This review was last updated in March 2019 and is part of the SEO tools comparison report.
Introducing the tool
The Raven SEO suite of tools* was originally designed for SEO’s (and by an SEO agency) but they now include quite a few extra features that would benefit other disciplines of digital marketing, including integration with a number of email services, social profile data integration and PPC Ad reporting and CallRail integration. For this review, we’ll stick primarily to the SEO features, but as you will discover, Raven Tools is a reporting powerhouse.
Early iterations of Raven SEO were widely celebrated for their keyword tracking capabilities – but that all changed in early 2013 when Raven removed their rank tracking system following pressure from Google. They must’ve been doing something right. We got to speak with Raven Tools founder John Henshaw about this whole episode of the company’s history, and you can hear the interview here. That’s all water under the bridge now though, and we’re pleased to say that Raven’s keyword rank tracking is now back online and better than ever. More on that later.
Raven Tools is a fully hosted web app, like all the tools in this comparison, and its biggest selling point is the sheer number of integrations it provides with 3rd party tools to pull all your campaign data together. When we first reviewed Raven in 2010, we were excited by the electric pace of development as they rolled out new integrations and features regularly. Previously we reported that this development seemed to have slowed down. However, there have been a number of improvements since we last updated this review, so clearly, they are still refining the system and making improvements to the interface and reporting options.
We were disappointed by the decision to remove rank tracking back in 2013. With more personalised search results, rank checking is perhaps not as easy to accurately do as it was back in 2013 but its removal was a big hole in the tool set’s capabilities. It was something of an elephant in the room for Raven until 2018, when they tackled it head on and polled their users to see how many would like a rank tracker added. The results, 98% of users said they’d value rank tracking coming back. In August of 2018, a brand new Raven SERP Tracker was rolled out. That’s great news for marketers wanting an all-in-one SEO solution, as tracking site performance against keywords is so useful for establishing progress with your SEO efforts.
First off, the basics: keyword tracking results on Raven are based on keyword, destination URL and search engine (e.g. Google/Bing/Yahoo). The interface gives you two reads on each keyword. You track its latest position and its average position over time. The new SERP Tracker allows you to track keyword rankings on five different search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo, as well as Yandex and Baidu. We haven’t seen many SEO tools including this many SERP rank tracking options, so this is a definite plus.
A more advanced feature of Raven’s SEO rank tracking that helps set it apart from some of Raven Tool’s competitors is the option to narrow down tracking according to postal code or location name. If you’re marketing a bricks-and-mortar business or running a geo-targeted campaign, this capability will be indispensable. Although you will be aware that services such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools can provide average positioning data for your top keyword traffic, the data supplied in Raven by Authority Labs provides actual real-time rank checking and allows you to drill down and search localised rankings on Google to specific areas or postcodes if you wish.
Another benefit is Raven’s options for making rank tracking more efficient and manageable. You can schedule rank checks to take place automatically on your chosen day(s) of the week, and tracking of a keyword’s performance on an individual search engine can be expanded to bulk tracking across multiple search engines in the space of a few clicks.
Rank Position Checks
All Raven subscription levels get 1200 Rank Position Checks (RPC’s) a month to use as part of any subscription. You can check your keyword rankings on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis with SERP Tracker, with initial results appearing within 24 hours. The RPC’s generated by a single keyword are calculated by multiplying the frequency that a keyword is checked (i.e. Daily, Weekly, or Monthly) by the number of search engine variations that you’re reviewing. Bear in mind that each additional search engine you add to your check is going to eat up additional rank checks so you can quickly eat through that budget if you set the frequency of rank checks high and run the rank checks across multiple search engine variations. However, given that each additional RPC beyond your initial 1200 only costs $0.003 there is plenty of flexibility. Many other tools require you to step up your whole subscription costs if you go beyond that subscription tiers limit, but with Raven’s SERP tool you don’t have that issue.
As well as giving you live position rankings from Authority Labs, Raven also allows you to link to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools. You can pull their average web ranking data as well as other useful contextual metrics such as search volume and average monthly searches.
Raven’s Link Manager is a powerful link management facility, providing a dedicated CRM for backlink monitoring and competitor analysis. It taps into the Majestic database to discover up to 50,000 backlinks for any URL.
You can also manually add any links or import links from spreadsheets as well as auto-import links found in Google Analytics which is a great time saver. All your backlinks – including those discovered via Majestic and any you’ve added manually – can be easily monitored using the Raven Tools Backlink Explorer, which flags up important considerations such as toxic links and no-follow-tagged links. You’ll be able to see the authority (trust flow), type and anchor text of each link.
The other dimension to Raven Tools backlinks reporting is Link Spy – a competitor analysis tool that analyses links to your rivals’ websites in much the same way Raven checks backlinks to your own. This is a useful resource for performing a gap analysis between your current search performance and your goals. Gaining a vantage over the backlinks that feed into a competitor’s high search visibility will give you a basis for emulating and potentially surpassing their success.
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 data from Majestic SEO, Moz and Open Calais. 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.
