What’s The BEST Backlink Checker For 2019? [New Data]

What's The BEST Best Backlink Checker For 2019? [New Data]

Today I’m going to reveal the best backlink checker in 2019.

And this is important:

I didn’t just rate the tools based on my personal opinion.

I put each backlink checker to the test.

That way, I could find the best backlink tool on the market right now… based on actual data.

So without further ado, let’s do this!

Introducing The Competitors

Before we dive into the test results, let’s take a quick look at each tool.

Moz Pro

Moz Pro was one of the first tools that let anyone check their site’s backlinks.

Moz Pro

The tool (and company) has gone through some ups and downs over the last few years.

But since they decided to refocus on SEO, their software has come a long way.

Is it enough to take the top spot? We’ll see.

For now, let’s check out our next backlink checker tool…

Ahrefs

Ahrefs started as a straight-up backlink tool.

Ahrefs

They’ve recently branched with lots of new features, like a keyword research tool.

Did this aggressive expansion distract them from their core offering? We’ll soon find out.

SEMrush

You probably know SEMrush as a keyword research and tracking tool.

SEMrush

But they’ve recently added a backlink tool to its arsenal of features.

Majestic SEO

Majestic is a UK-based tool that claims to have the largest index out there (over 1 trillion URLs).

Majestic

Does that translate into Majestic being the best all-around tool? Let’s find out…

The first test I did was check how many backlinks each tool found.

To do this, I ran a full backlink analysis on 4 different websites in completely different industries:

  • Backlinko.com: My blog with approximately 172k total backlinks.
  • Truvani.com: A new ecommerce site in the supplement space.
  • NerdWallet.com: An incredibly popular personal finance website with around 2 million links.
  • Canva.com: Image editing software tool with links from 50k+ referring domains.

Note: For this analysis I focused on total referring domains… NOT the total number of backlinks. Each tool counts a “backlink” a little bit differently. So comparing backlinks between tools is like comparing apples to oranges. Comparing referring domains is more straightforward.

Site #1: Backlinko

Here’s the data each site reported:

Referring domain data for backlinko.com
Backlink Checker Total Links Total Referring Domains
Moz Pro 171.2k 18k
Ahrefs 172k 15.1k
SEMrush 612k 15.6k
Majestic 10.2m 14.4k

As you can see, for the analysis of my medium-sized website, Moz found more referring domain links than any tool.

Site #2: Truvani

Here’s the data each site reported:

Referring domain data for truvani.com
Backlink Checker Total Links Total Referring Domains
Moz Pro 427 120
Ahrefs 554 119
SEMrush 2.2k 78
Majestic 1.8k 104

This time, Ahrefs and Moz were essentially tied. SEMrush came in a distant 4th place.

Site #3: NerdWallet

Here’s are the number of links each checker found:

Referring domain data for nerdwallet.com
Backlink Checker Total Links Total Referring Domains
Moz Pro 2.4m 53.4k
Ahrefs 2.66m 36.3k
SEMrush 2.2m 37.5k
Majestic 2.9m 28.4k

Again, Moz won this round.

Site #4: Canva

Here’s what each backlink checker reported for this site:

Referring domain data for canva.com
Backlink Checker Total Links Total Referring Domains
Moz Pro 5.5m 90k
Ahrefs 4.53m 69.7k
SEMrush 7.7m 68.2k
Majestic 13.8m 51.9k

Moz again won this round. With Ahrefs coming in second.

I also added up the total referring domains that each backlink checker found across the 4 tests (including dofollow and nofollow links). Here are the results:

Total referring domain data across all four tests
Backlink Checker Total Referring Domains
Moz Pro 161,520
Ahrefs 121,219
SEMrush 121,378
Majestic 94,804

When it comes to finding the highest number of inbound links, Moz Pro appears to be the best of the bunch.

Next, I wanted to see how quickly each tool found newly-created backlinks.

So for this test I added a link to each of the four test sites from a new page on a partner website.

