Visualising the Link Graph, How Natural are you?

Visualising the Link Graph, How Natural are you?

6th February 2013

Last Year I wrote a post about 16 ways to visualise back link data, to be honest I could have listed a hundred but didn’t for two reasons, one blog writing does takes time and two I listed ones I often used and found productive in one form or another.

Of course the landscape in search has changed over the past 12 months with the obvious question, how reliable is link data when a disavow tool has been introduced?

Can we trust link data, now we have a Disavow tool?

In my opinion any source of link data  isn’t a blueprint to why a website is ranking, its more of a set of clues a jigsaw into why they might be ranking. The introduction of the disavow tool and the fact that disavowed links may be part of your data set isn’t dismissible however research is generally gauged into major forms:

  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative

The introduction of link indexes such as SEOMoz, Majestic, ahrefs etc provide the search industry with the quantitative research to look at websites sides by side in multiples to be able to analyze the market or sector.  The qualitative research comes from experience and focused opinion from industry experts thus looking over a quantity of links in a profile you can spot:

  • Low Quality Directories
  • Article Sites
  • Blog, Articles, Posts
  • PR
  • Forums
  • Widgets,
  • etc.

This experienced opinion allows a search marketer to read between the lines of a link profile in conjunction with the Quantitative link data presented.

Visualizing the Link Graph

Disavow discussed, lets talk more about Visualizing the Link Graph, why would you want to?

  • Allow comparison of competitors
  • View potential issues with your site
  • Analyze your anchor strategy
  • Portraying information to staff, Clients and CEOs.

This week I got quite excited when Razvan Gavrilas Founder of reached out to me about some recent development work being carried out on his SEO Tool. (If you not familiar with Cognitive SEO take a look at some of the videos where Razvan explains the tool in more detail.)

This development concentrated on link visualisation. I’d not used the tool before but had been recommended it, I was however more than happy to take a deeper look at the tool after our conversation.

My strong belief is that visualizations help people understand information much better and faster, and this is crucial to the SEO industry ( as many others), where things change so quickly. – Razvan Gavrilas

Let go and Visualize the web!

If you have read my original post or want to quickly see an idea of what the tool can do then imagine, ahrefs, Moz, Majestic visuals together with a Google fusion node graph sprinkled on top for good measure, sound good?

Then imagine that you haven’t spent the last hour and half creating these visuals in a Google doc or an excel sheet! To good to be true, lets see.

Standard Visuals:

Brace yourself….

  • Anchor Text Cloud
  • Referring IPs vs Referring Domains vs Links
  • Common Links
  • Common Domains
  • Common IPs
  • Link Status (Live / Lost)
  • NoFollow vs DoFollow
  • Text/Image/Redirect Links
  • Site-Wide Links
  • In Content
  • Anchor Target
  • Top Referring Countries
  • Deep Link Ratio
  • Deep Backlink Ratio
  • Links Trustworthiness
  • Webpage Type (Directory/Blog/Article/Forum/Press)
  • Link Positioning (Group of Links, Forum, Thread, Small paragraph)
  • Link Visibility
  • Webpage Category
  • Webpage Language
  • Domain TLD Distribution
  • Rating Distribution
  • Google PageRank (main page)
  • Webpage ACRank
  • Sub-Domain mozRank
  • Domain mozAuthority
  • External InBound Links
  • OutBound Links


Much of this was already present in the tool, which are some great actionable visuals, however the new development is around the “Visual Link Explorer” which plays on the idea similar to using NodeXL or Google Fusion Tables.

SERP Quiz!

Which of the following visuals of websites link data is the highest ranking for term “X”?







Website A is has the highest ranking for (single word) keyword “X”, however website B is the biggest brand with offline bricks and mortar locations and according to Alexa (I know not that accurate, gets the most traffic)

Notice how the Visualisation of a Brands Link Graph is more woven and intertwined. – Neil Walker

About Cognitive SEO Link Visual Explorer

The tool itself has a number of different options to visualise the link profile:


The purpose of these settings is to adjust the visual for further analysis, below you can see two examples:

Visualized Colours by Link Position / Visualized Colours by link type i.e. Image, Text, Redirect.

visual-link-explorer-cognitiveseo-link-position visual-link-explorer-cognitiveseo-text-image-redirect

You can also adjust the Visual by the metric used for scaling the nodes, to view by link trust flow, citation flow etc.



Link Citation Trust Flow / Domain Trust Flow

visual-link-explorer-cognitiveseo-domain-trust-flow visual-link-explorer-cognitiveseo-link-citation-flow

The key UI here is that if you spot a link cluster or a node that stands out you can find out the details of that link in particular.


So how Natural are you?

Well State of Search is a News / Blogging Portal and in essence is Non Commercial, with the majority of links born naturally, lets take a look at how the Link Graph Visualizes.

State of Search Link Graph
You can clearly see the clusters of content in the site which have been linked to.

  • Content Marketing Tip – Look at the clusters of news sites and popular blogs to find content that people have linked to.

Next lets look at the current site ranking top for “Pay Day Loans” in Google UK.

Pay Day Loans Link Graph

This profile is not so natural looking and although this was the No.1 ranking site for the term “Pay Day Loans” at the time of writing this article as Google continues to improve its Penguin Algorithm, what is the longevity of a link profile like this in a competitive niche?

Time will Tell.

This post is best for…

This post is best suited for Head Of SEO or for SEO Managers who want a more efficient way to present link data to junior SEOs, other staff and clients.


Written By
Neil Walker started working as an SEO in 2002 and rose to become Group CTO for Swedish Marketing Agency “Online Group” in 2010 he moved to consulting with agencies, in-house teams and PR companies. In 2014 he formalised this work and founded Made Notable Ltd a boutique digital consultancy based...
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