SEO Spyglass Review – Ultimate Competitive Link Building Tool, Now Showing 1,000+ Links
October 1, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park
Anyone with a basic understanding of how SEO works knows that obtaining high quality links from other related sites plays a huge factor in increasing search engine rankings. Common link building strategies range from submitting to directories and guest posting on blogs to creating widgets and promoting link bait type articles on social media. But where do you start looking for potential link targets? How do you know which links will yield the greatest results for your SEO efforts?
A great starting point for building links to your site is to analyze the competition and look at where other successful sites in your niche are getting their links from. How is site X ranking for a competitive keyword in Google? What does the site’s link profile look like? Once you get a better understanding of top-ranking sites in your niche, you can emulate their most valuable links and tweak your link building strategy to get ahead.
A tool that I use for this very purpose is the SEO Spyglass software, a competitive backlink analyzer that allows you to easily evaluate the link profiles of specific sites – including your own. The tool automatically imports links for a site from chosen search engines (Yahoo data is currently the most comprehensive) and outputs useful information on those links (e.g. anchor text, Google PageRank, link location, Alexa rank, etc). Using this data you can then gain valuable insights into what your competitors are doing to achieve top rankings in Google. The tool will also help you to uncover some little-known link secrets in various industries. In fact, some of my best ideas for links were discovered by using SEO Spyglass.
Here’s a screen shot of the SEO Spyglass interface, with a link report loaded for WinningtheWeb.com.
As you can see, the following data is available for each link.
- Total number of links pointing to the domain. This is the same as using the linkdomain operator in Yahoo. For example, Winning the Web has 37,294 links. SEO and link building are more about quality than sheer quantity of links, but still, the more the better.
- Google PageRank of both the linking page and the linking domain. PageRank (as reported by the Google toolbar) isn’t really a reliable metric anymore, but it can still show how much value pages have in the eyes of Google. For example, a link from a PR 7 site will generally be much more valuable than a link from a PR 2 site.
- Alexa traffic rank of linking page. Find out which sites are driving the most traffic to your competitors. Links from high-traffic pages are not only valuable in terms of SEO (especially as Google incorporates user data into the mix), but also help to increase exposure and visits.
- Link anchor text and URLs of competitor links. The text that links use is extremely important when it comes to Google rankings. What are people saying when they link to your competitors? Are other sites buying links or influencing link anchor text in some way? This tool offers an easy way to find out.
- Links back? The link data that Yahoo offers is often a bit dated. Webmasters will take down certain links, but Yahoo will still report them for weeks or months. SEO Spyglass checks whether or not a link is still on a page. It also tells you whether or not a link has the nofollow tag.
- External links / total links. When analyzing the value of a link, link density matters. If there are 1,000 links on a single page with PR 6, the value that each one of those links pass is diluted. On the other hand, if there is just 1 external link on a PR 5 page with 10 links total, that link will pass on a lot of SEO value – more than the PR 6 page with 1,000 links.
- Counts of links from forums & blogs. Are your competitors involved in social media promotion? If so, are they using any strategies you haven’t thought of before? This data will give you those kinds of insights.
- Counts of links from homepages. Although the home page is usually the most important on a site, it’s often manipulated by link builders. If this count is high for your competitors, you’ll know why.
- Links from DMOZ & Yahoo Directory. Find out whether or not the site you’re researching has links from authoritative directories like DMOZ and Yahoo Directory.
- Link value score. SEO Spyglass uses its own algorithm to rank and score links based on a variety of different metrics. More valuable links will have a higher score.
- Domain IP & country. Find out whether or not the site in question has more links from a specific geographic region (good for ranking on country-specific search engines). Also, if many links are coming from a specific IP, you can uncover link networks.
- Domain age. Google loves old, crusty sites and tends to give them more value when it comes to SEO and links. Use this to your advantage!
SEO Spyglass basically aggregates useful data and puts it in an easy-to-read interface. All of the information is freely available, but you won’t be able to correlate it all together without using a tool like this. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have everything in one place so I can focus on my link building campaigns.
Update: The new version of SEO Spyglass (3.11) released yesterday is able to collect more than 1,000 links from Yahoo (the limit of number of links shown, no matter how big the link profile). This is pretty cool stuff, and I’ll get more into it in the limitations section below.
Limitations of SEO Spyglass
Although I’m a big fan of SEO Spyglass and use it often, there are some limitations that take away from its effectiveness.
Link data is not always up to date.
Since the tool pulls link data from Yahoo, there are generally some links shown that no longer exist (but the tool specifies this) and some existing new links that aren’t shown. Furthermore, if you wanted to get a glimpse of the links your competitors were acquiring in real time, you wouldn’t be able to find it here. Still, Yahoo has the best link data in the industry by far (Google doesn’t release this information) and it’s enough to get a head start on finding good linking opportunities.
Limited number of links obtained
Another limitation, not of SEO Spyglass, but of the Yahoo link data, is that the number of links publicly viewable is capped at 1,000. In other words, you can only see 1,000 of your competitors’ links when using Yahoo Search Explorer with each query. While this number is significant, the data only represents a tiny fraction of the entire picture, especially for larger sites with tens of thousands of links.
Well there’s some good news. SEO Spyglass just came out with a new version that is able to get around this limitation a bit and obtain a lot more links than the 1,000 Yahoo limit. It does this by aggregating links from a variety of different search engines and by utilizing the “link:” operator to squeeze out as many links as possible (e.g. queries Yahoo separately for link:domain.com, link:domain.com/page1.html, link:domain.com/page2.html, etc). For example, SEO Spyglass lists out 1,795 links from Yahoo for WinningtheWeb.com. While this is much more than the 1,000 limit when querying the entire domain at once, it’s still a very small number compared to the overall size of my site’s link profile (37,000 links). Hopefully SEO Spyglass can improve on this feature for even more links (and they say they will).
Another way to remedy the limited view of link profile is to buy a link report from MajesticSEO.com, a link and anchor text database that utilizes its own bots to crawl the web. You’ll get a much more complete list of links, which you can then manually import into SEO Spyglass to see all of the data points. However, the downside of MajesticSEO.com is that you have to pay for each site’s link report (price depends on size) and the data is not always up to date or accurate since the service uses its own crawlers. Even so, the prices are reasonable and you’ll be able to get access to thousands more links.
For your own site, you can import links from your Google Webmasters Account, which includes pretty much all links Google sees for your site, straight into SEO Spyglass.
All in all, SEO Spyglass is all about interface and helps me to easily sort through the data to uncover insights that I normally wouldn’t be able to find otherwise. I’ve tried similar free tools like Link Diagnosis and paid ones like SEO Elite, but this one’s my favorite.
How much does it cost? The pro version is $100, but there’s also a free version that let’s you run all of the reports. Check out the comparison chart that shows the features of the different SEO Spyglass editions. The prices aren’t bad considering how many great links you can obtain as a result. Try out the new version of SEO Spyglass.
Do you use the SEO Spyglass tool or anything similar to look into your competitors’ link profiles? What do you like about it and what can be improved? I’m always on the look out for new tools and ideas so be sure to leave a comment below.If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.