Tool name: cognitiveSEO (aff) | cognitiveSEO (direct)
Company behind the tool: cognitiveSEO
Type of tool: Link analysis & management tool
Costs: Free trial, subscriptions start at $19/ month
Description: “Benchmark and outrank your SEO competition. Easily.”

About the tool

Just when you thought the field of SEO and link building tools couldn’t get any more crowded, a new tool is launched. With so many great competitors out there, you’ll have to come up with some remarkable features if you want to stay afloat and I think cognitiveSEO managed to do this.

After two years of development, cognitiveSEO was launched in beta in 2010. The soft release was at the end of 2011 and the final release followed early 2012. This carefully planned launch strategy has allowed cognitiveSEO to build a well-tested tool, that includes several unique features that were suggested by beta users.

Data sources

cognitiveSEO uses link data from Blekko, and SEOkicks, while SEOmoz and MajesticSEO both provide link (quality) metrics. If you have a Majestic SEO account, Majestic data (Fresh Index) can be included and you’ll get a 5% discount off any of cognitiveSEO’s plans.

cognitiveSEO combines all link data and removes all duplicates. With this data, you can either run a quick report or create a campaign.

Quick reports

Running a quick report is cognitiveSEO’s easiest and fastest way to analyze the links of a page or site. Simply enter the URL you want to analyze, specify if you want to limit sitewide links and/ or exclude internal links and click ‘Start Report’. You can also use one of cognitiveSEO’s easy bookmarklets.

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The result is a page with a short overview of metrics, an anchor text tag cloud, a few interesting link charts (deep link ratio, tld distribution, referring C-class IPs, etc.) and all of the link data. Everything on the page is filterable and can be exported to csv if you want.

The screenshot below shows what the report overview page looks like. I’ll address all items on the page later on, as they’re also present in the (even more elaborative) link campaigns.

You can create between 100 (Entry plan) and 1,000 (Elite) of these quick reports a month.

Setting up a campaign

If you want more in-depth info about a link profile, you’ll have to create a campaign. Campaigns not only contain more charts and additional overviews, but the data is also recrawled (no dead links) and you’re able to compare multiple sites or keep track of link growth.

Creating a new campaign only takes a few minutes. First, you enter your website and mention if you want to analyze one or more specific URLs, or your entire website. Next, you’ll see how many credits you will need for the analysis. How many credits you have depends on your plan.

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The second step is adding one or more competitors. As you can compare individual URLs with entire domains here, lets compare my own site with Aaron Wall’s well-ranking link building article and the site of one of the best link builders I know.

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Now you can add some advanced filtering options before you start analyzing, such as a maximum amount of URLs per domain to analyze (sort of a sitewide filter), or to exclude all links from any subdomain on the domain you’re analyzing.

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cognitiveSEO can monitor your top 100 links on a daily basis and notify you if anything happens with one of these links.

Another feature is the rank tracker, which can monitor up to 400 keywords daily. It’s optional for every campaign

After you have given your new campaign a name, you have to wait a bit for cognitiveSEO to do the crawling and analyzing. You’ll receive an email when you can take a look at the results.

InBound Link Analysis

When the processing is finished, cognitiveSEO will show the most important results in a dashboard. This starts with an overview of the raw numbers – how many links do you have (again: Blekko,, SEOkicks and possibly MajesticSEO data), how many of these links are still live, etc.

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The dashboard continues, but as all of the listed elements also have their own overview pages, I’ll only show those.

inBound Link Portfolio

The first page is the most comprehensive one. The inBound Link Portfolio lists all of your links with some of the standard metrics, such as mozRank, PageRank and ACrank, but it also lists several non-standard things. This includes the status (live or lost), the page type (blog, forum, ecommerce, etc.), the location of the link on the page (header, footer, body, javascript or hidden) and the context of the link (is it in-content or between other links).

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If you click on one of the listings, you’ll get a preview of the page (including a highlight of where your link is located on the page), as well as a table with some additional info. The page title, IP address and country, the page’s language and the amount of outbound links on the page are just a few of the things that are being revealed.