Test page

Then, I checked to see when each platform found the new link.

Here are the results:

Time taken for each backlink checker to find a new link
Backlink Checker Days to Find New Link
Moz Pro 1 day
Ahrefs 4 days
SEMrush 18 days
Majestic 2 days

Well, it looks like Moz is lightning fast at finding new links.

Obviously, this was a small scale test. It’s possible that Moz happened to crawl my page and find the new link before the others.

Either way, at least according to the results of this test, Moz Pro is the winner.

Which Tool is Best for Finding New Link Opportunities?

Next, I decided to see which tool had the best features for not just finding backlinks… but for helping you build new links.

Let’s see what each tool offers in this department.

Moz Pro

“Link Intersect” has to be my favorite Moz Pro feature that’s designed specifically for link building.

To use it, enter your domain…. and up to 5 competing domains.

Moz Pro – Link Intersect

Then the tool will check the backlinks of all of the sites you put in. And it’ll let you know which websites don’t link to you… but DO link to your competitors.

Moz Pro – Link Intersect – Results

Why is this feature useful?

Well, let’s say you reverse engineer the backlinks of a single competitor with 100k links. Where do you start? It’s almost impossible to know.

But when you only look at websites that link to multiple competitors, you have a list of sites that are SUPER likely to link to you.

That way, you can focus on the easiest link building opportunities first.

Ahrefs

Like Moz, Ahrefs has a handful of features specifically designed for link building.

For example, one feature I personally use a lot is “Best By Links”.

This report lets you know which pages on a site have the most backlinks.

Ahrefs – Best by Links – Backlinko

Why is this helpful?

Because you can see what type of content is already working in your niche.

(In terms of link building)

For example, a while ago I looked at the “Best By Links” for a popular site in my niche: WordStream.

And I noticed that this single page on their site had 2,060 total links.

WordStream – Increase Traffic

So I decided to create something similar to the WordStream page… but better.

Backlinko – Increase Website Traffic

Sure enough, my page already has 1.08K backlinks pointing to it:

Increase Website Traffic – Backlinks

SEMrush

SEMrush literally has a feature called “Link Building Tool”.

SEMrush – Link Building

As you might expect, this tool is designed specifically to help you find link opportunities… and use email outreach to get the links you want.

The question is:

Does this feature work?

Well, I just gave it a spin. And I have to admit: it’s pretty darn cool.

Why?

Because it automatically finds the best link building prospects for your site… and ranks them on a 1-5 scale.

SEMrush – Domain Prospects

For example, you can see that they recommend that I build a link from this blog post on BrightEdge.com.

Brightedge – Keyword Clustering

They recommend this page because it’s on an authority domain. But it’s also a page that should be easy to get backlinks from.

(I assume they estimate this based on the number of external links on the page. If a page has no external links, no one is going to add your link to that page. On the other hand, someone that runs a resource page with 50+ links is going to be super receptive to your outreach).

You can even link up an email address with SEMrush and send outreach emails within the platform. Very cool.

Majestic SEO

As you may know, a link from a relevant website carries A LOT more weight than a link from an unrelated domain.

Contextual backlinks

Unfortunately, most link analysis tools focus on site authority… not relevancy.

Enter: Majestic SEO’s “Topical Trust Flow”.

This feature shows you the main topics that a website covers.

Majestic – Topical Trust Flow

That way, you can focus on building backlinks from sites in your industry.

Even though Majestic is outdated overall, I have to admit that Topical Trust Flow is a super unique (and helpful) feature.

Overall, I have to give SEMrush the nod here. Even though their link index isn’t quite as fresh as Moz or Ahrefs, SEMrush’s Link Building Tool is much more feature-rich than anything else on the market.

What Are The “X Factors” That Make Each Tool Unique?

For this test I decided to see the “X Factor” that makes each backlink checker unique.

Moz Pro

Moz recently launched a new, updated version of their popular “Domain Authority” metric.

