TargetInternet.com aims to provide practical and easy to understand information on using Digital Marketing for businesses of all sizes. You’ll find a mix of blog posts and articles, the digital marketing podcast and audio training, video and more interactive e-learning all on the topic of digital marketing presented by Digital Marketing trainer Daniel Rowles.
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John Lewis Christmas Cuteness and Kat Von D Lipstick Foul-up – The Best and Worst Of The Week’s Digital Marketing
Target Internet | November 11, 2013
John Lewis have done it again, with this year’s Christmas ad offering a heartwarming tale of friendship between a bear and a hare. For the past 3 years John Lewis have come up trumps with their Christmas ads, using storytelling to convey a Christmas message that goes beyond purely product pushing.
Editor: I love the ad, it’s very smart that the animation style is similar to Watership Down and will be familiar to many of the target audience and it really does the trick emotionally. It was hand drawn frame by frame and was created by Aaron Blaise,the artist behind The Lion King and Pocahontas. It also cost over £1M, which I actually think was good value – many people have argued that this was a ridiculous budget, but I disagree. I’m not normally one for traditional “brand” based advertising, but I have to admit I love this one. I’ll be sick of it soon though I’m sure…..
The ad is really rather delightful and, for the more sentimental amongst us, actually quite moving. (Yes I shed a few tears) Much like the romantic snowmen video from last year, it aims to capture a feeling and an idea of what Christmas evokes for those of us who get completely caught up in it, and this year’s hype shows just how popular these notions are.
The video was posted only 4 days ago and already has had more than 4 million views on YouTube as well as a full length film version shown in the ad break during Saturday’s X Factor.
Not only have they created a memorable ad, but John Lewes have managed to position themselves as major contributor to the Christmas build up, with the release of each ad being an established ‘event’ in the Christmas calendar.
And the worst….
This one is a rather obscure story from the US and involves a lipstick, yes you read that right. Makeup retailer Sephora recently stocked a lipstick designed by tattoo artist Kat Von D entitled ‘Celebutard’. The term was coined to describe certain celebrities whose fame is not based on any real talent and it is not particularly flattering. Following a very public outcry over the name, including organisations such as Down Syndrome Uprising Sephora pulled the offending item from its shelves and apologised for any offence caused.
However Kat Von D, the artist behind the range was not so supportive and tweeted this delightful message ‘At the end of the day, it’s just a f**king lipstick’ before deleting her comment’. Nothing like a bit of a celebrity tantrum to completely undermine the corporate party line.
Target Internet | November 6, 2013
If you’re not a developer you may not have seen the recent updates from Skype about the changes to its desktop API which come into effect in December 2013. If you’re not a developer and worried this change may affect you, here’s an overview of what the changes mean.
What is the desktop API?
The Skype desktop API is an interface that allows third parties to develop applications that communicate with Skype. This could be a headset that is designed specifically to interact with Skype features, or an add-on software tool that builds on the chat function allowing for greater collaboration. It works in the same way as the iPhone or Android app stores where you can download or buy additional software that interacts with your device.
How will the change affect third party applications?
Shutting down the desktop API means that third party applications will no longer be able to interact with Skype and may subsequently stop working properly or at all. If you use any of these products or apps, it’s best to check in with Skype as to whether they will continue working and make alternative arrangements if you rely on them heavily.
Why has Skype done this?
The main reason Skype has given is the inconsistent experience for users across platforms. The current desktop API does not support mobile development and this is an area Skype are keep to improve. It has announced it will be launched updated software that provides its best functions across all platforms, so not matter whether you’re using Skype on your desktop, mobile or tablet the experience will be the same. It seems that, rather than rely on third parties to develop extra functionality, Skype will focus on developing its own software that will create a much better tool for the end user without the need to use bolt-ons.
Is the closure of the desktop API a bad thing?
This very much depends on who you ask. If you talk to a developer of third party Skype apps then yes it is a very bad thing and there are plenty of devs complaining about the changes. For some who have not planned for it ahead of time, it means the end of their main source of income so it could be the end of some careers or even whole companies.
How will this affect the end user?
