Ultimate Data Visualization Guide for Analysis of SEO Campaigns

 

In an ideal world of analytics there will be no tables and mountain of text, just charts and graphs through which you can visualize patterns and trends in data and take decisions which are beneficial both for your company and clients. This post is an attempt to get one step closer to achieve this ultimate dream.

It is a no brainer that data visualization can easily highlight the most complex problem to you and can easily explain technical issues to a non-technical audience (like your clients) in an effective manner.

So I think there is no need to reinforce its importance and advantages and we can all jump together straight into the wonderful world of Data visualization. Following are the fields of SEO where we need to visualize data the most:

1. Competitive Analysis
2. Back Links Analysis
3. Crawling, Indexing & Site Architecture

 

Competitive Analysis

Visualizing the social media strength of your top SEO competitors

It is always good to know the role social media is playing in the rankings of your competitors. If you have no social media presence and all your competitors do then you’re are losing out on this front.  Here is how I have visualized the social media strength of the top 10 sites on Google.com for the keyword ‘car insurance’:

From this chart I have got a pretty good idea that social media signals are playing some role in the rankings and I have to be active too on social media esp. facebook and twitter to get social shares/mentions. The chart above is a 2-D custom column chart which you can easily create in MS Excel. Here is what I did to create this chart:

Step-1: Scrape the top 10 organic search results from Google.com using SERPs Redux bookmarklet.

Step-2: Use the Excel Plugin by Niels Bosma to quickly fetch Facebook likes, Google Plus and Twitter counts for each URL.

Step-3: Select the table and create a column chart in your Excel workbook: Insert menu > Column > 2-D clustered Column (in Excel 2007).

 

Visualizing the Ranking potential of top 10 SEO competitors for your primary keyword

 

From these two charts you can get a pretty good idea of the competition in the ‘car insurance’ space. Here is what I did to create this chart:

Step-1: Log in to the seomoz keyword difficulty tool , enter the keyword ‘car insurance’, select your search engine & country and then click on the ‘run report’ button.

Step-2: Once you get the report, click on the ‘Export to XLS’ link to download the report into excel.

Step-3: Select ‘URL’, ‘Page Authority’ and ‘Domain Authority’ columns to create the first 2-D clustered Column chart as shown above.

Step-4: Select ‘URL’, ‘Page Linking Root Domains’ and ‘Root Domain Linking Root Domains’ columns to create the second 2-D clustered Column chart.

Click here to download these charts.

 

Visualizing the back link profile of your top SEO Competitor(s)

back-links-analysis-chart

I consider this visualization as the Mother of all SEO data visualization techniques. The kind of insight that you get through this chart is unparalleled. Through this chart you can easily and quickly see the X-ray report of the back link profile of any website. Even the top notch SEO softwares in the market don’t provide such type of analytical insight yet. And this visualization just doesn’t stop here.

You would be very much interested in knowing exactly which blogs, directories, .edu sites, .gov sites etc are driving the ranks of your competitors along with the PA, DA and all other metrics provided by tools like open site explorer. Something like this:

Back Links Analysis Tool

 How I created this chart and what I did to get such valuable insight? The answer is bit difficult. I specially developed my own tool using MS Access to get such type of data visualization. The chart above on ‘visualizing the back link profile of your top SEO competitor’ is actually a MS Access Chart and not a typical Excel chart.  To learn more about how you can create this tool, check out my post How to create your own back link analysis tool.

 

Visualizing the ranking potential of your SEO competitors at Granular Level

Visualizing the ranking potential of your SEO competitors at Granular Level

 If you take a close look at these charts you will find that there are two websites which stand out in almost every chart. These websites have pretty unnatural back link profiles. Most probably they are badly SEOed and may not withstand future algorithm updates. So you get a pretty good idea of the competitive space now. To get these awesome charts I used the SEOmoz SERP Analysis Tool . To use this tool follow the steps below:

Step-1: Run the SEOmoz keyword difficulty report

Step-2: Click on the ‘full report’ button

Step-3: Once you get access to the full report, click on ‘Export to XLS’ link (it usually takes several hours to a day to get the report and you also loose 1 credit.  So be careful what you wish for. Download the report into excel.

Step-4: Select different columns to create different column charts as mentioned above.