Moz – Domain Authority

Unlike the old DA, this new Domain Authority filters out spammy links. This is SUPER helpful for prioritizing link building opportunities.

With the old DA, you’d sort your list of link opportunities by DA… and manually filter out websites that had a spammy link profile. For example, if you noticed a site had lots of exact match anchor text links, you’d throw it out of your list of link prospects.

That’s because Domain Authority tended to get inflated by black hat links (like blog comment spam).

Now that the new DA filters out these low-quality links, you know that a link from a high-DA site will make a dent in your rankings.

Ahrefs

Pretty much every backlink checker has a “Best by Links” feature that shows you pages on a website with the most backlinks.

This feature is SUPER helpful for seeing what type of content works best in your industry. For example, if you look at the most linked-to content on Lifehacker, you can see that a big chunk of them are about productivity.

Ahrefs – Best by links – Lifehacker

This information is solid gold. You now know that content about being more productive has worked really well for them. So you can make productivity content a big part of your content strategy.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this doesn’t tell you what’s working right now. For example, one of their backlinks is from 6 years ago.

Ahrefs – LifeHacker backlink

This type of content might still work. But maybe not. It’s impossible to tell how many of their links are from back in the day vs. the last year or so.

That’s where “Best by links’ growth” comes in. It shows you pages that are getting lots of links right now.

Ahrefs – Best by links' growth – Lifehacker

Nice.

SEMrush

Most tools evaluate a site’s authority based on one thing: the number of links pointing to that site.

But SEMrush’s SEO metric, “Authority Score” isn’t solely based on links. After all, pointing 50k blog comment links to a site is a surefire way to boost its authority metrics.

Moz’s new DA decided to tackle this problem by ignoring spammy links.

SEMrush takes a different approach. Instead of filtering out spam, they decided to base Authority Score partly based on how much search engine traffic a site gets. They also look at how many keywords that site ranks for in Google:

SEMrush – Authority Score

These traffic-based metrics are SUPER hard to game.

And in many ways traffic and rankings are a more accurate way to figure out whether or not Google considers a site as authoritative.

After all, if a site ranks for thousands of competitive keywords, Google clearly likes that site. Which means getting a link from that website should help your site’s rankings.

Majestic SEO

Majestic’s X Factor is definitely “Trust Flow”.

Majestic – Trust Flow

To be clear: this is different than the “Topical Trust Flow” that we talked about earlier.

Normal “Trust Flow” has nothing to do with topics. Instead, it’s how much the links a site has pointing to it are from highly-trusted domains (like .gov and .edu websites).

All-in-all, Ahrefs wins the “X Factor” battle with its useful “Best by links’ growth” feature.

Which Backlink Checker Offers The Best Value?

You might have noticed that I didn’t include any free backlink checkers on this list. That’s because they’re all terrible.

The truth is: running a link index is insanely expensive.

Which is why all the good link analysis tools are paid (and somewhat expensive compared to other SEO tools).

With that, let’s see which paid backlink checker offers up the best value…

Moz Pro

A Moz Pro subscription ranges from $99-$999 per month (with significant discounts if you pay yearly).

Moz Pro – Pricing

Like the other SEO tools I’ve covered in this post, Moz isn’t just a backlink checker. It’s a full SEO software suite with features to help you with keyword research, on-page optimization, and lots more.

But considering we’re focused on links, I’m going to zero-in on Moz’s link building and link analysis features.

Overall, Moz’s index is enormous.

Which means: when you reverse engineer a competitor’s links, you can be confident you’re seeing most of them.

Moz also has a few helpful features like Link Intersect, to actually help you turn this data into backlinks.

So at $99 per month, I consider Moz a great value.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs’ pricing is similar to Moz Pro.

Ahrefs – Pricing

In my opinion, Ahrefs’s index is more fresh and accurate than any other tool on the market. And the UI is super easy to use (which is HUGE if you spend all day building links like I do).

All in all, you can’t go wrong with a subscription to Ahrefs.

SEMrush

SEMrush’s monthly price ranges from around $100-$400.

SEMrush – Pricing

SEMrush is definitely designed as a keyword tool FIRST… and a backlink tool second.

Which means most of the money you’re paying every month is going towards keyword research features.

Even so, the lowest tier plan (Pro) comes with backlink analysis and link building features. So if the focus of your SEO is content and keywords, but you want to also dabble in link building, SEMrush might be your best bet.

Majestic SEO

Majestic has by far the cheapest paid plans:

Majestic – Pricing

(Starting at only $50 per month).

And considering that Majestic’s tool is 100% focused on links, this is a great value for anyone that’s on the hunt for a cheap link analysis tool.

Overall, when it comes to index size, features and price, Ahrefs is the best value.

And The Winner Is…

Based on the results of this little test, Moz definitely comes out on top. It’s got a massive index. And it’s ability to find new links is unmatched.

That said:

To crown one tool the “best”, I need to consider lots of factors like:

  • Link index size
  • Link index freshness
  • UI
  • Feature quality
  • Feature quantity
  • Product updates
  • Value

The best backlink checker on the market right now is (in my opinion) Ahrefs.

In fact, it’s the tool that I personally use the most. But there’s no doubt that Moz is a close second.

Now I’d Like to Hear From You

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Which tool do you use to check backlinks?

Ahrefs? Moz? Or maybe it’s a tool I didn’t talk about here.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

50 Comments

  1. Interesting roundup. We’ve been using Ahrefs for some time now and love it, but it’s great to see Moz (big fan of them as well, though we only need one tool) improving as a product and providing some competition.

    1. Thanks Ben. I’m in the same boat: I use Ahrefs most of the time but Moz’s new Site Explorer seems super legit.

  2. Here is a soundtrack for this comment: https://youtu.be/3y-Dw_qBwkM I’ll wait why you get it queued up.

    ahem.

    Moz is 100% BACK and committed to creating the BEST backlink tool on the market. Our crawl quality is the best out there. That is why we’re winning on # of domains and freshness on the sites you tested. Quality in = Quality out for link indexes. It’s easy to build a large index of junky links. It’s hard to tune a high quality index that mirrors Google’s understanding of the web.

    Another thing I’m proud of: Link Explorer IS FAST FAST FAST. It’s a pleasure to use. No awkward lag when you’re just trying to get to your data. Time is money.

    A *hidden* & AMAZING new feature in Link Explorer is “Link Tracking Lists.” https://moz.com/help/link-explorer/link-building/link-tracking-lists
    You’re going to save SO. MUCH. TIME.

    Here are some things link lists can do:

    *** Tracking progress for link opportunities you’ve identified through unlinked mentions of your brand.
    *** Targeting a specific type of link or links from a specific domain.
    *** Tracking progress for links to a specific page or section of your site.
    *** Keeping notes about links you’re attempting to regain from your “lost” links.
    *** Keeping track of “spammy” links you’re working to review.

    Ahrefs was great competition on links. A lot of smart, experienced and thoughtful marketers switched to them when Moz got behind on links.

    But it’s a NEW DAY at Moz, and I’m VERY proud of where we’re at.

    “You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance,
    You didn’t even want me around
    And now I’m back to let you know I can really shake ’em down

    Do you love me? (I can really move)
    Do you love me? (I’m in the groove)
    Now do you love me?
    (Do you love me now that I can dance?)
    Watch me, now
    (Work, work) ah, work it out baby
    (Work, work) well, I’m gonna drive you crazy
    (Work, work) ah, just a little bit of soul, now?
    (Work)”

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment!

      I 100% agree: Link Explorer has come a looooong way over the last few years. In fact, I wrote a full review/guide about Moz Pro earlier this year: https://backlinko.com/hub/seo/moz-pro

      So I had a chance to really dig deep into all of Moz Pro’s features. In fact, it was the first time I had dug deep into Moz Pro in about 2 years. I was impressed!