Microsoft have estimated that around 1 million users may be affected by the change out of the several hundred million users who use Skype. For everyone else, the change will not affect you at all. If you think you are using third party applications (you should know if you’ve downloaded extra bits and bobs) then it would be a good idea to find an alternative now before the changes come into effect. Some of the more commonly used apps include software that allows you record voice calls and tools that allow for interactive collaboration during voice and video chat.
Depending on what Skype have in store for future developments, it may be a step forward for users who could see their favourite apps being incorporated directly into Skype rather than having to rely on third party apps that can be clunky and buggy. Time will tell if Skype has burnt its bridges with devoted fans over this change but it seems Microsoft is keep to gain more control over Skype and the end user experience.
Introducing the tool
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.
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.
Link management/ analysis
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
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.
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*)
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.
Introducing the tool
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.
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. Results are returned quickly after adding your keywords to be tracked (compared to Moz Analytics for example where you might have to wait days).
Previously I have criticised WebCEO for their tight keyword allowances. Whether this is an issue for you will depend on how you use rank tracking. 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. With WebCEO you can now monitor your rankings up to 10 pages deep in Google result pages (previously I criticised the tool for only letting you go 3 pages deep). This does however come at an additional cost. On the Pro plan to scan for 50 keywords on 2 search engines, 10 pages deep, once a week will cost you $18/ month. If you need to run a lot of keyword scans within the tool this is something to be aware of. Probably a smarter way of using WebCEO would be to only use it for rankings on your highest priority keywords and use something like AWR as a standalone rank tracker.
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.
Link management/ analysis
Since we first looked at WebCEO they have introduced a new “competitor backlink spy” tool to their link building toolset. This is a competitor backlink checker with data provided by ahrefs.
This is a useful tool to have in the toolset, particularly if you don’t have access to any other link databases like Open Site Explorer or MajesticSEO. Right now the tool just provides a list of links pointing to your domain and competitors with the associated Google PageRank of each. As a link builder you probably wouldn’t want to be making link building decisions on the basis of PageRank alone these days so it would be good to see some other data points in these reports in future. For example whether a link is followed or nofollow, how many sites link to the domain and the anchor text of the link – this is all information you get about your own backlinks in the “backlink quality checker tool” which we’ll look at next.
The Backlink Quality Checker is a tool designed to help you analyse your own backlinks and the general health of your link profile. As with the competitor backlink tool this also mostly uses data from ahrefs. These are going to be nice reports for your clients to see as “who’s linking to me” is an increasingly important subject for savvy client side SEO managers in the wake of Google’s Penguin updates. Particularly relevant will be the “Toxic” links report which identifies any links which are deemed to be damaging and should be removed. This is a great idea and to my knowledge its the first all-in-one tool we’ve looked at which has done this (there are dedicated tools for identifying bad links like LinkDetox and LinkRisk if you have a serious bad links problem). The actual formula for identifying the toxic links isn’t in my opinion robust enough however, you can configure rules to help you identify bad links as shown below:
The easiest way to spot a potentially harmful link is to see if the domain is indexed by Google – if its not its likely the linking website is penialised. The next check should be whether the page with the link ranks for the keywords in its page title – again if it doesn’t, its likely been penialised. The type of site is also a massive giveaway – if its an article directory or free web directory its far more likely to be an unnatural link. These are the factors I would say this tool should look at rather than trying to work out if a link is toxic based on the sites which link to it and whether or not it has PageRank. Full credit to WebCEO for identifying the need for this type of tool and including it but take the report with a pinch of salt – just because a link isn’t flagged up here as being toxic, there’s no guarentees Google won’t penialise you for it.
There is also a ‘tracked 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.
WebCEO’s* onsite SEO offering comes in the form of its ‘site auditor’ tool. This is much improved from when we last looked at it.
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 ‘SE Optimization issues’ report provides an onsite keyword optimisation check and general optimisation analysis providing a user with recommendations on how to fix the found SEO issues. TheSite Auditor produces a report where a user can specify pages and keywords to be analyzed. The Site Auditor now scans very big sites (up to 50,000 pages) for broken links and other errors in a similar way to Raven Tools and Moz Analytics. The onsite features of WebCEo online are generally pretty good, the reports are very similar to what we’ve seen in other tools, looking at the most critical parts of onpage optimisation. As we’ve said on our other reviews, this is only part of the onpage SEO jigsaw so you shouldn’t rely on automated tools alone but the recommendations here are definitely a good place to start.
