SEO is all about experimentation.
You need to experiment with different techniques and strategies—and accurately measure the success of those experiments—to find something that works.
The best backlink tool will help you get there.
Backlinks remain one of the most critical metrics in driving SEO results.
Yet, it’s not enough to drive a large volume of backlinks.
You also need a way to track backlink quality, produce reports and manage multiple domains.
In this post, I’ll guide you through 12 of the best backlink tools available on the market today.
4 Criteria for Choosing the Best Backlink Tool
With dozens of options on the market, I used four criteria to guide my review process and put together this shortlist:
1. Backlink Focus
The tools on this list are either backlink-only tools or general-purpose SEO tools with a backlink sub-tool.
In each case, I assess the capability and sophistication of their backlink features.
2. Data Quality
Where do they get their data? This information tells you a lot about its accuracy and reliability.
The answer is usually a combination of in-house data and data obtained from a third-party provider, however, some companies just don’t tell you very much about the source and quality of their data.
The less you know about a tool’s data quality, the harder it is to trust that data.
3. Pricing Structure
Pricing for backlink tools comes in all shapes and sizes.
I tend to favor companies that have clear, easy-to-understand pricing tiers with flexible plan options.
4. Thought Leadership
What else do you get from the backlink tool besides the tool itself?
That’s where thought leadership comes into the picture. This tells you a lot about how much you can trust the company as a whole, and how authoritative they are in the SEO space.
I consider whether the company has published high-quality resources that help you become a better SEO professional.
The Best Backlink Tool: A Review of the Top 12 Options on the Market
Whatever you do, commit to investigating at least one backlink tool from this article.
Not doing so will only put you further behind more ambitious marketers and website owners who seize every advantage.
Monitor Backlinks is a battle-tested backlink tool that has served over 100,000 users since 2012.
They’re still quite new to the game compared to some of the industry’s biggest players, but the tool is easily up there as one of the best.
As the name suggests, Monitor Backlinks is solely focused on your backlinks. That means you won’t be distracted by unrelated SEO features.
If you want backlink data, that’s exactly what you get.
Monitor Backlinks lets you track the backlinks to your domain (or multiple domains), as well as your competitors’ domains.
There are heaps of filtering tools to help you interpret backlink quality, including index and follow status, Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Domain and Page Authority, MozRank, Spam Score and more for each backlink.
The tool automatically highlights low-quality backlinks with an orange warning triangle, making it easy to identify potentially bad links at a glance and tell if your link building program is attracting good or bad backlinks.
From there, you can also disavow bad backlinks from within the tool.
Monitor Backlinks uses data from Moz, Majestic and AuthorityLabs as well as from their own crawlers. The multiple data sources work well together to give you a complete picture of your backlink situation.
Further, you can also easily extract backlink data in reports such as Top Anchor Text, IP Location Distribution, Majestic, Moz and more.
All of these reports can be viewed directly in the tool or exported as a CSV.
Ranges from $25 to $144 per month depending on the number of users, number of monitored domains and other factors.
The lower tier plans are very affordable options for small businesses or solo website owners while the higher tier plans can cater to large businesses and multi-client agencies.
The Monitor Backlinks blog has heaps of in-depth articles covering the art and science of link building. Spending 15-20 minutes a week on the blog will give you plenty of actionable SEO insights to take away and apply.
For help making the best use of the tool and understanding the data, they also have a Help Center and a very responsive team.
Without question, Moz is one of the most significant players in the SEO industry. Many of the industry’s most common metrics such as Domain Authority (DA), Page Authority (PA) and MozRank come from Moz.
They offer several SEO tools, with Link Explorer being the best for backlinks and link building.
While Moz itself couldn’t be described as a backlink-focused tool, Moz’s Link Explorer gives you access to some valuable backlink data about any domain you search for.
As well as Domain Authority, number of linking domains and new (i.e. “discovered”) vs. lost backlinks, you can also get information about top linked pages, anchor text and Spam Score.
The “Inbound Links” section gives you a list of backlinks with useful metrics like follow status, DA, PA and Spam Score, but it’s lacking the depth of backlink information that Monitor Backlinks offers to help you quickly determine the quality of the link.
