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In this GrowthBar review, I take an in-depth look at a tool that aims to provide key SEO functionality at a much lower price point than its competitors. Can you run a successful SEO project with this new app, or are you better off using a more established solution? Read on to find out…
Our overall rating: 4/5
Keyword research and backlink building are absolutely vital aspects of search engine optimization — but they can be very expensive activities.
Many of the leading SEO tools currently cost a minimum of $99 per month; and hiring an agency to work on an SEO campaign can involve a much larger investment than that.
Spotting a desire amongst startups and businesses on a budget to avoid these sorts of costs, growth marketers Hailey Friedman and Mark Spera have come up with a new product, ‘GrowthBar,’ which aims to provide key SEO functionality from a much lower price point — $29 per month.
And in this review, I’m going to look at how well it meets that goal.
Let’s start with a key question…
What is GrowthBar?
GrowthBar is a low-cost SEO tool that can be used in two ways.
First, it can be used as a standalone web app — where you log in, enter keywords, access stats and so on.
However, it can also be used as a Chrome extension, which differentiates it from most of the well-known SEO tools out there — Moz, Semrush, Ahrefs etc. — which tend to work exclusively as standalone web applications rather than plugins or extensions.
If you’d like to use the GrowthBar Chrome extension, you’ll obviously need to ensure that you have the Chrome browser installed on your computer; you’ll also need a Google account.
The ‘standalone’ version of Growthbar
The philosophy behind GrowthBar is to ‘strip out’ the more advanced SEO features that are typically provided by the established SEO tools, so that users can focus on the absolutely vital metrics.
Accordingly, when you log into the ‘standalone’ version of GrowthBar, you only see 4 menu items:
- A site inspector — this gives you basic information on a website (authority, estimated traffic per month, backlinks, Google CPC data and a link to Facebook ads that the website is running)
- A rank tracker — this lets you enter a domain along with a list of keywords and check / track how it ranks for them.
- Keywords and content — this allows you to find out how many searches there are for a given keyword and also gives you some ideas on the kind of content to create to target it.
- Profile — this allows you to update your account information.
Let’s look at each of the SEO features in turn.
The site inspector lets you enter a domain and then shows you:
- its authority
- an estimate of the monthly traffic to it
- a ‘plus’ icon which lets you view key backlinks to the domain
- a Google icon which lets you view information about the Google ads that the owner of that domain is running, plus associated ‘cost-per-click’ data
- a Facebook icon which shows you the Facebook ads that have been run by that domain
- the keywords for which the site currently ranks highly.
Although the data provided is very simplistic by comparison to the sort of domain analysis you’d see in more expensive apps like Ahrefs or Semrush, it nonetheless provides a clear overview of the essential information you might want to find out about a domain.
One thing to be slightly wary of however is the ‘organic traffic’ estimate; on some occasions (and based on having access to traffic data for quite a few sites) I found the GrowthBar estimates were way out.
To be fair to GrowthBar however, this is often also the case with SEO tools in general — the traffic estimates you get from Ahrefs and Semrush can be wildly inaccurate too at times. Regardless of the SEO tool being used, it’s generally best to use traffic estimates as indicators of trends rather than absolute gospel.
Overall, you’ll find that GrowthBar’s Site Inspector gives you the key information you’ll need to sense check a website’s SEO condition — either yours or a competitor’s — but I would like to see one metric added: a ‘total backlinks’ figure that lets you see exactly how many backlinks point to the website you enter.
Although you can access a list of key backlinks to a site, this is limited to 500 links — there doesn’t seem to be a way to gauge precisely how many links point to a specific domain.
What about broken link building?
A link building tactic that you won’t really be able to engage in using GrowthBar is broken link building.
Broken link building involves identifying content in your niche that is no longer live, recreating a version of it and then approaching webmasters who had previously linked to that content (asking them to replace the broken link with a link to your new resource).
Unfortunately there isn’t really a way in GrowthBar to identify these broken links — so if this particular SEO tactic is important to you, you’ll need to look elsewhere (other SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs do have this as a core feature).
The rank tracker
GrowthBar’s rank tracker lets you enter a domain and a keyword and see
- a monthly traffic estimate for that domain
- how high that domain ranks for the keyword you entered
- how hard it will be to get onto page one of Google search results for the keyword you entered
- suggested keywords that will help you rank on page one of Google search results
- the average word count of the content ranking for your keyword on the first page of Google’s search results.
