Good inbound links are the most coveted vote of confidence.
The digital equivalent of scoring a high-profile recommendation letter.
But earning and monitoring backlinks can be a full-time slog, especially for the harried marketer of today.
Since all of this backlinks business can be so excruciatingly time consuming, there’s a huge market for backlink-focused tools like cognitiveSEO.
So, What Is cognitiveSEO?
CognitiveSEO is an online tool made for helping businesses of all sizes manage their SEO efforts, mainly their backlinks. I signed up for a 14-day free trial to take this tool for a spin, and I played around a bit.
Turns out, you can achieve quite a lot in 14 days.
So, what’s the deal? Below, I’ll explain who can benefit from this tool, how it works and whether or not it delivers the right amount of bang for your marketing bucks.
Keep reading to take a deeper dive.
Review: How cognitiveSEO Can Get Your Backlinks in a Row
Why Use cognitiveSEO?
CognitiveSEO is useful for a whole host of reasons (namely, backlinks, backlinks, backlinks) but works best if you’re trying to accomplish the following:
1. Avoiding Google Penguin Penalties
With the latest Penguin 4.0 update in play for over a year at this point, any online business with outdated backlinks may be in for a rude awakening. Penguin penalizes those who paid for substandard links in exchange for the promise of elevated Google ratings.
CognitiveSEO helps you identify low-quality and unnatural links that can get you in trouble with the latest algorithm.
2. Gaining Insights for Better-informed Content Marketing
The benefit here is two-fold. You can see how your site stacks up against your competitors, as well as—if you’re in the business of managing websites for other people—how clients’ sites compare to others within the same industry.
I tested this with a new client’s site, comparing their domain to a competitor’s. You simply input the URLs and cognitiveSEO runs an analysis. It takes a few minutes, but if you’d prefer to set it and forget it, you’ll get an email when it’s done.
You’ll quickly see where links are coming from on all sites. This way, you can easily spot weak spots. Could your website use more mentions from high-profile publications? Are all your inbound links coming from small blogs or social media?
This intel can help inform your content strategy—jump-start a PR campaign, plan an increase in Instagram or Facebook efforts, you get the idea.
CognitiveSEO Plans and Pricing
CognitiveSEO has several pricing options.
The basic plan is $99 per month and is designed to accommodate up to five users. For this price, users get 200,000 backlinks monitored per month and can run campaigns for 25 sites and competitors.
If this isn’t enough, users can upgrade to the premium ($199 per month) or elite ($499 per month) plans, which allow for 25 and 50 users respectively and can analyze exponentially more links.
Larger organizations can pay upwards of $999 per month for a custom plan with unlimited users.
As I’ve noted, the company offers a two-week free trial, so you can get a feel for the tool before committing to buy. Unfortunately, you must enter your credit card information to take advantage of this offer. They’ll charge you for the basic plan if you fail to cancel within the two-week timeframe.
The Good Stuff: cognitiveSEO’s Best Features
When you log into your cognitiveSEO account, the first thing you’ll see is your dashboard. I’ll admit, when I first logged into the platform, I was a little overwhelmed.
There’s a lot going on in here, and it’s clear that cognitive (we’re on familiar terms now) is not for the average SEO novice.
From the dashboard, you’ll either click on a specific campaign or start a new one—more on what this means shortly.
Your dashboard keeps track of all your campaigns, as well as how many monitored keywords you’ve got left. Along the top of the dashboard there are a few different tabs: Inbound Link Analysis, Rank Tracking, Content Visibility and Reports and Schedules.
1. SEO Campaign Management
Campaigns are divided into two subgroups. You have the option of making a Recurring Campaign—which the cognitiveSEO pros recommend for monitoring your own sites. You’ll receive an emailed report on a regular basis.
Or, you can do a One Time Snapshot. The snapshot function produces data you can turn around and use to pitch clients.
Setting up a campaign, no matter which route you choose, is pretty darn easy. First, click “Create a campaign.” From there, the tool will prompt you to enter your domain name, then the domain of your competitor.