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 $69 / month . That plan will let you monitor 5 sites and 100 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*) Agencies may be interested in the white-labelling features which allow you to pass the WebCEO dashboard off as your own tool – it costs an extra $20/ month to host the tools on your own domain (compared to Raven which costs $50/ month for hosting on your own domain).
I was pleasantly surprised with WebCEO’s online offering* having used previous versions and seeing the improvements they have made. If you want your customers to collaborate with you on your own domain or see reports on your own domain, Web CEO Online may be the right tool for you.
Introducing the tool
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.
AnalyticsSEO like Moz Analytics 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 Moz, 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.
Link management/ analysis
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 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.
AnalyticsSEO ranges from £99- £499+ per month (approx $170-$850 USD in today’s money) with larger plans available for agencies and enterprise clients. 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*)
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.
Introducing the tool
Unlike Raven Tools & Moz Analytics, BuzzStream is designed specifically to aid the link building process. It may be a little unfair to put it head to head with the other tools we look at in our comparison report 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 released some new features and a new interface in 2013 which we’ll look at in this review.
Setup & interface
One of our biggest criticisms of the first version of Buzzstream we reviewed was the interface. Thankfully with the most recent version of the tool the interface is clean, fast and good looking (an important point if you’re expecting your link building team to spend all day inside a tool!)
First time setup is simple and takes a few minutes. The most important and potentially tricky part of the setup is the integration with your email provider to allow you to send and receive email within the system. Actually for me this was pretty easy because I use Google for mail but if you have an IT department and an exchange server I think it might be a bit more complex but from speaking with Buzzstream’s founder Paul May I got the sense if you had an issue, his team would work with you to resolve it.
You can also configure the tool to suit the type of link building you and your team are doing by setting up custom link types and importing your outreach email templates. Spend a bit of time getting the tool properly setup and learning all its features and you’ll find you get much more from it.
Buzzstream has no rank checking functionality.
Link management/ analysis
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 equivalent 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.
The “Buzzbar” feature released with one of the most recent Buzzstream upgrades is in my opinion one of the best features of any of the tools we’ve looked at in this report. When conducting outreach to prospects in your lists you can use the Buzzbar to open a bunch of sites at once in a browser style window with key contact information and other details all on one screen. From this view you can look around the site, remind yourself of why you’re contacting this site owner and send an outreach email from a template, all without leaving the screen. This really speeds up the link prospecting process and makes things simple, even for junior staff.
BuzzStream starts from $
19 29/ 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.
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.
Introducing the tool
Moz Analytics is a beta release of the new flagship product from Moz.com – the new name for SEOmoz who have long been regarded as one of the biggest authorities in the SEO space.
The Moz Analytics tool is set to replace the existing “SEOmoz Pro App” tool which we reviewed as part of previous versions of this guide.
Moz Analytics takes a slightly different approach to some of the other tools we’ve looked at. With more of a focus on measuring your efforts rather than actually “doing” and managing your SEO work. At its heart though this is still an SEO tool. Search and links make up over 50% of the functionality within the tool. As with some of the other tools we’ve looked at as part of this report Moz Analytics has reports on social media and brand mentions – for the purposes of this report we’re just going to look at SEO functionality.
Also to clarify at the start one of the biggest misunderstandings some people seem to have had about Moz Analytics- despite its name this isn’t an Analytics platform in the sense of Google Analytics, Omniture or Web Trends. It doesn’t monitor or measure your traffic, rather it pulls in data from other 3rd party and proprietary Moz tools. To that end its highly reliant on Google Analytics – if you’re not using GA you probably won’t get much, if any value from this tool.
Setup & interface
The first thing you’ll notice when you open up Moz Analytics is the interface. It really does look fantastic, easily the best looking tool we’ve looked at in this report.
Unless I’m mistaken though there’s still no report export feature in Moz Analytics or option to give clients a login to the dashboard. This is a real shame because these are the kind of reports which clients would really like to see.
