*** In a hurry? Check out the overall leaderboard here. ***
What are the best tools for checking backlink data?
Run a Google search and you’ll come across almost 2,000,000 results…
You’ll see posts listing dozens of different backlink analysis tools. And, while the lists are comprehensive they aren’t organized in a way that allows you to easily identify which tools are best for specific use cases, or the entire backlink analysis process.
Some tools are good for picking apart competitor link profiles, and others for running backlink audits.
But, the BEST backlink checkers can handle it all:
- Perform deep analysis on competitor link profiles
- Highlight new link building opportunities
- Perform in-depth backlink audits
- Uncover toxic/spammy backlinks
- Identify negative SEO attacks
- Monitor new and lost backlinks
- Compare link acquisition rates across websites
- Measure campaign success/failure
So, how do you cut through the noise and find a backlink checker that provides this level of analysis?
To get you an unbiased answer, I reached out to 58 SEO practitioners and asked the following question:
Which tools do you rely on most when checking/analyzing backlink data for your business and/or clients?
Respondents listed their top tools, and explained which specific features provide the most value. The votes were tallied and used to create the leaderboards below.
Whether you’re looking to analyze a competitor’s link building strategy, check the health of a link profile, or simply measure the performance of your own link building campaigns, this post will give you a shortlist of field-tested tools to look at.
Use the jump links below to quickly navigate to sections of interest in the post:
- Overall leaderboard
- Best tools for checking competitor backlinks (Leaderboard)
- Best tools for checking link profile health (Leaderboard)
- Top 8 features to look for in a backlink analysis tool (based on votes)
- Expert responses
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this article. If you decide to purchase a tool through one of those affiliate links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Best Backlink Checkers (Overall Leaderboard):
Ahrefs was the overall winner, with SEMrush in a distant second position.
You’ll notice there are more votes than roundup contributors since the votes were tallied across each of the two major categories – competitor analysis and audits. A tool could have received multiple votes from a single person.
Here is a list of the 10 best backlink checkers (by vote count):
1. Ahrefs (71 votes) [Review // 7 Day Trial]
2. SEMrush (18 votes) [Review // 30 Day Trial]
3. Majestic (16 votes)
4. Google Search Console (15 votes)
5. Moz (4 votes)
6. CognitiveSEO (3 votes)
7. Linkody and OpenLinkProfiler (2 votes)
8. LinkMiner (1 vote)
9. SimilarWeb (1 vote)
10. BuzzSumo (1 vote)
Note: Ahrefs was also voted the best link building tool by 82 SEO practitioners.
Best Tools for Checking Competitor Backlink Data:
With 23 votes, Ahrefs was a clear winner in this category. The tool has the largest backlink database (15 trillion links) of any SEO tool, and provides an intuitive UI that makes it easy to slice and dice competitor link data from countless different angles.
Here are 5 ways experts use Ahrefs to perform competitor backlink analysis:
- Use the Domain Comparison tool to get a side-by-side view of how your site’s domain rating, backlink count and distribution stacks up against the competition.
- Monitor the link acquisition rate of top competitors.
- Identify which content types and topics present the greatest potential for new links.
- Use link intersect reports to surface your highest-probability link targets.
- Mine competing articles for hundreds of outreach prospects.
Bonus resource: This 10,000+ word Ahrefs review covers dozens of different ways you can use the tool to analyze competitor backlink data.
Best Tools for Checking the Health of Backlink Profiles:
Ahrefs tops the list again, and for good reason. The tool makes it incredibly easy to perform deep backlink audits – analyze anchor text distribution, spot negative SEO attacks, identify low quality inbound links, spot PBNs, monitor CTLDs, build disavow files inside the application etc. – and identify potential risks.
SEMrush’ Backlink Audit tool came in at #2 in this category. Outside of it’s large link database, SEMrush allows users to upload external backlink lists (.csv files) and pull in additional link data directly from Search Console. This provides a comprehensive view of the entire link profile.
SEMrush will then analyze the data using 45 different “toxic markers” to automatically assign risk scores to each of the backlinks. Users can then send any toxic links directly to Google’s Disavow Tool.
Here are 5 ways experts use Ahrefs to perform comprehensive backlink audits:
- Spot negative SEO attacks (spikes) in the Referring Domains report.
- Identify unnatural link activity from “spammy” CTLDs.
- Uncover risk markers in a site’s anchor text distribution.
- Spot PBN footprints in the Referring IPs report.
- Find broken backlinks and lost link equity.
8 Features of a Top Backlink Checker (According to the Experts)
This section calls out 8 features (in no particular order) the experts found most valuable in a backlink anlysis tool.
#1: Top-Level View (and Comparison)
The very first question you need to be able to answer: how many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to my site?
The experts look for a tool that provides an accurate domain rating and backlink/referring domain baseline to compare against top organic search competitors. The insights are used to identify gaps (and opportunities) that can be sold to clients or upper management.
#2: Monitor link acquisition rates
Looking at top-level metrics is helpful for understand how you stack up against the competition at a given point in time, but it doesn’t provide much context.