Moz is a champion when it comes to data quality.
The company has been collecting data and providing analytics for over a decade, and they recently acquired STAT Search Analytics to further improve their data analytics.
They have over four trillion URLs in their index (and growing!).
Moz comes as a full suite of SEO tools, meaning you can’t purchase Link Explorer on its own.
Pricing starts at $99 per month and goes all the way up to $999 per month. Moz is one of the more expensive SEO and backlink tools, and would probably be better suited to larger businesses and agencies.
Moz is outstanding in terms of thought leadership.
I’d give Moz an above-average score on thought leadership compared to their peers.
Free Backlink Checker SEO Tool
You don’t always need a complex, full-featured tool with all the bells and whistles.
What about those quick, occasional backlink checks on your competitors? You don’t need to subscribe to a paid tool for that. The Free Backlink Checker—a sub-tool of Monitor Backlinks—can give you all the info you need.
This product exclusively focuses on backlink data. Type in any URL to check the backlinks of the domain.
As you can see in the screenshot below, this backlink tool provides two views of backlink data: an overall summary of backlinks (total backlinks, unique domains, indexed URLs, Citation Flow, Trust Flow and Class C IPs) and then individual backlink data.
There are limitations to this free tool to be aware of. You can check up to 300 rows per day.
The Free Backlink Checker uses the full Monitor Backlinks database, so you’ll get the same high-quality data from their internal backlink database and third parties like Moz and Majestic.
The data is limited compared to the main tool, but shows you enough to get a big picture view of your competitors’ backlinks. You can see where their backlinks come from, the anchor text used and whether it’s a followed or nofollowed link.
This backlink tool is completely free (though there are limits on the number of checks you can run every week).
If you have a paid Monitor Backlinks account, you can use the Free Backlink Checker on demand for more frequent checks.
Just like Monitor Backlinks itself, you have access to the same great articles on the blog and helpful resources.
Established in 2011, Linkody is another fairly young company that focuses on links.
Linkody is a specialist tool dedicated to monitoring your backlinks. It also includes the capability to monitor competitor backlinks and to disavow backlinks from directly within the product.
Check your backlink report to see data on each link’s follow status, anchor text, Citation Flow and Trust Flow.
Overall this tool is very similar to Monitor Backlinks, but it doesn’t offer quite as much backlink data and the design is very simple, almost like a spreadsheet.
Linkody combines an internal backlink dataset with third-party metrics like Moz’s Domain Authority. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t provide much information about their data gathering process, so it’s difficult to evaluate the data quality.
There are data points that Linkody doesn’t offer, like Class 3 IP, but they do include additional metrics like social shares and Alexa Rank.
A good amount of data overall, but you’d need to supplement this backlink tool with another tool to get a complete picture of your backlinks and how they fit in with your SEO strategy.
Linkody is one of the cheapest tools available, starting at $14.90 per month to monitor two domains, and going up in price depending on the number of domains, monitored links and users.
The top tier package (designed for large agencies) is $147.90 per month to monitor 100 domains.
This pricing structure makes Linkody very accessible to SEO novices.
There’s a free trial available too, but it’s limited to monitoring only 100 backlinks.
The Linkody blog covers a range of SEO and marketing topics. From a backlink expertise perspective, they’ve published over 100 posts on different backlink topics, but it doesn’t seem to be a major focus for them.
They don’t offer any other resources for product users or SEOs.
Similar to Moz, cognitiveSEO is a comprehensive SEO suite that offers a backlink tool together with reports, a site audit tool and a rank tracker.
Even though it’s a general-purpose SEO tool, cognitiveSEO’s backlink analysis tool is very good. In particular, the unnatural link detection feature stands out as a way to track and evaluate the quality of your backlinks.
You can also use the “Site Explorer” section to check the backlinks of any site.
You have all the basics such as the number of referring domains and number of backlinks. The tool also tracks link velocity over time—you can see in the screenshot above that it’s showing the link velocity over a two year period.