You can use this section to keep tabs on how your ranking is progressing over time, thanks to a ‘best rank’ and ‘change’ column in the data table, and a graph on the right hand side of the screen.
This effectively gives you ‘sense checking’ data rather than a detailed analysis of how your ranking for a particular keyword has progressed over time — but again, that’s the whole point of GrowthBar: to give you stats which are easy to access and to understand.
A way to save money on GrowthBar
For a limited time, GrowthBar are offering a 20% discount on their plans (for the first three months of your subscription. Just sign up for a free trial and then use the code ‘stylefactory’ when purchasing a plan.
The ‘keywords and content’ section
As the name indicates, GrowthBar’s keywords and content section lets you do two things:
- get keyword data / suggestions based on a phrase you enter
- get content suggestions based on that phrase.
As you can see from the above screengrab, the keywords section shows you
- the number of searches per month for a phrase entered
- how hard it will be (on a scale of 1 to 100) to rank for that phrase
- a list of keyword suggestions based on the phrase.
All very useful stuff — but there is an important omission: the keyword suggestions are not accompanied by their keyword difficulty scores.
This means it’s hard to know which keyword opportunities suggested are actually worth pursuing. Granted, you could enter individual keywords back into GrowthBar to get this data — but that would be a rather time-consuming affair.
As for the content generator tool, this is an interesting new ‘AI’ feature which aims to provide you with ideas for new blog posts based on a keyword you enter.
Not only does this give you a suggested article title, but you also get a list of recommendations regarding how long the article should be, how many times a focus keyword should be used, how many H2s and H3s to use, who to link to and more.
A panel of suggested images for your content is also displayed; this gives you an idea of the kind of imagery that is currently being used on articles that are currently performing well.
As for how all this works in practice it’s a bit hard to say — as I haven’t attempted to create a post yet based on GrowthBar’s recommendations! But the ‘content generator’ idea is definitely interesting, and at the very least gives you a lot of useful food for thought regarding the sort of things you might want to write about.
There are two things which I feel could enhance this feature considerably however:
- some data on the number of searches relating to the article title suggested
- an idea of the number of backlinks you’ll realistically need to source in order to get your new article to rank.
Trying GrowthBar out for free
Like many competing SEO tools, you can try GrowthBar out for free before committing to it. The company has made a 5-day free trial available, which you can access via this link.
The Chrome extension
As discussed above, GrowthBar comes in two flavours: the ‘standalone’ version, which I’ve just covered, and a Chrome extension.
The Chrome extension basically changes all your Google search results so that in addition to providing descriptions of and links to relevant web pages, they also display SEO metrics. This is an interesting idea, and possibly the thing I like most about GrowthBar.
Once you’ve added the GrowthBar extension and entered a keyword into Google, the first thing you’ll see is a ‘keyword difficulty’ score for that phrase. This give you a sense of how hard it will be to rank highly in search results for it (the higher the value returned, the higher the difficulty).
You’ll also see a little strip (the ‘growth bar’ itself) underneath each search result.
This gives you the following data about each website in the results:
its domain authority
an estimate of organic traffic to it
the top keywords that it ranks for
the top backlinks pointing to it
any paid keywords being used by that site
any Facebook ads being run by it.
In some cases — for example, where domain authority and organic traffic stats are concerned — the data is immediately visible.
In others, you need to click on a plus symbol on the strip to see the data. Doing so brings up a box containing the relevant metrics.
You also see a little ‘Words’ link beside each search result; clicking on this shows you its word count.
This is useful data, as there is often a correlation between page length and performance in search results. Knowing how many words are in a top-ranking article can help you craft a piece of content that is of a similarly SEO-friendly length.
That said, I didn’t always find that the word count provided was paricularly accurate; so there is definitely room for improvement here.
There’s no doubt about it: GrowthBar is ridiculously easy to use.
This is possibly because it’s considerably less feature-packed than most SEO tools — but it’s also down to the fact that a lot of thought has gone into prioritising key SEO features, ensuring that they work in a simple way, and presenting the data provided in an easy-to-understand format.
So long as you are familiar with the basic principles of SEO, the ‘standalone’ version of GrowthBar involves virtually no learning curve at all.
The Chrome extension version is also sublimely easy to work with — it’s simply a case of entering phrases into Google and having all the key metrics put right in front of you.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to imagine new users having too much difficulty learning how to use GrowthBar.
