Backlink Smackdown Part 2

smackSeveral people have asked me about researching backlinks and if there has been any change since my last review of backlink checkers. Since I am an idiot, I decided to spend my time and money yet again to give some free information back to SEO community.

The Players

In case you are brand new to SEO, let me take a minute to identify your options for backlink research. You really only have two options – Majestic SEO & SEOMoz Linkscape. Historically, Yahoo provided this data for free. Ever since Bing! started to power Yahoo Search, there have been issues with Yahoo! backlink data. Google and Microsoft do offer decent link data if you can verify you are a webmaster of a site. But forget about any useful backlink data on other websites.

There are a handful of other companies that claim to provide backlink data. I have not found a single one of them that can come close to Majestic or SEOMoz. Some of them are simply repackaging data that they get from Majestic and/or SEOMoz. If you think I overlooked a legitimate contender please contact me and I’ll be happy to explain why you are wrong.

Common Points

Majestic and SEOMoz have a lot more in common than what separates them. Both of these services run on a subscription models with some free options. They are both regularly crawling the internet for new data. Of course they report on anchor text and referring url. They also make it easy to identify links that are dofollow vs nofollow. Both of them report on redirects and image links. They both have created their own ranking system to help webmasters rate the value of links. They both have great customer service that quickly help customers. Neither has become sophisticated enough to take into account the relevancy and appropriate themeing of backlinks (for that matter even google still has trouble). Unfortunately, for me both of these companies are too cheap to try to bribe me :( .

How I Tested Them

I tried to create a fair test for both of them. I choose 8 of my favorite websites to research the backlinks for. For a giggle I made sure each website somehow was related to food. For the sake of pseudo-science, I made sure they were diverse to reflect the wide variety of websites. I then compared the reported backlinks for the homepage for each of these 8 websites.

The lucky guinea pigs are:
www.bigmexpress.com – Local New York City Fishing Boat
www.charitywater.org – International Charity
theoatmeal.com – Viral Comic Genius
chowhound.chow.com – Foodies Forum
www.domperignon.com – Famous Champagne
www.epicurious.com – National Food Magazines & Recipes
www.zapps.com – Local New Orleans Potato Chip Maker
www.zerowater.com – National Water Filter Producer

As I was writing this post I had a big problem. The backlink data from Majestic & SEOMoz kept changing because they kept crawling more sites and refreshing their data sets. It is great news for webmasters that both of these companies have a regular flow of updated backlink data. For someone that is trying to test them and write up the results, it was headache. After several foolish attempts of me trying to update my post with the most current data, I just decided to take a snapshot of data.

What are the Numbers?

External Referring Domains
URL SEOMoz Linkscape Majestic SEO
www.bigmexpress.com 30 80
www.charitywater.org 3610 6711
theoatmeal.com 1878 2960
chowhound.chow.com 2437 1337
www.domperignon.com 549 1521
www.epicurious.com 11055 34675
www.zapps.com 143 1452
www.zerowater.com 145 228

Majestic SEO Review

Any review about Majestic SEO has to talk about their massive dataset. Last year when I tested Majestic SEO, it returned the biggest numbers of backlinks and it still does. As for the quality of the data, that is entirely up to how you use the numerous filter options they provide. Majestic SEO enables the biggest link geeks to slice and dice the backlink data to their hearts’ content. Majestic SEO has made many improvements from last year and it is even better. Now you can generate a report that tells you all the links your competition has gained and identify any links your website lost. From my perspective that intel is seo gold. They are crawling sites everyday and releasing new data sets several times a month (probably going to keep getting faster).

That being said, my biggest complaint is their ugly interface. To their credit they have improved the interface alot since last year. I still feel Majestic SEO is like a Ferrari engine in a minivan. It may not look super cool but it has great performance. IMHO Majestic SEO still seems to be not as easy to learn how to use. Many of their best features I couldn’t figure out within 30 seconds. Yes I know I am impatient, but I bet many other SEO people are lazy and/or impatient as well. I just wish this Ferrari was as simple to drive as a golf cart :)

ps I also hate that Majestic SEO is a European company which makes it more expensive with credit card finance charges and exchange rates. They told me that they will soon have a solution for that, which would be awesome from my perspective.

SEOMoz Linkscape Review

First let me clarify this is a review of SEOMoz Linkscape and Open Site Explorer. They are both backlink research tools available to SEOMoz subscribers. Open Site Explorer is a good tool for entry level SEO work and Linkscape enables more features for advanced users. They are constantly improving Open Site Explorer and it has some new features Linkscape does not have.

What I like best about SEOMoz is that they have one of the widest SEO toolsets. They have keyword tools, page optimization tools, social media tools and much more. What I like second best about SEOMoz is that they have very good usability. Their tools are easy to understand. SEOMoz made it very easy to find backlinks for deep pages on a website. That is a really great feature. SEOMoz does a great job focusing on accuracy. The quality of their is great. In this test I did not encounter a single falsely reported link, which is a huge time saver. They recrawl their entire data set for each monthly update and are working on even more frequent updates. SEOMoz almost makes it easier to compare links with their mozTrust and mozRank scores. This is a helpful feature when you are trying to sort through 10,000 links and just go straight to the valuable links.