Have competitors been acquiring link consistently over time? Have they recently started building links more aggressively? Has link acquisition stalled?
The experts look for a backlink checker that provides accurate data around link acquisition rates over time, and use the insights to guide their own campaigns.
#3: Assess quality and relevance
(Ahrefs Domain & URL ratings)
The site with the most links doesn’t always win.
Experts look for a backlink analysis tool that allows them to quickly assess the quality and relevancy of inbound links. This helps identify high risk (spammy/irrelevant) backlinks, as well as identify high-value link prospects.
#4: Mine competing content for valuable link prospects
One of easiest ways to find high quality, relevant link building opportunities is to look at the sites linking to competing content (product pages, blogs etc).
Experts look for a backlink checker that makes it easy to find and evaluate the quality of sites linking to competing assets, and filter by different data points to pinpoint the most relevant and high-probability targets.
#5: Identify “linkable” content types (and topics)
Not all content types and topics are created equal. Some are better for driving traffic and/or social engagement, others for acquiring links.
The experts place a lot of value on backlink checkers that make it easy to quickly identify which content types and topics provide the greatest backlink (and referral traffic) potential at given point in time, in different industries.
#6: Analyze anchor text distribution
Over-optimized anchor text is an old school tactic that can get your website on the Penguin radar. i.e. your anchor text profile should have a natural blend of exact match, partial match, generic, and naked URLs.
Experts recommend using a backlink analysis tool that allows you to get a quick top-level view of a site’s anchor text ratios, and spot spam.
#7: Spot negative SEO attacks
Experts look for a tool that constantly refreshes link database, and makes it easy to spot anomalies (drastic spikes in new links) indicative of a negative SEO attack. The quicker you spot the attacks, the faster you can take the necessary steps to fight it (disavow).
#8: Drill deep into toxic link activity
Experts recommend using a tool that allows you to dig beneath surface level issues, and find hidden “toxic markers” in your link profile. For example:
CTLDs: Is the website getting a ton of links from suspicious CTLDs?
PBNs: Google does not like PBN activity. Therefore, it’s important to have a tool that allows you to analyze IP classes to quickly determine if the site you are working on is currently building PBN links, or used the tactic in the past. Regardless, it’s very important to disavow these links to help prevent any possible manual action or algorithmic penalties.
58 Experts Reveal Best Backlink Checkers (and How to Use Them)
That’s a quick recap of the top backlink analysis tools (and features to look for). Now it’s time to dive in and find out how the experts are using the different tools to analyze competitors and check the health of link profiles.
We use Ahrefs (aff) to analyze client and competitor backlinks. Things we consistently review include:
1) The ratio of referring domains and total backlinks. A million backlinks from several thousand referring domains is a profile quite distinct from a million backlinks from a few hundred. High ratios are not necessarily indicative of spam or low quality link building efforts, but are something to review further.
2) The range of pages that secure backlinks and where they reside in the site architecture. This is found in the Best by Links section on the left hand navigation. Sites with higher levels of “deep links” are typically indicative of content value add for users, and also more effectively distribute link equity to deeper sections of the website.
Sites with backlinks pointing almost exclusively to the homepage will have their own challenges: they lack value-add content deeper within the site or may struggle with link equity “trickling” down to deeper pages.
3) Range and distribution of anchor texts. Sites should have mainly branded anchor texts to stay well clear of Google manual penalties and algorithmic filters, but backlinks with even partial keyword matches are strong relevancy signals for the purposes of keyword ranking. An effective ratio might be 80% to 90% branded, with the rest including partial and exact match keywords within the anchor.
My day to day tool of choice is Ahrefs (aff).
For sites where I’m analyzing on an ongoing basis, the new/lost reports get used a ton to track if I’ve got a good link that dropped, or if new ones that I haven’t seen yet are popping up.
For more ad-hoc work, the referring domains report, filtered to “dofollow” links and sorted by DR high to low is typically how I’ll dive in to get a look at the best links for a competitor or potential purchase.
For building outreach lists, the Link Intersect tool is always my first stop – great shortcut to pull together a list of sites where my competitors have been covered, but I haven’t.
1. Overview: As a starting point, I look at the graphs to gauge any unnatural link patterns. i.e. spike in referring domains/pages & CTLD distributions from countries the website doesn’t service. I also look at anchor text distribution that is too heavy on exact-match keywords.
2. Referring domains: I’m looking for three things here:
– Domain Rating distribution – do they have a good spread of domains?
– Organic Traffic – do referring domains get organic traffic?
– Domain Relevancy – are referring websites relevant to the destination website?
3. Domain comparison – we need to know the link profile gap between them and competitors i.e. look at TLD domain distribution, referring domain-to-backlinks ratio, and total referring domain count.
Each tool provides the most complete and fresh link data for Websites worldwide. The reports are highly usable, already segmented to facilitate the analysis -level of popularity and potential toxicity, placement, anchor text, linking pages, location, etc.- and allow users to easily compare metrics against the competition in order to identify existing gaps and opportunities, which is critical to establishing a successful link building strategy.