I have done all the hard work for you. Click here to download all of these charts now.

Please Note: You can also use SEOmoz API to fetch the data if you are really technical. I avoid the usage of APIs in blog posts to keep them simple.

 

Visualizing back links overlap between websites

venny

Through this Venn diagram you can visualize back links overlap between websites. You can also get a complete list of overlapped linking domains. These are those domains which are linking out to two or more of your competitors. Getting links from such domains is relatively easy. So it can help you with your link building campaign.

From the diagram above you can see that the website 1 has got links from 12 domains. Out of this 12 domains: 5 domains link out only to website A, 3 domains link out to both website 1 and website 3 and remaining 4 domains link out to website 1, website 2 and website 3. This is what this Venn diagram is all about. All the numbers on the diagram are clickable (in actual tool) and you can see the list of overlapped linking domains in the text area below the diagram.

I have used mock data here for simplicity. You can replace website 1,2 and 3 by your competitors websites and use real data in the text fields. You can download the linking domains of up to 4 websites using open site explorer (click on the linking domains tab and then download the list) and then copy paste the linking domains list into the text boxes of the corresponding websites as shown above to create the Venn Diagram.

The tool that I have used to create this Venn diagram is known as Venny and the credit for discovering the great usage of this awesome tool goes to Kelvin Newman of SiteVisibility.co.uk. He has put a nice video on his website that tells in detail about how to use this tool efficiently.

 

Visualizing the overall ranking potential of your website and that of our competitor

seomoz-radar-chart

Here I am visualizing the ranking potential of BBC and CNN websites. As you can clealry see BBC has, stronger ranking potential than CNN. This is something which you can easily explain to any non-teachnical person without the need to explain DA, PA and other OSE metrics.  I developed this Radar Chart through a SEOmoz lab tool known as Visualizing linkscape data. You can’t get such type of visual insight from anywhere else.

 

Visualizing the Link growth/ Velocity of your website and that of your competitor

This chart visualizes the link growth of the BBC and CNN websites. As we can see from the chart, CNN has speed up its link building efforts and is on its way to beat BBC. Come on BBC! Don’t let us down. You can get similar insight for any website(s). I created this chart through Majestic SEO BackLink History Tool.

 

 

Back Links Analysis

Visualizing the Geographic Profile of a site’s back links

geo-profile-backlinks

You would be interested in knowing the geo locations of your back links. The chart above shows the back links profile of an English website hosted in US. Since it is an English website, so it is pretty natural to have majority of links from English speaking countries. But let us suppose your website is in Hindi (my native language).

If such website is acquiring majority of its links from English speaking countries like US and UK then I will be really surprised and would like to investigate. Often such links turns out to be spammy. This type of visualization is more useful to those marketers who are into international SEO and who deal with multiple language websites.

 

To get this chart I used the Advanced Report of the Majestic SEO Tool. Follow the steps below to get this chart:

Step-1: Log-in to your Majestic SEO account and click on ‘reports and tools’ link at the top right hand side.

Step-2:
Enter the URL of the domain whose back links you want to analyze in the ‘Analyse a New Website’ text box. From the drop down menu select ‘URL Level advanced report for….’ and then click on ‘create a report’ button. In this way you can create an advanced report.

Please Note: You can create advanced report for a domain for free if you can verify the domain ownership in your Majestic SEO account. If you can’t verify the domain ownership then you need to subscribe to their paid service.

Step-3: Click on ‘Summary Reports’ drop down menu at the top and then click on ‘countries’. You will see a report like this:

majestic-seo

 Step-4: Click on the ‘Export Report CSV’ link at the bottom left hand side and download this report into Excel. Select the ‘country’ and ‘backlinks’ columns and create a 2D Clustered column chart.  You can also create a pie chart if you like.

 

Visualizing the Anchor text distribution analysis of a website

link-building-bus

This word cloud is the visual representation of the anchor text distribution of back links of a leading insurance website. Their link building bus seems to be going towards the gray area of SEO: over optimized anchor text.

You can see how the keyword ‘insurance’ is on its way to dominate their brand name followed by the keywords ‘online’ and ‘car’. They should focus on getting more links with brand name as the anchor text before their back link profile starts looking unnatural to the point that we no longer need this word cloud.