We’ve long been a believer that there are parts of the SEO process which just can’t be properly automated. You ideally need an SEO expert to diagnose onsite optimisation problems and get the most out of your website because while there are checks you can run and things you can do automatically, no tool will ever be able to spot all the things a human can.
Nonetheless, we are all for anything which streamlines the process. For many years Raven’s Site Analyser did precisely that in some very client friendly ways. However, there’s a new tool on the Raven Block, and it’s even better than Site Analyser. The new tool is called Site Auditor and it crawls your site in the same way Google would, looking for potential issues with your architecture, broken links or other errors. If you have existing audits in your account using the old tool, they will still be available, but Raven is offering everyone the opportunity to switch to the new service and its definitely an upgrade if you do (Just be aware, you will lose previously run audits so store what you need offline and proceed around that upgrade option carefully when it’s presented to you).
The Site Auditor was rebuilt from the ground up as a stand-alone tool back in 2017. It’s a tool we have used a lot at Target Internet. It gives a great way to quickly analyse websites from an on-page optimisation perspective and give you a good overview of not only the number of errors but detailed instructions on what needs to be done to fix the reported issues.
We also love the simplicity of the scoring system the site auditor uses. Each website you audit will be given an overall SEO score of between 0 and 100. In our experience, if you can get your site to score in the 80’s you will typically be doing rather well with your organic traffic. That’s perhaps an overall simplification, but in a complex world, simple targets and goals are a great bonus. We’d argue anyone can understand that if their site audits were scoring 50 when work first started and with time and effort could score 80+ then all involved are going to have a sense of how far the SEO work has potentially moved the needle. Of course its traffic and actual conversions that give you the best steer on ROI, but in a world where changes take many weeks and sometimes months to make a difference, the overall score is a great place to focus and something everyone in the project can understand.
We particularly like the ability to mark any reported errors which is hugely useful when you have a team involved in fixing different aspects of what the tool finds. It’s a simple feature but is so powerful when it comes to getting things done. Another significant strength is the ability to share reports with your clients or teams involved in the work. All the audits are stored online so it makes sense that others can view them like this without needing a subscription or requiring access to the entire Raven toolset. We have shared these reports with lots of marketers, and the feedback is always overwhelmingly positive. They are very simple to read, and because they are online, you can click into any of the issues reported on for details on what you can do to fix the reported problem. These more detailed insights can help anyone learning SEO to get to grips with critical issues surrounding onsite optimisation and how to go about fixing them.
Raven’s site auditor reports have always been massively popular. Many agencies use them as they are so easy to rebrand, and it’s very likely you may have received these reports from agencies pitching for your SEO business. It may look like hours and hours of work went into creating you a customised and detailed report but in reality, it’s a quick and automated process executed well.
The audit highlights issues relating to:
• Page Speed for Desktop and Mobile
Having such an exhaustive rundown of on-site SEO factors can be useful for highlighting the blind spots in your optimisation. That said, it’s important to bear in mind that some on-page factors will have a more significant impact on your site’s performance than others, and these should be your priority. Site Auditor gives you a colour key indication of the level of importance of each of the key areas it highlights, and this is a useful guide to those new to on-site optimisation.
For those of you who are curious: yes, Raven Tools Site Auditor 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, it’s nice to have this data all under one roof and be able to include it in Raven’s report builder – which we think is still by far and away the best reporting tool for those using the tool for client work. As the auditor is available as a stand-alone tool its something you can give a trial on up to 50 pages without needing to sign up for Raven Tools. You just need a Google Account. Give it a go on your site at auditor.raventools.com, and you will start to appreciate how useful this tool is. We have tried lots of different automated SEO auditing tools, and this one is definitely one of the best in our opinion.
During the period when Raven had no rank tracking functionality, the company had to work extra hard to compete with all of the other SEO tools which were allowed to continue tracking search engine rankings. In particular, Raven worked hard on the reporting functionality. We used this when it first came out and, to be honest, it’s first iterations were buggy, but those bugs have been ironed out and the tool has blossomed into a really functional drag and drop reporting suite.
Raven’s whole philosophy has always been to deliver all the data and information a proactive marketer requires all under one roof. Raven’s new WYSIWYG report builder is the powerhouse that provides this, replacing an older reporting tool called Report Wizard which they retired in 2013. Its job is to build, automate and store all of your custom reports. It’s one of the most flexible reporting tools we’ve seen in any integrated SEO toolset. Data can be reported on from a variety of useful analytics services including Google Analytics, Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools. You also have robust reporting for Google Ads, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads. If Social campaigns are key, you can also connect and report on data from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn social accounts. Raven tools also integrate with popular email platforms including Mailchimp Campaign Monitor, EMMA, AWeber and Constant Contact. They also have CallRail integration for reporting on phone call data. With access to this many multiple reporting systems and an easy to use drag and drop interface, the tool is capable of knitting together all sorts of vital data.
