which similar to something like Screaming Frog or Xenu will crawl all the pages on your site and show you technical info like response codes, page titles, whether the page is indexed by Google or blocked by Robots.txt. These are impressive features and may save you purchasing an additional tool to perform this sort of analysis on your site.
Lets cut to the chase shall we. What do these things cost? With each of the tools you’re going to be shelling out for a monthly subscription- one very good reason you need to be sure of your choice of tools before you commit. As with any system of this nature, switching to another tool in the future would be a real pain.
When we first reviewed Raven they had a basic package starting from $19/ month, now the minimum package is the $99/ month ‘Pro’ subscription- for higher volume users the agency account gives you more keywords, users and link monitoring. For full whitelabelling you can add $50 to the agency fee and have the tools hosted at yourdomain.com rather than [subdomain].raventools.com. (See plans*)
An SEOmoz subscription will start from $99/ month which will give you access to all the tools but only a limited number of campaigns in the web app so if you’re looking to use it as an agency you’ll most likely need to upgrade to the Elite subscription for $499/ month (10 campaigns) or Premier for $2000/ month (50 campaigns). Your SEOmoz subscription does give you access to other member benefits as well included within the price, for example you can post questions in their Q&A section and get them answered by their team. I can see this being useful, especially for beginners or in-house SEO’s. Looking through the database of answered questions mostly they seem to be dishing out good advice. (See plans*)
BuzzStream starts from $19/ month with plans ranging through to $249/ month- the size of plan you need will mostly be dictated by the number of projects you want to manage and users you want to access the system so agencies will likely be looking at one of the larger plans. (See plans) Bear in mind with Buzzstream this is just going to handle your link management so you may find yourself needing additional tools for reporting, rank checking etc.
AnalyticsSEO ranges from £99- £2500+ per month (approx $160-$4000 USD in today’s money). As with the other tools the price difference is mostly connected to the volume of sites, keywords and links you need to monitor so agencies with lots of websites will be looking at the agency level plan (£1299/ month) which lets you run campaigns on up to 125 websites and monitor 100,000 keywords. The SME plan (£99/ month) is limited in that you can only monitor 5 domains and 2000 keywords but this does mean the software is within the reaches of small businesses managing their SEO in-house and I think the walk-through approach to SEO campaigns provided by AnalyticsSEO could work well for this type of business, although the huge number of tools and options within the software may be quite daunting at first. (See plans*)
As we mentioned at the start AWR is the only tool we’ve looked at which doesn’t tie you into a recurring monthly subscription – we like this a lot. The standard software costs $99 and has most of the features any solo SEO is likely to need but agencies are probably better suited to the $399 enterprise edition which lets you use proxy servers to gather rankings and export your data for other applications. The software comes with 12 months of support, after that you need to purchase an extra support licence (but only if you need support with something). There’s also an extra charge for ‘link credits’ to use the linkscape API data. This is fairly reasonable (cheaper than running a separate SEOmoz subscription if you’re using that just for link data) but honestly if you’re serious about link building I would probably go without this feature of AWR and invest in a more robust tool for measuring and monitoring your link profile. All in all though AWR represents great value and a far more affordable long-term solution than any other tool we’ve looked at. (See plans*)
WebCEO for me is an easy to understand SEO tool which has improved significantly recently and could be a very good solution for solo SEO’s and SME’s at the silver price plan point of $49 / month . That plan will let you monitor 5 sites and 90 keywords which is probably about right for a local SEO campaign. There are higher level plans designed for SEO agencies and they have a free trial which takes about 10 seconds to setup and although it only gives you limited access to the tools features it should give you a good idea whether this could be a good tool for you. (See plans*)
In all Raven probably offers the best value as its smaller plans do not limit the number of concurrent projects you can manage- making it suitable for smaller agencies or in-house teams who manage a number of sites. The SEOmoz plans are on a really steep scale- even with the $500/ month option you can only run 10 campaigns which isn’t going to be enough for even a small agency. BuzzStream have changed their plans around a bit since we last stopped by, and now the Plus ($99) and Premium ($249) both allow unlimited websites (projects) so I think for all but large agencies where the money is unlikely to be an issue, the Plus plan will be suitable. The big drawback here is you’ll still need to be investing in additional tools to do other SEO tasks like monitoring rankings but these tools are typically cheaper (Advanced web ranking being a good option and starting from $99 as a one time purchase). AnalyticsSEO is competitively priced within its enterprise level rivals but the pricetag looks hefty against something like Raven.
Revising this report to include the new tools and look back on developments to the 3 tools we originally reviewed has been an interesting process. There still probably isn’t any definitive conclusion as to what the best SEO tool on the market is (and I’m well aware there’s some major players, particularly at the top end of the market which we still haven’t looked at). Of the new tools we added in this update I really liked AnalyticsSEO and think that while its taken a different angle to Raven its becoming a serious contender – from speaking with the guys there they seem very knowledgeable and dedicated to building a world class product so I’ll be excited to see where that tool is in another 12 months. WebCEO Online has lots of positives as well but for me probably a few too many negatives to make it onto my SEO tools Christmas wish list.
