Guide: Off-page SEO

Backlinks checking…


Check the number and quality of your backlinks regularly, either using the search engines or dedicated (free) online tools.

Note: replace the green, oblique text in the examples below with your own site's equivalent.

Using Google

    …renders a cross-section of your backlinks, typically about 5 – 10% of them. This method is widely used, but not very conclusive.
  • ""
    …to show "references" to your page (not necessarily real backlinks). You'd have to check if your web address is really linked-to, and not just mentioned in the pages' text.
  • "" –
    …used to show the same "references" as described above, but excluding those that appear on your own pages. This was very useful to hunt for sheer "inbound links". Alas the –site: option has been switched off by Google now, at least for link: queries. It still works on the other search engines though.

Using Yahoo Search

    This command shows your domain's backlinks, including links to subdirectories and inner pages. It typically renders more results than the Google link: command, but it's not very specific. Good to get an overview.
  • link:
    This option shows specific references to your homepage or inner pages, but according to some reports it lists references instead of actual backlinks. That means you have to check each result for mentions of your web address that are not hyperlinked.

Note you can also add the – bit to these queries (except to google's link: search, as reported here), to limit the result to proper inbound links.

Using MSN Search

    Nice and non-specific way to catch all links pointing to some page in your domain. Similar to Yahoo's version.
    The regular link: command, on this new version of MSN Search, presents you with a large collection of backlinks, probably the most comprehensive list of all. There are rumours, though, that the list contains – or will contain – references to your web address, rather than true backlinks. You'd have to check that. Furthermore, this seach engine will keep changing a lot until it is fully developed, even though it has already officially shed its Beta label.

Again, add the – extra to get real inbound links only.

Remove "devalued" links from the count

As it is probable that — nowadays — sitewide backlinks only count as one or so, you could also add – to leave those out. Add one or two to the total number returned, for each domain left out that way. This is probably the best way to determine how many backlinks really count, as opposed to the raw number including forum signatures and easy blog and guestbook links. Note that this more detailed approach is based on Webby's Domain Popularity thread on SEOChat. See also the unique backlinks tools mentioned below.

Backlinks Checking Tools roundup

  • Widexl Link Popularity check
  • Marketleap Link Popularity check
    …both present the number of your backlinks as found on Google, Yahoo, AllTheWeb, Altavista, Hotbot and Lycos or MSN respectively. They put it into perspective by comparing the sum of these numbers with other sites' scores. Both allow you to enter a full URL, including subdirectory and/or file name. Note that Widexl and Marketleap scores are comparable, but not identical, which may be due to the way they process the URL submitted. Some search engines render different results with or without the leading "http://", a trailing slash-forward, et cetera. Experiment to find what suits you.
  • Justin Tubbs' Backlink Tool
    Uncluttered variant of the previous backlink checkers, although this one consults a couple of alternative sources, including the MSN Search Beta.
  • Uptimebot Link Popularity Check
    Nice and compact presentation of lots of BL checking methods. Hover over the results to see which particular search phrase was used. Very informative, shows both differences between the various search engines and variations using different methods on each of these engines.
  • RustyBrick Link Analysis Researcher
    This one performs a more comprehensive analysis, using Google data. You actually need the (free) Google API key to get more than 10 results. But it shows your backlinks' anchor texts, the pages they appear on, the page rank of those pages' domain's home page and a stat of numbers of backlinks per page rank value. Very informative, and well worth the effort of getting an API key from Google.
  • DigitalPoint Backlink Tracker
    The DP backlinks tracking tool is now integrated in their keyword ranking tool. It's free but you'll need to sign up to use it. That's not so strange, because these tools keep track of your backlink count and rankings over time. Also you'll need a Google API (but that's all explained properly). There are lots of ways to customise the interface and to compare different sites' results, making this one of the most powerful free online tools to date.
  • The tool formerly known as #9
  • Post Trades link analysis report
    …both these tools present a list of backlinks, but only show one unique backlinks per domain. Basically, these tools disregard any sitewide or similarly less-effective backlinks, and only show one hit per domain/IP block linking to you. This is quite a modern approach, since it takes into account that sitewides and multiple links from domains hosted at the same IP address block don't count for much.


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Feel free to contact us if you feel the information presented here is outdated or flawed in any way. Whenever multiple sources spot a new insight or trend, the information in this guide will be updated asap. But all other comments, especially suggestions, praise or other kinds of support, are welcome too…

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