Downloading your competitors backlink profile used to be easy when the Yahoo Site Explorer backlinks checker was up and running.
It really is a shame they closed it down because competitor backlink analysis is a great way to rank sites in any niche.
Since then a few other players have beefed up their offering including Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, SEOMoz (Open Site Explorer), Raven Tools & SEO Spyglass.
All of these are web based services except for SEO Spyglass which is a desktop application and part of the SEO Powersuite package.
I will also be testing these against Google Search Console which allows you to download a sample of your backlinks. However this is only useful to people that own the site they are trying to download the backlinks for.
If you are trying to discover how your competitors are ranking and want to replicate their link profiles you cannot use Google Search Console to achieve this.
Which Is The Best Backlink Checker Tool?
To find out which is the best tool I decided to see how many links each service reported for 3 different websites.
The 3 sites are my own so I know the history of them very well-
- Site 1 – One of my oldest sites with 1000+ pages
- Site 2 – A couple of years old with about 300 pages
- Site 3 – Just under a year old – still a nurtured baby with ~40 pages
This will give us a balanced mix of results and test each backlink checking service from a variety of angles.
Google Search Console reports the total number of links it Google has found for your site under Traffic > Links To Your Site which you can see in the image to the right.
I will be using this number as the benchmark for the services to compare against, including the total number of sample links Google allow us to download from that total.
A Quick Look At The Tools
Before I get into the nitty gritty of testing I wanted to give you a quick tour of the tools we’ll be looking at.
I will tell you now Ahrefs.com is a personal favourite of mine. They show some fantastic data and break it down in pretty much every way imaginable.
How many links you have, from how many IPs, linking to which pages with which anchor text.
They breakdown the links by types and provide all sorts of graphs and visualisation options.
The only real drawback with Ahrefs.com is pricing – starting at $79 a month upto $499 a month although the smallest package will suit most.
Download a free trial of SEO Spyglass
This is a unique offering in the fact that it is a desktop application available on its own or as part of SEO Powersuite.
It downloads your backlinks from a number of sources and they even have their own database of links similar to the services above the software accesses directly.
It will also fetch live / real time data on the status of links, the page rank, anchor text used and so on. All of which can be exported into highly customisable PDF reports!
Unlike the monthly fee based services below this software is available for a one time fee of $99.75 (or $249 as part of SEO Powersuite).
Raven Tools also has a completely free fully functional 30 day trial.
In a way Raven Tools is like SEOMoz as it provides a suite of tools for managing your online campaigns.
However it isn’t quite as developed as the SEOMoz offering and I find it lacking in a lot of places. The back end design is really poor and a big let down from the impressive front end.
It is still worth taking out the trial to download some backlinks and have a snoop around though!
SEOMoz / Open Site Explorer
SEOMoz has a completely free fully functional 30 day trial for you to take advantage of.
What separates this from the pack is the huge range of tools you get for your money.
Open Site Explorer is just a small part of the SEOMoz offering which also includes rank tracking, weekly crawls alerting you to onsite SEO issues, on page recommendations, social media statistics and competitive backlink analysis to see how you stack up against the competition.
It also includes a whole bunch of other tools, webinars, training videos and an expert community.
After the 30 day trial it costs $99 per month which is a bargain for what you get!
I really don’t like how Majestic SEO present their data it really does leave a lot to be desired. However when you drill down into the data it does provide everything you need to know.
It is very similar to Ahrefs in a lot of ways but in my opinion Ahrefs does a much better job all round – we’ll see what the test results say about that though!
Prices start from around $50 (€39 EUR) to $400 (€299.99 EUR) per month. However there is a free account that lets you run more detailed reports for websites you own.
Putting Them To The Test
The real test though is how many links does each service return for the 3 sites I mentioned earlier?
Site 1 – 498,947 Total Links
Google reports a total of 498,947 links for this site. Here is the data each tool returned-
|Backlink Checker||# Found||% Found|
|Search Console Sample||98,831||19.81%|
As you can see Ahrefs takes the top spot finding a total of 41,985 links which is 8.41% of the total reported links from Google.