Consider this bus as a warning system for over optimized anchor text. To get this bus, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Scan your website using ‘open site explorer’

Step-2: Click on the ‘anchor text’ tab and then click on ‘download CSV’ link to download the list of anchor text into excel.

Step-3: Copy the column which contains all of your anchor text in your excel document and then paste them into Tagxedo to create a word cloud. Tagxedo provides lot of layouts, colors, themes, shapes etc. I selected bus as the shape.

 

Visualizing the Quality of Back Links of a website

link-profiling
This chart shows the distribution of back links to a website in the ‘signs’ industry and is a great way to visualize the quality of links a website has acquired. Dr. Pete of usereffect.com gets the credit for discovering this awesome way of linking profiling. To create this chart, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Scan the website through Open Site Explorer (OSE)

Step-2: Select “Show [Followed + 301]”, select “from [External Pages Only]”, Select “to [All Pages on the Root Domain]”

Step-3: Export results to CSV/Excel

Step-4: Download the worksheet created by Dr. Pete here.

Step-5: Export Open Site Explorer results from Excel and paste it into the first worksheet (“OSE Data”). The second sheet (“Domains”) will automatically strip out the sub domains. The third sheet (“Max PA”) is a pivot table that calculates the maximum Page Authority for each sub domain and then collapses that into the 10 buckets.

Please Note: You may need to refresh the Pivot Table (Go to ‘Data’ Menu and Click ‘Refresh All’ in Excel 2007)

 

 Crawling, Indexing & Site Architecture

Visualizing the informational architecture of a small website

visual-sitemaps

This map visualizes the site architecture of one of my website eventeducation.com. Visualizing the structure and information architecture of a web site can help a lot in understanding the crawlability, indexing and usability issues of the site. I developed this map through a tool known as Power Mapper.

This tool has a web browser type interface. So if you can use a web browser than you easily use this tool too. Just enter the URL of the website you want to map and then click on Map > Map Entire Site. Boom! You can map the entire site and that too using 7 different styles of map.

The style that I have used for my map is known as ‘Electrum’. You can also restructure the site structure produced by this tool through a simple drag and drop. In this way you can create new prototype of your website structure. The only downside of this tool is that it doesn’t work well for very big websites.

 

Visualizing the informational architecture of very big & complex websites

The only way I could find to analyze and visualize the information architecture of very big websites is to break down the data into edges and vertices and then look at individual sections of a website instead of the whole website.

If you try to visualize the information architecture of a very big and complex website in a single view, then all you will see is a big black hole. You can’t see the number plates of each and every house and buildings in London in one view no matter how powerful your telescope is, can you?

Big websites are just like mega cities, large and complex. Each web page of the site represents a house and the name (title tag, main heading) of each web page represents the number plates. So you need to learn to navigate while you visualize. I use the graphic visualization tool called NodeXL which has been specially designed to study large and complex social networks.

There are tons of graphic visualization tools out there like Graphviz , Cytoscape etc. But NodeXL is my personal favorite, mainly because it is an Excel template, it is easy to use unlike Graphviz and other visualization tools and above all it’s Free. You can get the data from Xenu Link Sleuth , screaming frog SEO spider or Open Site Explorer. Xenu link sleuth and screaming frog are good tools to visualize site architecture. OSE can also be used for this purpose but I mainly use it to visualize internal and external link flow of a website.

nodeXL

 I made this chart through NodeXL. It visualizes the link flow from the home page to other pages on the website. By hiding vertices and edges you can visualize any section of a website no matter how big or complex it is. Explaining how I developed this chart is beyond the scope of this post. You can read the NodeXL Tutorial till I come up with another post just on this. Anyways I have opened up a world of possibilities for you to experiment with. It is not very hard. Trust me.

 

Visualizing the wireframe of a website

visualizing-wireframes

This is the wireframe of a landing page of amazon.co.uk. I created this wireframe in a second and in just one click through Wirify bookmarklet. This bookmarklet can help you lot in usability testing and in understanding the wireframes of your competitors. It can also help you with your PPC landing page design.

 

Visualizing crawl diagnostic issues

visualizing crawl diagnostic issues
All these charts (& many more) are available in SEOmoz web app under the ‘crawl diagnostics’ menu. You don’t need to make them. Just select the one you would like to see from a drop down menu.

