Backlinks are the lifeblood of SEO.
While Google's algorithms continue to evolve, and some now see them as less relevant than they once were, backlinks, in combination with optimized content, remain the two most important elements that will influence your website's search rankings.
Links signal to search engines that your content is worth being quoted and linked to. This is exactly why link-building campaigns are indispensable for a website, while performing regular backlink analysis is also key to maximizing and improving your search performance.
To help with this, here’s a list of five, free backlink checking tools that can give you a better idea of where you're getting referrals from, and how you can improve your profile.
1.Google Search Console
A must-have tool - Google Search Console is, hands down, the best backlink checker you’ll ever come across.
The data comes from the search engine itself, so it’s beyond reproach, and it collects largely all of the links you want to be looking for.
Google Search Console available to any webmaster, and will give you solid information about your link profile, complete with a list of inbound links, as well as the links considered “untrustworthy”, that could harm your rankings - those you simply disavow.
There, in the Links section, you’ll be able to assess how you’re doing, and see all of the inbound links as evaluated by Google Search Console. What makes this one stand out across all of the backlink analysis tools is that you get clean data.
There are much fewer duplicate backlinks in general shown here. It’s fair to say that basically all of your “good” backlinks - the ones that impact your rankings - are on Google Search Console, which makes it indispensable for link building.
Yes, you can (and should) do a backlink check in other tools as well, and you might see that Ahrefs, for example, will show you twice as many backlinks. But the truth of it is that these additional links are likely duplicates, and unindexed pages with nofollow backlinks - so it’s not possible to actually work with them.
The short and simple of it is: if your inbound link is not shown in this backlink checker, something might be wrong with it.
The good news - It’s convenient, shows you great backlinks to work with, and is reliable since it’s info coming directly from Google.
The bad news - It does require some verification, namely the DNS verification. It’s not there for a casual look-up, and you can only research your own website.
2. SEO SpyGlass
SEO SpyGlass is a backlink checker that aims to be more functional for an SEO professional, even in the free version.
Let me be real with you here: the thing about any free backlink checker is that it’s usually free because it’s a sample (at least in my experience). The tools on this list are, by and large, are only useful for a quick-and-superficial backlink check.
You only get a very superficial look at your backlink profile. Some give you just the top 100 backlinks, with some very light data about them, others give you your backlinks - but you can’t save them, and it’s very tough to actually do any work.
That's exactly why this tool is different.
The free version of SEO SpyGlass is quite limited, with the reports limited to 1,100 backlinks. But the functionality allows an SEO expert to actually do some work.
You get a full picture of what backlinks are pointing to which pages, since when, using which anchor texts and carrying what kind of domain authority. You can also research your competitors, either by creating a separate project for each competitor, or looking for intersecting backlinks of a single competitor using a Domain Comparison module.
The good news - There are no limits on the amount of projects you can add, and you get a very detailed backlink analysis, complete with backlink anchor text and backlink history. You can also create customized backlink reports.
The bad news - It’s a desktop software, so the first analysis of your domain will take some time. On top of that, SpyGlass limits make it tough to work with if you’re running a high-volume link building campaign.
3. Monitor Backlinks
As far as backlink analysis tools go, this one is the best at onboarding.
There's no verification or download needed to do the checking - you simply enter the website you want to analyze, wait a while, and get an overview of your link profile. But like a lot of free tools, it’s an offshoot of the larger, pricier software.
And while I can earnestly recommend Monitor Backlinks in its paid version, the free one is one of the tools that you can only really use for a casual look-up.
Don’t get me wrong, it does show you the number of backlinks to your domain, while it also highlights the number of unique domains that have linked to you, along with citation and trust flows. But it’s difficult to actually research your link profile for link building using this tool.
It’s no coincidence that the paid version’s dashboard is clean and usable, while the free version is fairly restricted.
The good news - Very easy to hop in and check a domain’s link profile, be it yours or your competitor’s. You get backlinks’ anchor text, the number of indexed URLs, and maybe most importantly, you can check your website and a couple of others at once.
The bad news - The monitoring dashboard is very limited, with the backlinks tab being very narrow and quite a bit unwieldy.
In the SEO world, this link checker really needs no introduction. Ahrefs dominates the SEO tool market right now, and for good reason.
You can sample some of Ahrefs' functions for free on their own website. In a similar way to other link checker tools on the list, the free version is limited, but from a slightly different perspective: you can only see the top 100 backlinks to your domain.
You do receive an overall number of the backlinks found to your website, but there's no way to find out what these are, and what pages they point to. Only the top 100 backlinks are shown to you in full. You can also check out your top five most linked to pages, and the most used anchor texts.
The good news - Super fast audit, anchor texts are shown not simply as is, but as part of a sentence, in context. Traffic column for every backlink shown might be a very useful approach to backlink audit.
The bad news: -100 backlinks is not very many to work with, and you won’t be able to actually track your backlinks. There's also no way to save your projects or create a report.
Seobility’s free link checker tool is quite a different breed from Ahrefs and the other apps on this list. Instead of only limiting the amount of results you might get from the checking, the limit is instead imposed on the queries you put in.
Anybody on the web can come to Seobility’s website and run a backlink analysis for three different domains. If you choose to sign up for the free version of their software, though, you’ll be able to look up the link profile of five different URLs or domains - so immediately, you can search up to four of your competitors.
However, the limits on the crawling for your project in the free version are significant. Seobility only crawls 1,000 pages, and 200 external links. Still, using the backlink checker you’ll get a nice view of your link profile.
The good news - Super easy to login and look up a domain’s link profile. Working with the UI is comfortable and you aren’t bombarded throughout with pleadings to buy a paid version.
The bad news - Very limited crawling, no way to make reports, and only a single project available for free users. No historical data, and very little technical data on the backlinks.
I hope my brief review of these free link checker tools has proved useful. Unfortunately, with tools like these, the choice becomes a very pronounced compromise.
One backlink tool might give you five domains to research for free, while another will give you actually useful information for further link-building. One might give you your full link profile, but no way to save it as a report, and another, beautiful customizable reports - but you can only crawl a limited number of backlinks.
There's no one best tool out there, but you need to choose the option that’s best suited to your needs in order to guide your future link-building efforts. Hopefully, with this list, you’ll find a backlink tool that's perfect for your current situation.