SEO Spyglass brings up the rear finding only 14,402 / 2.89% of the total links.
Site 2 – 17,390 Total Links
Google reports a total of 17,390 links for this site. Here is the data each tool returned-
|Backlink Checker||# Found||% Found|
|Search Console Sample||8,802||50.62%|
SEO Spyglass still finds itself lagging in the bottom spot though.
Site 3 – 434 Total Links
Google reports a total of 434 links for this site. Here is the data each tool returned-
|Backlink Checker||# Found||% Found|
|Search Console Sample||283||65.21%|
The final test brings Ahrefs to the top of the pack again finding a toal of 99 / 22.81% of the links.
At least SEO Spyglass managed to move its way up from the bottom spot this time though!
A Complete Look At The Data
First of all lets take a look at the % of links found for each site and service side by side.
|Backlink Checker||Site 1||Site 2||Site 3|
Looking at that you can see that although Ahrefs doesn’t always win, it does edge ahead over the others.
But what about if we look at it from a total perspective and compare the total amount of links available to find across the 3 sites with the total amount each service found?
Across the 3 sites there are a total of 516,771 backlinks to be found–
|Backlink Checker||# Total Found||% Total Found|
And The Best Backlink Checker Is…
If you are purely after a backlink checker then Ahrefs.com is the one to go for clearly.
I place a greater value on number of links returned because I personally take all of my competitors links and load them into Inspyder Backlink Monitor which provides the most advanced analysis of the links once you have them.
However for not much more money per month you can get access to SEOMoz which although returned 9,000 less backlinks then Ahrefs does offer an impressive suite of tools that will support your wider SEO campaigns.
I was surprised to see that SEO Spyglass didn’t perform better as it does have it’s own links database to pull data from in an effort to make up for the loss of Yahoo Site Explorer which it heavily relied on.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: – Viktar Khamianok (Link-Assistant CEO) published this response to how SEO SpyGlass performed in this test – be sure to check it out!
Hats off to him for addressing the issue on the front line in the trenches!
The Problem With Them All
Every backlink checker suffers from the same problem though and that is that no single one of them can provide a complete overview of your link profile.
At best you might find 1/10th of your entire link profile using Ahrefs but what about the other 90% of links pointing to a site? These make a big a difference.
The solution is to grab reports from each service/tool and then combine them into one big master list of links to get the most complete overview of the link profile as possible.
Now obviously it is far to expensive to subscribe to every service but you can take advantage of the SEOMoz, Raven Tools and SEO Spyglass free trials to get you started and then use the limited free reports from Ahrefs and Majestic SEO as well.
Major Update – There Is A New Kid On The Block
Since I published this post, there is a new kid on the block which means I needed to run a new set of tests.
Based on my 1 million domain test of Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO, I decided to repeat that test to include the new kid on the block but with 3 million domains instead.
WebMeUp have launched a free backlink checker tool that is without doubt, the best free backlink checker available!
What peaked my interest in it though was when the SEO Spyglass announced their integration with it.
Although SEO Spyglass is a desktop backlink analyzer tool that provides fresh & accurate data, it performed poorly in terms of the number of links it found.
But with the integration of WebMeUp this announcement really caught my eye-
To clarify they are adding 15 billion links & 4 million unique domains while crawling 1 billion links every day.
Sounds like a worthy competitor!
Who Is The King Of Crawling?
The only one we can compare across the board is the number of links crawled-
Ahrefs have crawled a total of 85,799,032,392 links – 85.8 billion.
Majestic SEO have crawled a total of 185,806,146,989 links – 185.8 billion.
WebMeUp have crawled a total of 157,466,548,231 links – 157.4 billion.
Are We Going To Crown A New King?
Interestingly Ahrefs absolutely dominated the last test above. But in this update the number of links crawled looks worrying for them!
