RavenTools: The leftover casserole of SEO software
July 01, 2014
RavenTools: The leftover casserole of SEO software
Score 3 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with RavenTools
We currently use RavenTools solely within the marketing department to manage and track analytics across three different websites owned by Action Target. One website is dedicated to B2B lead generation while the other two are dedicated to online sales of consumable products. In the past, we've used RavenTools to track social media engagement, compare SEO health of our own sites to competitors', discover backlinks, create automated reports, and perform site audits.
- RavenTools has teamed up with SEO services like Moz and Magestic SEO to provide detailed data about the SEO health of your own websites as well as how they compare to your competitors' websites. I can directly compare number of backlinks, page speed, domain authority, integration of Google Analytics, presence of robots.txt files, on-site social media engagement, and home page load time. This a great way to get an idea of how your site stacks up against others and what can be done to improve it.
- RavenTools' automated reports are mostly great (I'll cover the negatives later). You can create reports with as much data as you would like and schedule them to arrive as often as you would like. I have SEO, social media, and site performance reports delivered to my team and me every Monday covering the last 10 days, and a broader quarterly report arrives in the inboxes of a few executives once a quarter.
- RavenTools' graphs are often easier to read and decipher than graphs found in Google Analytics. Part of the reason is the graph height. Google Analytics graphs are fairly short, so it's difficult to see smaller variations in the data. Those variations are more pronounced within RavenTools using the data.
- I've stopped using the automated reports. They still arrive in my inbox every Monday morning, but they're not providing the data I need. One, the great looking graphs that you see online are replaced with really bland graphics that often have scale issues (e.g., the vertical axis on the bounce rate graph goes up to 400% making it impossible to see any kind of variation). Two, you can't drill down the data you want reported. It won't report specific data like conversion rates for mobile and tablet users vs. desktop users. It only reports generic metrics which are rarely actionable and usually don't mean a thing. Three, there are often formatting issues within the report (not a huge issue, but it does look bad when I'm sending it to executives). Four, it's really difficult to make sweeping changes to different reports. If you decide there's a specific stat you want to include in the reports you've already created (not too specific, mind you, because that's not possible), it takes a long time and a lot of effort to make the changes.
- The analytics portion of RavenTools leaves much to be desired. It's basically a reformatting of what you can find in Google Analytics, but without all of the flexibility. I would much rather see my web stats in GA where I can drill down the data and make better comparisons across acquisition, behavior, and conversions. RavenTools recently redesigned the analytics portion of its website to present the numerical data found underneath the line graph on top in a different way, but it mostly just turned it into a sea of red and green boxes that is difficult to read.
- The SEO portion of RavenTools isn't very user friendly and doesn't adequately explain what certain metrics are and how they're calculated. For instance, under Campaign->Site Performance, it shows SEO metrics for your site compared to competitors' sites. Two of the metrics provided by Magestic SEO (Trust Flow and Citation Flow) have the exact same definition and are apparently calculated "by the number citations (sic) to a given URL, (sic) or domain." That tells me nothing. Also, there's no explanation for why Majestic SEO and Moz calculate backlinks so differently. When there's a difference of nearly 100% in those statistics, it make you wonder how accurate they are and what they're actually measuring.
- There are content errors found throughout the RavenTools website. This doesn't necessarily affect the functionality (except when those errors prevent you from understanding what a certain metric is and how it's calculated), but it does reflect on the quality of the service in general. I tend to distrust websites that are full of textual errors, and it tells me that they don't put a lot of effort into the user experience (especially since some of the most glaringly obvious errors haven't been fixed in more than a year).
- Analytical analysis in general has had a great impact on our business objectives, but RavenTools has played a very small part in that. The data that matters comes from drill downs which are difficult to do in RavenTools and impossible to add to the automated reports.
- Google Analytics,Adobe Analytics
We selected RavenTools because it appeared very broad and robust, but upon using it on a regular basis, we realized that it was mostly just a loose conglomerate of data pulled from various sources. It doesn't cross analyze and it doesn't allow for the same flexibility in the data that you'll find from the original source (e.g., Google Analytics). From an analytics standpoint, it's not even on the same plan as GA even though it pulls its data straight from there. Obviously, it's a very inexpensive tool, but you really get what you pay for when it comes to RavenTools.
We're currently looking at other options for SEO and analytics reporting that will give us the flexibility and segmentation that we need. The number one choice is Adobe Analytics (there's very little out there that can compete with Adobe, but it's also extremely expensive) or just Google Analytics. GA may be free, but it gets the job done for the most part.
RavenTools attempts to amalgamate SEO, content management, social media, web analytics, e-commerce, PPC, and email marketing into one platform. I would suggest it only if you have one person doing all of those things (which you really shouldn't anyway). It doesn't really make sense for a team because there are far more robust tools available for each of those individual parts, and a free program like Google Analytics can cover the majority of those categories with added flexibility.
2 - RavenTools is used by the people who manage the online stores and corporate website of our company, but only loosely as the majority of the data can be found more easily in Google Analytics with more flexibility as far as drill downs and segmentation. It is sometimes used for SEO comparisons and site audits, but is not used for PPC functions because it is not as effective as other tools available.
2 - If you're using RavenTools for everything it offers, the people supporting it need to have an intimate understanding of SEO, content management, social media, analytics reporting, e-commerce, and PPC.