In Ahrefs, I try not to get too caught up in anchor text ratios etc – more so just for an overview of the number of, and specific domains, linking to a site and how growth has been over time.
GSC is nice to have as a comparison of what Google is seeing, which is the most important part of link building.
Ahrefs (aff) – We use the tool to check the backlinks of our clients & their respective competitors. This ensures we have a good understanding of why our clients rank where they do & what is required to rank in the first position from an off-site SEO point of view.
The tools allow us to identify some easy quick wins within the niche in terms of link acquisition for our clients & potential websites which we can collaborate with to gain authority industry related links.
Ahrefs is my go to tool for analyzing backlink data!
Ahrefs is incredibly valuable for assessing lost backlinks, broken backlinks, and newly acquired links. It’s excellent for mapping out timeframes for backlink acquisition and churn, and has proven to be incredibly useful at evaluating how link fluctuations have an overall impact on keyword rankings and organic traffic.
In terms of getting a comprehensive backlink overview quickly, I’ve been very happy with SEMrush. On one screen I can monitor new/lost backlinks, our toxic score, and most helpful, our top anchors in order to gauge the quality of backlinks and traffic we’ll receive as a result.
Also, SEMrush’s Backlink Gap tool has been really insightful in terms of understanding which domains competitors are receiving backlinks from. This isn’t just helpful from a competitive standpoint, but it also helps us understand which domains already have an appetite for the type of content we create, giving us a great starting point for link-building exercises.
I use several tools to check a client or competitor’s backlink profile, but the main tool is definitely Ahrefs.
Ahrefs URL and Domain Ratings provide a quick reference to see the basic quality of a link. It helps me narrow down potential opportunities for future acquisition.
I can see from an overview standpoint the types of links a client has built in the past, their anchor text optimizations and to and see if they have any issues with lost/broken links. It’s also a great tool for looking at competitors’ strategies and isolating effective ways that they’ve built quality, relevant links.
Bonus Free Tool Mention: Monitor Backlinks – This tool gives a decent amount of backlink data for free vs the other tools. If you’re a webmaster on a budget, this tool can be very valuable.
I mostly use SEMrush (aff), and my use cases are generally threefold:
– identify top organic search competitors
– look at domain-level metrics for overarching competitive analysis
– look at metrics for content strategy and page-level competitive analysis.
SEMrush is great at quickly surfacing organic competitors by looking at keyword overlap, which is extremely helpful. It’s a quick way to see who you compete with across a broad set of terms.
At the domain-level, I’m looking primarily at the authority score and total number of linking domains; if a site has more linking domains AND a higher authority score than competitors, they’re probably in good shape. If their score is lower than the competition, but they still have more linking domains, that tells me the quality of their links isn’t great and they need to do better.
At the page-level, I’m looking to see the number of external links and linking domains, the topics and content those links are coming in from, as well as the mix of anchor text. I also do a page-level analysis with Buzzsumo, to get the social share data for specific pages.
I don’t look at link toxicity at all. I think it’s a bogus metric. Thanks to Penguin 4.0, the only link-level penalties Google really levels these days are for link selling or link buying, and if you’ve done those, you don’t need a tool to tell you where you messed up :/ In most cases, people who check their “link toxicity” and set-up a disavow file are probably just doing more harm than good.
I’m a big fan of Ahrefs for checking backlink data.
The Backlinks report is great for identifying opportunities where we might have a 404 page that can be redirected to related live content OR for finding out what sites are consistently sharing our content – this could showcase a major opportunity for partnerships.
I love to compare URLs and anchor text in the Backlinks report to understand what keywords other domains use when linking to our pages – in short, how do other people describe our content – this can help uncover potential keywords to optimize for, or uncover new opportunities for additional content on those pages.
The Top Referring Content report is a great way to understand not only what content is the most shareable, but what types of content are most shareable on different social networks. We use these insights to optimize content for specific audiences.
And last but not least, the Link Intersect tool (aff) makes it easy to find sites that are linking to your competitors, but not you. This will help guide ongoing outreach strategies.
Miles Anthony Smith
Ahrefs is great for a quick and dirty backlink profile review!
If you need a quick assessment of a website’s link profile (toxicity, on-page-SEO, competitors, etc.), Ahrefs is where I start. That said, I would put SEMrush in a close second for a quick view; not only can you use it to do keyword research (which is what it’s primarily known for), it has a good backlink audit tool (aff).
If you want to do exhaustive backlink research, then Screaming Frog is my number one. The real power comes by plugging in various other tool APIs like Google Analytics, Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, etc. to layer additional data points for in-depth analysis.
The tools have evolved a lot, but right now my agency mainly uses raw data (CSV exports) from Ahrefs. I’ve tried maybe two dozen automated auditors, written our own software, and I just keep coming back to a ridiculously manual process. Every other method still seems to have frustrating accuracy problems.
Right now, we’ll look for about 40 types of issues, from anchor text ratios to odd growth/loss trends. We’ll also hunt for about a dozen “spammy” tactics that were really popular in 2005 and haven’t aged well.