Some issues I had with SEOMoz is that their dataset seemed to be english-centric. They seem to not be as strong when dealing with international backlink data. I do appreciate that SEOMoz focuses on accuracy. I just wished they focused a little more on growth and the breadth of data. I don’t understand why they have two backlink tools. I use both Linkscape & Open Site Explorer and it just seems mostly redundant with a few reporting anomalies.

announcingwinner

Majestic SEO retains the backlink trophy for another year!

I found that both of them are much better than a year ago. Last year’s wish list for new features was mostly answered. At the end, my inner link geek just fell in love with all of the data Majestic SEO had and the great ways of analyzing that data. To be fair I have to say you are a fool if you aren’t also subscribing to SEOMoz. Most of the time Majestic SEO returned more link data. Despite SEOMoz returning less data I still found a handful of quality links that SEOMoz discovered and Majestic SEO did not. If you are serious about backlink research, you should definitely also use SEOMoz.

Try Majestic SEO
Try SEOMoz Toolset

ps thanks to the Majestic SEO & SEOMoz teams, even though neither of them bribed me or gave me affiliate links so i could get some kickbacks :(

13 thoughts on “Backlink Smackdown Part 2

  1. Anderson Lopes

    Hi, thanks for sharing such great info. I have a small question on that.
    Have you tried to compare not only the number of links they return but the actual links as well?
    I ask that because it could be that each of the companies have different portions of the web crawled and so, even just on the link purpose, it would be good to have both of them.

    Thanks,

  2. The Papa Post

    Thanks for the analysis. Majestic SEO is definitely provides the biggest back link data set. Filtering and analyzing those links is another story.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of tool to automatically filter and present in a way that matters the most?

  3. Greg Niland Post author

    Anderson – i did spend alot of time verifying & inspecting the actual links they return. that is how i was able to notice that some links seomoz reported on were not reported in majestic. i do think quality of links is just as important of quantity of links. both majestic & seomoz found high quality links and low quality of links. it did not seem like either service limits itself to any internet segment.

    Papa Post – Majestic does have many ways to filter and export the data. I am not sure you can save your filter as the default setting, which I think is what you are talking about.

  4. cenoes

    What’s your though RE: AC Rank? Is it more important than PR? I think in the last year, with improvements to Majestic, that more people are paying attention to ACR and focusing less on a sites PR [not that I agree with this tactic]. I’m just wondering, is ACR legit, or is it just an indication of how quickly a page might index?

  5. Anderson Lopes

    Greg, thank you for such fast reply, but I think I asked the wrong question.
    The results you presented are really great, what I’d like to ask is how many links were on both tools? Was it just a few or a lot of links that were repeated? What would be a matching (%) for those links?

    I saw with few websites that the links they reported were almost completely different, I’d like to know if you’ve found the same results.

    Thanks

  6. Greg Niland Post author

    cenoes – ac rank is not as good as real pagerank data. since no one has access to real pagerank data ac rank is a good addition to toolbar pagerank data since tbpr data is #1 out of date and #2 manipulated by google. being a true geek i like to have as many data points as possible that is why i like to use ac rank and (ashamedly admit) still also look at toolbar pagerank. lets not forget mozrank which is another a good thing to look at when trying to figure out the true value of a link.

  7. Greg Niland Post author

    anderson – i found alot of overlapping results between seomoz & majestic. i didnt calculate the actual number. i would say at least 50% of all links and more than 75% of high quality links were reported by both companies. as i stated above majestic often discovered more links but sometimes seomoz did find a gem that majestic did not.

  8. Jen Sable Lopez

    Wow! Thanks so much for putting this together. I was one of the ones who had asked a few months ago for an updated version, so I’m super excited to see it! Of course, I would have liked it better had you picked SEOmoz as the winner ;) , but this is seriously great information.

    I wanted to reiterate your point about us focusing on accuracy and relevancy. We want to make your job easier, and the idea is that if we can provide you with the most relevant, accurate data, it will more helpful. Regarding why we have both Linkscape and Open Site Explorer, we have actually deprecated Linkscape, and everything will be rolled into OSE. We agree that having two systems that are slightly different doesn’t make sense. :)

    Papa Post asked earlier: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of tool to automatically filter and present in a way that matters the most?”

    The Open Site Explorer default is to show the backlinks in descending order based on Page Authority. Plus if you look at the Top Pages tab, you can see the “top” pages on your site based on Page Authority, number of linking root domains, as well as the HTTP status code of the page.

    Thanks again for putting in all the time and effort to pull together this information. We really appreciate it! Plus, as Rishi mentioned we do have a very aggressive affiliate program ;) http://www.seomoz.org/dp/seomoz-pro-affiliate-program.

    If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask! Thanks again. :)
    Jen Lopez
    SEOmoz Community Manager

  9. Markus

    Greg, thanks for your sharing your tests with us.

    However, I think that one of your points is not entirely correct:
    “They are both regularly crawling the internet for new data”

    Well, that depends on how you define “crawling”, but as to my knowledge SEOmoz doesn’t do any crawling. There is no way you could block SEOmoz using the robots.txt file.

  10. Lee Marriott

    Excellent post, i’ve been wondering whether or not to invest in MajesticSEO considering the data sets they have I think I will definately look further into it. Thanks for the review!

  11. John (SEO Expert Montreal)

    Definitely need to evaluate both strengths and weaknesses of both companies to determine which software is best to use under each circumstance. The quaity of the information provided and the ability to keep the information fresh and up-to-date is very important. I wil research both before I make an opinion but great post. Keep them comming!!

    John
    SEO Expert and Marketing Strategist

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