Raven Tools Review

 

This review is part of the SEO tools comparison report.

raven tools

Introducing the tool

The Raven suite of tools* were originally designed for SEO’s (and by an SEO agency) but they now include 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 has 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.

Rank checking

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 that Raven did better than most other tools.

raven-gwt-ranking

In its most recent incarnation, along with a facelift Raven reintroduced some of its rank tracking capability back into the system. Instead of using “scraped” rank tracking data like they used to, and like the other tools we’ve looked at do, Raven is now using data provided by Google Webmaster Tools which shows average rankings. This is interesting and its the first tool we’ve seen make use of this data so Raven definitely have to be commended for working through the limitations imposed upon them by Google (who threatened to withdraw their API access if they didn’t remove scraped ranking data). The interface they’ve created for measuring rankings using this data has some nice features and you can definitely use this as a guide to how well or badly your rankings are performing. Agencies using Raven for client SEO reports will be glad to see rank tracking back in the toolset.

The thing that lets it down at the moment, and this will hopefully get better as the data improves, is that the average ranking data GWT provide really isn’t very accurate. If you’re running ranking reports you’re probably painfully aware that the difference between position 1 and position 3 can mean a huge amount of traffic and revenue. So Google’s average position figures can really only be used as a very rough gauge of which direction your rankings are moving in.

I’d also question the sense in making your platform more dependant on Google data after Google have threatened your business model by forcing you to remove scraped data. That said, if the accuracy of data improves, Raven could really be at an advantage here because scraping ranking data is a huge expense and challenge for other tool developers.

Link management

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 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.

The link add pop up in raven is a quick way to add links to the system

The link add pop up in raven is a quick way to add links to the system

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.

Onsite optimisation

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 optimisation 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 optimisation 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.

design analyser-raven

Raven’s design analyser tool

A far more sophisticated feature of Raven’s onsite offering is their Site Auditor tool which like Moz Analytics and AnalyticsSEO crawls your site in the same way Google would and looks for potential issues with your architecture, broken links or other errors.

Raven's Site Auditor tool crawls your entire site for errors

Raven’s Site Auditor tool crawls your entire site for errors

This does add some extra value over Google Webmaster Tools crawl reports as it shows information on microformats being used on your pages, broken images and any pages that are missing GA tracking code. As with other parts of the Raven system its also nice to have this data all under one roof and be able to include it in Raven’s client report builder – which is still by far and away the best reporting tool for those using the tool for client work.

Price

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*). The $50 a month fee for using your own domain seems a bit unnecessary to me as it only involves setting up a CNAME record but I guess agencies will be willing to pay this to pass the tools off as their own creation rather than clients finding out about Raven.

Conclusions

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.

Go back to  SEO tools comparison report.

For more like this sign up to our Newsletter
Sign up now for the latest digital marketing best practice, trends and news. You will also get our Digital Marketing Toolkit when you sign up. We will not email you more than twice a month and we will never pass on your details to anyone else. You can read our full Privacy Policy here.
* = required field
Interested in Digital Marketing Elearning - Start Free 14 Day Trial >