Other stuff, though — like automated statistic/whois sites that link to 100% of the web by default and every automated auditor tells you to disavow — we’ll leave completely alone.
We exclusively use Ahrefs to monitor backlinks for the companies that we work with.
From an auditing and client facing stand point, we’ve built out a custom Google Sheet template/script that ingests a CSV export from Ahrefs. The Gsheet template does the following:
– Formats the information into presentable way where clients can understand what’s going on with their backlink profile
– Allows us to provide a high level analysis and actionable next steps to clients
– Compares clients with their competitors’ backlink profiles
– Identifies and puts together a recommended disavow file that is then reviewed manually and if need be uploaded to GSC
Ahrefs is my favorite tool for analyzing backlinks.
For the web properties I manage, I’m actively looking at new and lost referring domains. From there, I can easily drill down into the exact linking URL, anchor text and nofollow status on each link.
I also love the anchors report, where I can keep track of branded vs non-branded ratios on all existing links. The broken backlinks report is very helpful as well, allowing me to find old URLs that may not have the proper redirects in place.
For new link opportunities, the link intersect tool is my go-to because I can easily spot where competitive websites are getting links that my websites are not.
Ahrefs – It’s a pretty big tool that gives you a lot of options for analyzing a site’s backlink profile, and the sites the backlinks are coming from.
Firstly I use it to analyse the websites backlinks are coming from with the Site Explorer tool. This provides a lot of information like organic traffic, referring domains, rankings etc. I use the Top Pages report to get a quick overview of what Google thinks the site is about, to make sure it matches up niche-wise. I’ll also check the organic keywords to back this up.
I check the referring domains to see what kind of sites the site is getting links from, and also the linked domains to see where it’s linking out to. I’m specifically looking for links out to unrelated niches, or links that look like blatant paid placements. I’m also checking which links they are no-following, if any. Is there a pattern in the links they choose to no-follow?
Then for ours and our client’s sites, I use Ahrefs in a similar way to check top pages, traffic, keywords etc. I also use the Anchors report to check what the overall anchor text profile looks like. This advises my link building tactics.
For example, do I need to build a few more links with branded anchors? Does a piece of content need a bit more diversity in its backlink anchor text? Or maybe it doesn’t have a strong enough focus on a particular keyword and needs a boost. Using this report helps me to plan ahead.
1) SEMrush – their mention tool (aff) allows me to track new backlinks to our website, but more importantly mentions without links. This allows us to follow up and earn backlinks we may have never gotten without it. Always start with the “low hanging fruit”!
2) Google Alerts – this allows us to passively monitor mentions of our company and links to our website. We receive a weekly email.
3) Twitter – often when somebody mentions or links to us, they’ll tag us in a tweet. We’ll always take a look at the article, thank them and take any next steps necessary to ensure a solid link.
I use Ahrefs regularly for these activities:
a. Getting full reports of pages linking to similar content and identifying which of them are suitable for a specific client’s campaign (we use the Prefix/URL feature of Site Explorer for this).
b. Identifying new audiences and potential content topics by using the “Top Pages/Best By Links” feature.
c. Finding new competitors from a brand and content perspective using the “Competing Domains and Competing Pages” features.
SEMrush, Ahrefs, and recently I’m in love with linkminer.
Along with these tools you need a spreadsheet to track things on a continual basis. It is very important to measure backlinks based on anchor text type and ratio to avoid unnatural links.
Once exporting the backlink data from any of the tools mentioned above, add them to the spreadsheet and filter the backlinks by anchor text. After filtering assign percentage based on the anchor type.
Anchor Text Types Percentage example:
– Branded (Brand Name) 0%
– Generic (click here) 0%
– LSI (Some Long tail keywords) 44.40%
– Exact Match (Money Keyword) 44.40%
– Naked URLs 11.10%
If you have a heavy percentage of exact match anchors, it could indicate unnatural link activity. Based on my experience keep the exact match ratio below 20%.
To check a site’s backlink profile, I use a combination of Ahrefs and SimilarWeb. For a top-level view, I look at the following metrics in Ahrefs:
1. The historical growth of links. From this graph, I can tell whether a site is working on acquiring links as well as if it has any suspicious activity that can be identified by sudden dips and spikes.
2. The number of referring domains vs. the number of backlinks. This metric tells me about the quality of the backlink profile since, ideally, those two numbers should be quite close to each other. If the number of backlinks is much higher than the number of referring domains, I can refer directly to the domains report where I can review what kind of domains have the highest number of referring pages.
3. Anchor cloud. It should have a natural mix of branded, generic, exact/partial-match and naked URLs.
4. The top referring content. This report is a gem if you only have a few minutes before your pitch, as it allows you to see whether they’ve already built top tier links or not. Depending on this, you can structure your offer in the most persuasive way.
SimilarWeb is a must-have tool if you’re interested in understanding how much referral traffic links are generating.
I love Ahrefs’ “Best by links” feature. I’m always on the lookout for the type of content that attracts the most links in my industry. At Core dna, for example, stats and trends-related content seem to attract the easiest and quickest link. So, we have a bunch of content around those.
Pro-tip: I highly recommend taking advantage of their “best pages by internal links” feature. By default, Ahrefs sort the pages with the most links coming from external pages. What you want to do is find pages that have little to no internal links and start passing on some link juice to those pages.
There are various backlink checker tools that help you analyze links for their quality and credibility.
Ahrefs gives you a complete look at your backlink profile. You not only get access to the total number of backlinks, but you can also examine each of those links for quality and relevancy.
You can reach out to high DA websites that include an unlinked mention to your brand and earn high-quality links from them.
You can track links competitors gain or lose, which can help you rise up the ladder with a solid data-driven link-building strategy.
Majestic is a wonderful tool to find out what the authority of a given site has when they link to you, and how “spammy” they are in that industry/space. I look for a good ratio of Trust Flow to Citation Flow and relevancy to determine if the link is good… or not.
After using Majestic, I check the backlinks I found with SEMrush to ensure that they are both finding them and get a sense of whether or not Majestic and SEMrush are on the same page about a link.
For backlink analysis, I primarily use Ahrefs.
Aside from basic features that you could find in some other tools like SEMrush, Majestic or Moz, Ahrefs has some other features that are truly unique. For instance, Ahrefs’ historical trend of referring domain growth gives an at-a-glance overview of whether a site is really investing in building links or not.
Also, by looking at top pages by links, you can understand what kind of pages are most important to your competitors.
Finally, Ahrefs has a report called “Best pages by links’ growth” for if you want to know what pages your rivals are currently working on when it comes to acquiring links.
My top tool for checking backlink data is Ahrefs
Assessing link quality—At a superficial level, I use link metrics on Ahrefs, such as URL and Domain Rating. That said, assessing link quality properly becomes more subjective when you dig deeper. I’ll look at whether a link is industry relevant and topical.
Backlink audits—I usually start with low-hanging fruit. Ahrefs has a broken backlinks report which highlights backlinks that are no longer passing link juice. For example, the tool currently reports that the bbc.co.uk has over 2 million broken backlinks. Yikes!
Anchor text—If a backlink profile has been over-optimized, you’ll see cracks appear in the over-use of transactional anchor text. So, it’s always good to get a sanity check over in the anchors report.
Competitive analysis—I find Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool handy. It spots common backlinks that a list of competitors have, but your site does not. And rather than just focus on SEO or business competitors, you can find gold by casting you net further into neighbouring industries.
Sounds obvious, but instead of just researching travel insurance companies, you research travel vacation companies, as well as insurance companies.
I love ahrefs for backlink data.
In the Site Explorer, I look at a few things to give me a broad picture on what’s happening. In all of the items described below I’ll be looking at how a client compares to their main competitors, as identified in Competing domains report under the Organic search section of the left hand navigation.
1. What’s the trend in my client’s industry with regard to speed of obtaining new referring domains? Who’s best at it? What are they doing?
2. What’s the trend in my client’s industry with regard to anchor text? What percentage of dofollow links are branded (filter by dofollow, note the total # of phrases, then filter by brand name/part of brand name)? Then compare that (on the overview tab) to number of organic keywords they’re ranking for as well as the organic traffic they’re getting.
3. What percentage of referring domains are sending dofollow links? I use the live links index. If it’s low, that’s a point of improvement for backlink building for the client.
4. What percentage of links are coming from 10+ UR pages in the URL rating distribution chart? The more in the higher ranges the better (addressing link quality). Most clients will have most of their links in the 0-10 range, but if there aren’t a smattering in the higher ranges, that’s a goal for improvement.
5. Are there any spikes in the New & lost referring domains chart? If so, I use that date range to filter backlinks in the New report. I sort by dofollow links and note the kind of content & link building strategy driving those links.
I don’t often look at spammy links or take time to disavow them. My understanding is that Google’s pretty good at sorting through all that. I’m open to revisiting though if the situation arises with a client.
A lot of this is covered in Sam Oh’s 3 part training series.
While we check link data from a variety of perspectives, the tool we rely on most is Ahrefs. We use it to analyze competitor backlink profiles (which helps guide strategy) and to measure our client’s success in search following campaign execution.
The reason I like Ahrefs is that their metrics are reliable for gauging the authority of a domain and they have tools that simplify the process for popular backlink analysis strategies.
The Link Intersect tool (aff) is especially helpful for competitor link comparison. You can take the top ranking sites for a keyword phrase, plug a few of them into the Link Intersect tool along with a domain you’re working on and get a complete report of what domains you may need to target to gain market share.
There is also a lot to be said for their holistic approach to SEO software. For instance their Keywords Explorer tool has become our go-to platform for keyword research and the Content Explorer provides insightful data on the types of content people are sharing most online.
With a database of over 12 trillion links, the second most active search engine crawler after Google, and an array of options to perform audits, analyze backlinks and gain competitive insights, Ahrefs is the clear winner for me.
Here are my favorite functionalities on Ahrefs:
High Level Domain View: This section uses a few helpful metrics to get a high level overview of domain health.
