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Review Of Visual Link Explorer

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Before starting this review, I want to highlight some good prospecting by Razvan Gavrilas. He read a comment I left on a post from Seer about data visualization and Google Fusion Tables, and reached out to me (for those who disagree with me about the power of comments, here’s more proof of value). Razvan emailed me through one of my e-mail accounts, to which I unwisely mistook as being a vendor looking to pitch.  He then hit me on Twitter, to which I unwisely ignored thinking it was also a vendor pitch. He then added me on Linkedin, and finally got my attention. His persistence was impressive, and my ignorance was shameful. I wish I had taken notice sooner, as he was offering me a demo of a really incredible tool. Semi-serendipitously, I offered to do a review, and recommended the company to a few of my friends, one of which was Mike King who also shared it – he has much more amplification than I do. This is more proof that persistent, smart, personal outreach may not be scalable, but it’s still incredibly powerful.  Now, on to the review…

cognitiveSEO

I’m a very-right brained, visual person. I really like data visualization. The critique I left on the Seer blog about Google Fusion Tables was that the functionality wasn’t there to click through and look at specific data points. As an answer to that, the Visual Link Explorer by Cognitive SEO was born. In addition to the Visual Link Explorer, my demo gave me a huge array of link slicing tools, with a lot of filters and features. Unlike many link tools predecessors, this toolset was clearly created to serve the masses who may each be looking to gather different link metrics. On many reports you can filter on link strength, citation flow, count, etc. Also unlike some simpler link reporting and analysis tools, there’s a learning curve here. But like any robust analysis tool (like Omniture for instance), it may take some time to learn this platform. I see this being valued more by the enterprise agencies or in-house SEOs who are held to higher reporting and analysis standards.

I tinkered. I created a campaign and ran an audit on my company’s services domain and another Philadelphia SEO company’s domain. I already had a fair sense of their linking tactics – they have a lot of exact match anchor footer links embedded in clients’ websites. I wanted to see how the two link profiles compared. The campaign wizard prompted me through the initial steps (where I deepened the data pull), and returned massive digital reports within 7 minutes (which the system then saves for immediate review later). That was impressive considering how slice and diced data I had at my fingertips, right in my browser.

So jumping into the new Visual Link Explorer feature specifically, this was really the most impressive of all. A fully navigable, functional, clickable visualization of my link graph:

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Link Data Visualization

Now here’s the comparison of my SEO competitor, which was just as easy to pull up:

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Competitor Links

Right off the bat it’s pretty clear that we have two completely different link building, content marketing, and site architecture strategies.  By examining the cluster above, I confirmed what I suspected about my competitor. They have hundreds of links pointing directly to their homepage, with very little variation of exact match anchor text – terms like Philadelphia SEO Company, and Philadelphia SEO. Surprisingly, while Google spanked a lot of this with the Penguin updates, this company still remains strong for these keywords. They rank very well, and this visualization helps me recognize (in seconds) their exemption, and possibly put together a plan to match them at their own game. In my opinion, that’s the biggest value of data visualization – the ability to “snapshot” the landscape quickly, and start driving actionable strategies. With a lot of clients or busy days, this is incredibly important.

Zooming into the interactive interface, I’m able to see links much closer (the scroll wheel on the mouse is heavenly for this).  I’m also able to toggle Link Trust Flow, Domain Trust Flow, Link Citation Flow, Domain Citation Flow, and Link Rating.

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Closeup of links

I’m able to click through each of the data points to get more information (in the form of a knowledge box), a fix for one of my biggest criticisms of other data visualization tools:

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closeup

It’s really pretty amazing, and I’m just tapping into it.  My only criticism is (and I shared this with Razvan) is its missing some definitions, and by that I mean, clearly descriptive labels of what all the amazing data means. Novice link builders will get lost in this data, so I’d like to see it maybe cater to them more. This is a powerful tool and should be clearer so all SEO clients can benefit from an empowered (and fully comprehending) SEO service provider.

I would be shocked if this doesn’t quickly become part of an SEOs regular arsenal.

More coming soon – I’m going to create a video tour hopefully soon.  In the meantime, to see some of the other reports from Cognitive SEO’s great tool, here are a few more resources:

http://cognitiveseo.com/blog/2228/visual-link-explorer-visualize-backlinks/

http://www.stateofsearch.com/visualising-the-link-graph

 

 

 


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    Comments

    The comments are do-follow. However, any comments that use keyword anchor text as the name will be removed.

    1. Affitto Londra
      February 22, 2013

      Hi Bill, I like the review and as you suggested this tool mainly for in-house SEO with high demand on reporting – its me man. According to the screenshots it seems like you can easily track your links and I would love to have some tool sorting the backlinks according to its anchor text, because I have a lot of language mutations. It seems like its available here. But I’m using Majestic SEO silver and I can say there is almost everything I need to research the backlinks. Anyway if there is some demo public available, I will give it a try for my next report.

      Reply


      • Bill Sebald
        February 22, 2013

        I do believe they have a demo. Hit the site and check them out. IMO it’s a great expansion to what you get with Majestic.

        Reply


    2. Affitto Londra
      March 1, 2013

      Thanks, I found a 14 days trial but it seems a bit expensive expansion :) I will give it a 14 days trial to persuade me, that I need it. Otherwise I will mark in the same group as other hundreds of SEO tools.

      Reply


    3. Mick Edwards
      March 3, 2013

      Thanks for the review, I going to have to give the tool a try. I like the ability to visually zoom in on links and preview all the relevant information on the fly (if I understand your detail correctly). I think it just gives another great approach being visual.

      Reply