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You can filter the list of links in any way you like. Whether you only want to see lost links (to see if you can get them back up again), take a look at the sitewide links of your competitors, or want to filter by specific HTTP status codes (like in the screenshot below) – nearly anything is possible.

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And finally, if this isn’t enough for you, you can export everything to csv as well.

Anchor text portfolio

The next tab provides insights in your anchor text portfolio.

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It’s just an overview, but if you click any of the numbers, you’ll get a pop-up with a list of all the links with this anchor text. Again, there’s an option to export anything you want to csv.

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Top Subdomains

An overview of the top linking subdomains that either link or have linked to your site. You can filter by the authority of the subdomain or the amount of links that point to your site.

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inBound Link Profiles

The inBound Link Profiles tab provides a charted overview of your link profile, either in absolute or relative (%) numbers. You can select the type of webpages that link to your site, link positioning, link visibility, webpage category, webpage language, domain tld or one of the additional metrics, such as PageRank or mozAuthority.

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You can click on any of the chart bars to zoom into that particular link type, for example to see all of your forum links.

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I haven’t made a screenshot of every chart that you can create, but some are specifically worth highlighting.

Link positioning (Click to enlarge)


Link visibility (Click to enlarge)


Webpage category (Click to enlarge)


Subdomain mozRank (Click to enlarge)


Inbound link charts

Need pretty charts to show to your boss? cognitiveSEO has got you covered. Compare live links vs. lost links, nofollow vs. followed links or (like in the screenshot below) the countries of the linking IPs.

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Again, you can zoom in to any of the metrics, or export it to csv.

inBound link timeline

cognitiveSEO can also keep track of link growth, which is excellent for keeping track of both successful link baits and link drops.

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Competitive analysis

You can get all of the information listed above for your competitors as well. Apart from this, you can also create several comparison charts or tables, which lets you create a visual overview of your niche or industry.

Comparison of homepage PageRank of all linking domains (Click to enlarge)



Throughout the entire dashboard, you can easily add tasks to a to-do list. This is a low-barrier task manager, where you can make notes for yourself, or you can create a task for someone else.

I haven’t fully tested this feature, but the To-do list in the demo campaign can give you an idea of the possibilities.


Link Management

As you can mainly keep track of links and tasks here, the name link management might be a bit to broad. You are able to do some management tasks, but a mature feature for the full outreach process will be rolled out in a future release.

Reporting is not possible yet, but it’s coming soon. Until then, reporting is possible by creating an account for your client or manager (only for ‘Starter’ plans and above), so he or she can keep track of your link building efforts.

Rank Tracking

Remember the keywords you entered when you created a new campaign? cognitiveSEO keeps track of those. Ten keywords will be monitored every day if you have an ‘Entry’ plan, and up to 400 for ‘Elite’ users.

The current rankings and the daily changes are summarized in the dashboard.

Rank Tracker with data from the demo campaign (Click to enlarge)


You can also zoom in on specific keywords or competitors. The overview with keywords that have declined in rankings or a list with keywords ranking on page two are specifically interesting for link building, as those keywords might offer some quick wins.

Dropped rankings, demo campaign data (Click to enlarge)

You can’t compare the Rank Tracker to most of the high-end rank tracking software, but it provides a solid overview and useful insights for link building.


My Opinion

It’s hard to stand out in the competitive field of SEO tools, but cognitiveSEO manages to do it. Their rank tracking and link management features do exactly what they should do, but cognitiveSEO nails it with their link analysis features.

The combination of a very intuitive user interface, an export-to-csv-button on *every* page and the ability to zoom in to nearly anything you could think of to analyze, makes it an invaluable tool for anyone who takes link building seriously.

The bookmarklets are easy to use and cognitiveSEO will also release a Firefox extension for even better integration very soon. Additionally, link prospecting, outreach and social media modules will be rolled out either later this year or in 2013.

Want to give it a try yourself? Sign up for a free trial either via this affiliate link or via this direct link.

Rating: 93/100
Typical user: Anyone who wants to know what their competitors are doing online
Pros: Have you seen the screenshots above?!?
Cons: Cheap enough for your competitors to use it
Link data sources are somewhat limited

Check out all the other link building tools I’ve reviewed too!