I can quickly understand on both a page and domain level the authority of my site, with higher numbers correlating to a higher likelihood of better rankings.
I can also view historic and live numbers of backlinks, as well as referring domains pointing towards my site. I tend to pay the most attention to referring domains, looking for a diversified link profile from numerous relevant and/or high DR sites.
Another useful feature is the URL rating distribution, which shows me what percentage of backlinks come in from different UR ratings. This gives me a quality pulse, and can help justify implementing more aggressive link building campaigns.
However, backlink metrics don’t mean anything unless you compare them to your top competitors.
I like to use the Competing Domains report to find a list of top competitors taking up real estate in my industry.
After I get my list, I use Site Explorer to check organic traffic estimates, compare backlinks profiles, and find “linakable” content opportunities.
After identifying content in the Top Pages report we can replicate and improve (shoutout to Brian “Skyscraper” Dean), I uncover all the backlinks competitors acquired for that piece, and perform outreach.
Anchor text report: Most anchor text to your site should be branded. Too many keyword-rich anchors is a big red flag to Google, as it signals potential manipulation or attempts to game the system.
According to Ahrefs, 20% of referring domains should use branded anchor text. Utilize your “Live” view to get a gauge on this distribution.
I love to use the Ahrefs “Best Page By Links” report to find quick link wins.
This report is great at finding pages that have a lot of existing backlinks going to dead pages. If it’s my clients page I simply redirect it to the correct page.
If it is a competitors page we can remake the content or asset and then email everyone who is linking to the dead page.
This report also is a great way to find out what has worked well for the competition in acquiring links that we could also try doing.
1. Majestic. We use this tool for almost everything, from reviewing our own backlink profile to competitor analysis. Majestic is great at filtering out links from spammy domains.
Topical Trust Flow is another awesome feature. It shows you whether referring domains are relevant to your niche.
2. Google Search Console. This is our favorite tool for checking what Google knows about sites linking to AccuRanker. We want to keep our profile healthy and disavow spammy sites.
3. Mention. This tool allows us to turn brand mentions to links on the fly. When someone mentions our brand, we immediately share the content across our social media channels and send an email to see if it’s possible to add a link.
Sharing the post is a mandatory element of this strategy since we’re bringing value to this person, then asking for a favor in return. Always try to reciprocate value!
Moz’s Link Explorer is my favorite tool for analyzing backlinks for clients.
Our SEO team downloads the data and creates a Google Sheet with tabs for each competitor. To find the best backlink opportunities, we sort by Link Equity (follow vs. no follow) and remove the no-follow links. Then sort to find and remove links with high spam scores and low domain and page authority.
The final sort is by URL so that we can create categories (i.e. General Directory Listings, Industry Directories, Publications, Sponsorship Opportunities, Guest Blog Opportunities, Conferences and Expos, E-commerce, etc.)
The final step is to compare opportunities to the client’s backlinks, then create a Backlinks Opportunities Report and worksheet to operate from. The time put into this process leaves us with a powerful list of outreach opportunities.
I use Linkody to track progress, spot new opportunities, and audit existing backlinks. Linkody provides quick information to create actionable steps.
Linkody provides several metrics to assess link quality. First, I sort Domain Authority to target top sites. It also includes social share data and Alexa rank to indicate traffic and engagement levels.
The Total External Follow Links determines what percentage of that SEO juice I get. I start with my own site to find domains to contact, then review competitors for new opportunities. I also derive new strategies based on the source and content type.
With Google’s algorithm updates and site reviews, avoiding unnatural links is as important as gaining new backlinks. Linkody’s Spam Score is helpful for flagging links to investigate. Country origin (IP) and source page title (URL From) help identify backlinks that are potentially not relevant.
If a takedown request doesn’t work, Linkody has a convenient Disavow tool. Linkody’s Analytics section is particularly helpful for analyzing top anchor terms and Follow/Nofollow ratio to find potential risks.
The real-time reports allow quick competitor comparisons. And, the Landing Page section lets me see how individual pages (and campaigns) are doing.
If you are looking for an all-in-one toolset for backlink analysis, check out Ahrefs.
Enter the URL/ doain you want to analyze and a helpful overview report will appear. You will find a range of backlink data points in this tool: new, lost, and broken backlinks. Specific dates are available, showing when it was crawled and discovered by Ahrefs.
We also use other tools to cross-check and make sure the information we get from Ahrefs is accurate. For that, I’d also recommend Cognitive SEO for backlink quality assessment.
Cognitive SEO is a little more complex than Ahrefs in that it allows you to find the “link influence” of each backlink. I find this more helpful than Ahrefs’ Domain and URL Rating scores.
If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with Ahrefs 🙂
For the sake of variety — hopefully this is a new tool for some — I’d recommend OpenLinkProfiler (OLP). It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that come with a paid tool, but I’m impressed with the amount of data it actually provides for something free to use.
OLP gives you an in-depth summary of your website’s active links and even provides a ‘Link Influence Score’, which provides an estimate of the link’s quality.