The cool thing about these charts is that not only you can visualize the various crawling issues but can actually see the progress made on on-page SEO efforts over time. For example you can see from the charts that duplicate page titles and page contents are on a rise. This may be due to some CMS issue and you need to look into it. Such type of insight is not available in any other tool and this is why they are special.

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  • http://www.GatewayTechnoLabs.com Dhvanil

    Great efforts and work done behind site and visitors. I really like the representation of the data and user behavior in graphs and bars. I really like the way of data representation that help me to make reports for my client and make him smile with graphs instead of boring figures. :)

    Could you please work on keyword research and tools that helps for identify the correct keyword that takes business with it.

    Thanks

  • http://www.cytoscape.org/ G5VB

    Hi Himanshu! Cytoscape is a great tool for data analysis and visualisation and is not that hard to use. There is a bit of learning curve but that is there in case of NodeXL too. Cytoscape is a great tool to map interactions. You can change the shape, size and color of the nodes or you can simply drag them via mouse. Lot of plugins are available for inferring networks and even for communicating with the tool itsell. And above all it is free. BTW Thank you for the post. Bookmarked :)

  • 3DMicron

    Himanshu can you recommend a good data visualization library for C/C++. Sorry if it is off topic.

  • http://www.halfords.com/ Nigel Welch

    Hi Himanshu! Great post on data visualisation techniques. Can you please recommend a good book on it.

  • Michael Clark

    Hi! I am working on generating charts for inventory data. I am using the MS charts. What do you think about its capability?

    • http://www.seotakeaways.com/ Himanshu

      I haven’t used Microsoft Chart Controls.

  • Dawson Miller

    Excellent write up. Do you also provide data visualisation services? We are looking for people specialised in data visualisation and text analysis for one of our project.

  • http://www.c28.com/ seoNerd4Life

    Himanshu i downloaded Graphviz to analyse the site architecture of my client’s website. It failed miserably. The PNG i got was all black. So you seem right about the big black hole. NodeXL was totally unknown to me until i read your post. I will try it today. Thank you for the awesome post man. You are a true Data Scientist.

  • Ethen Foster

    Do you have recommendations for good data visualisation software for analyzing twitter? We are also ready to pay for the software if it is worth it. Thank you so much for this post and for any tips.

    • http://www.seotakeaways.com/ Himanshu

      NodeXL is primarily designed to analyze social networks like twitter. So i recommend it. There is in fact lot of twitter import options available. You can import data straight from Twitter’s users network, search network and list network. You can add edges for ‘follows relationships’, ‘replies-to relationships’ and ‘mention relationships’. You can add a latest tweet column to the vertices worksheet.

  • http://www.gettoys.com/ twistedSEO

    Himanshu this post is as great as your last post on creating your own back links analysis tool. BTW your tool works great. Thank you for sending me the copy. I have bookmarked this post and will read it in peace on the weekend.

  • Torbjorn

    Thank you for this wonderfuly post and recommending NodeXL. I agree with you NodeXL is easier to use than Graphviz. The dot langauge and command line usage alone can put any one off.

  • Justin

    This is awesome. I will check these out.You seem like a heavy user of SEOmoz Pro tools. But it is pretty expensive to be honest. I wish you use more free tools in your blog post.

    • Torbjorn

      Open site explorer alone is worth the SEOmoz pro membership. Its a great time saver.

    • http://www.seotakeaways.com/ Himanshu

      I always try to use free tools wherever possible. But there is really no free alternative to the SEOmoz Tools Set.

  • http://www.india-rajasthan-tours.com/ Yash Bapna

    This is a seriously awesome post. I am a SEOmoz pro user for quite some time now and i didn’t even know about half of the SEOmoz charts you have mentioned.

  • http://www.theplatinumhotel.com/ FirstDigital

    This is a fantastic post on data visualization.

  • http://www.143gifts.com/ Jitender

    Himanshu as always you come up with an awesome post. I never ever thought of data visualization usage in SEO and certainly not in the way you have mentioned. To be honest, i am simply speecheles. Great work.