      However, I couldn’t find any up-to-date data on which tool found the most links…and found them fastest. Hence this post. While my post isn’t remotely scientific, it was interesting to see that Moz came out on top on some key metrics. Your entire team should definitely be proud of what you’ve built.

      Also, I’ll have to check out Link Tracking Lists.

  3. Another interesting post.

    I use Ahrefs as my go-to tool. Sure, it might come in second in terms of backlink checker, but the suite as a whole is why I use them. Super easy to use, great tutorials and videos, and SEO professionals (like yourself) advocate it.

    1. Hey Glenn, thank you. I agree and still tend to use Ahrefs. I think a big part of it is that I’m just used to how everything works. But in terms of link index size, Moz appears to be #1.

  4. Great aggregated post of the best backlink checkers!

    I have used both ahrefs and SEMrush and think both are great, but as you mentioned ahrefs has a leg up.

    As for the best all in one tool, I’m giving it to SEMrush.

    1. Thanks Sanjit. I can see all sides for sure. SEMRush’s keyword tool is pretty great. So it really depends on your priorities and which tools you find easiest to work with.

  5. I’ve used Ahrefs a lot and it’s my favourite tool when it comes to link building. I’m surprised to see the performance of Moz. Semrush’s link building tool is quite impressive ( specially, link suggestion tool). Really, enjoyed your post as always. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You’re welcome, Deepak. I’m with you: SEMRush is known best as a keyword tool but it’s link analysis is very respectable.

  6. Love the research, Brian! I haven’t used Moz in years, but I think this is sufficient evidence to give them another look.

    Interesting bit about Majestic seeming to underperform here. I wonder, how do we reconcile their statement about having the largest index? I haven’t used Majestic in years either, but wonder if they have more international coverage, etc. since this test showed a pretty stark contrast to their statements!

    1. Hey Zach, nice. Moz is definitely worth a second look. To your question: it might depend on how the index is defined. I touched on this briefly in the post. But basically every tool defines a “domain” and even “backlink” a little bit differently. So depending on the criteria they use, one might have a larger index than another. Also, this test was super small scale (4 websites). So it’s not conclusive. I may expand on this in a future post and include more websites (including international sites) and more tests. Should be interesting!

  7. Hi!
    Thanks for a great article. You must have put days of effort in it. Thanks again
    I have a question-
    1) Do all tools reports the most important links or some misses important one?
    For example- tool A shows 500 backlinks and tool B shows 300 backlinks. Is it possible that tool B is showing only important and worthy links, which should be the same as backlinks provided by tool A?

  8. Hi Brian Dean,
    This is really a nice article, worth for me to read this. I just wanted to know from you that, from the above tools, is there any tool that can provide the Topical analysis of backlink profile?

  9. Thanks for the great review!

    Question:

    Did you also check whether the backlinks discovered by these tools are up to date? I recently did an automated check for the Majestic backlinks using Screaming Frog list mode with custom extraction on our domain name. Result: a huge number of the backlinks had been removed especially on the spammy sites.

    I think this should also be a factor for evaluating these tools.

    Cheers

    Jens @seotoddler

    1. You’re welcome, Jens. I did spot check a few. But some of the sites had literally millions of links. So I couldn’t check them all.

  10. Hi Brian! Great research and thanks for sharing. I use Ahrefs most of the time, and had been ignoring Moz, but will check them out again in the near future. Also impressed by their speed.

  11. We started out with Moz but switched to Ahrefs when our needs were more complex. I do like both and am happy to see Moz focusing on what they do best & really bringing it lately. Also a fan of Ahrefs Site Audit tool – it’s helped us catch some important issues.

  12. Hey Brian,

    Really another interesting blog to SEO space, there is no doubt. most of my friends and known person personally recommend Ahrefs, which is also good to explore a website with easy way. with using this four websites how Moz can be best tool ever?