I also really like the design of the tool. The summary pie charts and social shares across the top give a clear and visually appealing overview of the site’s online success.
cognitiveSEO has been running its crawler (nicely named “Bot, James Bot”) since 2013. That means they don’t have quite as much data as Moz, but it’s still a decent showing.
While the summary screenshot above has data going back two years, some features only cover up to 60 days’ worth of data. An example is the “Daily New/Lost Links” section.
If you’re taking over the SEO for a new website, you might find that 60 days’ worth of data isn’t enough to draw conclusions.
They also have a few of their own metrics for each backlink, including a “Link Influence” and “Domain Influence” rating of Good, Average or Bad. But it’s unclear how exactly this rating is generated.
With a starting price of $130 per month, cognitiveSEO is one of the higher priced products on the market. Like with Moz, you’ll be getting a full suite of SEO tools for the price—not just a backlink tool.
They also offer custom business plans that come with one-on-one onboarding support, which may be valuable to large companies who need guidance on getting the most out of their SEO software.
The cognitiveSEO approach to thought leadership is mostly confined to their blog. They publish original research and case studies, and their coverage of backlink topics is reasonably good.
Headquartered in England, Majestic is an authoritative player in the SEO software industry.
Among other features, Majestic is known for the “Majestic Million,” a list of the top million web domains of the world based on referring subnets.
Majestic has a robust backlinks database. At the time of this writing, the database has more than one billion links.
With their “Site Explorer” tool, you can search for any domain or URL to see a range of data points including Trust Flow, Citation Flow, number of external backlinks, number of referring domains, referring IPs and referring subnets.
Trust Flow and Citation Flow are Majestic’s own metrics, and they also offer a unique Topical Trust Flow metric which tells you how trustworthy and authoritative the website is within a certain niche.
Majestic also has a bulk backlink checker where you can get backlink data on up to 400 URLs at a time. It’s a good option to consider if you’re researching competitors or a portfolio of websites.
Majestic stands out here because they disclose details about their database, including exactly how many unique URLs have been crawled and found.
The data includes a Fresh Index for the most current information and a Historical Index for information from the past five years.
For SEOs with the long view, the Historic Index is helpful if you want to see the effect of your work over a longer period of time.
Majestic has three price tiers: Lite ($50 per month), Pro ($100 per month) and API ($400 per month).
At the higher price levels, you can analyze more backlinks and retrieve more data.
The top tier plan is designed for marketing agencies and includes hundreds of campaigns, API access and tracking for over 100 million backlinks.
Majestic’s help files, training and blog offer a range of resources.
The Majestic blog includes video walkthroughs to help you use the tool and improve your SEO. And for advanced SEO users, they also have an API to help you develop your own tools.
LinkAssistant is the backlink tool in SEO PowerSuite’s multi-purpose SEO toolset.
SEO PowerSuite was established in 2014 and they also offer a rank tracker, website auditor and competitor research tool together with their backlink tool.
This tool is the only one on this list that isn’t browser-based—you’ll need to download it to your computer in order to use it.
LinkAssistant can help you keep track of your backlinks and search for new link building opportunities.
One thing that stands out with LinkAssistant is that it can help you with link building outreach as well as backlink management.
As well as keeping track of your backlinks, it also keeps track of contact information for each linking domain, and lets you craft and manage emails from within the tool. This makes it simple to reach out to site owners when you want to change or remove a link.
However, there’s no way to disavow your backlinks with the tool if site owners don’t remove them at your request.
The limited information provided by SEO PowerSuite makes it difficult to assess their data quality.
I tried out the ListAssistant tool and the quantity of data provided was below average.
You get the basics, like dofollow vs. nofollow. However, the total number of backlinks identified by the tool is much less compared to what other backlink tools found for the same domain, which makes me wonder about its accuracy.
In addition, it appears that LinkAssistant doesn’t show (or didn’t download) anchor text or any third-party link metrics like Domain Authority, Spam Score or Flow Metrics to enrich the data.
LinkAssistant is only available as part of the SEO PowerSuite toolset.
The product has an unusual pricing structure at the bottom and top range of the spectrum (note that the price shown will change to suit your local currency).
