We have a Raven SEO Tools account, and in light of their recent announcement that it will no longer provide Google rankings and will completely eliminate its SERP Tracker tool, as well as all data provided by SEMRush, we thought it was time to see if there were better options out there. We’ll be honest in saying that while Raven provides a lot of great features, the interface is confusing, so we’re not looking for another tool strictly because of the removal of its SERP tracker. (Note that Ahrefs also just announced it is closing down its Keyword Analysis tool, and we don’t doubt that other tools will also have to shut down parts of their service as well, all because Google is getting tough on tools scraping data from them. That makes it even tougher to decide on a tool to use).
Side note: Let’s not rehash the age-old argument that rankings shouldn’t even be tracked. Yes, there are plenty of good reasons why that statement may be true, but similar arguments could be applied to nearly any single metric. When analyzing and optimizing sites, all metrics matter to some degree, and should be tracked and considered, with the understanding that comes with why and how each contributes to the bottom line.
Back to the topic at hand, we went on a quest to find the perfect SEO toolset, and when we use the term SEO, we actually mean organic search and social marketing. We’re excluding PPC although no doubt many would love to have PPC management included as well, but it doesn’t fit into our own personal needs when using an SEO tool. Of course, everyone has their own preferences and needs, but in our opinion, certain features should be present in any comprehensive tool if it is going to earn the status of “perfect”. So far, we’ve failed in our quest, although SEOmoz Pro and perhaps even gShift come close, so instead of announcing a “winner”, we’ll instead present our wish list for the ultimate comprehensive SEO tool, especially for agency use.
The Level343 wish list for the perfect agency SEO tool
- We should be able to easily add a new project, which may consist of multiple sites within the project.
- The tool should immediately prompt us to connect Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to the project, as well as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- When we enter a URL for a project, the tool should gather all the current metrics available for the site and present them nicely. Example metrics at this stage would include PageRank (plus any equivalent proprietary rank that the tool provides such as MozRank), number of pages indexed, number of links to the domain, number of linking root domains, age of the site, social metrics such as number of tweets and Facebook Likes to the domain, etc. Who does this well? SEOmoz Pro and SEOQuake
- Because we’ve already connected to the client’s Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, relevant information pulled from each should also be automatically available – in a summary format – with links to details.
- Full backlink list and analysis. The tool should either use its own index of backlinks or partner with one of the major providers such as Majestic, OpenSiteExplorer, or Ahrefs.
- The tool should spider the site and return relevant information about each page it finds including things like page titles, response codes, meta information, canonical information, and various other properties such as alt attributes, file size, etc. Who does this well? Screaming Frog SEO Spider
At this point, the only action we’ve had to take was to create a new project, enter a domain URL, and link to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. With nary any work on our part, we’re presented with a comprehensive look at the site we are about to audit and optimize.
A word about presentation is in order. Tables are great for displaying much of this information and are indeed necessary for sorting and analyzing data. However, we’d love to see the summary information presented in a way that makes the job easier, and allows us to present the information to a client in a way that doesn’t make their heads spin from data overload. Who does this well? Sitebeam.net creates a beautiful, easy-to-understand report when it analyzes a website (as well as automagically creating a Powerpoint presentation to present to clients). Unfortunately, the data is not sufficient for professionals to use, but the presentation is outstanding. (We also like SEOProfiler’s presentation of data, for the record). The perfect SEO tool would be able to flip between tables of data and beautifully-presented summaries.
Now that we have all the info the tool can possibly provide with very little input from us, it’s time to go beyond the initial data into the project management phase.
- Keyword research is of course a necessity, allowing us to choose from Google Adwords Keyword Tool, WordTracker, etc., and then giving us the option to add the phrases that we want to track.
- Page management is next. We should be able to pull up any page URL and not only see its relevant SEO, backlink and social metrics, but also be able to give input here as well.
- We’d like to not only see what keyword phrases it currently ranks well for, based on what Google Analytics provides, but we’d also like to input the phrases we intend to target for this page. These phrases would automatically be added to the rank checker so we can see the progress over time.
- Likewise, we should be shown which backlinks are currently pointing to the page, and we should be allowed to manage any link building efforts to this particular page here.
- As above, we should be able to not only see which social metrics the page has, but we should be able to input any social campaigns we’ve initiated for this page.
- Finally, we should be able to maintain notes about on-page changes we make, including the date the changes were made.
- Link building and social outreach should be manageable as well. Help in finding both link and social opportunities is welcome, as is managing the outreach process for each.
Reporting and Exporting
This part is fairly obvious and we probably don’t need to go into much detail. We need to be able to see data and we need to be able to track results, including rankings, social love, and backlink history. We should be able to easily create reports from whatever data we’re viewing at the moment, with options to export to PDF or .csv. Standard reports should be already set up and ready to implement, and we should have the option to massage the reports as needed. And of course, we should be able to white label everything!
Of course, the tool should allow us to enter a few competitor URLs which will be used to give insights into how the site compares across all metrics, with the option of being able to dig into the competitor’s backlink profile as well.
As important as conversion optimization is, we can envision this as being a separate tool, or an optional module, so we’d consider it to be a bonus feature for the perfect tool, but not essential.
Of course, we want all of this at a reasonable price! The standard seems to begin at $99/month and we’re okay with that, although we’d like to see the number of projects / keywords, etc. included is not too limited in scope. We realize how costly running such a service must be, but this is our wish list so we get to imagine that we could get all this for a reasonable price, right?
In a nutshell, we want everything, we want it all to be dead easy to use, and we want it presented beautifully. Make it easy and well … perfect … and we’ll be the first agency to sign up. Below is the list of SEO tools mentioned, tested, or considered, in no particular order. Let us know if we missed anything!
Big list of SEO tools
We’ve also reviewed several SEO tools in the past, so when making a decision, you may want to consider what we discovered. You can find those reviews at: