Backlinks have always been a leading factor for websites to rank better in search results. Earlier, it was enough to exchange links or buy links for several hundred dollars to be guaranteed a place at the top of SERPs. This would make you rank the highest until someone obtains/buys more links and got themselves to rank above you, and they ranked well until another player with more backlinks emerged. It ended up being a rather dull race of budgets because of how big a role the sheer number of backlinks played when it came to ranking.
In 2012, the situation changed dramatically because of the introduction of Penguin by Google, which required relevant and natural backlinks for pages to rank higher. What kind of links meet this criteria is a different story altogether, so let’s not get into that right now.
I thought I’ll run a fun experiment and see how different backlink analysis services derived data from the same website, since this would give me an accurate head-to-head comparison of how efficient each backlink audit tool is. I decided to go with skis.com (chosen completely at random) and see how the different tools reacted to running backlink audits on the domain.
We will be comparing:
- Open Site Explorer
for this experiment.
I have to say that I was quite satisfied with the results of this experiment, since it gave me a fair idea of how the different services fare against each other. Let’s start with one of the biggest names when it comes to backlink analysis.
I consider Ahrefs as one of the best resources/tools for analyzing competitors’ links. The biggest disadvantage of using Ahrefs is, of course, their pricing. Their monthly subscriptions start from $99/mo and if you are buying a subscription for a year, you get a discount of up to 20%. This doesn’t make the price point too affordable either, in all honesty, but one could end up saving a considerable amount of money by subscribing to the annual plan that they offer.
In all fairness, the pricing is probably the biggest (and only) con of using Ahrefs. The advantages of using it, however, are aplenty. By opting for Ahrefs, you gain access to:
- a plugin for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, which will quickly show all the necessary information at a glance (of course, you must have a subscription)
- a batch analysis for comparing the domains
- a cross-sectional analysis for the search for common backlinks
The overview pane in Ahrefs has an excellent design. The page is laid out in a well-structured manner that makes it easy for the user to gather the necessary information.
The first screen contains the division of links by domain zones, by type, pictures, etc. The popular anchors, the dynamics of backlinks and the rating of the “quality” of your links by Ahrefs Rank are also displayed for the ease of the user.
With the more detailed analysis of backlinks, we get the following parameters:
- Domain rating – the higher, the more weighted the link
- URL Ranking – the higher, the better the page ranks on Google
- Number of external links
- Social Signals from Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn
- Anchor text, the time of the first/last check and the time of removal
On the domain page, we get the same info + number of links on each domain + Ahrefs Rank. Ahrefs doesn’t tell us much about anchors – just a list containing their quantity and placement, but what more do you actually need?
The page with the most popular content is quite interesting. It allows you to quickly find the best content on a competitor’s site according to references from social networks.
The Results – Ahrefs:
When we ran a backlink analysis on skis.com, Ahrefs told us that the domain has:
- Backlink: 103,967
- Dofollow: 52,143-50%
- Nofollow: 22,597-22%
- Referring domains: 1,447
We also received valuable information about:
- Shares in social media
- The quality of the backlinks according to Ahrefs (Ahrefs Rank)
Serpstat appeared on the market relatively recently but has already managed to win much love from the public. This platform offers the several integral tools needed for SEO, amongst which we can find their backlink analyzer. Let’s get a closer look at it, now.
In the general report, we can view metrics about:
- Referring domains
- Referring pages + the gain in ranking since the last visit
- Total number of the indexed pages (well that’s pleasant)
- Backlinks from .edu and .gov domains
- Serpstat Page Rank – based on the number of incoming links
- Serpstat Trust Rank – Serpstat’s metric about the “trustiness” of the site
- Anchors and dynamics
There’s nothing new here, but all basic features are in place, and that’s what matters. Here’s what the domains page shows us:
Here, apart from the flow metrics and the number of referring pages, we can see the Alexa rank of the domain. The Serpstat Flow Metrics also provide an accurate representation of the quality of the backlink.
The New Backlinks window shows only donor and acceptor ranks + nofollow / dofollow. Although the flow metrics help, I would have personally liked to see more data here.
There are extensive details about the anchor text for the backlinks as well.
I can see the referring domains + the links with necessarily deleted anchor and the number of nofollow links + estimated link flow metrics here. Forecasts are always a good idea, especially when they’re (hopefully) accurate.
And one more useful thing here is the Top Pages section. It is the same as the Popular Pages feature in Ahrefs, but it’s based on incoming links/ranks.
The pricing for Serpstat subscriptions is as follows:
For businesses, Serpstat has 4 tariffs priced from $499 to $2500 monthly.