There’s a free version which lets you use all the main features but you can’t save any data. At the top end, the Enterprise edition lets you export data and generate white label reports.
However, you’ll probably find that you can get those same features in other products at a better price.
SEO PowerSuite has limited thought leadership.
The company’s blog appears to be aimed mainly at SEO specialists at a beginner to intermediate stage, and there’s training and support available to help you use the product effectively.
Linkminer is a specialist backlink tool offered by Mangools. Like Moz, Mangools is a suite of SEO tools including a keyword research tool (“KWFinder”) and rankings tool (“SERPChecker”).
The company’s initial focus was on keyword research rather than backlinks. They only launched their backlink took, Linkminer, in January 2018.
You can use Linkminer to check and analyze the backlinks of any website. You can’t track or monitor your link profile with this tool, but it’s great for quick backlink assessments and competitor research.
All you have to do is type in the website you want to check, and the tool will return a list of their backlinks.
One thing I liked about this tool is that you can get a preview of the URL in the tool itself just by clicking on the backlink you want to see. That makes it a robust player in the backlinks market in my opinion.
There’s also a handy browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that you can use to see the backlinks of a website while you’re browsing—a good productivity value add.
Drawing on Majestic and other sources, Linkminer claims to have over eight trillion backlinks in their database.
In addition to the volume of backlink data, they also provides link quality metrics like Trust Flow, follow status and their proprietary Link Strength metric. Link Strength gives the backlink an overall score based on its Flow Metrics, social shares and more.
Linkminer stands out to me as a good competitive research tool that helps you quickly evaluate if a competing website has high-quality links.
The tool gives you distinctive data points including Alexa Rank, number of Facebook shares and number of external links from the page to help you assess each backlink’s quality.
Linkminer is sold as part of the Mangools toolset, and can’t be purchased on its own.
The entry-level plan starts at $29.90 per month, which is very reasonable. In contrast, the Agency plan is billed at $79.90 per month.
Since you have to purchase the full Mangools suite, the product is best suited to SEO specialists and agencies who would use the full set of tools.
Google Search Console
You might be surprised to see Google Search Console on a list of the best backlink tools.
And while this free Google tool doesn’t have quite the range and depth of some of the other tools reviewed here, it’s accessible to all which makes it a good choice for those on a limited budget.
It can also give you valuable insights into how Google views and ranks your website.
Google Search Console isn’t focused on backlink analytics per se, but you can find backlink data in the tool by visiting the Links report.
You get a decent spread of information including your top linked pages, top linking sites and top anchor texts.
It doesn’t drill down to a full list of backlinks or show you anything beyond your top performers in each category, but this free tool makes a great starting point for SEO novices with a limited budget.
After all, you’re probably already using this tool to check other areas of your website.
If your site is simple and you don’t have a lot of backlinks to monitor, this tool may be all you need.
The main advantage of Search Console is that you’re connected directly to Google, so your data is coming straight from the source. You also know you’ll never need to worry about performance or speed.
The downside? There are no value added analytics or metrics to help you evaluate the backlinks. What you see is what you get.
Free! There’s no cost to use Google Search Console, you simply have to configure it.
Google needs no introduction, so you know their tool and data can be trusted.
When it comes to Search Console specifically and using it to improve your SEO, there are support pages you can access. And if you’re serious about getting the most from your Google tools, I suggest looking into Google certifications.
Well known in the SEO world, SEMrush has an expanding suite of SEO software tools that cover areas like content marketing research and keyword tracking as well as backlinks.
SEMrush is not directly focused on backlink data. However, you can use it to check and analyze backlinks to your or a competitor’s website by searching for the URL.
You can see summary data points for the website like total backlinks, referring domains and referring IPs.
At the backlink level, you can sort and search the backlink data by anchor text, follow status, active status (new vs. lost) and other criteria.
It’s thorough as a backlink checker, but doesn’t allow you to monitor your backlinks on an ongoing basis—you have to conduct a new search every time you want to check your backlinks.
SEMrush’s backlink checker has a database containing over 160 billion backlinks.
