• http://smart-keywords.com Aussiewebmaster

    Another tool you have overlooked is LinkResearchTools.com – relatively new and a paid service put it has great info for comparing efforts against competitors

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    You have a well-written and reasonably thorough summary here but there is minimal search optimization value in jumping through all these hoops over imaginary link data. It may be real within each service but you cannot take any of these tools — even the Google-powered ones — and use them to determine which links are helping within which search engines.

    SEOs who depend mostly on link building are playing at the low end of the efficiency spectrum. People need to step up their game and obsessing over links.

  • http://2helixtech.com matthiaswh

    Michael,

    I don’t think people can stop obsessing over links until they become a non-factor in ranking (which will most likely never happen). The best on-site SEO work won’t get you very far on competitive terms without any links. On the other hand, the right links can get even a terrible example of SEO to the #1 spot, as long as it’s search engine accessible.

    The fact of the matter is that links are the single biggest factor in search engine rankings, but they’re not the only factor.

    Conrad,

    While I agree that it is incredibly difficult to put a value link building efforts, I think relying solely on referral traffic is as equally inaccurate as using a tool like Linkscape/OSE. The idea that the ranking algorithm’s value of a link is proportional to the traffic volume supplied by a link doesn’t hold up in all situations.

    A mention on the NYTimes front page might bring in a huge amount of traffic for several days and then taper off into a couple referrals per day when it gets pushed into the archives. However, the algorithmic benefit of that link doesn’t appear to fade very much. Equally, a mention on a deep but relevant page of Harvard.edu might never bring in very much traffic but offer a significant algorithmic boost.

    It’s frustrating to try to give due credit to link building. We do pretty general SEO for our clients. During the review of my last report for work performed, the account rep. for that client saw I’d only obtained X amount of links (which is only 1 of the tasks during that session) and asked how that accounted for all the time spent on it. At first that was almost insulting, but I realized that to someone who doesn’t spend time building links that it’s difficult to understand and quantify results.

    I think the answer (if there is one) is probably some mix of referral traffic and Linkscape data. It’s good to keep the traffic in mind, and I think it will become more and more important as a signal of the link value. Outspoken Media did an interview with some of the top link building minds, and their answer to Question 5 supports your idea that referral traffic is a valuable metric: http://outspokenmedia.com/seo/link-building-interview/

    Thanks for the article. It’s good to keep in mind and raises some great points.

    -Matthias

  • http://www.robertdreher.nl RobertDreher

    Very refreshing and it gives me confidence in my own ideas. Thank you. Tools can help me doing my job better but they never give me a complete and reliable picture.

  • http://arizonaseo.com halfacat

    Interesting article Conrad. It seems that tracking links is an ongoing struggle. Thanks for the ideas here.

    Michael – Can you give us some alternatives to link building that deliver results? I am sure it would be something that Search Engine Land would publish.

  • Conrad Saam

    Update: Talked with Rand from SEOmoz this morning – they are indeed updating their index on a four weeks or less schedule since January of this year.

  • http://www.ericward.com Eric Ward

    Conrad, I agree with Micheal M. All of us who have created tools in this niche are, at the end of the day, basing everything on assumptions. Link Insight is the newest tool I helped create, and I purposely simplified the process of link evaluation and scoring down to a set of signals that are easy to measure and track. At the same time, I know we cannot ever have a perfect set of metrics for link building, as there are simply too many possible goals and variables. That’s where the experience of the tool creator matters. Having been at the link building biz for 15+ years, I must say that link building that is driven purely from a search rank standpoint misses the point entirely. Tools and metrics can help us feel more confident about what we believe to be true, but that’s it.