Comparing them it’s clear Majestic SEO are miles ahead and even the new kid on the block WebMeUp have taken stride!
The 3 Million Domain Test
So with that in mind I wanted to repeat my Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO 1 million domain showdown with each backlink checker tool with the biggest databases.
I put the test together in exactly the same way as I did last time except with the introduction of WebMeUp to the mix!
This is how I created the data-
- Downloaded the Majestic Million
- Extracted the subnet & IP counts for Majestic
- Looked up each domain with Ahrefs & WebMeUp
Sounds simple right? Trust me that was much harder than it sounds!
This data along with a PDF is available to download at the end of the post.
Making The Comparison
You can also make your own comparisons to check your own sites out. All you need to do is visit each site and enter your domain.
If I do that for this blog this is what I find-
- Majestic SEO – 826 IP’s / 722 Subnets
- WebMeUp – 371 IP’s / 329 Subnets
- Ahrefs – 1,149 IP’s / 967 Subnets
So in this case, Ahrefs finds the most IP’s and the most subnets.
Now imagine doing that for 1 million domains. That is exactly what I have done!
The Results Last Time
Before I get into the new test, lets remind ourselves how Ahrefs & Majestic SEO performed last time.
In wee pretty graph format-
As you can Ahrefs dominated the results last time.
Looking at the number of links crawled now though, can Ahrefs 85.8 billion hold off Majestic SEO’s 185.8 billion?
Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO vs WebMeUp Test Results
There is a huge amount of data here – it took nearly an hour to complete a single VLOOKUP in excel.
So to make it easier to understand I have broken the result down into groups of 100,000 like last time.
You can check this out for yourself with the ByGroups.xlsx sheet in the data download.
Wins By IP Address
Wins By Subnets
While WebMeUp have failed to make a blip on the radar really. Majestic SEO has improved an awful lot.
In the previous group results Majestic SEO could barely keep up with Ahrefs, but now they are holding their own and even win in 1 group.
Majestic SEO have certainly been hard at work improving their crawler & database!
With the group totals in mind, let’s take a look at the overall totals of how each SEO backlink checker tool performed.
And if we drop that into a graph-
Ahrefs vs Majestic SEO vs WebMeUp Conclusion
Without doubt Ahrefs are still the best backlink checker in terms of database size.
They find more links than both Majestic SEO & WebMeUp put together.
But Majestic SEO have made some serious improvements in the last few months. Last time they won 291,250 IP totals & 358,186 subnet totals.
This time with a new kid on the block they have pushed those wins to 428,266 IP totals & 439,579 subnet totals. That’s a 22.8% increase in performance since the last test.
While Ahrefs have dropped from 709,673 IP wins & 642,737 Subnet wins to 568,526 IPs & 559,330 subnets respectively. A 16.5% drop in performance!
WebMeUp looks promising as a free backlink checker and could challenge Ahrefs & Majestic SEO in the future as it’s database grows.
Previous Performance Chart
Current Performance Chart
How To Verify The Backlinks Checker Data For Yourself
If you want to heck the data yourself it is really easy to do!
Just download the source data and follow the steps below-
- Download the source data
- Open the MasterData.xlsx file
- Select a line at random
- Enter the domain from column A into the search box at Ahrefs, Majestic SEO & WebMeUp.
- For Ahrefs look at Referring IPs and Referring subnets
- For Majestic SEO look at Referring IPs and Referring subnets
- For WebMeUp look at IPs and Subnets
You can manually spot check these at random!
You should also run your own domains through each of the tools to see what results you get for yourself!
The WebMeUp backlink checker is 100% free to use for anyone!
So there we have it, 1 million domains & 3 backlink checker tools compared!
Each of these tools have 1 flaw in common though and that is the freshness of the data.
It could be that links have been removed or pages deleted since they were last crawled.
Either way, in answer to which is the best backlink checker question – Ahrefs is without doubt, the best backlink checker tool on the market period.