Analyzing Inbound Links Using BacklinkWatch Data

Concerned that your competitors are ahead of you in the search engine results pages because they boast more backlinks than you do? This article will show you how to find out the truth with a free online backlink tool; it will also show you how to use that data in your own SEO campaigns.

Assessing the quality of backlinks is one of the most important aspects of search engine optimization. Google ranking algorithms strongly depend on links, and to beat those competitors in the Google Top 10 positions, you need a large quantity of high-quality links.

Up to now there has been no tool in search engine optimization technology that offered precise and accurate measurements to assess the quality and quantity of backlinks.

The good news is that http://www.backlinkwatch.com is a free backlink tool using Yahoo’s Site Explorer data. The tool gives the first 1000 backlinks with URL, anchor text and the number of links in that page.

These three important pieces of data are crucial to the backlink analysis of the competitors. Here are the things you can discover with this data:

Unique domains– This issue relates to link popularity. The higher the number of domains linking to you, the more popular your domain will be. Also, the more relevant those pages, the higher the ranking benefits will be.

Anchor text – This cannot be ignored, as it is one of the most important elements in Google’s link analysis. The keywords comprising anchor text are heavily weighted in Google’s algorithms. If the anchor text used perfectly describes the targeted page, then it will really help the rankings of the targeted page.

Number of links on the page – The lower the number of links on a page, the more it will bleed link juice or page rank to the optimized page. Also, the number of links in the page is an indicator of page quality. This will differentiate a spammy link page from a serious one. On the Internet, a spammy link page contains around  50 to 200 links or even more. A lower amount ensures a good user experience.

The objective of this article is to come up with a standard methodology in counting and assessing the quality of unique backlinks pointing to a site by using www.backlinkwatch.com data. Then this data will be used as input for search engine marketing strategy and planning.

With the advent of free tools online, and the fact that most common computers have MS Excel installed, you do not need to hire an SEO company or avail yourself of paid SEO tools to analyze your competitors’ backlinks for you.

After finishing this tutorial, you will be confident that you can do it on your own.

There are important considerations when you use the www.backlinkwatch tool. Here is some important information you’ll want to know before you start.

The Backlinkwatch tool runs fast using a Firefox browser. Nevertheless, it will take time to download all of the data. Download time could be as short as five minutes or as long as 30 minutes or more, depending on the quality of your Internet connection. This means it is advisable to analyze one URL at a time.

Backlinkwatch tool data, as I mentioned on the previous page, is taken from the Yahoo Site Explorer developer API. This means that the data it shows may be a little bit different from what you’d see through Google Webmaster Tools. This is not an issue. In my experience using this tool, it is not drastically different from  Google Webmaster Tools.

The Backlinkwatch tool only gives you the raw data. You still need to do a thorough analysis using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (highly recommended) to derive more useful and meaningful information from the data.

Backlinkwatch tool data gives duplicated backlinks from the same domain, so it is possible to have 100 backlinks coming from a single domain. This is not filtered in the tool’s raw data. This means you should filter it before doing the analysis.

Sometimes Backlinkwatch shows no anchor text. This type of data will be filtered during the analysis.

If a certain URL has around 10,500 backlinks pointing to it from other domains (example only), Backlinkwatch will only output a maximum of 1000 links which will be used for analysis. So this means any analysis done is based on a maximum sample size of 1000 links.

Aside from the backlink URL, anchor text and the number of links, Backlinkwatch will also show other data, such as Google Page Rank and nofollow links.

Let’s assume you are a PHP programmer and have decided to target the keyword “PHP developer” as part of the anchor text of backlinks to your site. You should check your competitors on Google’s first page.

The following are some of your possible competitors:

  • http://forums.devnetwork.net/  -Position 2
  • http://www.oracle.com/technology/tech/php/index.html – Position 6
  • http://bendodson.com/ – Position 10
  •  

Of course, with higher positions we can expect a higher quantity and quality of inbound links relating to “PHP developer.”

In any competitor analysis you should assume that the competitors have kept building links too. To make sure that you will secure first page positions soon, you have to analyze the higher positions. This acts like a safety factor.

