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In the world of SEO, it’s crucial to be able to see who is linking to you throughout the web. It’s also helpful to be able to search who is linking to your competitors. This practice is known as backlink crawling. Backlinks can be found anywhere on the web–social media, blogs, and even in press releases. But how did we come so far? Here’s the brief history of backlink crawling tools:
Until Yahoo Site Explorer was merged with Bing Webmaster Tools in 2011, it was the go-to tool that enabled SEOs to search for backlinks to their websites and to others’. As a free service that started in 2005, YSE was by far the most popular SEO tool used for backlink crawling. After the merge, the Bing Webmaster Tools backlink crawling tool did not allow users to search for competitors backlinks and required verification that websites being checked for backlinks belonged to the user.
After the merge, there was no longer one sole tool that nearly every SEO relied on. Some of the backlink crawling tools that already existed during this time became more popular. Amongst the most widely used tools were Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs.
Open Site Explorer is a tool created by prominent SEO company Moz, and was one of the first alternatives available after the merge of YSE with Bing Webmaster Tools. Although it offers the same services that Yahoo Site Explorer did (including the ability to check for backlinks to competitors’ websites), a fee is required to access the tool’s full capabilities. Backlink crawling without a Pro membership to Open Site Explorer will only produce the top 5 most popular results. The rest is part of paid service
Ahrefs is another example of a backlink crawling tool that became more popular following the shutdown of Yahoo Site Explorer. It
remains one of the leading backlink tools used today. It is most effective because of their use of big data scanning 6 billion web pages a day and housing an index of 12 trillion links. The more web pages scanned, the more powerful the backlink crawling tool.
Today, there are several paid and unpaid options for backlink crawling. Many websites such as Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer, and Majestic SEO offer a free service as well as a paid service, with the free service limiting the number of a backlinks a search will yield, restricting the number of searches a user can perform in one day, or, like Bing Webmaster Tools, restricting searches to domains that you own.
For example, Majestic SEO, a current leading backlink crawler tool, offers up to 5,000 backlinks per backlink crawling report for free users, but only for their own domains. The service then offers paid levels that allow users to access up to 50,000 backlinks per report, essentially making the tool as powerful as its users can afford it to be.
A simple Google search for backlink crawling tools will reveal that there are endless options for SEOs to use. Choosing one is just a matter of how much you would like to pay, and how powerful you need it to be.
If you need help selecting a tool or are interested in a custom link building strategy for your site, get in touch with us today.