Link building has become a staple of search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns, not least due to Google originally being a links-based search engine using its (in)famous PageRank alogrithm. Although Google and other search engines now take into account other major factors as part of their ranking criteria, such as human user data and semantic processing, link building remains a cornerstone of any good SEO campaign.
It used to be the case that SEO's would try to get links from anywhere, swapping, buying, even hacking, to get them. However, these days the importance of links is less about their keyword anchor text as much as providing an incentive for users to click, such as to find out more information or for discounts on a useful product.
This means that link building is now much more focused on generating traffic directly, which means a need to find targeted users in already existing traffic streams related to your needs. Finding them manually is a challenge, but luckily there are automated tools that can help identify websites and webpages that may be relevant to your own needs, and therefore worth chasing for a relationship.
Link building remains hard work and easy short cuts are unlikely to deliver significant benefits. But if you can identify useful link sources, you have a chance to put your products/services/brand in front of people you might otherwise find hard to reach, helping improve your marketing efficiency and ultimately even your ranking positions on search engines.
Here then are the best link building and backlink analysis tools currently available.
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SEMrush offers a leading SEO platform that is also rich in numerous tools, and there is also a dedicated section of these for link building.
As with similar platforms, there's a section for competitor analysis, allowing you to compare domains, determine their backlink profiles, and look for potential link building targets from these. This is provided via a report listing potential domains for link building purposes.
However, SEMrush also comes with a dedicated tools for improving your link building. This includes being able to monitor the link building progress of other domains, including new and deleted backlinks. You can also choose to view backlinks for a specific time period, including when specific backlinks were gained or lost.
This all comes on top of the ability to identify linking domains as well as gain some idea of how authoritative a referring domain is. You can also filter by backlink type, as well as by anchor text. There's also a tool for determining which pages have the most backlinks, including the ability to sort these by domain, subdomain, or URL.
The result is the ability to apply a whole range of detailed metrics to determine the strength of competitor backlinks, as well as being able to identify by source and type in order to identify potential link building targets of your own.
Overall, SEMrush offers a very powerful platform that allows for a wide range of very detailed backlink analyses to help with building up your own link building profile.
Ahrefs offers a comprehensive SEO toolkit which includes a couple of key features to help with link building campaigns.
One comes under the Content Explorer tool, which allows you to gain deeper insights into your own website content as well as reverse engineer competitor websites. As part of this you are able to search for a relevant keyword or topic and use the "Highlight unlinked domains" to feature websites that could be useful and valuable sources of links. By prioritizing these websites as link building targets it makes finding sources much easier.
Additionally, you can use the same feature running a search of your own brand name, to find which websites are mentioning you but not linking to your website. This allows you to reach out and see if you can arrange to have a useful link inserted - either a direct one, a special promotional offer, or even an affiliate link as required.
Another key option for link building comes as part of the more aggressive competitive research tool in the Ahrefs Site Explorer. Not only does it allow you to estimate organic and paid traffic to competitor websites, it also allows you to profile its link sources. By looking at these, you should be able to identify primarily targets for link requests as just mentioned, in order to help build up your own website profile.
Overall, Ahrefs is a very links-based SEO platform that allows you to more carefully look at your own website's link profile, including looking for broken links, as well as searching for additional link sources to strengthen you link profile. While there are other valuable features to Ahrefs, the link building aspect makes it especially powerful.
Majestic is another major SEO platform that has a rich toolkit, with a number of key features directed toward expanding link building campaigns.
For a start you can use their Site Explorer to identify major competitors and track them, including their backlinks. This will help you discover link opportunities, allowing you to determine targets for your own campaign. However, it doesn't stop there are you can then analyze these link by topic, quality, language, and a range of other filters.
The Link Context tool can provide even more useful information on these backlinks, allowing you to determine what format these links take. For example, to explore whether these are editorial links or part of a directory. Additionally, you can check the position of a backlink on a page, such as whether it's high up or in the footer, and also discover the context of links, such as whether it exists within a block of text, among images, or is part of a general list of links.
The result of these combined with other tools on the Majestic platform can allow for really deep information mining not just on competitor links but also the sources and types of links they have, allowing you to judge not just their context but also show how you can attempt to copy or imitate part of their link profile, even using the same sources, if the quality makes it worth the while.
Altogether, Majestic is a very powerful SEO platform and their backlink tools allow for an excellent and deep range of insights on competitor link behavior which you can use for your own link building campaigns.
Moz Pro offers a suite of SEO tools as part of its platform, including dedicated link analysis tools for both your own website as well as competitor websites.
As with other major platforms, Moz Pro includes a link explorer that allows you to run a full backlink check of both your own website and competitor websites. However, it doesn't simply provide metrics on volume but also in terms of domain authority, anchor text, as well as most valuable pages to help you better shape your SEO and link building campaigns.
There's also a feature to allow you to track your link building progress, by setting goals and tracking placements, as well as analyzing overall results. You can create multiple results and check when links are set up. custom drop-down fields make it easier to track these campaigns.
As well as assigned an authority score to domains and pages, Moz Pro also provides a spam score so you can identity poor links, which allows you to seek to remove them, or else simply avoid similar properties. This is a useful feature for determining the potential value of target links and therefore link targets.
In summary, Moz Pro is another perfectly capable SEO platform that offers a useful range of tools, and their link building toolkits are no exception, especially with the ability to monitor when your content is gaining or losing links and with filters by date available.
Serpstat offers a simple and easy to use SEO platform with a number of useful tools, including a set specifically for backlink analysis.
Using this tool you can get a general overview of the number of backlinks to a specific domain and/or subdomain being tracked. When applied to your own website you can also gain an idea of new and lost backlinks, giving you a closer view of your website's link profile. You can view these as a list, along with details such as whether the links are follow or nofollow, as well as how many other outgoing links there are to other pages or domains in proximity, as well as the language.
As with other tools, you can also track competitor backlinks to see not just sources they are getting links from, but also the most recent links. Additionally, there is a scoring system for judging the value of source domains in order to give a better idea of link value.
There are also tools for looking more deeply at your own website's link profile, such as the most popular pages and how many pages and domains link to them, similar to the information found in the Google Search Console.
While Serpstat isn't as comprehensive or as complex as some of the other link building analysis platforms featured here, it does present a good general overview which should suit most people. Probably benefiting small businesses rather than SEO agencies, it's an accessible and price-competitive tool worth considering.
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