For example, we will analyze http://forums.devnetwork.net/ because it is currently in position two for our chosen key phrase in Google. If you benchmark the quantity and quality of the links pointing to it, you will have some pretty good information as to how you need to conduct your search engine campaign.

The next thing you have to do is go to http://www.backlinkwatch.com and enter the complete URL (http://forums.devnetwork.net/), and then hit “Check Backlinks.” What follows next is that Backlinkwatch will start gathering the data from the Yahoo Site Explorer database. You should immediately see the message “Total backlinks pointing to the URL.” In this example there are ~2877 back links pointing to the main URL only: http://forums.devnetwork.net/

The maximum sample size of Backlinkwatch is only around 1000. After completion of Backlinkwatch’s data downloading, you should select "copy" and then paste that data to an Excel spreadsheet.

To do this correctly, you need to point your mouse cursor just before the “No.” and then select “No.” and go all the way down until your cursor reaches the end of the data table. Do not include Backlinkwatch’s copyright notice. Then press right click -> copy, go to the Excel spreadsheet, and then right click in cell A1 -> paste special -> text, and finally press OK.

The program will then copy the data from the Backlinkwatch web page to an Excel spreadsheet. To make sure you have done this procedure correctly, download a raw data.xls here: http://www.php-developer.org/2009/03/backlinkwatch-excel-spreadsheet.html to compare.

After we have collected the data, we can start cleaning it. There are steps that we need to take so that the data that we are analyzing are clean and useful. To start with:

  • Filter nofollow links by going into Data -> Autofilter, and then in column F (Flag) select the drop down button and choose (Blanks). This will remove any row that contains “nofollow” data.  
  • Then in Column E (OBL), in the drop down button, select (NonBlanks). This will remove any row that has no “number of outbound links” data. 
  • Delete column D (page rank colum) as it is not needed. To delete, simply click the whole column D, and then right click delete. 
  • Do not include rows that contains no anchor text data. To do this, under column C (anchor text), select the drop down and choose (NonBlanks).
  • Select A1 until the end of the data table; in this example, it is D1001. Copy and paste to another empty Excel worksheet, starting again on cell A1.
  • Correct the numbering of the back link data in column A. Start with 1 and end with the last. In this example it should be 940 (clean data after filtering).

Save the Excel spreadsheet. To make sure you have done this correctly, see filtered.xls here: http://www.php-developer.org/2009/03/backlinkwatch-excel-spreadsheet.html

Third Step: Analyzing the Data

To start, copy and paste this formula starting F2 to F941:

=MID((MID(B2,8,(LEN(B2)))),1,(FIND("/",(MID(B2,8,(LEN(B2)))),1))-1)

This will give the unique domain. After that, select column F, and then copy and paste as values. It should remove all the formulas in column F, leaving only the unique domains.

Select column F (highlight all column F data), select data -> filter -> advanced filter, and then click OK. In the list range select all data in F, check “unique records” and then OK.

Finally, select starting cell A1 all the way down to F933. Copy and paste that to an empty worksheet at starting cell A1 again. Correct the numbering of the filtered data table, starting from 1 until 117.

Statistical analysis

Number of back links pointing to the URL coming from Unique domains = (117/1000) * 2877 = 336 unique domains

To count the number of links containing “PHP developer” in anchor text:

Select column C, data -> filter -> autofilter -> select drop down button -> custom -> select “contains” in the box enter “PHP,” then AND “contains;” in the box, enter “Developer.” Counting that one, it will be 28. So, (28/1000) * 2877 = 81 links coming from unique domains using “PHP developer” in the anchor text

Also, take the average of column D (number of links in the page). It is 141 links per page on average.

Examining inbound links containing the targeted text, you will see they are around 76% relevance. For this statistic, the higher, the better. 

To beat this competitor, you may need more than 336 unique domains linking to you, with less than 141 links per page and 81 links in anchor text with 76% relevancy.

Google analyzes more than 200 factors in their ranking. This analysis is just an approximation, but it provides a quantitative approach to inbound link analysis.

Check the final Excel spreadsheet “data analysis.xls”: http://www.php-developer.org/2009/03/backlinkwatch-excel-spreadsheet.html

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