The reports themselves have been well structured and thought through. Ready-made sections can be pulled in for any of the above services, including all of the key metrics from that service you might want to report on. Better still, these readily made sections can be edited, reorganised and adjusted to suit your requirements. It all leads to the rapid production of impressive-looking reports. If you really want more control than the premade widgets offer you can create your own custom widget to give really fine control over what you report on and how. Just be aware that custom widgets will slow down the rapid roll out of your reports so work with and explore the ready-made widgets first as these are also very tweakable. The designers have struck a great balance between ready-made templates and allowing fine control for users to customise and reorganise those reports quickly and easily. Data can be displayed as a KPI, a graph or chart or a table. It really is very logical and flexible. We only wish more online reporting tools were this easy to get at and fine tune.
The tool also provides custom template functionality so reports you have built can easily be saved as a template and then fine-tuned for multiple teams or clients. Reports can be output as responsive web pages with roll over graphs and charts that give an extra perspective on the report data, or as attached email PDF’s. Custom logos and even custom domains for the online reports can be utilised to give a fully branded experience for your organisation or agency. Scheduling is another excellent time-saving feature of the reporting tool. As well as scheduling the report to be compiled, you can automate regular emails to deliver your reports all within the tool. If you have a lot of team or client reports to run each week, this feature alone is a massive time saver. Overall, creating reports with Raven is an enormous time saver and one of the key benefits of the product. Powerfully insightful and ridiculously simple to generate, the Raven reports give dedicated dashboarding and reporting tools a real taste of how things can be done better.
Search Engine Marketing
As search engines continue to reduce the space given in SERPs to make room for pay per click advertising, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has become something of a buzzword among marketers. The idea behind SEM is to combine the efforts of SEO with Pay-per-click advertising to achieve the maximum traffic and exposure for your site and content. With this in mind, Raven now has a dedicated section for Ads, allowing you to pull up detailed reports on performance from Google Ads, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads. You can, of course, create your own custom reports for these using the reporting tool, but the ease with which Raven’s Ads dashboard allows you to get to critical Ad metrics and data means you have a robust advertising dashboard to operate from. The ads tool can be hooked up to Google Ads, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads. Let’s take a look at how Google Ads data is organised.
As well as an overall summary, you can choose to look at Performance, Schedule, Top Performance, Video Ads, Geo (geographic targeting) Insights, Shopping and Dynamic Search Ads. The Network, Devices or Click Type sections can further filter any one of these. For the marketer running paid ad campaigns on one or multiple platforms, it’s a real bonus to have all the key metrics you need for your campaigns available in one place with such easy to apply filters and segmentation.
Raven Tools Pricing
Raven Tools offers five standard tiers of pricing:
• Small Business: $49/month
• Start: $109/month
• Grow: $199/month
• Lead: $479/month
With a starting price for the basic Raven Tools package currently set at $49/ month, Raven Tools is competitively priced for the features and functionality you get. A quick preview of the plans comparison shows that, except for full white labelling, all of the functionality is available across their full range of subscriptions. That’s not too big a deal since the ability to white label the service would only really be of interest to a larger agency who would need the higher tiers of subscription to operate the platform for multiple clients. There are, of course, a few limits such as the number of sites you can monitor and the total number of user accounts that can be created in each subscription level but the largely full functionality provided for all users whatever their subscription level is a stand out for us. In line with many subscription services, an additional discount (30%) is available for annual plans (See plans*).
Your level of subscription will determine the number of domains you can analyse, how many users you can have, and how many position checks you can do per month. The Start subscription, with its provision for 20 domains/campaigns, four users and 15,000 position checks per month, should be adequate for most SMEs, while larger companies and SEO agencies may require a higher-tier subscription.
For us, Raven Tools* is one of the best all-rounder SEO toolkits on the market. In particular, the way Raven have enabled almost full functionality for all subscriptions is a real edge.
In previous reviews, we were critical of Raven’s high monthly subscription cost which used to start at $99 a month, but now Raven have a Freelancer tier at $49 with plenty of data and keywords, the tool is competitively priced. As you grow, Raven’s data allowances can grow with you with support available for all size businesses. Enterprise pricing is available for clients requiring a very high volume of users, domains, keywords, crawls or backlinks.
The toolset has become so well rounded over its years of development that it could benefit any marketing team, becoming the go-to system not just for SEO but for Search engine marketing, Link building, or even Influencer marketing or Affiliate management. Reporting and access to multiple industry-leading data sets and services is a massive strength of this product.
For many years the team at Raven have opted to leverage on the best tools and data available for their customers rather than settling on always trying to develop their own bespoke services, and this approach enhances the products appeal. You get the benefit of all those integrations, but you only pay one monthly subscription fee. Granted you won’t get all of the features of those integrated services, but what you do get is super useful.
SEO and indeed digital marketing overall has always been about spotting trends and patterns, and Raven’s reporting functionality has been built and designed to make that practice as smooth and fluid as possible. The features covered in this review are only scratching the surface of what Raven offer and having your Google Analytics, Rankings and link data once more, and all in the same system opens up lots of possibilities for clever data manipulation and reporting.