CognitiveSEO does make things a bit easier with project management features like automated reports and an SEO Task Journal.
For those who are struggling, the cognitiveSEO Professional plan comes with email support—though no calls or live chats. They’ve also got a pretty decent blog and active social media channels that aim to educate.
2. Rank Tracking
The Rank Tracking feature is an exhaustive stroll through the many links associated with the domains included in your campaign.
This feature looks at referring domains vs. total domains, tracks link velocity on a monthly basis, detects unnatural links and more. You can even see whether inbound links came from blogs, personal websites or e-commerce platforms.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, here.
3. Keyword Explorer and Content Assistant
The Keyword Explorer is pretty straightforward. Enter your target keyword—and it comes up with a list of suggestions, much like Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
Not much to say about this—I guess the benefit of adding the keyword finder means you can do your competitive analysis and do keyword research from one central hub.
The Content Assistant, on the other hand, is a little more unique and useful. It works to identify what keywords are missing from your content, giving you a leg up if you’re trying to rank for a specific niche or keyword group.
4. Site Explorer
The Site Explorer functions much like the Rank Tracking feature—but it’s a quick snapshot versus a comprehensive report. It comes in handy if you want to take a look at a competitor site on the fly.
In the screenshot below, you’ll notice this feature looks a lot like the Rank Tracking feature. The difference is, it only shows data for one domain at a time.
Cognitive Challenges: Where the Tool Can Improve
While cognitiveSEO is a pretty slick SEO tool, there were a few things I didn’t exactly love.
One, it kind of felt like data overload. Now, this might not be a universal complaint, but I thought that I could have done without some of the myriad maps and charts.
The keyword tool was underwhelming. I didn’t feel like it offered any advantage over Google’s free keyword tool or any of the other options out there. The basic plan only allows monitoring on 300 keywords, too.
Finally, the price seems a bit high for the lone consultant or the small shop. CognitiveSEO is an agency’s game—but the low limits on links and keyword tracking mean many orgs will have to upgrade to a more inclusive plan.
Tools with more affordable starting pricing might win over more customers for this reason alone. For example, Monitor Backlinks, which starts at $16.50 for the most basic package, also offers a generous 30-day free trial of the full tool and a Free Backlink Checker which can be used without subscribing.
Critical Tool or Extraneous App? Final Thoughts on cognitiveSEO
The backlinks space is a crowded one, and it can be hard to stand out. Overall, cognitiveSEO really has their backlink monitoring down, and definitely can be a huge boost for those with SEO-centric jobs.
My overall impression of this tool was this: It’s relatively user-friendly, but you do need to be familiar with SEO best practices that help you stay in Google’s good graces. It’s not designed for the mom and pop shop hoping to learn SEO during lulls in the day.
As a content marketer who relies on SEO research from time to time, cognitiveSEO does have some serious potential to help me grow my business. The official site highlights this use, too, sharing the story of a solo SEO professional using cognitiveSEO to pitch to potential clients and help existing ones.
Now—the price is nothing to sneeze at. Even the most basic package starts at $99 a month which, to a small business owner, may feel a little painful.
The verdict? Good for consultants and larger SEO-focused agencies. But, for bloggers, freelancers or businesses who don’t have tons of content, this tool may be a bit too much—both in price and in scope.
Hold Up, We Have Something for You!
If you’re looking for a rank tracker with a little oomph, like cognitiveSEO, you’re going to love Monitor Backlinks.
It offers an incredible keyword rank tracking tool, a powerful backlink management tool, slick reporting, ample automations and email notifications to make your life easier, an overview of key SEO metrics and a top-down look at organic performance.
You’ll get valuable, actionable insights on your keyword rankings, SEO metrics, backlinks and competitor SEO strategies—straightforward, without all the bells and whistles of other SEO tools.
And the pricing is pretty hard to beat, making it an excellent choice for everyone from an independent blogger to an enterprise-scale team.
Take advantage of the trial period to compare both Monitor Backlinks and cognitiveSEO, then choose what’s best for you.