Wouldn’t it be great if an automated tool would tell you exactly what you need to do to grow your website traffic, or your entire digital business? What’s more, what if it could perhaps even implement some of the recommendations automatically?
With that in mind, I’ve reviewed some of the most popular Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and auditing tools to see how they fulfil this vision.
In my assessment I consider three typical use cases:
- Website and SEO performance monitoring
- One-off website audits or general health-checks
- Advanced SEO auditing and management for long-term projects
If you don’t want to read just take a look at the spreadsheet with a summary of tools I’ve reviewed and a quick comments.
Example report: https://seositecheckup.com/seo-audit/what.digital
This tool provided a solid technical SEO assessment, covering some of the points I would normally check during an SEO audit. It doesn’t replace the full site audit though, which is tricky to do without accessing analytics or search console.
Our website scored 90/100, which I believe is fair and I appreciated that no ‘critical’ issues were found; other tools tend to provide more shocking results to initiate action (i.e. sign up to their paid version etc.). This tool gives a fair assessment and I can imagine it can be useful for a quick website check, but I’d not recommend using it to formulate your SEO strategy.
Good for: Basic, one-off SEO audits
Example report: https://www.woorank.com/en/www/what.digital
The free review is limited, but gives a great single page assessment from the SEO, Social, mobile and general UX perspective. You can add and review internal pages, but the assessment is at first glance a bit misleading, because it talks of the website review, but it’s just a single page – you need to crawl to get the results for the entire website.
The paid version (you can currently trial it for 14 days for free, but need to enter a card) provides much more, including tracking of improvements. The website crawl highlighted some duplicate content issues, but it was still quite basic and not all of the problems raised are significant.
Woorank definitely wants to be more than just a simple and quick auditing tool; it looks like a combination of Ahrefs & Screamingfrog, but much less developed. All of their features are easy to find in other tools, therefore other than the single page review, which is free, I don’t think I’ll be using this tool. I also wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, because it uses a lot of technical jargon and lacks prioritisation of recommendations.
Good for: Not sure, average in all categories
Example report: https://nibbler.silktide.com/en/reports/what.digital
Nibbler analyses five pages and gives a broad overview of tools and potential issues, anything from basic SEO issues to the age of your domain. It’s good that Nibbler doesn’t just review the homepage. The results could be useful for someone who perhaps doesn’t know what the standards are on the web, and would like to see if there are any major issues (e.g. is it mobile friendly or accessible). The actual recommendations in the report were basic (e.g. you don’t have a Facebook page – you should set up a Facebook page or add more content), therefore not useful for more seasoned marketers.
NB: Nibbler is a free version of a more professional tool that the company behind it is trying to promote, so I guess the pro tool can do more.
Good for: High-level, general website audits
Example report: https://website.grader.com/results/what.digital
It’s a tool ‘powered by’ HubSpot, so basically the tool checks for things that HubSpot does well and every recommendation basically tells you to build the site with HubSpot! I really liked the layout and the UX of the audit.
The tool found on our website some ‘render blocking’ issues that would impact our page load and the fact that some page titles are over 70 characters – not really a big deal and something that most sites can easily live with. I’ve also entered one of the HubSpot sites and it received a perfect score, so I guess it works for them.
The selection of the criteria is also useful, but it’s more of a lead magnet for HS rather than something that you’ll come back to.
Good for: HubSpot fans or when buying HubSpot and you want to see if your website has issues that HubSpot can address
Example report: sitechecker-pro-page-information-2019-08-15-06_34_22
This tool is primarily for SEO. I’ve signed up to crawl our website in order to get an audit and we scored 65/100 – which doesn’t really mean much as the number is based on their internal algorithm.
The crawler went through 20 pages and gave me a high level overview of some of the most typical issues (e.g. page titles too long). I didn’t understand what all the labels meant – one of the flags was “Low code ratio” and I’m unsure if that’s a positive or negative. I quite liked the individual page report, which is pretty unique and gives a good assessment of content & technical issues per page.
For an advanced SEO assessment it’s not enough. The tool shows internal and external links from a page – but of course what would be much more important is to look at external & internal links pointing to the page from other sites.
I can imagine the tool can be used only for high level monitoring of SEO issues. I can’t see a use case where I’ll be using it – most of the technical issues nowadays are flagged in the search console and for monitoring we need to look at rankings and backlinks. As for a quick one-off audit there are better tools out there that are mentioned in this article.
Good for: not sure, perhaps for high-level SEO audits or monitoring, but it doesn’t give much value over search console
Example report: seowebpageanalyzer-2019-08-16-05_51_21
This tool provides a single page analysis and looks at mostly on-page optimisation aspects of SEO. It’s easy to understand and also provides some explanation of each issue. Unfortunately, some of the sections seem to be out of date; I received a red flag for empty “Keywords” meta tag, and keyword frequency assessment is also less relevant these days. It also didn’t consider all internal links – it found only 6 internal links on the website. It’s possible that the tool hasn’t been updated for a while and has some bugs, therefore I don’t recommend using it.