  13. I use Ahrefs, Semrush and SerpStat. Never used Moz except finding DA/PA metrics. To me, ahrefs is the real winner here.

    Don’t know why SEMRush is falling behind day by day though they were the market leader once upon a time.

  14. The fact that you did not know the difference between “Live”, “Recent” and “Historical” link index in Ahrefs makes this study.. well I do not want to use strong words, but not worth considering, at all. Lets see the real data:
    Ahrefs in fact found over 28k Referring domains for backlinko: http://prntscr.com/n6t05h , but removed a LOT of them from the Live index, simply because they do no longer exist OR are not crawled in the past 90 days. Moz on the other hand doesn’t give you such info. Moz indeed improved their index recently, but take it from someone who is in the expired/auctioned domain business from years – they are still at least 30% behind Ahrefs.

    1. Thanks Angel. I’ll just ignore the “The fact that you did not know the difference between “Live”, “Recent” and “Historical” link index in Ahrefs” comment and focus on your point.

      I do plan on expanding live vs. historic links in an expanded version of this study.

  15. I’m a long time user of Ahrefs and it’s been great to see all the different tools and features they’ve added. One thing that they do well is publishing blog posts on various important SEO tasks (which is itself solid content marketing) that end up being tutorials for their tool. The videos walk through how to do everything, which has helped me a lot. Ahrefs, like many tools, can be intimidating when you first use it but the guides and videos help out a lot.

    The “count” of backlinks as a metric for which tool is better can be a little deceptive because of how many spammy links are out there. It could be that other tools ignore those domains. I know that a lot of the backlinks I see in many tools are spidered search results on zero authority domains no one would ever consider real.

    I appreciate the work you put into comparing these tools, I think they’re all solid products and the X-factor analysis was extremely helpful for me in understanding the differences between them all. Thank you Brian!

    1. Hey Jim, I agree: the Ahrefs blog puts out lots of good stuff. And I also agree with you about total links vs. actual legit links. I wish there was a way to only compare “good” links between tools.

  16. Thank you for the unbiased study. As always, your work is excellent. I can’t begin to tell you how much work Moz has put into (and continues to put into) our index. We still have a LOT of progress ahead from relaunching Page Authority, completely overhauling our crawlers to pick up the pace, and providing internal link data as well. Hopefully we can keep bringing our A-game as we focus on SEO-first.

    1. Hey Ross, you’re welcome. I was super impressed with the new index. It’s clear that you put a ton of work into it.

  17. That was an insightful post. I have been using semrush for a long time, often these tools are limited to certain region, I was not able to find potential links in the middle east region. Its time to give a try on MOZ. Thanks you.

  18. That’s an interesting post, Brian, thanks a lot for your work! I’ve been using a few of these checkers for over 3 years now and can say that the results can be very different depending on the websites. But to be honest in most cases, I’ve been more satisfied with ahrefs data than with semrush :). I think you should also test-drive seo spyglass, it has its own backlink index, which is not as massive as ahrefs, but interestingly it discovers some backlinks for my sites that other tools haven’t found yet.

  19. Hi Brian,
    Your post is really very helpful to decide which backlink checker tool is best. I have also checked Moz Pro many times to check my websites’ backlink profile and found that it really finds backlinks very fast.

  20. My compliments Brian. This is a very detailed post. Up till now, I have been doing back links analysis the hard way. Now that the number of my websites is growing, it becomes harder and harder.

    Due to tight budget, I was unable to make up my mind whether I should go for AHREFS or SEMRUSH or MOZ or even Majestic SEO for that matter.

    Right now I can get only one of them. I need a good keyword research tool and a good back link checker to “spy” on my competition. Maybe more on competition analysis than keyword research.

    You have just helped me make up my mind. I will give AHREFS a try and see what happens.

    Once again, thank you for this great breakdown.

    I must confess that after reading your post, I am still in dilemma. Every tool you covered has it’s own peculiar feature that makes it have an edge over the others.

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