The setup feels a bit buggy at the moment. Authorisation with Google Analytics didn’t work during the setup procedure so I had to go back into the settings after setting up the new account to select the profile I wanted to track. No big deal, its a beta release after all.
Once I’ve input all my settings I get the message: “We’ll start collecting your data over the next week” – this isn’t really what I want to see when setting up a new tool (especially when reviewing it!). Even the Analytics report when you first load it reads “We are collecting your data now. Check back within 24 hours. “ which seems unnecessary given Analytics data can be retrieved directly from the API so as in other tools like Raven you’d expect these reports to be accessible straight away or at least within minutes rather than hours.
This of course isn’t a real issue. 24 hours isn’t long to wait in the scheme of things but in the world of instant gratification from our SaaS services it threw me a bit to be told, right, come back in a day or so and start using it.
Moz Analytics still lets you monitor your rankings using scraped data through their Analytics software. By default this starts to make it look like a much more attractive Raven alternative (Raven Tools having removed their scraped rank tracking last year).
The layout is user friendly and you can track up to 3 competitors rankings. Moz Analytics 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 Moz even if you want to pay a premium, although this probably won’t be an issue for most users.
Moz Analytics also only monitor rankings in the top 50 results of Google wheras other tools let you run deeper ranking results, discovering keywords which rank on low pages, but which might provide an opportunity. If you need to monitor more keyword rankings, or report on deeper results to see how your rankings are moving on deep pages you might want to checkout Advanced Web Ranking instead.
Link management/ analysis
Previously we said of the Moz (then SEOmoz web app);
“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. “
This is still an issue for me. There’s still no management functionality (Moz Analytics is a reporting tool not a management tool) and the link analysis tool within Moz Analytics doesn’t really offer any additional information over what you would see by running your site through the Open Site Explorer tool and there’s no additional features or integration with other tools from this view so I’m not really sure what purpose it serves here.
As I’ve said in previous versions of this guide the main reason for taking out an SEOmoz subscription in my opinion is the access to Open Site Explorer and I think my views on that remain. Although moz.com’s link data isn’t as up to date as other sources it has become an industry standard with their “authority” metrics being the default measurement for link quality used by most SEO agencies.
I guess it would be nice to get notifications of new links in this view (like you get with LinkResearchTools link alerts), or some indication of how links have influenced rankings.
Moz Analytics have 2 tools for analysing onsite optimisation performance. The on-page opimisation grading tool gives you a “grade” for each page on your site based on onsite ranking factors.
The grade’s could definitely be useful. They’re based on the frequency with which a target keyword is used in different parts of your web pages so in that respect they’re fairly basic but if you’re analysing a relatively large site this would be a good way to check you’ve actually got your keywords on your pages. Basic, but totally valid and actionable.
Moz Analytics also has a crawl diagnostics tool, similar to Raven, AWR and AnalyticsSEO. Moz’ tool takes a little longer to run than the others but it does a good job of identifying issues and providing succinct recommendations for resolving them. With the crawl tool’s in all the tools we’ve looked at I’m increasingly thinking that the tool builders are wasting their energy continuing to develop this part of their toolsets when Google’s Webmaster Tools is doing a much better of giving accurate and up to date crawl data now than any of the paid tools we’ve looked at. None the less Moz Analytics has this functionality and beginners will likely find this far more accessible than Google Webmaster Tools.
Moz Analytics pricing ranges from $99 to $599/ month. This price includes access to Moz Analytics with varying usage limits and other Moz tools including Open Site Explorer and Followerwonk as well as full access to the Moz.com community including the ability to ask questions in the Q&A section. You also get sizeable discounts on Moz events.
If you’re just buying this subscription as an SEO tool you might find the price hard to justify as Moz Analytics itself has limited SEO functionality and you’ll probably still need additional tools if you’re managing SEO campaigns for clients to help with reporting and project management.
One of my criticisms of the SEOmoz tools has always been that they felt a bit style over substance. Moz analytics is still a beta product so I’m not going to be too harsh here but the toolset does to me still feel a bit empty and I’m not convinced there’s much of an improvement over the old Pro dashboard which Moz Analytics will replace. However some of the tools are excellent and the content is really useful for keeping you up to date.
