Yahoo site explorer is now officially offline. Since its birth in 2005, YSE has been one of the most well known and widely used tools for SEO analysis. Ever since Google stopped offering detailed competitive link information, YSE was the only competitive link tool offered by a major search engine.
Yahoo’s long-standing link reporting tool was taken offline as a final step in the algorithmic takeover of Yahoo by Bing. Even though we knew that YSE wouldn’t last long past the merger, the loss of the tool may still have an impact on many analysts who’ve come to rely on YSE as their to-go for competitive link research.
Although no major search engine now offers any real competitive link reporting, there are alternatives, many of which offer deep reporting and analysis. In this post, we’ll cover the tools available to SEOs, as well as some of the key elements of general link analysis.
Alternatives to Yahoo Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer is one of the key products offered by SEO software company SEOmoz. Unlike YSE, Open Site Explorer isn’t free, with the entire software package starting at $99/month.
OSE offers very robust link analysis tools. SEOmoz has invented their own link-strength ratings, called “page authority” and “domain authority”, which work in the same way as Google Pagerank, and can often be surprisingly accurate.
The tool has all the basic features you’d expect – incoming links, linking domains, and anchor text, as well as next-generation social metrics, such as Tweets, Facebook Shares, and Google +1s.
One of the best features of OSE is the “top pages” functionality, which reports on the best-linked pages within a domain. Particularly for marketers dealing with large, complex sites, this feature can help salvage huge amounts of lost links, that may currently be pointing to error pages.
Majestic is OSE’s main competitor, and offers largely similar features. Majestic’s pricing is more affordable, with the cheapest package starting at £29.99 per month.
As with OSE, Majestic allows users to find detailed backlink information, including most-linked pages within a domain, top referring domains, and powerful historical link analysis.
One of Majestic’s most interesting features is the ability to measure links not just by domain, but by IP address. Majestic reports on how many unique IP addresses are linking to a website, and also offers other server-based analytics, like their “bad neighborhood” checker.
Blekko isn’t really a competitive link tool by design. It’s actually a complete, fully featured search engine, that crawls the web and indexes results just like Google and Bing.
However, Blekko has opened up its index to be used by SEOs free of charge. To start, simply visit Blekko.com, search for the domain you’d like to analyze, and add /domainlink. You’ll immediately get a report with every inbound link to that domain that Blekko is aware of.
Blekko can do more than just list URLs. It offers a range of powerful SEO analysis options, including finding duplicate content, geography-based link research, and crawl stats.
Going Beyond Tools
Link analysis tools are a great place to start competitive SEO research, but tools can’t tell you everything. There are many sophisticated aspects of link valuation that require a manual touch to understand and evaluate.
- Domain diversity. Many tools will report on number of individual links, as well as number of linking domains. What’s the difference? Search engines generally value multiple links from separate domains more than many links from a single domain. Raw number of links can be deceptive if a site has sitewide links from huge sites. Number of linking domains gives search engines a better sense of how popular and authoritative a website really is.
- IP addresses. We mentioned that Majestic offers reporting on linking IPs. Along the same lines as domain diversity, IP diversity is another signal that search engines can use to distinguish real links from spammy ones.
- Link neighborhoods. The concept of a link neighbourhood has been around in SEO for years. The idea is that good sites usually only link to other good sites, while bad sites often interlink. When building links, avoid sites that might be linking out to bad neighborhoods. Additionally, when linking out from your own site, be careful never to link to suspicious websites.
- Link size and placement. All links are not equal – Google now uses a system referred to as the “reasonable surfer” to judge which links on page are most important. Basically, this means that a prominent, in-content link will be worth considerably more than a small footer link.
- Contextual relevance. Simply acquiring links from random, unrelated websites is unlikely to drive lasting search engine rankings. Search engines take into account how relevant a linking site’s content is to your own. Link builders should usually target websites that share a common topic for link building efforts.
- Link velocity. Search engines don’t just measure where links are coming from – they also track when links have appeared. A website that suddenly acquires thousands of links may face extra scrutiny from search engines scanning for black-hat optimization techniques.
- Social signals. As social media becomes an ever-greater component of the web, search engines are looking to mine social data to judge the quality and popularity of websites. While links still play a critical role in SEO, competitive social analysis is now a key aspect of overall rankings research.