November 21st 2011. That is the date Yahoo Site Explorer closed down forever, no longer would we be able to pull up a freely accessible web page… type ‘site:someurl’ and get a list of just about every backlink to that address. It was a sad day, particularly in light of the fact that by then it was about the only remaining way to quickly and easily access such data. Of course Yahoo Site explorer always had its limitations, it never allowed you to sort the data and draw intelligence from it. You could not, for example, sort the backlinks by date order, by anchor text order or by PageRank strength.
Fortunately, there was an online knight in shining armour available, a company that begin a backlinks service earlier in 2011 and was rapidly developing it into a really useful too. I trialed ahrefs.com in late 2011 and instantly took a liking to its speed and simplicity. I soon signed up a subscription to get the full data it offers.
So what does ahrefs.com do and why do I like it so much?
Firsly, let me begin by explaining what I don’t like about another essential SEO tool in my life; my ranking software. It has to run on my pc (so is not accessible when out of the office), it has to be constantly updated, it crashes occasionally and loses data. Ahrefs.com’s service runs on its own server, you access the full subscription service through their website without any software required locally. Its FAST and any updates it makes are welcomingly none of your business, it just works and improves. Apparently, their index of backlinks now exceeds 100,000,000,000, for sure, I have never found a reason to doubt its comprehensiveness.
The most important features it offers which are of immense value to an SEO expert or consultant are as follows:
1. It allows one to identify ‘new’ and ‘lost’ backlinks BY DATE. So imagine, you are picking up from another SEO company or you kept bad records of directory listings acquired last year, you see a ranking decline and wonder what good backlinks may have expired… with the date organised detection of lost links you can identify these links. In contrast, being able to identify ‘new’ backlinks affords a number of benefits not least of which might be the ability to punch in a client competitor url and see what they are up to in their current link building activities.
2. Anchor text intelligence – this is more relevant than ever before. Google understandably dislikes overt and artificial link building practices and so will look for unnatural anchor text patterns in a websites backlink profile. Being able to see the anchor text distribution for a given URL is extremely valuable in assessing ranking problems a new client may have or working out why ranking for a given term is so poor. By default, ahrefs.com now lists the anchor texts for a domain in order of the most domains containing any particular anchor text.
Finally, if you have one of Googles webmaster tool messages notifying you of unnatural links detected then you may find another feature useful which will help you identify any potentially paid for sitewide backlinks as the list of backlinks to a domain is sorted by number of links from each referring domain!
Now I just wish ahrefs.com would develop a ranking reports module (their current SERPS analysis feature is not especially helpful) that works ‘on the cloud’ rather than on local machine software and I can ditch my current ranking software tool.
I am a fan of ahrefs.com and recommend it. Keep up the good work guys.