Whenever you engage a client in link building services, it’s important to demonstrate success to your client throughout and after the project. Part of quantifying your SEO efforts is reporting on the quantity of links to your targeted site or URL. That’s not to say that quantity is the sole focus of link building, but if you are performing a variety of optimizations for a client and only have a short amount of time for reporting, you want to be able to point to link acquisition without fancy screen shots and long explanations.
Now that Yahoo’s Site Explorer tool has been retired, SEOs have to regroup and find another reliable, simple source for checking backlinks without reinventing their reporting format. This is especially difficult because each tool typically reports different backlink counts. I’m going to profile a few of the popular tools. I’ll only be looking at the free versions since they are more easily accessible to all link builders and optimizers. Finally, I’ll leave you with my recommendation for’reliable backlink checking and reporting. (I will be using our domain, www.leverinteractive.com for all examples.)
This free link checking tool is great if you’re only checking 3 sites a day since it limits you to only 3 domain queries in a 24 hour period. It shows a few of their own unique metrics, but also shows Linking Root Domains and Total Links, which are universally important. You can use both of those metrics to measure growth month over month. In the free version, you can also get a glimpse of the top pages on your site acquiring links, the top domains linking to your site, anchor text and some other stats. However, the daily limit of 3 queries can make competitive analysis or new client prospecting difficult. Open Site Explorer is powered and maintained by SEOmoz.
Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting
This tool reports the number of referring domains and the number of backlinks. While the Open Site Explorer teases you to join the paid plan with a brief look at your referring domains and anchor text, Majestic SEO gives you great visuals for reporting. It also provides a historical index and a fresh index, showing you recent link count as well as a cumulative link count. Worth noting- my personal experience with customer service has been great, especially for a free too. I’ve tweeted at Majestic SEO with a few questions and received positive responses immediately, which leads me to believe their customer service and brand management are both very strong.
Use this tool for: setting a benchmark for a new client, reporting, prospecting potential clients, quick competitive analysis
Alexa also provides backlink data for free. This screenshot shows 46 backlinks to our domain. Clicking on the 46 reveals the list of domains as well as the URL linking to the specified domain. The list will max out at 100, so if you want to report on over 100 backlinks with this level of detail, you’ll be out of luck.
Use this tool for: deep level linking detail for clients or competitive analysis
Google Webmasters Tools
Not many SEOs report backlink numbers from Google Webmasters because it’s notorious for reporting a low count of links. While this is true, most clients value Google data above other engines, and since Google offers a free, consistent and accurate backlink report, it’s worth including in your web analytics reports. The plus side is that while these other tools may change without notice, Google Webmaster is likely here to stay, so you don’t have to worry about your backlink checking tool disappearing.
You’ll notice that with these three screen shots, each site is reporting different numbers. This is inevitable. The simpler you make your reporting, the simpler it will be to explain to your client. Don’t start taking averages between sites and choosing the highest count each month from any source. If you want a reliable backlink checking tool, I suggest using data supplied from Google Webmasters. The backlink count gets updated frequently and it’s consistent month over month. Whichever source you choose, just be sure that your reporting is consistent and that if your client checks their backlink count using a different tool, prepare them with an explanation of why they may see a different count.