Link Loopy, Part 2: 3 Competitive Link Research Tools

Ian Lurie

Yesterday I talked about my passionate hatred of link-building. I also pointed out that I still do it, because it’s important.
In this, part 2 of my little 5-part series on link building, I’m going to outline the tools I use.

It’s important to keep yesterday’s post in mind. I do not like link building. I do it to survive. So my tools list is not the most complete. Instead, I focus on the tools that make the task as painless as possible. If you want to read the writings of people who obsess about links the way I obsess about grammar, try Search Engine Land.

SEOMOZ’s Linkscape

This has become my primary link research tool, which I know makes me a second-rate link builder. But the truth is SEOMOZ’s Linkscape is a lazy link builder’s best friend. Type in a web address, and you get a high-level view of of a site’s link health. That’s neat, but not terribly helpful if you’re researching why Joe’s Plumbing now has 99999 links.
Then click ‘Advanced Reports’, though, and you can get a list of all links to the competitor site. Even better, you can filter out stuff you don’t want. I usually set it up like this, so I’m getting the narrowest possible sampling:
Then download the whole list, find the ones you still need and get to work. I’ll be talking about that part of the process in Part 3.
Caveat: Linkscape isn’t free. To get the advanced reports, you have to be an SEOMOZ Pro member. It’s worth every penny.

Google’s Link: Operator

I know, I know, Google’s Link: operator isn’t accurate blah blah blah. It’s what I’ve got, OK?
Go to Google and do this search:
(for some reason, Google’s being mean to me and -site isn’t working at the moment. Updates as I figure it out).
That’ll get you all links Google’s willing to show you to that domain. , minus links from within the domain itself. You can try it for my site right here.
Problem, of course: You can’t just download these links. You’ll have to review ’em by hand. But I’m sure some clever link builder like Hamlet Batista can get you all set up to grab what you need.

Yahoo! Site Explorer

Yahoo!’s Site Explorer will get you another peek at a competitor’s links:
Go to, enter a web address, then click ‘inlinks’. I usually set the drop downs to ‘only this URL’ and ‘except from this subdomain’, too, so I can filter out any internal site links.
You can export the 1st 1000 or so links to a spreadsheet.
Later, once you’ve worked through those 1000 links, you can use some creative sorting and API tricks (not for the faint of heart) to get more of them.


I use TextMate, the most wonderful text editor for Mac OS X, to compare all these lists of links and remove duplicates. Then I use it again to remove any links my site already has. I’ll provide the details on this tomorrow, in part 3.

Other Tools

There are a lot of link research tools out there, including Aaron Wall’s, and a few bazillion others.
If you know of one I’ve missed, feel free to post it in a comment. Note that I will check on the tool before I publish, so if you’re about to suggest some ridiculous comment spamming tool, save yourself the time.
Tomorrow, on to Part 3: Finding the opportunity gaps.

The Link Building Series

Part 1: Why Link Building Sucks
Part 2: 3 Competitive Link Research Tools
Part 3: Finding the Opportunity Gap
Part 4: Get those links
Part 5: Out-execute the competition

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Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. Oh this is a very helpful, tasty list for a truly unpalatable activity. If you’d only provided a gin & tonic, I’d almost be looking forward to getting started.

  2. Till today I managed the dirty work with Yahoo Site Explorer, but not for long I guess. Been reading on SEOMOZ’s Linkscape website and it all seems VERY interesting to me. I think I just have to sign up with it and pray my competitors didn’t allready 😀
    Link building hasn’t been so much fun for a long time. Thanks Ian!

  3. I’m about to suggest some ridiculous comment spamming tool; fast blog finder dot com … it works!
    how you behave on the blogs you find thats each to his own: that’s not the program doing it.
    for any web site owner who wants to do his own link building, it’s a crucial tool. even to find just 10 good blogs, related to your topic, well maintained and popular, it’s also interesting to follow up in your niche market, like I’m doing now.
    anyway, some solid advice you have, thanks for that.

  4. @Michiel I can’t tell if this is a joke or not, but to my readers: DO NOT EVER USE AN AUTOMATED BLOG COMMENTING PROGRAM. Ever. EVER EVER EVER.

  5. Ian,
    1st time commenter, long time reader.
    Will say, you brought me here from Twitter with good reason. Who knew Yahoo offered a service?!
    I have been at a stand still with our/my approach to link building (also bookmarking a little bit – do you have a post about that?) and this gives me new energy to tackle the task.
    Much love and many thanks…,

  6. @Ian and @Michiel I’m very confused, too. Is he actually recommending the site?
    I’m also sure that it’s not the ‘only way’ to find good blogs. Gooogle Blog search until you find one you like (or get a recommendation from a friend) then look at what they read/recommend. Then do it again.
    It’s dead simple and creates a trail to really interesting stuff (and possibly new friends)… And it’s how I found this blog!

  7. Spaming blogs is good way to add your site to spam databases like Akismet, which comes pre-installed in wordpress and probably other blog software as well.

  8. @Michiel Are you serious you know ANYTHING about SEO?
    Go out and build relationships and follow solid advice, like you have seen in the actual main post above.

  9. Formula for online disaster:
    Low Buy-In (Only $100!) / Over-the-Top Guarantees (Real links with great value!) * Automated Submissions (25 Submissions + 100 VOTES!!!) =
    I can’t make this stuff up, folks. Check out Michiel’s site.

  10. @Michiel What you give is what you’ll receive with a “ridiculous comment spamming tool”.
    A ridiculous amount of worthless relationships built. Since when did doing genuine personal link building tactics become so taboo?
    I’m a reader of black hat tactics too, but all the good black hat sites state their tactics will get your site banned and booted by Google in potentially a few hours.
    For those not looking for the few hour thrill of meaningless traffic Ian’s tactics should be followed to the T.

  11. Google Blog Search is another good one for finding out where people have got links from, particularly if you are trying to promote content as opposed to a commercial home/subpage.

  12. Hi, very nice compilation, thanks a lot. What I don’t like about Google Tools and Yahoo Site Explorer is that they do not show the page rank of my incoming links. Is this feature included in Linkscape?

  13. @Timo It does, but it also includes several other metrics that I think are higher-value. Toolbar PageRank is not a great evaluator of link value, particularly because it distills a scale of 0 to billions to 1-10, and because it only updates about 2x a year.

  14. Oh, I think I’m in love.
    I’m just about to tackle rewriting my “how to get traffic to your [Squidoo lens]” — yes, there is a little content on that site, believe it or not, and a lot of erstwhile WAHMS trying to earn very, very small piles of money by talking about [Amazon product here] — annnnyway.
    I’m just past the “New blogger who’s jumping at Webconf’s 15 minute SEO.” I’ve read Michael Martinez telling me why just about every SEO idea I have sucks. But still, I have some skills with on-page optimization, copy writing, etc. I can at least help them a bit.
    And then I get to the “yes, you also need links” part of the tutorial, and I want to rip my fingers out of my hands. I hate linkbuilding. Hate hate hate. It’s good to see a pro (I consider myself a journeyman) who feels the same way.
    Okay, back to studying. And then I’ll go check out SEO-theory again and find out why everything I’ve decided is worth trying is probably bunk, because I haven’t done the testing to prove it works.
    It’s enough to make me just want to take photos of my cat and have her explain SEO theory in LOLCat format. Oh wait, I tried that already. Linkbait FAIL!

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