Setting the Stage (Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!)
The two most commonly known site explorer providers are Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer. Competitor backlink analysis tools, such as these, are fundamental for all SEO’s to know and master. Used for analyzing backlink profiles, they are also useful in finding new link opportunities. When choosing between these two tools, it is important to consider the purpose and desired result as each tool provides a unique experience. This post will “explore” the features and benefits of each as well as their individual limitations.
In the Red Corner-Open-Site Explorer
OSE is available from Seomoz.org. Robust in size, it has an index of more than 60 billion URLs and more than half a trillion links that update its index every month. OSE touts being free. The home page is focused and easy to use as it clearly shows where to enter the URL. Upon entering the URL to be examined, much can be done. Including:
- Title & URL of Link Page
- Link Anchor Text
- Page Authority
- Domain Authority
- Filter to show all links, followed +301, no-followed, and only 301
- Filter to show external or internal links
- Show Top Pages
- Linking Domains
- Anchor Text Distribution
Open-Site Explorer also allows you the ability to compare various link metrics up to 5 different sites at one time. This tool offers a screenshot of where you stand against your competitors and breaks it down by page specific, sub-domain and root domain including metrics:
- Page Authority
- Page MozRank (SEOMoz’s version of PageRank)
- Page MozTrust
- Internal & External Link Counts
- Follow vs Nofollowed Links
- Facebook, Twitter & Google+ Shares
However, the free version of open site explorer limits the usability heavily by only showing the top 5 results and will not be sufficient for even the most junior of SEOs. The lowest subscription package starts at $79/month (which is good package for the advanced SEO) but also includes access to the rest of SEOMoz’s research tools such as On-Page Optimization, Keyword Analysis, SEO Web Crawler, Rank Tracking & Followerwonk.
In the Blue Corner-Majestic SEO
Majestic SEO’s index is larger than OSE…4 trillion unique URLs crawled and 382 trillion unique pages crawled as of this post. Majestic’s index, while a bit more cumbersome than OSE, can come in handy if you are continuously checking on backlink profiles. It is split into 2 different categories, Historic and Fresh. The historic index contains all the data Majestic has for a particular URL indexed, while the fresh index contains data for a particular URL indexed from the last 60 days and is updated daily. The fresh index is convenient when link building and seeing what your competitors are currently doing. It provides great opportunities to cherry pick links and also insight on their link building strategies.
The indexes filter results by:
- No Follow
- Alt Text
- AC Rank (Majestic’s version of Google’s PageRank)
Another popular tool within Majestic SEO is Clique Hunter. Up to ten unique root domains within the same vertical can be entered and clique hunter will seek out domains that link to those multiple sites. It will then visually graph the representation of the top domains that the URLs are linking to. The data can then be easily exported to Excel. This is useful for exploring competitors’ backlinks.
Majestic provides detailed reports of anchor text variation, landing page distribution, and branded versus non-branded terms. This is now more important than ever with Google’s latest and upcoming updates penalizing sites with unequal amounts of anchor text distributions.
At first glance and for the novice, Majestic will seem a little intimidating and hard to navigate. I went through this same learning curve. However, it is time well spent given the index is constantly being updated and larger than OSE. Much like OSE, the free trial is limited profusely offering very little to a free user. The subscription package starts cheaper than OSE at $49/month. With the massive amounts of data, metrics, and reporting, as well as other resourceful tools for backlink analysis, Majestic SEO must be strongly considered for any SEO.
These tools essentially offer the same service while packaging and distributing the data differently. For ease and quickness of use, I favor OSE. I always go to OSE first to get a quick glance of a competitor’s backlink profile. I can get a great amount of link opportunities off of OSE alone but if I feel that the competitor is “ripe for the picking” and consistently doing link building, I will take it to the next level with Majestic. If I see a backlink profile that is filled with a small handful, spammy or low quality links, I will not go to Majestic.
For an advanced analysis of your backlink profile, Majestic’s advanced reporting is absolutely necessary. The comprehensive intelligence Majestic has to offer gives you the ability to constantly modernize current SEO strategies by optimizing distributions of anchor text links, landing page distribution and branded versus non-branded terms. Doing so will keep that “infamous” letter out of your Webmaster inbox and at the top of the SERPs.
To be an effective SEO that desires efficiency as well as depth in analysis, both tools need to be used. One without the other will, no doubt, limit the effectiveness of the link analysis. Therefore, my decision, and the decision of all smart SEOs, is SPLIT…with both OSE and Majestic SEO declared victorious.