As most of you are probably aware by now, Yahoo Site Explorer officially shut down on November 21st, 2011. To many, including myself, this is a sad moment in internet marketing history! I have relied on Yahoo to check how many links my competitors had and how many links my own sites had ever since I began building niche sites. So now we are all forced to do our link analysis somewhere else. But where is the best place to check backlinks? Today, I am going to review several other sources that are great Yahoo Site Explorer Alternatives. Some are better than others, so I will provide my own thoughts on where to gather link data.
In order to make this review of the different tools where you can get link data a bit more interesting, I am going to be comparing the number of links that each tool displays for my blog here: NichePursuits.com
So, here is the list of Yahoo Site Explorer Alternatives:
Bing Webmaster Tools
Yahoo Site Explorer essentially moved everything to Bing Webmaster Tools. However, the only issue is that you can only get link data for the sites that you own now. In fact, I tried to get the link data for nichepursuits.com and found out that it can take up to 3 days to get any data because your sites have to be verified first! Bad move Bing. In my opinion Bing would get a lot more webmaster to sign up for their “tools” if they did not require this verification and opened it up for free to check ANY site just like Yahoo did.
The data is supposed to be exactly the same as was showing on Yahoo Site Explorer, but the downside is that you can only check link data for sites that you own. Most people, and particularly niche site marketers, need to check the links for their competitors, so Bing Websmaters Tools will just not do.
From memory, I recall that Yahoo Site Explorer showed that I had around 290 inbound links to NichePursuits.com. We'll use this number to compare with others – at least until my 3 day wait is over with Bing!
Open Site Explorer by SEOmoz.org
Open Site Explorer is an excellent alternative to Yahoo Site Explorer, because its free and it provides link data for any URL you want to check…yippee! Open Site Explorer is a very robust system that not only provides you the number of links and anchor text, but also provides you with “Page Authority” and “Domain Authority”. These are values that SEOmoz assigns to pages/domains from 0 to 100 which specifies how strong they are. Getting links from sites with higher page authority will be more valuable.
The only downside to Open Site Explorer is that its index rate (how quickly links show up) is a bit slower than Yahoo was. Yahoo would often index new links within a week or 2 max. Open Site Explorer updates their link index every 4 weeks. You can read about their schedule here. Their next schedule update in Nov. 30th.
So, yes, its slightly slower but 4 weeks is actually not bad at all. In addition, according to their reports they are much better at removing links that should no longer be counted (such as when a link is removed). Yahoo often kept historical links in place even when it had been removed – which could give inaccurate data. In addition, Open Site Explorer does not pull in every single link out there as they are still growing their index. However, it pulls in the most influential links (those with the most page authority).
So, overall Open Site Explorer provides lots of accurate data that is free.
Majestic SEO gives some basic data for free, but has one of the largest index of links out there, and has some very in depth analysis tools if you are willing to pay for them. In fact, I was shocked to see how many links Majestic SEO is showing for NichePursuits.com – 1,691 if you use their “Fresh Index” and 2,921 if you use their “Historical Index”. Like I said, this is WAY more than Yahoo Site Explorer every showed. So, I tried to do some research to find why its showing so many links.
I don't have a definitive answer other than Majestic SEO has one of the largest link indexes out there and so they show more links. Its unclear if lots of these links are coming from a few sites (for example a blog roll link could show up on 200 pages of 1 site). In addition, the key reason why Majestic SEO is showing more links than others from what I gather is that they just index everything, while other tools filter out duplicate content or other no-value type links.
So, while Majestic SEO shows my site has 1,691 links in their fresh index, its possible that most of these (1,400 or more?) hold very little to no SEO value compared to the data provided in other tools. However, I'm sure if I joined their paid service I would be able to analyze deeper and quickly see the links that truly held value.
Blekko.com is a newer search engine that is trying to keep lower quality content out completely. Its an entirely different blog post to analyze what they do and what they don't, but essentially they don't even index low quality sites. So, this causes their index to be smaller overall, but any links that they do show would be considered of higher value.
Overall, Blekko.com is a service to keep your eye on. They are an up and comer that is still in beta, but is doing some interesting things. The link data they provide is free and while doesn't have as large an index still provides some valuable details.
Ahrefs Site Explorer
I have to be honest, I had never heard of this service until I started researching for this blog post. However, it looks like Ahrefs Site Explorer is a pretty decent service from my quick review. Its a free tool for your first 10 requests per day without having to sign up.
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So, Ahrefs shows 1008 external backlinks, but breaks it down to show that 277 of these are text links and 728 are image links. I have no idea why most of these links are image links – any ideas? But you will see also in the image above it shows Total URLs linking to NichePursuits.com, which is 233. This brings thing much closer in line with other link counts from the other tools. After all, if you have multiple links coming from 1 site does Google really count every single one of those links as a potent link? Probably not.
Best Source for Checking Links?
Overall, the amount of links reported by the different tools for NichePursuits.com varies greatly. Here is a breakdown of the links reported from each tool:
Its clear from the data that Majestic SEO has the largest indexing rate – so they report the most links. But is this make it the best tool? In my opinion, more important than having a large indexing is being able to quickly interpret which links actually pass some value. In that regard, it appears that Open Site Explorer does a better job of only showing links that actually pass some sort of “link juice” to your sites. It also appears to be the closest tool compared to Yahoo Site Explorer (if my memory serves me correct). However, the reality is that Majestic SEO and Ahrefs probably also show all the “juice passing” links in their paid tools area as well. So, in reality there are a few great options.
Overall, I think one thing is clear; it is difficult to compare apples to apples in terms of what tool is better, because they all show different data in their own unique way. So, it would be important to only compare links from the same source when analyzing the top 10 competitors in Google for example. It would not make any sense to look at Majestic SEO links for one site and then Open Site Explorer for a different site. For the most part these tools will still give you the ability to successfully analyze the data for competing sites.
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What About Long Tail Pro?
Long Tail Pro was using Yahoo Site Explorer to get link data for competitor analysis; however, we officially made the switch over to Open Site Explorer. Users of Long Tail Pro now have the updated version which allows them to continue to look at the link data (now with Open Site Explorer) and several other important criteria when analyzing the top 10 competitors in Google. This is inline with what Aaron Wall at SEObook.com has done for his SEO for Firefox Tool as well. Aaron is very reputable in the SEO community and is using Open Site Explorer as his go to source for his very popular tool. Many other tools have done the same.
I wanted to address this here specifically because I have gotten a few questions in the past couple of days. So, I'm happy to say that you can still pull this valuable link data with Long Tail Pro – now with Open Site Explorer. I feel confident that I will be able to use this data to successfully analyze the competition. It will simply be important to understand that the link number will be a bit different and it may take a little bit of time to find some new “thresholds” for extremely low competition sites…although zero links is still good to compete against! (If you haven't check out Long Tail Pro yet, I just wanted to remind you of my special offer that comes with some in depth video training by me on building niche websites!)
Overall, moving away from Yahoo Site Explorer is something that is going to take me and everyone a little bit of time to get used to. However, the great news is that their are some excellent alternatives out there. And my guess is that there will continue to be more and perhaps even better alternatives that crop up in the future from some savvy entrepreneurs. Anyway, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on these Yahoo Site Explorer alternatives! Did I miss a good alternative? What insights do you have to share on this subject?