According to Moz.com its “The only marketing analytics software that gives you; “all your inbound marketing data in one place” – I’d have to argue this isn’t entirely accurate. I would definitely count email marketing and probably paid search as Inbound channels and there is no mention of these in Moz analytics. If I’m doing a Linkedin or Facebook ads campaign or distributing a video via YouTube there’s no way to analyse the performance of these channels in the platform at the moment. I’m also surprised more local data hasn’t been built into the dashboard given the acquisition of GetListed last year. It is a slick interface and provides some nice looking reports but for me as an SEO tool or more widely an inbound marketing tool it lacks that most important quality – innovation.
So in all, a Moz.com subscription is still worthwhile for SEO’s but for me Moz Analytics on its own doesn’t justify the entry price.
Introducing the tool
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.
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.
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 to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Target Internet | October 31, 2013
Update October 2013 – Due to the ongoing popularity of this report and changes to a number of the tools we’ve previously covered we have updated again in October 2013. In an effort to reign in the ever expanding word count and make the report easier to navigate we have moved reviews of the individual tools onto separate pages. The main updates in this revision are to SEOmoz which has rebranded as Moz and launched their new Moz Analytics product – this replaces the previous SEOmoz Web App part of this report. Please keep the comments coming!
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 Review | Visit the Raven tools website*
- Moz Analytics Review | Visit the Moz Analytics website*
- Buzzstream Review | Visit the BuzzStream website
- AnalyticsSEO Review | Visit the AnalyticsSEO website*
- WebCEO Online Review | Visit the WebCEO Online website*
- Advanced Web Ranking Review | Visit the Advanced Web Ranking website*
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||Our review|
|$99-$249/ month||Huge range of tools under one roof||Small to medium sized agencies||Sign Up||Raven Tools Review|
|$99-$499/ month||Open Site Explorer||In-house SEO's||Sign Up||Moz Analytics Review|
|$29-$249/ month||Large scale link management capabilities||Serious link builders||Sign Up||Buzzstream Review|
|$160-$4000/ month*||Enterprise level campaign management||Mid to large agencies||Sign Up||AnalyticsSEO Review|
|$69-$299/ month||Simple, fast tools, customer collaboration||Independant SEO's and small agencies||Sign Up||WebCEO Review|
|$99-$1499/ one-off||Desktop solution with great rank checking features||In-house SEO's & large sites||Sign Up||AWR Review|
*Approx price converted from GBP for the sake of comparison
Our conclusions & the state of SEO tools in 2013
Please do read through each of the tool reviews to find out which tool is right for you. Since the first version of this report nearly 3 years ago each of the tools we’ve looked at have undergone constant changes and improvements. In all Raven tools remains our favourite SEO tool. It has the most features and offers the most complete toolset. In addition to the range of SEO tools which you get with Raven there’s also other useful tools for managing PPC campaigns, email marketing, social media and reporting. Its good to see other tools taking a different direction however. For example Buzzstream has resisted the temptation to become anything other than a link building tool and as a result is by far the best solution on the market for serious link builders. AnalyticsSEO have developed probably the most enterprise ready SEO tool with powerful reporting features making it a good option for larger SEO agencies.
Although we weren’t blown away by the first release of Moz Analytics the direction its going in which is to move away from pure SEO metrics and towards a more all encompassing reporting tool for inbound marketing channels seems sensible. WebCEO’s online version has also made significant steps forward since we first looked at it and AWR is now more relevant than ever as a tool, given Google’s recent moves to remove all SEO keyword data from Analytics reporting, having a clear picture of your search engine rankings is going to be more important than ever.
Author: Daniel Rowles
Target Internet | October 30, 2013
Daniel and Ciaran walk us through some more tools and tips that have grabbed their attention over the last few months. We explore a mind-mapping and diagram tool that’s great for site maps, a great Google penalty checker tool, a free cloud based graphics editor and explore parallax websites. There is also another bad impression from Ciaran and he defines a new technical term “Texty Bad Boy”.