Good for: Single on-page SEO analysis, but careful because it’s out of date
Example report: ionos-website-checker-result-2019-08-16-05_58_57
I really liked this tool at the first glance, it has a nice layout and I like how the results are presented and even divided into four sections: 1) Be present 2) Get found 3) Be secure 4) Be fast. There is some logic there. Unfortunately, 1&1 placed some sneaky sales recommendations into the audit, which have nothing to do with SEO. e.g. I was recommended to buy additional domains to increase my brand presence! This unfortunately destroys the credibility of this tool and makes it useless for any meaningful website or SEO assessment.
Good for: nothing
Example report: ubersuggest-2019-08-17-06_49_18
Let’s start with the SEO audit. The tool crawled a sample of 150 pages and provided scores based on this sample. Overall our website achieved 83 points, but it’s not clear how this was calculated. Monthly traffic estimation is pretty inaccurate, the tool estimates 18 visits and our search console shows 240 / month! That’s not an insignificant error – that’s like saying the distance between Paris and New York is 430 kilometers. This type of error disqualifies Ubersuggest as a performance monitoring tool.
Does it score better as an SEO auditing tool? Here I was also disappointed to learn that our critical SEO issues were only in 3 categories 1) low word count on some pages 2) a few duplicate meta descriptions 3) some duplicate page titles, not exactly groundbreaking discoveries.
Good for: Free and quick link analysis, perhaps SEO monitoring, but careful because the data set is much smaller than other tools on the market. The tool seems to be under-developed and it looks like Neil still has some work to do there.
Example report: semrush-siteaudit-campaign-2793056-review-2019-08-17-07_12_25
SEMrush make their crawler available and provides a report based on 100 crawled pages. Our site received a score of 73% based on the sample crawl, and highlighted a few technical issues, but mostly minor things that we can pick up and see in search console, such as broken links, incorrect sitemap link, etc. The numbers seem pretty thorough. I can imagine how monitoring the site over a period of time can be useful for the SEO or website manager.
The logic of the SEMrush suite is based on modules. The Site Audit module is rather basic and you need to activate the other functions, such as. on page checker, position tracker, link building etc, which does make it a bit less user friendly. I’ve tried On Page checker and although the on-page recommendations weren’t that accurate, the Top 10 benchmarking was useful, e.g. it really gives you some good hints as to what you need to do in order to get to the top 10 for the particular search phrase.
Based on my 30 min analysis I have to say that the free auditing tool from SEMrush wasn’t that impressive, but I can imagine once you activate other modules and get used to the interface it could be quite a powerful and useful tool for SEO. The tool is also relatively fast and solid, you can tell that it’s been on the market for a while and it’s well developed. I’ll definitely try their GA/SC integration to see what else I can get out of the data.
Good for: Advanced SEO work on larger websites and more serious projects, also not just SEO
I don’t think Ahrefs provides a free trial, but this is by far my favourite tool at the moment so I’m a bit biased writing this review. It could be because it fits the established SEO processes of how I learned SEO back in the day! Ahrefs is also pretty accurate, very close to the traffic estimates and numbers I see in Search Console and Google Ads. I use their backlinking tools and ranking trackers. As for their auditing tools they are mostly for monitoring – I set up their crawler and it checks for errors and issues, but I can live without it because it’s mostly everything I can see in Search Console.
So all in all, I’d disqualify ahrefs as a website auditing tool, but highly recommend it as your SEO software for campaign management, link building, monitoring and competitive assessments.
Good for: SEO Monitoring, competitive assessments, advanced link building and larger SEO projects
Example report: what-digital-screaming-frog-crawl_overview
With Screaming Frog you can enter any URL and let their custom crawler crawl through all available URLs, whilst providing you with real-time view of the process and feedback on any issues. It’s fully customisable and I’ve event tried using it to successfully crawl a PWA (progressive web application). Screaming Frog is probably the best website crawler available, a “must-have” for all technical audits, particularly of larger database-driven sites, e.g. large e-commerce or content sites.
Good for: website crawler and advanced SEO audits
I’ve used Raven tools quite a lot and I really like their easy interface and how they focus on data (e.g. they pull in query volumes from Google, links from Majestic). Overall it’s a pretty useful toolkit for SEO managers, includes a bunch of advanced tools and it’s just a matter of personal preference if you want to use SEMrush, Moz or Raven. I like my ahrefs + Raven combination.
Good for: advanced SEO work and great for audits
Moz is one of the most powerful tools for SEO, but it also doesn’t really offer a free website auditing tool, it has a free online visibility check or keyword explorer to conduct a keyword analysis, but they aren’t really useful. I have used their SEO tools for more advanced SEO projects in the past and I didn’t like how they structure SEO projects as campaigns. It didn’t fit my workflow, but I can imagine it could be quite ok for others.
Good for: advanced, long-term SEO work
Here’re all of the tools I have reviewed. I’m curious to learn what auditing software you use? My current SEO / auditing stack consists of Ahrefs for monitoring, Screaming Frog for larger site crawls, Search Console for search query analysis and more indexation and finally Google Analytics for adding the data context. What I’m missing is still a quick auditing tool that could conduct a quick website health-check and give you a few proper growth tips, rather than just telling you that the page titles are too short. There seems to be a gap in the market for such a tool.