The Results – Serpstat:
When we ran a backlink analysis on skis.com, Serpstat told us that the domain has:
There was also information about:
- The trust metrics for the donor pages and acceptors
- Number of pages of the site
- Dofollow / Nofollow
- Popular content based on links and ranks
- The quality of the links (based on trust metrics)
- Top pages
Moving on to the United Kingdom,
Majestic is a famous British backlink analysis tool. Many “followers” were launched after Majestic went big, offering the same features that Majestic does. It’s impossible to not include this tool when you’re comparing services that analyze backlinks.
Information about the trust, external links and domains, the dynamics of backlinks and domains. Everything is standard.
Everything here is standard concerning the distribution of links and anchors (indicates the number of nofollow as well).
And the price list:
The Results – Majestic:
When we ran a backlink analysis on skis.com, Majestic told us that the domain has:
- Backlinks: 46,836
- Dofollow: 32,035
- Nofollow: 14,801
- Referring domains: 1,538
- Referring IPs: 1,326
And also provided valuable information about:
- The number of URLs of the website
- Trust rank – on the basis of which are built various services and Majestic’s ranks
- The approximate quality of links based on the trust ranking.
#4 Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer is the service by Moz team. I’ve never used Moz’s tools before, but as well as probably all other SEO-people, was deeply in love with all that Moz do in terms of marketing: their publications, their training courses, Mozcon.
Now it’s a time to finally try Moz’s tool. Fortunately, the guys at Moz offer a free 30-day trial, so I can review the tool fully, even though I don’t have a subscription for it.
Here’s what the main report shows:
It seems like there’s nothing new. Referring Domains, a total number of backlinks, top pages, anchors and so on. One distinctive feature in OSE is Spam Analysis.
It’s also possible to create CSV reports using advanced filters – and this is really useful thing, especially for agencies.
Honestly, OSE has a good variety of functionality and the possibility to filter backlinks very in-detail, it’s even possible to extract links with a rel=canonical attribute. However, the results that this tool produced disappointed me a bit.
The Results – Moz Open Site Explorer:
OSE told us that the domain skis.com has:
- Backlinks: 235
- Referring domains: 13
- Just-discovered links: 0
- Information about anchors
- Spam flags
- URL vs URL comparison (but that’s not a unique feature)
- An extension for Chrome and Mozilla
And by the way, here are the prices at which this poor result will be available to you (after a trial version):
Megaindex includes many different functions. There are analyses of visibility, backlinks, positions tracker, search for competitors and more available to the users if they opt for Megaindex.
Let’s turn straight to the backlinks.
Pretty nice interface, even though it looks somewhat “strange” after using the platforms that we check out earlier. In the report, we see the number of domains, links and anchors, the types of links + domain zones + division into organic and SEO links (interesting) + Megaindex Rank (of course, everyone must have their own rank, apparently), subdomains, top pages and anchors. Everything that’s needed is represented.
- It’s possible to see if the link is natural or commercial. The issue is that the given result is not relevant in 50% of cases. The idea is awesome, but its realization is still not;
- The level of page’s nesting is also a cool thing;
- DomainRank, TrustRank, LinkRank by Megaindex. What do these ranks mean and what they are based on? God knows, as there are no tips at all;
- The ability to research a specific URL, but this feature is not unique.
Nothing else new is possible to describe, so let’s pass straight forward to the price list.
The Results – Megaindex:
Running a backlink analysis on skis.com using Megaindex showed us the following results:
- Backlinks: 4,710
- Referring domains: 935
- Links without anchors: 1159
And details about:
- Random determination of commercial links
- The approximate quality of backlinks according to (unclear) ranks
- Top pages
My rating of tools, based on personal preferences:
- Serpstat – I enjoy this tool, it actually reminds me of a cheap copy of Ahrefs, but in a good sense. As in, it’s really much cheaper and has very similar functionality. The base is slightly smaller, but I believe that the guys at Serpstat will improve this in some time. If we’re taking both the quality and the pricing into account, Serpstat is the smartest choice.
- Ahrefs – Hand on heart, Ahrefs is the best service currently available for analyzing backlinks. However, it is very expensive, making it not a great option for small companies. Besides, there is no trial version that we could use to see how it works out for our business.
- Majestic – A very old but a very good backlink analyzer tool. Many of the othe backlink analysis tools were built only after Majestic rose to fame. Majestic, however, is quite expensive, especially if you take the fact that it only focusses on backlink analysis (majorly) into consideration.
- Megaindex – I like the ideas of the creators of Megaindex. Megaindex has its own unique features, which are very useful and user-friendly. Unfortunately, they don’t provide some standard features, and the base itself is very small, so Megaindex gets only the fourth place.
- Open Site Explorer – a very poor finish at #5. Moz’s tool surprised me with its alarmingly small database.
Do you have suggestions for other backlink analysis tools that can compete with the 5 on this list? Write to us or let us know in the comments below, and we’ll feature you on our post.