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5 ways to use the Wayback Machine for SEO

Wayback Machine for SEO

When doing SEO, it’s important to have an understanding of the history of your website and the search engine changes that happened over time. While you can use tools like Mozcast to see how certain metrics have changed over time, you’ll be missing data points if your site was built before the Wayback Machine existed in 1998. With sites going as far back as 1996 on their archive, it’s easy to find snapshots of what your site looked like years ago and compare it to the current version. In this post, we’ll cover five ways to use the Wayback Machine for Professional SEO Services purposes.

How it works

The way that it works is that you type in a URL. This can be any webpage. If you want to see what a specific webpage looked like 5 years ago, go ahead and plug it in. You’ll be presented with various snapshots of how that webpage has changed over time. It’s interesting because if you take note of several different snapshots, you’ll find yourself seeing how Google actually updates its index.

You can literally see Google updating its index by looking at multiple older snapshots as well as newer ones (Google sometimes takes longer than others). So it really does help you get an idea of how search engines work. Also, I think it’s cool to look back on old websites or just random webpages from your childhood. It brings back memories! And if you have friends who are designers or developers, they might even enjoy doing some fun comparisons between their old work and their new work. In fact, I know many people who have done exactly that!

1) Checking Out Competitors in an Old Post

The archive is an excellent place to see what a website looked like in years past, including its layout and graphics, content, and links. By checking out what competitors were publishing several years ago, you can gauge how much of their content strategy is still relevant today.

Don’t just focus on competitors who are direct competitors of your website; learn about other websites in your industry as well. While it might not be feasible or necessary to check all of them regularly, it’s nice to know what they’re up to whenever possible. If something comes across as particularly interesting or inspiring, make note so that you can incorporate it into your own strategy at some point.

2) Old Posts are Helping Link Juice Flow

The first and simplest way is to find links that exist within archived copies of your site. These are called dead links because they were once active, but they’ve since been removed from your website. You can check out your old posts through search engine caches by using any version of a popular browser’s developer tools and entering in one of your old URLs.

(Chrome users can click F12 and then go to Resources > Network, while Safari users should choose Develop > Show Web Inspector.) Dead links are dead for a reason, so you may not be able to get very far with a lot of these sites—but some sites are simply hard-coded into web pages rather than linked via rel=nofollow or something similar.

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3) Finding Broken Links

Use Google and Bing to find broken links on any website. Broken links are a sign of trouble, meaning your competitors might be able to leverage these bad links against you. If you spot a few broken links on a competitor’s site, chances are it’s not just a coincidence—and you can probably get in touch with an editor or writer who was responsible for creating these now-defunct posts and request that they mention your brand when writing about similar topics in future articles. For more information about finding broken links, check out  Using Wayback Machine Data in Your Link-Building Strategy .

4) Finding Hidden Pages

With over 5 billion pages indexed, there’s a lot of content on The Web. And while much of it is well-indexed, plenty more isn’t—and that’s where The Wayback Machine comes in. In addition to being an invaluable reference tool, The Web Archive also allows you to uncover original versions of pages that have been edited and moved around over time, something known as broken links. For instance, if someone edits out a phone number from their website and forgets to update every other link leading back to that number—you can find them all with just a little detective work.

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As you can see, The Archive contains an overwhelming amount of valuable information that can be used as part of your content marketing strategy. Some of these sources are priceless and cannot be found anywhere else on earth. While nothing beats going back in time to visit a website yourself, The Wayback Machine is a great alternative and has some incredible capabilities that most people overlook.

There are plenty of places where I have been able to mine old data from search rankings, archived pages and Google Analytics accounts but none that offered me so much insight into past social media strategies like twitter. This is something you could definitely take advantage of if your brand has had a strong focus on Twitter in recent years or even just social media overall.


Stuart David is a member of Sprink Digital and Sprink Digital is a full-service online marketing agency primarily committed to the arena of Digital marketing exclusively. We consistently deliver outstanding results - and our philosophy ‘digital brand engagement’ permeates everything we do.

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