Yahoo officially shut down the Yahoo Site Explorer today — a move that we knew was coming, but still hurts. Yahoo’s Site Explorer was the best and largest free resource for determining the exact backlinks that were pointing to a site. The resource was used throughout the SEO community as a quick and easy way to check the backlinks of competitors and it provided a downloadable CSV file of up to 1,000 of the top backlinks.
Not only was Yahoo Site Explorer used heavily in the SEO industry, but many of the SEO tools that have been developed over the years use the Site Explorer to fuel some of the reporting in the SEO tools.
The shut down of Yahoo Site Explorer is an indication of the completion of Yahoo’s backend merger with Bing, and at the moment while they’re trying to direct SEOs to use Bing’s webmaster tools, they currently don’t display nearly the information that was available through Yahoo Site Explorer. Much like Google’s webmaster tools, Bing’s will only let you see the backlinks for your own site, not the backlinks that the competition has (a very important research tool).
Site Explorer Alternatives?
Unfortunately there are no alternatives to Yahoo Site Explorer that are also free and offer remotely the same quantity and quality of backlink information. In fact, there are very few free options at all, though there are a massive pile of options that charge. On the free front we have a couple of not-so-hot resources:
- Blekko: The next best free resource we have is the search engine Blekko, which offers the same backlink information (and some fun additional information) by doing a search for the domain name and adding (after a space) /link in the search. Unfortunately Blekko’s link index is massively smaller than Yahoo’s was and you’ll miss more links than you find using Blekko.
- Open Site Explorer: A quasi-free option that, frankly, blows chunks. The free version of Open Site Explorer will show you a whopping 5 backlinks. Its only purpose is to try to sell you the paid version.
Okay, so Blekko is the only viable free option, and doesn’t have a very extensive index. So what about paid options? Well, there are a lot of them, because SEO is big business and tons of people want to charge for the most precious information in the SEO world. It’s worth noting that the paid options usually include far more than just backlink analysis the way Yahoo Site Explorer did it. They are usually just a part of a vast SEO toolkit… some of which are useful, most of which are not.
Here are a few paid backlink options:
- Open Site Explorer: the paid version of Open Site Explorer will actually give you more than 5 results — it will give you as many as it knows of. Unfortunately Open Site Explorer uses Linkscape to find links, and the Linkscape link index is vastly smaller than what we had through Yahoo Site Explorer, and it appears to update incredibly slowly. While the paid program gives you access to many other tools that you may find helpful, Open Site Explorer isn’t really any better than the free Blekko option for the raw task of listing backlinks.
- Magestic SEO: Another paid option, (technically they have a free option only for a site you control — but seriously, we have Google and Bing webmaster tools for that) Magestic has an incredibly large link index — pretty much the exact opposite of Linkscape. The downside is there is a lot of junk in the Magestic index and you can waste some time sifting through the garbage to get to the good links, but at least it has all the links there.
- Link Research Tools: A paid resource that takes advantage of various link indexes and provides a ton of tools for how to look at that link information. Since this includes Magestic’s index, it has all the advantages of Magestic and from there it’s just a matter of deciding what tools you want access to.
On a final note for the paid options — they aren’t cheap. In the larger scope of a business they aren’t bad, but it’s not just a few bucks either. Honestly, I wish someplace like Magestic would come up with an incredibly cheap option that did nothing but what Yahoo Site Explorer did — give us a list of backlinks.
They could even charge $0.99 per report, or offer a little 10 bucks a month package to just get the raw data. Or heck, offer it for free but then give all the added info & tools for a fee. Then everyone in the world would know about their service and I bet you they would sell a lot more as a result.
Yahoo Site Explorer has definitely left a gap in the SEO market that no other product fills nearly as well. I hope that someone steps up to take advantage of the opportunity and fill the hole.