Every one of us who is a part of the SEO ecology knows that building an SEO friendly website starts with having a technically sound structure. You want search engine robots to be able to crawl your entire website without being obstructed by broken links, internal redirects, chunky HTML and unreadable URLs.
There are many things we look for when auditing a website, and there are heaps of tools that help us identify issues that may hinder a site’s rankings. Today, we pit a rookie up against an old veteran. We compare how the Screaming Frog SEO Spider software compares with the Wildshark Crawler tool.
Sharks, Spiders, Pandas, Penguins, we SEO folk sure love our animals!
Screaming Frog is a UK based search marketing agency with years of experience in the digital marketing world. Their SEO Spider tool was created specifically for the experienced user to collect & analyse data, identify any technical issues that could be harming user experience and website rankings, and act as a base from which you could build a strategy to improve the overall health of your site.
The tool is available as a free download, with the full version available for £99.00 (around $190.00 AUD) per license per year. The free version has a 500 URL restriction per crawl which is fine for smaller sites, but if you’re a larger organisation, you’d be better off purchasing a license.
Wildshark is an inbound lead generation agency also based in the UK that provides various lead generation and SEO services. However in recent times the company has branched out and decided to use its knowledge of SEO to build their own software and tools. The Wildshark SEO crawler tool is one such product.
The initial appeal of this product is its price tag, which is $0.00. Yup this is also a free tool that you can download and install on your Windows PC (the MAC version will be released once the Windows version has been perfected.)
Call me a cynic but whenever I see a free product offering, I can’t help but question its quality. But as with all things, it pays to keep an open mind.
Before we get started I would like to point out that this review is based on the perspective of a user who is new to the inbound marketing industry and how easy/difficult they would find it to use these tools.
Ding Ding Ding.. It’s On!
The two tools have been reviewed against one another based on speed, usability and features, data provided, and reporting.
Round 1: Speed
I crawled the Kwasi Studios website using both crawlers five times each and the average crawl time was around 48 seconds for both Wildshark and Screaming Frog.
However, its important to note that while the Screaming Frog SEO Spider was run on its default settings, we had to tweak the Wildshark settings to enable it to come close to Screaming Frog’s performance. This involved setting the Crawl Speed slider to Fast and skipping all External Links. The performance may have improved, but there’s effectivley less data that has been collected.
With the settings tweaked, there wasn’t a great deal of difference in the crawl speed. Though without knowing exactly how their algorithms work, it’s hard to predict how each crawler would handle different websites.
Wildshark: Crawl Speed Setting
Both spider tools were equally quick in crawling our website. We’ll move on to the next round to see who gains the upperhand. Its 0-0 with 3 rounds to go.
Round 2 – Usability & Features
Using both tools couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is type in the URL of the website that you want to crawl, and hit the start button.
The various tabs available cover all the basic information you’re looking for when crawling a website.
The features available in Wildshark are basic, perfect for an overview of the overall health of your site rather than drilling down to the nitty-gritty. Screaming Frog, however, has far more options that allow you to tweak the way you crawl. In the hands of an advanced user it can be an indispensable tool to audit any website.
Screaming Frog: Data Options
The most useful tool in the Screaming Frog Spider Tool utility belt would have to be the “Configuration” option. It lets you configure the spider, include/exclude URL strings, select a user agent, you name it, it can do it. The Configuration menu is exactly like Dhalsim’s limbs, there’s no setting that’s out of reach.
The feature that stood out for me with the Wildshark SEO Spider Tool was the “Keyword Search” tab, which works a bit like Moz’s ‘On-page Grader’. All you have to do is enter the keyword/phrase that you want to be ranking for, and the tool shows you which pages are best suited to be optimised to rank for that particular keyword. It displays the results in SERP form too.
Wildshark: Keyword Search
The Keyword Feature is definitely a plus point for the WildShark SEO Spider. Combined with the other features we covered, it’s more than enough to perfectly crawl a website and give you enough information to come up with an SEO strategy.
1 – 0 to Wildshark.
Round 3 – Data Provided
Here we look at the information that’s provided within the tool itself, rather than the downloadable reports – that’ll be covered in the next section.
Both tools provide extensive information on the URLs that have been crawled, and display that information in the Internal URLs tab that you see by default.
You get a list of all your website URLs, your SEO Meta Data (title, meta descriptions, h1s), broken links (internal and external), redirects, and information on images (ALT text, image size).
Wildshark has a handy little column titled “Broken links” which tells you exactly how many broken links there are on any particular page. This allows you to sort through these 404 errors and fix them page by page. Now, Screaming Frog provides you with this information too, but it’s only available under the “response codes” tab with a “client error (4xx)” filter on. It’s all there, you just need to know where to look.
Wildshark also has a column on the right that provides you with an overview of the state of your site, highlighted and ordered by the nature and severity of the issue. This is great when you need a quick snapshot of the condition of your site.
Wildshark: Crawl Overview
Screaming Frog has quite the visual representation too. The image below shows just a few of the data representations provided by this tool. Anyone working on audit reports will tell you that these graphs and charts are ideal for representing the condition of a site to clients.
Screaming Frog: Visual Representation
Screaming Frog is a clear winner for me here. There’s tons more data available, and even if you’re not going to use it it’s impossible to ignore.
The scores are now tied at 1-1.
Round 4 – Reporting
Reporting forms a major part of our SEO work here at Kwasi Studios. Besides providing clients with a month end update about what’s going on with their SEO campaign, it also allows you to gauge how well (or badly) the campaign is performing.
Wildshark has two reports that you can download and review; an overall “advanced report” and an “error overview report”.
The advanced report is basically an export of all the crawl information that Wildshark has gathered. It has your internal as well as external URLs and all the meta data associated with them.
The “error overview report” provides the same visually represented data you’d see on the right side of the Wildshark tool, but this report allows you to add your own branding/logo to the document.
The one thing missing from the Wildshark reporting is a column with the HTTP response code for each URL. There are many types of response codes that we need to look out for, and each type of code requires a different fix. Including the HTTP response codes in the reports would definitely go a long way to help users make the most of this tool.
Screaming Frog on the other hand, has loads of options when it comes to reporting.
You can download a crawl overview, redirect chains, canonical errors, insecure content and SERP summary report. You can also perform bulk exports of your inlinks, outlinks, anchor text, response code, directives and image data. Screaming Frog really does provide users with a wealth of reportable information.
And that’s the knockout blow. This round goes to Screaming Frog, making it 2-1 overall.
Overall I’d say that Wildshark is still in its nascent stages. But its got a long way to go before it will be able to please more advanced users. However, It’s a good entry point for web designers and marketers who are less technically savvy.
Screaming Frog is still a go to tool for advanced users looking to sift through loads of data. Personally, after a few years of working in the inbound marketing industry, I prefer using Screaming Frog to perform my website crawls and audits. However, it would’ve been handy to have had access to a tool like Wildshark when I was still wet behind the ears.
If you’ve tried either of these tools before, we’d love to hear which one is your weapon of choice.