There’s a lot of utility with this tool; you can see which pages have the most unique backlinks, get a general overview of how old your backlinks, and a bunch of other cool things you can cram into a compelling SEO report. This tool is awesome for freelancers operating on a shoestring budget.
As of late, I have been using Ahrefs more than any other tool for backlink analysis and review.
All-around Ahrefs does a good job at keeping its menu clean and user-friendly. You don’t have to filter through multiple menues to find various insightful data points. This is especially true of the backlink profile tool. It’s broken out by New, Lost and Broken Links making regular link reviews and check-ins a breeze.
You can quickly see the traffic volume for each backlink, as well as the domain and page-level authority. You also use the external links report for each new backlink to find additional prospects to target.
The tool I rely on most is Aherfs when checking backlink data. With just a few clicks you can get some high level data about your site and competitors. I typically look at data around anchor text, domain and URL rating, as well as organic traffic.
They have really helpful pre-built reports. I typically use the anchor text report, best pages by backlinks, and general backlinks report.
Each report can be conveniently filtered inside the Ahrefs application, or exported to analyze in Excel/Google Sheets.
Ahrefs is always releasing new features to improve the product and make it more functional for users.
Ahrefs & Google Sheets.
Ahrefs: In my opinion, Ahrefs has the most up-to-date link index. When I build a new link, it’s usually reported quickly inside the tool. When performing a backlink audit for a client, I usually export all the backlink data into Google Sheets, sort and manipulate it from there. That way I know what to Disavow and keep.
Another great feature is the ability to check what links your competitors have, but you don’t.
We primarily use Ahrefs for link analysis due to its index size, web based tools and API capability.
Different customers have different needs and how we use the data varies wildly between them.
Two of the most regular pieces of work that require link data for us is defining opportunity and reviewing page performance. On the page performance side it is not rocket science, we are just looking for volume and quality of links, anchors to build a plan of attack for improvement.
For the opportunity piece, we analyze the number and quality of links that a set of page one search results has for a specific keyword. Using this data, we can determine the relative difficulty to rank (assuming our content is better and more relevant than all others).
Doing this over a large set of terms helps focus our efforts and deliver results quickly for our customers.
For client backlink audits, Majestic is my go-to tool. I also use Google Search Console and SEMrush. I merge all the results together into a single spreadsheet, and de-duplicate for analysis.
You can take these links and run them through a link detox tool of choice to identify any toxic links/issues/opportunities. Similar process for competitor link audits, but without GSC of course.
The more backlink analysis tools you use, the greater chance of capturing a “complete” view of the link profile.
There are a lot of ways you can use Moz Link Explorer to pull backlink data; however, I think one of the most valuable ways to leverage this tool is for competitive backlink audits. You can simply run your competitors’ websites to figure out where they are getting backlinks from, sort by domain authority, and quickly discover new link building opportunities.
Google Alerts and BuzzSumo are great for monitoring brand mentions, which can lead to some “quick wins”. Set up alerts around the brand name, strategic assets, reports, etc. to find mentions that may present the opportunity to reach out and request a well-deserved link back to your site.
Ahrefs – I use Ahrefs first because it is the best crawler and aggregates data well. After a bit of practice, you can very easily uncover low hanging fruit and amazing opportunities for your clients based on what they rank for, and what their competitors rank for (gap analysis)
Majestic – I use majestic when determining link strength of websites with low traffic. Their topical trust flow tool is not perfect, but it helps provide a quick glance at the category of links a website is getting – if I see the backlink topical trustflows are relevant its a good sign the website is legitimate.
SEMrush – I use this tool sometimes – they have a cool tool for keyword research called Keyword Magic which I like using to help jumpstart keyword opportunity research.
Ahrefs – You can get a general idea of the quality of the links by looking at the DR and UR scores. You can also see if any of the links are ranking for certain keywords, and if they are bringing in any organic traffic.
I also look at the New and Lost backlinks reports to see how things have been over a period of time.
There’s also a section for broken links to make sure you fix any important links pointing to a non-existent page. And, the anchors tab allows you to see how sites are linking to your content.
SEMrush- Not as good as Ahrefs for analyzing backlinks, but I find it more useful for analyzing the potential of a link or mention. You can see if the domain itself is getting organic traffic (has this organic traffic been increasing or dropping). As a secondary source it can help to see if links and mentions have a good chance of referring targeted traffic.
Ahrefs is my favorite tool for checking backlink data.
I use the tool to delve deep into the referring sources, anchor text distribution, and see what pages on a site are getting the most links. There are also great features that show trend analysis and dropped links, which can be helpful for a number of reasons (i.e. broken link building).
You can also use the tool to assess the specific backlinks pointing to an individual URL and what keywords a page is ranking for to generate organic search traffic. Ultimately, it’s my favorite tool for backlink analysis, and it also helps with keyword research and re-optimizing legacy content.
Ahrefs: You have all the tools on-hand to not only to track backlinks and keywords, but also gain insights into the activities of your top competitors!