It includes some valuable elements such as geolocation, link type (e.g. text links vs. image links) and anchor text to help you assess each backlink.
As another full toolset, SEMrush’s pricing is on the higher end of the scale. The product starts at $99.95 per month and goes up from there.
Agencies may be interested in the API access and white label functionality offered in the business plan ($399.95 per month).
As a more expensive tool, SEMrush is better suited to large businesses and agencies who want the ability to white label reports, research keywords and plan content as well as check backlinks. But if you want best-in-class backlink data, you’ll need to consider a tool that’s more specialized in backlinks.
Site Explorer is Ahrefs’ answer to Moz’s Link Explorer.
This backlink tool is included as part of Ahrefs’ huge toolkit, which also includes a keyword tool, content tool, site audits and alerts.
Ahrefs’s Site Explorer provides some helpful summary data on backlinks. Again, this tool doesn’t monitor or track your backlinks, but lets you conduct backlink checks and audits on any website just by searching for it.
You can see a lot of helpful backlink data including broken backlinks, new backlinks and lost backlinks. You can also obtain a report on the top referring content.
The data is thorough, but you must keep in mind that Ahrefs’ backlink data is just one component of a larger SEO software package. If you’re solely interested in backlink data, Ahrefs is not the right choice for you.
Ahrefs is very open about their data quality. They have the largest index of live backlinks, which includes 12 trillion links and three trillion URLs, and update it frequently throughout the day.
For sheer data quantity, Ahrefs is tough to beat.
Ahrefs has a four-tier pricing structure starting at $99 per month and going up to $999 per month.
At higher levels, you can add more users to your accounts, track more campaigns and increase your activity volume in the tool.
This is another more expensive tool because you’re paying for a full SEO suite, not just a backlink tool.
Describing itself as an all-in-one SEO solution, Serpstat’s feature set covers keyword research, search analytics, advertising analysis, content marketing ideation and competitor research as well as backlink analysis.
The set of features reminds me the most of SEMrush.
Like SEMrush and Moz, Serpstat is a general-purpose SEO software tool. As a result, it has a limited focus on backlinks, but provides good data.
Search for a website with the “Backlink Analysis” tool to get a look at its referring domains, new and lost links, and referring pages over time. Serpstat also includes its own metrics for Page Rank and Trust Rank.
You can view historical backlink data going back two years, which is helpful for SEO pros working on established websites.
Serpstat doesn’t provide sufficient information to be able to properly assess their data quality.
I would question whether they’ve invested as much as Ahrefs into collecting and analyzing data.
Serpstat has multiple pricing options under two categories: Personal and Business.
Personal plans start at $19 per month, which includes 100 backlink queries per month. In contrast, the top tier Business plan comes in at $499 for 2,400 backlink queries per day.
Serpstat stands out for its beginner-friendly pricing, especially for a general-purpose SEO tool.
It’s also worth noting that Serpstat publishes content in English, Russian and Ukrainian, which means they have a wide global audience.
How to Choose the Best Backlink Tool for You
Each tool on this list has its strengths and weaknesses, so take your time to choose the right one.
You can do that by putting this guide into action with these four steps:
1. Review the criteria at the top of this article. In particular, consider whether you’re looking for a general-purpose SEO tool that includes backlinks, or if you need a backlink-focused application for more specific data.
2. Sign up for 2-3 free trials for the tools that look the most promising to you.
3. Experiment with the backlink tools for a few days. Take note of what you like and don’t like about them, and which one you find the easiest to use.
4. Narrow it down to just one backlink tool to focus on for the next month or so, and fully learn how to use it. After that time, you’ll have an idea of whether the tool is a good fit for you, and whether you need to add more (or a different) tool to your toolbox. If that’s the case, just come back to this article and try out a few more tools!
Bruce Harpham provides growth marketing services to B2B SaaS companies. He is also the author of “Project Managers at Work.” His work has appeared on CIO.com, InfoWorld and Profit Guide. Read his B2B SaaS marketing case studies covering Close.io, ClickFunnels and Woodpecker on his website.