So long as you’ve got a basic understanding of key SEO principles, you’ll find GrowthBar very easy to get to grips with — and this is one of its key selling points.
Pricing and value for money
Ease-of-use aside, the best thing about GrowthBar is the price of its entry-level plan, ‘Standard’ — this is available for just $29 per month if you pay upfront for a year, or $39 per month if you pay on a monthly basis.
This means that you can get a lot of SEO data at a much lower price point than competing tools like Ahrefs or Semrush, which cost at least $99 per month to use (and often considerably more, if you add on additional features).
Limits do apply to the GrowthBar ‘Standard’ plan, however. Keyword tracking is limited to 25 phrases; rank tracking is limited to 1 website; and content creation suggestions are limited to 5 per month.
On the plus side, GrowthBar lets you run as many keyword research and domain analysis queries as you like every month — this is in marked contrast to competing tools.
To increase the tracking limits, you’ll need to upgrade to either a $79 per month ‘Pro’ or $129 per month ‘Agency’ plan. These increase your keyword tracking limits to 75 and 150 keywords respectively, and rank tracking limits to 3 and 10 respectively. They also facilitate more AI-created content outlines each month (20 and 50 respectively).
(These monthly costs are based on paying upfront for a year — the ‘Pro’ and ‘Agency’ plans cost $99 and $149 per month if used on a rolling basis).
For me, the best value plan is definitely the ‘Standard’ one — the ‘Pro’ and ‘Agency’ costs start to become comparable with those of Ahrefs, Moz and Semrush (products which all offer much more SEO data at these sorts of price points).
Although email support is provided by GrowthBar, it’s not immediately obvious where to find it — the email address is not displayed anywhere in the interface (and there aren’t any links to help resources or FAQs provided within the tool’s interface either).
The support address is listed on the home page of the GrowthBar website though — albeit in the footer!
You do get emailed a video walkthrough of the product when you subscribe to it however, which is helpful, along with contact details for Hailey, who is one of the founders. So you will be able to get support — it would just be better if the process for doing so was more obvious.
On the plus side, I can’t imagine too many people actually needing much support with this tool — it’s very easy to use.
GrowthBar review: summary
Overall, GrowthBar offers a really simple way to get into SEO — it’s cheap, its core functionality is strong and the tool is very easy to use.
The main thing that GrowthBar has going for is that with its ‘Standard’ plan, you are getting a LOT of SEO metrics for a fraction of the price of competing products like Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz.
You could argue of course that with GrowthBar, you are also getting a fraction of the functionality of products like these — if you’re looking for features like broken link reporting, link intersect data, technical SEO audits, local SEO data, toxic link reports etc…you won’t find them in GrowthBar.
Because of this, the pricing of its ‘Pro’ and ‘Agency’ plans — which is comparable to that of products which do offer these features — is questionable.
But as far as the ‘Standard’ plan goes, the proposition is great. The pricing of this plan is particularly affordable for startups and solopreneurs, and the features that are provided are definitely strong enough to let you create or promote content that ranks.
GrowthBar won’t be for absolutely everyone, but there’s loads to like about it. It’s well worth trying out, especially if your needs are simple and you’re on a budget — you can access a five day trial for free here.
I’ll leave you with a summary of the key pros and cons of GrowthBar.
Pros and cons of GrowthBar
Pros of using GrowthBar
It’s extremely easy to use.
It’s entry level plan is very cheap.
It gives you all the key data you need to execute a simple but effective SEO campaign.
The Chrome extensionprovides a unique, fast and really easy way to access SEO data ‘on the go.’
No limits apply to keyword research or domain queries — this is in marked contrast to its competitors.
Cons of using GrowthBar
Because of its ‘slimmed down’ nature, it’s suitable for more basic SEO projects only.
The keyword suggestion list doesn’t display keyword difficulty scores.
Backlink monitoring is basic.
- You can’t really do broken link building with GrowthBar.
- It could be easier to access customer support details.
Pricingfor the ‘Pro’ and ‘Agency’ plans is a bit steep given the functionality offered.
Alternatives to GrowthBar
There are lots of SEO tools on the market — the best known ones are probably Ahrefs, Semrush and Moz. You can check out our resources on these below:
These tools all give you much more functionality than GrowthBar — read the above posts for more details on the sort of features you can expect — but at a considerably higher cost.
If you are on a budget, a product called SurferSEO is worth investigating — its $59 per month plan offers a lot of the functionality provided by GrowthBar, plus some very sophisticated content analysis tools.
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