Google Search Console: This is often overlooked because it’s a free tool, but there is a lot of valuable information available. You can quickly export a list of links pointing to your website, very handy when running a thorough backlink audit. You can submit a disavow file through your Search Console account.
The tool I use to analyze backlink data is Ahrefs.
I think Ahrefs has the most comprehensive backlink database, and provides great insights into the strength of the URL the link is on. Ahref’s Domain and Page Rating are particularly helpful in this regard.
I also love that I can check for broken backlinks. With this data, I can reach out to sites referencing me with a broken link, and ask them to fix it. This is a really easy win.
We rely on SEMrush to analyze backlink data.
We focus on the site the links are coming from, quality score and the anchor text. What we really like is their listings of contacts for the particular sites. These may not always be accurate, but it’s a nice start for outreach. We also like the ability to gather follow / no follow data. It’s helpful in deciding where to place content.
I’m a big fan of SEMrush’s auditing tool.
In recent months, the tool allowed users to pull in Majestic SEO’s backlink data with an easy integration. I would also use data from Google Search Console, which you can also integrate with SEMrush. This provides a comprehensive view of a site’s entire link profile.
From there, use the tool to audit and disavow any toxic links, an important part of maintaining a healthy backlink profile.
Ahrefs is also another tool worth considering. I’d lean towards using it if I was just analyzing a competitor’s backlink profile.
We use Ahrefs for checking backlink data.
As an SEO agency that services ecommerce brands, we complete a thorough backlink evaluation of clients and competitors as a necessary first step in any comprehensive link building and/or content creation initiative.
We’ve found that using a combination of Ahrefs and proprietary tools is the best way to compile an accurate list of thousands of backlinks across multiple profiles. We then use Ahrefs’ comprehensive index and domain rating scores to place values on those sites, and determine how to best approach them (influencer outreach campaign, etc).
Note: When it comes to building any SEO strategy, there’s no substitute for the trained human eye, but these tools ensure we’re fully utilizing all of the available data for our clients’ success.
Ahrefs is my #1 backlink analysis tool.
It’s so simple to see all the links pointing to your site, as well as the competition. The menu is intuitive, and I like the export features I can use to slice and dice the data the way I need it.
The Domain Rating seems pretty spot-on, though I think Majestic is better for determining site quality/relevancy.
We rarely look at backlinks.
We have not built backlinks since 2009. They are not part of the way we do SEO. The best backlinks go to the businesses with the best brands in their category. We focus on building brand not backlinks.
On the rare occasions we come across manual penalties, we’ll use Majestic & Google Search Console data. Since Gary Illyes revealed at Pubcon last year, that you really don’t need to disavow, we don’t anymore.
I like using Ahrefs for analyzing backlink data because it is the most accurate in my professional experience.
For backlink audits, I usually like to use Majestic as well to get additional historical data. But, Ahrefs is always my main go-to tool especially for doing live SEO audits with potential clients.
Ahrefs is by far my favourite backlink analysis tool.
It helps you quickly gain actionable insights. In three clicks, I can find the highest authority backlinks pointing to competing pages or domains, along with anchors and a bunch of other helpful data. Great for competitor link building.
I rely on Ahrefs to check backlink data for myself, clients and competitors. When performing competitor link analysis, I find it helpful to go to the main Backlinks report and enter a competitor URL. I filter by DR and UR to find the highest authority links pointing to their site, export the page, and filter the list to URLs we can use to reach out for similar guest posts and backlinks.
Ahrefs is my go-to SEO swiss army knife.
When doing backlink analysis on my site or a competitor’s, Ahrefs will give me the links, domains and anchor text which gives me a great top-level view. From there, I can dig deeper into how a site is acquiring links, whether they are valuable, and if there is any action I need to take.
Ahrefs also has a great tool to compare links between different domains if I am looking for a quick metric, but I think the real value in the tool is how much data they have on each site.
SEMrush is great for quickly gauging link toxicity and identifying competitor backlink gaps.
For a quick answer to anchor text ratio/health, nothing beats running a domain through Majestic & scrolling to the bottom. Majestic is also great for assessing link quality and relevancy as their TF & CF metrics are widely trusted within the industry.
If you really need to dig deep and get your hands dirty with manual link checks, referring domains and IPs, Ahrefs is absolutely the tool for that as it typically finds more links than any other tool available.
What Tools Are You Using to Check Backlink Data?
There you have it – 58 SEO experts revealed the tools they use to perform deep backlink analysis for their business and/or clients.
Here’s the list of the 10 best backlink checkers (by vote count):
1. Ahrefs (71 votes) [Review // 7 Day Trial]
2. SEMrush (18 votes) [Review // 30 Day Trial]
3. Majestic (16 votes)
4. Google Search Console (15 votes)
5. Moz (4 votes)
6. CognitiveSEO (3 votes)
7. Linkody and OpenLinkProfiler (2 votes)
8. LinkMiner (1 vote)
9. SimilarWeb (1 vote)
10. BuzzSumo (1 vote)
Which tools are you using? Any new ones you’re going to try?
Let me know in the comments below.