  • http://www.medplaya.com/ Paloma

    I do lot of competitive analysis and have found this post very useful. Thank you for taking out the time to write this superb post. Gracias

  • https://twitter.com/#!/mikegracen Mike Gracen

    Pure gold again Himanshu. You have truly gown into a leader in the SEO field. Seriously, you are on your own level now. Keep it up my friend.

    • http://www.seotakeaways.com/ Himanshu

      Thanks Mike :)

  • Nick

    Good tips on data visualisation here. I agree that visualising the social media and ranking strenght of your competiton is vital to understand the competitive landscape.

    “Visualize your social network connections in such a way that it help in finding new link building opportunities. ”

    Himanshu i gave up on your exercise and really looking forward to see a great post from you on this topic.

  • http://www.cookinggames.com/ Harvey Cook

    I absolutely love this post. You make doing competititive analysis so easy.I can now see the benefit of visualising data for SEO. I have a question. What is the best way to get quality links while analysing competitors?

  • David

    I am thrilled to see that you are able to visulise data so well. Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.keralahotels.org/ Rohan Singh

    I always learn something new from your posts. It is really useful to visualise data in SEO and send reports in the form of charts to our clients. Thanks.

  • Clotilda

    There is lot of information on data visualisation here which may take me weeks to digest. It would be great if you could also provide more details on how you use NodeXL to visualise information architecture of very big websites. Thank you for the post.

  • http://www.indiacube.com/ Sanjay Rawat

    Great post Himanshu. Your post get me thinking about alternative ways to do back links and competitive analysis. I continuously find great information on your website. Really looking forward to part 2 of this guide.

  • Amalia

    Himanshu, as always thank you for a very informative post. I just wish i could find time to go through all the stuffs you have mentioned.

  • SEOAmmunition

    Himanshu you should come up with thumbs up button like SEOmoz. It is a great post, seriously.

  • Dillion

    Your post is helpful and informative. Thank you for writing on this subject.

  • http://www.goodhempnutrition.com/ OscarDF

    What a great compliation of useful data visualisation tools for SEOs. One of my
    favorite is ‘Visualizing the back link profile of your top SEO Competitor’. Can you please send me a copy of your back links analysis tool. Thanks

  • Derrick

    Awesome post. I also checked your post on back links analysis tool hoping to find a link to download the tool. Can you please send me a copy of this tool. Thanks.

  • Joana

    wow. What an exemplary collection of visualisation tools. It is a fantastic post for anyone who is into analytics. Looking forward to see your post which elaborate on visualizing the informational architecture of large websites.

  • RealSEO

    Very useful and unique post. Is there anyway to visualize broken links of a website?

  • odlasb

    I would say all of your blog posts are higly informative. This one is really unique. I agree with you that clients understand charts much better than graphs. I love the way you analyse the data. Data visualization is a language on its own and can be very useful for both SEOs and analytics professionals. Generally when we visualize data we tend to ignore the readability. Its hard to make any sense of complex data. All of your charts are highly readable even the one on very large websites. I can’t wait to read the second part of this series. Awesome work.

  • http://www.loichelias Loic Helias

    Thanks for haring this nice and useful post Himanshu !
    I will test it quickly !

    Best regards

  • http://blog.ramenos.net/ Ramenos

    I would like to say thank you for this guide ! This is clearly a good job and i even discovered some tools :).

    However, i have really appreciated your way to analyze your sites. Some parts of your guide are already in my best practices but you gave to me some additional ideas.

    Again, thanks for this !

  • Robin jones

    A very thorough post on visualising data. All the visualisations are really impressive and above all comprehensible. This will be very useful resource for SEOs and analytics guys. Thanks!

  • Arjun Rawat

    I always learn something new from your posts.
    Plz give me new seo site.

  • https://serps.com Scott

    Fantastic post Himanshu. I love the visuals. So many SEO writers seem to forget that a picture paints a thousand words!

    I love how you combine multiple data sources into true insights.

  • http://www.loto49.ro loto

    Wow, this method is a free goodie about SEO for every website owner.

  • http://joaocorreia.pt/ João Correia

    Hi Himanshu, nice detailed post on SEO visualizations. Check this visualization I created using Tableau: http://www.blastam.com/blog/index.php/2013/10/how-to-create-awesome-seo-data-visualization-with-tableau/

    • seohimanshu

      Good post.