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…
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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Now here’s the comparison of my SEO competitor, which was just as easy to pull up:
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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. 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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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:
Here’s a quick link building (or link reclamation) tip for you. Google Webmaster Tools has really grown. Yeah, there’s still some squirrely reporting (like why my impression count is exactly the same every day), but the Crawl Errors function is vital for anyone who adds and removes a lot of pages, or has switched sites and URLs.
A client of mine recently got a new website. More than a reskin, 98% of the URLs had changed (for the better). With Screaming Frog and some insight on what the URLs were going to be, I was able to whip together a good .htaccess file to use.
The new site has been live for a few months now, and despite thinking I had the 404 issue pretty covered, I logged into the Crawl Errors tool in Google Webmaster Tools.
I thought I had it under control. Clearly not. But Google makes it easier than ever to fix. Click the Not Found button, and take a look at the list of 404’s it gives you.
Ideally you can clean these up with a couple sweeping server redirects. In my case I simply forgot to remove an old XML sitemap. But the beautiful thing is that each resulting page can be clicked for more information:
Are you of the video persuasion? Here’s the a screencast of the tactic:
And they did. The tests in the footer of this site showed it. Not only could Google index my pages that had the anchor text in them, but they could also index the thin destination pages. And they did so within 3 hours! Hey, they did say they’re obsessed with speed this year.
The Simple Experiment
I also tried:
Finally I tried:
Again, Success! I’m pretty satisfied with Google here. Bing and Yahoo? Not so much – they were only able to index the page with the anchor text. And even then, not every time. But they never claimed to be able to (that I’m aware of).
Now this isn’t surprising to some groups of SEOs, but it really is interesting how often I still hear old SEO recommendations as being critical today. Granted, this test isn’t exhaustive (the actual PageRank associated through JS links wasn’t tested – just crawlability), but it’s valid. I think some SEOs really need to get caught up to Google, and start implementing what really matters – user value, context, authority, recommendation, and community. Whatever you want to call it (SEO 2.0 or not), the wave is starting to build right now – get in front of it, and down shift on the old school SEO tactics.
Oh no – not another guy trying to create another marketing acronym!
Well, I care less about the acronym and the ‘coolness’ of labeling something, as I do the real principal behind what it is. As an SEO who came up with it for 10 years, I’ve realized I’ve taken a different path than many. I don’t get excited by the algorithm manipulations anymore. I don’t really get involved in the forum arguments on SEO minutia. I started my professional life as a marketing guy, in love with the art of thought and context, and somehow deviated into web and graphic design. SEO was a chance to connect it all together. Now I think I’ve changed in the same direction that search engines changed (or will continue to change). It’s not about “original content” as much as it’s about “original, valid, creative, editorial content with a purpose.”
Algorithms are headed in the direction of trust, reputation, and influence. Google wants to rank pages based on the way people would rank them if asked. Of course, there’s no way every human to assist Google on the billion of pages, so Google’s algorithms will have to grow. And based on the progress (and patented algorithms) we’ve seen in the last year or two, it’s really likely that they’ll get closer to achieving that goal. Is SEO dead? The odds of it dying are as likely as search dying – nada. It will just change, even if it means another acronym.
Searchable Content Optimization = Marketing
If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it at all. Don’t create noise. There’s enough of that. But if you have a passion and a purpose, sing it from the rooftops. Defend it like it’s your child. Specialize in your vertical, and be an authority. Care less about the algorithm and more about your niche and the people you can connect with. Make the content easily available. Make it readable and crawlable (= searchable), and groom it to be your voice. Then, market the hell out of that content. Set it to the top of your hierarchy and speak to it from your other pages, other venues, other channels.
For me, SEO is art. And for me, in 2010, it is more art than science. The split is now flattening in my opinion. And if I had to pick an area to focus solely on, this would be it.
A couple people in the agency were blessed by Google today. They got to try out a new social-driven interface.
This could be huge.
We knew Google was coming with something like this. Once you’re logged in with a google account, you’ll have the options to remove listings you don’t like, change the orders, voting, add comments, and more. PLUS – there’s a link that you can see how OTHER people organized the search for themselves. Sound like tags.
Will the voting affect the natural search? I have to think it might… since Google always says they’re about recommendation signals. But would a thumb’s down hurt your rankings?
I also have to think that the traditional relevancy will stay very important to Google. They put too much stock into their algos, and this kind of social search could be gamed. But looks like the SEO 2.0 philosophy is going to start paying off.
More on Tumblr.