I’m an SEO buff, having had some success with an intuitive approach and some dumb luck. My formula – find the site owner’s strengths, what business they want to increase, and then optimize for either local search or specialized work types, trying to get into their customers’ mind and meet them at their point of maximum pain and proximity – has worked well. When my own business fluctuates, I begin to crave a peek under the hood. Google Analytics only shows the result of my SEO work. I want, as many site owners do, to see traffic and keyword analysis, and develop a clear sense how my sites are performing “under the hood.” I know my SEO is working when people are banging the site form… but, to really help myself others get a full picture, I really need metrics and proof. After optimizing a little more for SEO in my local area, I got an email from Seomator with an offer of a trial. I decided to take it a little further and do a comparison.
All three tools provide screens of comprehensive crawl data, but with a distinct difference. Where DeepCrawl shows a deep set of data facts at multiple crawl levels displayed in charts and lists, Seomator shows not only facts, but also alerts and action recommendations in plain language. Screaming Frog shows complete crawl data, without any hint what it means.
A strong Seomator advantage is their embeddable report widget for use on an agency’s website, able to generate my branded reports for customers as a sales or planning aid, which is a major convenience for an SEO service vendor. DeepCrawl does offer pdf export from its dashboard, Screaming Frog offering ExCel and csv.
Seomator’s crawl information is rich and really useful, showing the under-the-hood comprehensive information I’m looking for. The only way to see this information is to crawl the site.
The first particularly useful item in the report I encountered on the first site I crawled – my web services business site, https://jbq.net – was the existence of an improperly formatted sitemap that had been inserted into my robots.txt by the Attracta SEO tool included by default in my server’s cPanel. Attracta had written a sitemap link into all my sites’ robots.txt file, unbeknownst to me. A manual edit of my robots.txt was enough to clear that issue, although I’m looking forward to my call with them for further explanation (and possibly a little venting).
Seomator’s report is comprehensive and full of useful information. It showed me that some of my category archives, and all my tag archives, were lacking h1’s and descriptions, among other things. Going over the list offered the opportunity to further optimize content in the archives and elsewhere. Although I did this already in my primary category focus areas, it suggested to me that the others needed attention, and my tag archives had to be either managed or no-indexed. I could evaluate from the scoring whether it would be a good idea to index, or no-index, some of the archives that were showing overlapping content.
Other issues included missing image alt tags, too long titles, over-optimized page content (bolding), similar title tags, too long internal link text, and many other useful (and fixable) items with various priority rankings, some caused by my archive setups. I was able to see the areas that needed the most work.
Issues with image and post meta prompted me to look for a WordPress meta editor, which I found in WP Meta SEO, which offers bulk editing capability for many of the issues flagged by the Seomator report. As a full-featured SEO plugin, it duplicates many functions in Yoast, creating 2 sets of meta editing fields in the taxonomy page editors. Since I already have the powerful Yoast installed and configured, I chose to use WP Meta SEO to edit the image meta, then uninstalled it. The changes remain in the database. Yoast also provides index/no-index functionality on a per-item basis throughout the admin.
I build sites in the Genesis Framework, which adds meta functionality to archive pages. It would be nice to see meta field editing on the main Taxonomy editing pages – but neither Yoast nor WP Meta SEO offer that.
Finding the sheer number of missing h1’s led me to verify whether they’re a high priority item, as suggested in the report. These 2 articles in Search Engine Journal shed light on the situation –
If WordPress Tag taxonomy archives are going to be followed, they need to be managed. 3 options are –
- Edit and leverage all taxonomy archives, including titles and descriptions. (The Genesis framework adds this functionality, offering custom fields for the entries that show in the Genesis archive template.)
- Keep tag usage minimal
- Nofollow them in the site admin via your SEO tool.
Given their potential usefulness in reposting to social media including Tumblr and Pinterest, tags can be useful. I’ve made a practice of using them to reinforce on-page heading tags. Unfortunately, that left me with a large pile of unmanaged archives that I had neglected to no-index for safety.
Taxonomy archive index/follow status can be set independently and individually in Yoast (or other SEO plugin), making it possible to set them to “index” on high quality-scoring taxonomy items. For more on this, here’s an informative thread on Moz.com on the subject of nofollow vs dofollow in WordPress taxonomies. It’s possible to make decisions on a per-item basis from the Seomator report, managing them intentionally with some effort. If it’s got a good content quality score, it’s worth indexing, and managing the metadata.
It was good to find no-index functionality on a post-by-post basis in WP Meta SEO in its bulk editor interface, as well as in the archive editor’s Yoast section (via the settings icon at the bottom). On each post, the setting wheel in the Yoast section opens the index/no-index tool.
The recommendation feature is particularly strong in Seomator; not only does it flag issues, it proposes concrete solutions. After resetting my taxonomy no-index options, my Report score increased by 9 points. There are plenty more suggestions contained in the report, among them the implied recommendation to complete my switch to SSL While in the middle of researching this article, I finally activated SSL on my main sites, and gained 2 score points in the process for each.
DeepCrawl has a 2-week free trial. The confirmation came immediately and crawl started within seconds, crawling only the front page. After looking over the settings, I changed the url protocol, and started a re-crawl. I got an email notification of completion after about 40 minutes. Its higher crawl limits revealed a host of 302 response codes generated by Jetpack’s Share buttons. I still don’t know if I need to do anything about that, although I suspect the share buttons may cause more good than than these 302’s. The screens of reports are loaded with information, but without the background and prescriptions offered by Seomator.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Meanwhile, I ran a crawl with Screaming Frog SEO Spider’s desktop tool, in demo mode. A license is £159. It crawls 500 urls in demo mode, very fast, much faster than the online tools.. My demo crawl revealed pages of data, but with no alerts or advisories about them. With unlimited crawling for £159/year, they’re the hands-down winner in the crawl-per-dollar category. It’s a great choice if you already understand the implications of what you’re looking at, making it particularly good for an in-house SEO. DeepCrawl is enterprise-focused, with useful graphical reporting to share with decision makers in a team. Comparing the three, my finding is Seomator is the hands-down winner flagging issues with clear solutions for people just getting into SEO, still trying to understand what it’s about – and as a sales tool for individuals with limited understanding of the field.
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Seomator offers multiple account levels, starting at $5/single scan, 100 urls, through their unlimited plan at $179/mo, topping out at 1000 urls per project.
DeepCrawl offers various account levels, starting at $79/mo through $1950/mo. Their crawl limits are 100,000 for the lowest level, and 4.000,000 for the highest.
Screaming Frog charges £149/year for unlimited crawls.
Aside from the fact that Seomator has inspired a laborious, deep overhaul of my site, its immediate usefulness became clear when a Facebook friend put out a post with new site link and a call for SEO help. I was able to email him a report in less than 10 minutes (new site, not much content) and help steer him in the right direction. Seomator is ideal for small- to mid-level SEO agencies, although it would be terrific to see an option to increase the url limit.
For our agency, Seomator is going to be very useful pre-sales tool to precisely define the scope of the work necessary for new clients to get a site healthy for discovery, and keep it healthy ongoing.