For me Raven Tools* is still the best all rounder when it comes to SEO tools at the moment. The features covered in this review are only scratching the surface of what they offer and having your Google Analytics, Rankings and link data in the same system opens up lots of possibilities for clever data manipulation and reporting, which I think we still haven’t seen the best of. I said last year that I get the sense that Raven have probably pushed too hard to get a lot of integrations into the toolset, Wordtracker, Facebook, Twitter, Social mention, Analytics, SEM rush, Mailchimp, Adwords etc and I still feel like this toolset is becoming wider when it should be getting deeper but the guys there obviously know what they’re doing and from what I understand business must be good right now. I’d still like to see more of a focus on the tool helping SEO’s with onsite tasks, similar to the SEOmoz web app or AnalyticsSEO as I feel this is a far more pressing issue and bigger opportunity for most internet marketers than having extra integrations with 3rd party tools.
The SEOmoz web app* has definitely improved significantly since I last used it and, for the time being at least, they’ve still got keyword ranking data built in which is, for me , an essential feature of an ‘all in one’ SEO tool. Overall though my impression still remains that whjile SEOmoz have a good selection of SEO tools, they all need to be brought together under one roof to make the system efficient and I feel, agency friendly. Although more functionality has been brought under the web app dashboard you still have to visit several different toolsets and copy and paste your url’s too many times for a professional set of SEO tools. Given the investment SEOmoz are making in other areas of their business I’m a bit surprised they still haven’t developed the Web App into a full blown toolset to rival Raven or AnalyticsSEO, their spin off Open Site Explorer tool continues to be a very useful link building resource and that probably justifies the cost of the monthly subscription but the web app in its own right is an expensive bit of kit when you compare it with something like AWR, which has much the same functionality, but without the monthly costs.
BuzzStream is an excellent tool for link management and for large scale link acquisition campaigns it’s the best thing around, however as a stanadalone tool your link data is always going to be siloed on one system and you’ll need additional tools to manage other aspects of your SEO like your rank checking and Analytics. If your link building team work in isolation or you have a large number of link builders working on a project or across campaigns it can be very useful. I was really impressed with the new interface and features of the tool and I can see more and more agencies and big teams taking it up as Google continues to clamp down on low quality link building and forces link builders to do things properly. Of course any CRM is only as good as the data you put into it so if you choose to use this for your link building spend some time training your team up on the system and make sure they’re using it properly by regularly auditing your data. The support team at Buzzstream are excellent and I’m sure will be more than happy to spend the time making sure you and your team are getting the most from the tool.
AnalyticsSEO* is the best next generation SEO tool I’ve seen to date. While comparisons with Raven are to be expected the more you work with it (and I’ve only had limited time to play with its features) the more you realize it’s a very different beast. I can definitely see this tool becoming many SEO agencies weapon of choice for campaign management and reporting, but I do feel it needs an expert operator to get the most out of it and the link management tool for me leaves something to be desired if we’re going to class this as an ‘all-in-one’ tool.
Although I was pleasantly surprised with WebCEO’s online offering* having spent time with the other tools I can’t help feeling you could get a lot more value by spending a little more money on Raven, AnalyticsSEO or even SEOmoz. Using it I wasn’t sure if I was using an enterprise level expert tool or something aimed more at the entry level, if its the former the functionality and sophistication will leave something to be desired and if the latter I think despite the clean and seemingly usable interface this would be too complex for a novice to master.
Although some might see a desktop solution as old-hat, I really enjoyed not having to login to a slow web app everytime I wanted to check some rankings – other tools should take heed of this – right now every web based tool I’ve looked at has had website performance issues (actually to be fair I noticed this less with AnalyticsSEO). If you’re offering SaaS and charging hundreds of dollars a month you need to be reinvesting in some decent servers capable of bearing the load.
AWR has certainly come along a long way since I first used it and some of the non-rank checking features are really good, especially the site auditor tool, while others like the links and social tools seem a bit like they’re there for the sake of calling it an all in one tool (Raven are also probably guilty of this with some of their 3rd party integrations). Ultimately though I see this as an ideal solution for small agencies and in-house SEO’s who manage large websites but actually anyone who needs to monitor lots of keyword rankings on a regular basis should already have a copy of AWR for its rank checking alone.
As I said last year all of these systems are quite large with lots of features, more than I can cover here, even with a
6000 8000 word post! I’d encourage you to sign up to the free trials and try them out for yourself as that’s the only way you’re really going to find the perfect tool for you – if such a thing exists!
As ever your own feedback and recommendations in the comments would be gratefully received.
*Links marked with a * symbol such as this* indicate that this is an affiliate link, if you click this link and end up buying the product this site may earn a commission on the sale. The use of affiliate links do not compromise the views expressed in this review but for transparency if you would rather we did not earn a commission you can access Raven Tools, WebCEO online, WebCEO Desktop, AnalyticsSEO and SEOmoz Pro using these non-affiliate link. By way of full disclosure we received a free trial of AnalyticsSEO and are either paying members or used publicly available free trials for the other software.
Author: Daniel Rowles