Bing Links Explorer: Yahoo Site Explorer Reborn?

It doesn’t quite offer all of the functionality of the late, lamented Yahoo Site Explorer, but Bing Links Explorer gives fans of the free tool lots of reasons to rejoice. If you have a Bing Webmaster Tools account, you can access the features of this new service right now.

If you don’t have such an account, you can sign up for one at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster; you’ll need a Windows Live ID, which is free to set up. Now if you’ve never used Yahoo Site Explorer, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Before it was closed, YSE was perhaps the only free tool you could use to examine the backlinks accumulated by websites other than your own…including your competitors. It provided other functions as well, that in many cases you’d have to pay for elsewhere.

Sujan Patel offers a list of Bing Links Explorer’s features, and explains how to use them for research and competitive intelligence. If you like to discover these things for yourself, fire up Bing Webmaster Tools, and then go to the “Diagnostic & Tools” menu located on the left-hand sidebar to find and access the “Links Explorer” feature.

You can start playing with Bing Links Explorer by entering the URL you want to investigate in the first search field. You can enter a root domain or a sub-page – and best of all, it doesn’t even need to be on your site! The tool will return a condensed list of external links going to that URL, one per linking website. But if you want more information, you can apply various filters to this search.

Say you own examplesite.com and bloggerinyourfield.com has reviewed a few of your products. Want to see all of the backlinks he’s given you? Enter his URL into the “Filter by site” option.

Worried that your anchor text isn’t varied enough to look natural? You can use the search field for anchor text. Just put specific versions of the anchor text you use in this field and click to re-run the search.

Do you want to check the internal link network of a site? Use the “Source” filter to change your options. By default, Bing Links Explorer returns external links when you enter a URL, but you can tell it to deliver external links, or both kinds of links.

I haven’t covered all of the features here; I figure I might as well leave you a few to discover on your own. But I think you can already see the potential. The simplest, most obvious thing you can do is put in your competitor’s website and track down all of his external links. As an example, Patel suggested that Amazon might want to find out which websites link to Rackspace – like Amazon, a big name in the cloud storage space. In this example, sites that link to Rackspace might be link building candidates for Amazon. “After all, you link to our competitor,” Amazon might say; “why not link to us?” (You can tell why I’m not in sales!).

The best part, of course, is that you can get all of this competitive intelligence for free. Have you started using Bing Links Explorer? What do you plan to do with it? Please share in the comments below!

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