For some time Screaming Frog has been one of the most valuable tools in every SEO’s arsenal. It is the go-to tool for developers and SEOs that need to quickly crawl sites and diagnose any technical issues. No other desktop crawler really grabbed my attention as Screaming Frog is the obvious choice. It does what I need it to do, it is reliable and offers great value for money.
However, there’s a new tool in town that is quickly building a customer base and appears to be disrupting the crawler market. This tool is called Sitebulb.
I first heard about Sitebulb when one of the founders Patrick Hathaway was asking for beta testers. Patrick is one of the founders of URLProfiler which is a tool used for content and link auditing.
When I heard about the beta, I didn’t feel that the market needed another crawler, I was happy with what I was using so I choose not to test the tool. During the beta testing phase I kept hearing people tell me about how good the tool is, and after the official launch this week, there was a lot more buzz so I just had to give it a try.
For this blog post, I have downloaded a fresh install of each tool and I will use the free trial on my own website. I will judge each tool based mainly on ease of use, speed and presentation of data.
I have tested both tools on my own blog as I have neglected it for a while.
Setting up a Crawl
Both tools are extremely easy to start using. However, there are some differences when it comes to setting up a crawl. When you open Screaming Frog all you have to do is accept their T&Cs, enter the URL you want to crawl and hit start.
Sitebulb takes a bit more setup. Firstly they ask you to register using your email address and password, this is presumably for data capture purposes.
You are then given a handy tutorial that shows you how to launch a project. I skipped most of this as the tool appear to be fairly self-explanatory. You simply click ‘New Project’ enter a project name and start URL and then you’re good to go.
Before the crawl beings, Sitebulb does some pre-crawl configuration such as ‘checking the website’s configuration’ and ‘downloading the website’s robots.txt’ file before you are presented with a few options. The options presented to you include ‘Audit Type’ and you can choose from Standard or Sample Audit, for the purposes of this test I chose the run a standard crawl.
You are also asked what you want to analyse and are given the option for things such site speed, mobile friendliness and international analysis. Each feature has a handy tooltip which is great if you’re not quite sure what each function does.
Sitebulb gives you the option to edit the crawler settings and includes features such as maximising the volume of URLs you want to crawl and how many URLs you want to crawl per second. Screaming Frog has the option to change crawl speed but it’s hidden away in the menu. Crawling too many URLs at once has been known to slow down websites and even bring them down completely. Also, the free version of Screaming Frog does not give you the option to configure the volume of URLs you wish to crawl per second but this is available in the paid version.
Verdict: If you want to get right into auditing a website then Screaming Frog can be set up extremely quickly. Just enter the URL and you’re ready to go. However, although Sitebulb may take slightly longer to set up, I like the idea of them guiding you through the process to ensure that you think about how you wish to crawl the site before you begin.
I also like the idea of setting up a project in Sitebulb that you can easily open again in the future.
The machine I used to run both tools is a 4-year-old laptop so you will probably get better results than I did if you use a have a faster computer. I have to say though, both tools ran smoothly on this dinosaur.
To crawl my site Screaming Frog took a total of 49.59 seconds but Sitebulb took 70.21 seconds. Sitebulb also took a further 2 minutes for the software to prepare my audit after the crawl was finished.
Verdict: If you want pure raw speed then Screaming Frog appears to be the faster crawler.
The next section of this blog post is going to be extremely hard to write. The reason for this is that I think it’s a bit unfair to compare features as each tool serves a very different purpose. Screaming Frog is an extremely powerful tool for crawling websites and has served me well for a long time. However, Sitebulb is different. Sitebulb is not just a crawler, it is a really powerful auditing tool too that produces beautiful reports.
Presentation of Data
Screaming Frog displays most of its data in a spreadsheet format that can be easily exported to Excel. It also has some visual representations of the data and shows pie charts and graphs to give you an at a glance look at your results.
You can drill into data via tabs to get more information on internal links, external links, response codes, Page Titles, Meta Descriptions and H1s etc in a similar format to the Screaming Frog image above. The ability to see SERP snippets is also extremely useful so you can quickly tell how your result might look on the search engine result pages.
Sitebulb, on the other hand, takes a much more visual when it comes to data presentation. They have lots of nice graphs and they make the data a lot easier to understand. Frequently when I’ve interviewed people for jobs or had external agencies pitch for work, I often find that they present screenshots from SEMrush to me. I’d imagine in the near future I’ll be seeing the same with Sitebulb.
I think an excellent additional feature to Sitebulb would be the option to export a full audit with graphs and recommendations included.
This blog post has been quite difficult to write, every time I find a feature missing they release an update to enhance the software. The option to export a full audit is now included and they look fantastic! This is something that I can picture myself sitting down with and taking a client through. Offering a free audit like this to business could also be a really good for digital agencies to generate leads. An example report can be found here.
It would be great if Sitebulb gave you the ability to easily brand these with your own logo at some point in the future, the ability to omit data that isn’t important to you would also be great.
Sitebulb seems to have quite a few little nice ‘hidden’ delights. In the example below, it tells me that there is a 301 redirect linked from the navigation, this allows me to prioritise my approach when it comes to remedial action. There is also a similar report for 404s.
I never thought Screaming Frog lacked anything when it comes to how it presents crawl data but after using Sitebulb it’s clear to see the advantages of having a nicer user interface that surfaces data in an easy to digest manner.
Verdict: I think it’s a bit unfair to do a direct comparison as Sitebulb has clearly focused more on being a tool that produces an extremely useful visual audit whereas Screaming Frog is an extremely powerful, fast crawler that includes similar data but surfaces it in a different manner. For the added features it’s also worth mentioning that Sitebulb comes with a higher price tag, although that has recently been reduced to bring the pricing in line with other tools.
During the crawl, both crawlers did a great job at grabbing the information that you need, but to surface that information and make it actionable it may take a bit more work if you are using Screaming Frog.
Sitebulb is absolutely fantastic at producing insights that you can immediately act upon. They surface the information in a way that makes any problems immediately apparent.
I’m tempted to say that the way they present data would be great for someone starting out in SEO as it almost guides you through the process of auditing a site but I think that SEO veterans will find this extremely useful too. Sitebulb is a tool that someone within a business with little SEO experience could use to audit their website and gain an understanding of whether or not they need to make improvements.
When it comes to the visualisation of data then Sitebulb is the clear winner and it is a fantastic time-saving tool.
When I started writing this blog post I thought it was going to be easy to do a comparison between two crawlers but it was quickly apparent that you can’t really compare both tools.
Screaming Frog is an incredibly good tool that offers fantastic value for money. I believe every SEO should use it. Sitebulb, on the other hand, appears to have a lot of similarities with modern SaaS based tools in the way that it works and presents data.
When it comes to value for money I think both tools are extremely reasonably priced. Screaming Frog is a one off payment of £149 per year compared to £49+VAT* £25+VAT per month for Sitebulb but you can get a significant discount if you buy multiple licenses.
When it comes to running a quick scan I’m going to continue using Screaming Frog for now. It’s an incredibly powerful tool with lots of additional sophisticated features that I haven’t touched on in this article. However, I’m also a huge fan of Sitebulb and I believe there is room for both tools on the market so I’m going to purchase that too.
*when I was originally writing this post, Sitebulb was priced at £49+VAT and came down to a much more affordable price of £25+VAT making it an extremely attractive offer.
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