Most people agree that obtaining backlinks is the hardest part of search engine optimization. Especially for new businesses and those with minimal marketing dollars. Not only is it difficult getting other web sites to link to yours, but it’s also crucial that you’re spending your time seeking back links that will actually help your rankings in the search engines.
It’s also getting harder and harder to find good tools, especially free ones, to check yours and your competitor backlinks. The link:domainname.com command has never quite worked right in Google. And Bing currently doesn’t even offer a way to check your own backlinks. Update: On 12/14/10 Bing added a new inbound links feature that allows webmasters and site owners check backlinks to their own website and sites they manage.
If you search the Internet for online backlink checker tools, you’ll likely find a bunch of worthless websites and broken ones.
Nearly all of the free web-based programs get their data from Yahoo!. Except for a few of them. You should know there are only a small number of “unique” data sources: Linkscape, Yahoo!, blekko, Google and Majestic-12. Some offer limited details for free, and more advanced details with a paid subscription. Others give you detailed information about your websites, but nothing on your competitors. Never fear, I compare all of those features and provide the most important info in the detailed comparison table below.
|Key Information||OSE (free)||Backlink Watch||blekko||Majestic (free)|
|Internal Backlink Report||x||x||x|
|External Backlink Report||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Int + Ext Backlink Report||x||x||x|
|Links to Page||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Links to All Pages on Domain||x||x||x||x|
|Total Linking Root Domains||x||x||x||x|
|Top Linked-To Pages||x||x||x||x|
|# of Outbound Links on Source||x||x|
|Link Analysis Reporting|
|SEOmoz Page Authority||x|
|SEOmoz Domain Authority||x|
None of these backlink checkers require you to download any software or install a browser plug-in. They are completely online and free 3rd-party web-based utilitites.
Open Site Explorer is a link analysis tool provided by the folks at SEOmoz. It was released in early 2009. Since it was built by a company that previously provided SEO consulting services, you can expect it provides the most helpful backlink information used search engine optimization purposes. Open Site Explorer is powered by Mozscape, SEOmoz’s web index. There is a limited guest version for unregistered users, a free version for registered users, and multiple subscription levels for paid users. API access is also available.
Pros: Unique data source, easliy identify nofollow links, ranks source pages, check competitor backlinks.
Cons: Smaller web index, limited link analysis data available in free version.
siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com – shut down on 11/21/11
Yahoo! Site Explorer has long been one of the most useful and reliable data sources for checking competitor backlinks. Although it doesn’t immediately offer much of the key information such as whether each contains the nofollow attribute or not, Yahoo! does allow free access to their search index. As a result, there are other websites that correlate the data.
Pros: Large web index, check competitor backlinks, check hyperlinks to individual pages or entire site.
Cons: Limited to 1000 results, doesn’t report nofollow attribute or anchor text.
This is one of the only free advanced front-ends to
Yahoo!’s (?) web index that actually works. It provides important details such as which links have the nofollow attribute, image links and Google PageRank. However, it kind-of works some of the time.
Pros: Identifies the nofollow attribute and Google PageRank, easy to read interface, check competitor backlinks.
Cons: Works sometimes, some anchor-text inaccuracies.
First and foremost, blekko is a search engine. However, one of the ways they have set themselves apart from other major search engines is by offering a ton statistical data. Their transparency makes it pretty easy to identify which type of links they likely count and which ones they don’t. Although their tools may seem a bit deranged at first, after getting used to them you will quickly appreciate all they have to offer.
Pros: Advanced link analysis, explore competitor backlinks, identify which links are nofollowed and which links don’t count toward ranking the target page in blekko.
Cons: Small web index, no report export, complicated, freshness.
Majestic SEO has one of the largest web indexes. Although, it does not cache entire pages, the link data and detail reports provided are outstanding. You’ll need to register for a free account, but once you’ve verified your website you’ll be granted access to substantial hyperlink data for all of your verified websites.
Pros: Huge web index, detailed link analysis, source ACRank, identifies nofollowed and redirected links, intuitive interface.
Cons: Free version is limited to sites you own, 301 & 302 links are reported equally.
The link data provided in Google Webmaster Tools is extremely basic. But, since Google probably sends you more search traffic then all of the search engines put together, it’s helpful to know which links Google actually sees. You’ll need to register a free account and verify your website to see relevant backlink data.
Pros: Huge index, identify which backlinks Google sees.
Cons: Can’t check competitor back links, minimal features.
As stated above, I’ve only included tools that were 100% free and online, and don’t require you to download any software or install a browser plugin. If you have a favorite web-based utility I’ve missed, please feel free to share it with the rest of us in the comments below.
I hope you find this post useful!