Report: Backlink Tools Show 30% To 50% Of Your Links

Sep 27, 2013 • 8:28 am | comments (14) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

hidden linksRemember that study Eric Enge published that said Google+ has no ranking benefit? Well, part of that, Eric said that an issue with his report may be that he can't find all the links to his site.

Specifically, he estimates that 30% to 50% of the links are not reported cumulatively via both the third party tools and search engine backed tools. Specifically, he said he uses Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, Webmaster Tools, and Ahrefs and he thinks at best, only 50% of his links to a site are reported back.

Where does he come up with this number? He says:

I base these statements on my experiences with helping sites recover from link penalties. At Stone Temple Consulting we have helped more than 50 sites recover from penalties this year, and it has happened over and over again that we would help these sites by cleaning out bad links only to have Webmaster Tools report lots of new links the next time it was queried. The reported new links were not new and I have no doubt that Google knew about them before, but simply did not choose to include them in the Webmaster Tools report. However, once we cleaned out some of the bad ones, we got exposed to some more of the links residing in their database.

Do you think 30-50% is accurate?

Is there even a real way for us to count all the links to a site without building our own spider and system that is guaranteed to crawl every page on the internet. Even then, you'd be unsure.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

This post was written earlier this week and scheduled to be posted today.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for zipper

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09/27/2013 12:41 pm

Obviously third party tools aren't going to have anywhere as much data as what Google hold, how could they? These tools populate their dataset from their own crawling or through other crawled data that they buy in, so surely no one believed that they were getting a full run down of the links that are pointing into their site 100%?

Marie Haynes

09/27/2013 01:17 pm

I have no idea what the percentage is but I do know that there are a good number of links that are not reported on any tool but yet it seems that Google is counting them in their algorithms. Several times if a site I am consulting with has failed at reconsideration we have received an example link that is not in WMT, ahrefs, majestic or OSE. Sometimes we can find more links like this by doing some creative Google searches (i.e. for an author bio footprint) but sometimes it's not possible to find these links. It seems that Google will still lift a manual penalty if you show evidence that you have tried everything you can to remove bad links, even if there are still some in the index that you can't find. However, my big concern is whether these hidden links are causing Penguin to affect your site negatively. I asked John Mueller about this ( but he didn't give a clear answer.

Jason White

09/27/2013 01:30 pm

I can't put a percentage on it either but I've experienced and seen the same thing with my clients. We always pull from at least three sources and no matter how many times we boil the list of links down, we're always able to pull out a legitimate quantity of 'hidden' URLs.


09/27/2013 02:07 pm

When I used to build links I would check the tools for the links I built and it was around 25% that I saw in them. If you waited months it got a little better but not much.


09/27/2013 02:16 pm

"Is there even a real way for us to count all the links to a site without building our own spider and system that is guaranteed to crawl every page on the internet. Even then, you'd be unsure." If you're doing a link audit for Penguin, sure - just look at your link building invoices, or speak to your shady SEO guy from a few years back. So bored of webmasters who manipulated Google and then cry like babies when Google slaps them down and won't help them clean up their own mess. Obviously people like Marie working on behalf of clients have issues when no history is available, but again, who says you're entitled to a recovery? Even if you weren't aware what you were buying when you acquired the backlinks, Caveat Emptor (there's risk in business!!? Who knew?!)


09/27/2013 03:24 pm

Mining your web server logs and looking at referrers shows you all the links that people actually click on. Pair that with a spider that downloads each referrer and checks to see that a link actually exists on that page.

Michael Martinez

09/27/2013 03:56 pm

When will people stop advocating the use of crawl spam against unsuspecting Webmasters? If you're not paying for the other guy's bandwidth, do him the courtesy of NOT inflating its usage with this nonsense.

Brett Welker

09/27/2013 04:02 pm

So are you saying that one or two bad links can prevent all of your good links from being crawled? I only comment when I have something relevant to say, but of course I leave a backlink just as everyone else does. For me it's more of a networking tool to meet other SEO field specialists but I'm curious how Google designates something as a bad link.

Chris Koszo

09/27/2013 06:30 pm

I think it depends on the size of the site. If you have a small site that's brand new you can be fairly sure that you're seeing most links when using all the tools. However, if your site is many years old or is larger, there will always be links out there that you won't know about. The good thing though is these tools will show you nearly all of the strong links that are helping you and will show enough of the bad for you to be able to take action and remove/disavow enough to get any penalties removed. I'm not worried by the current capabilities of link tools.


09/27/2013 08:04 pm

As the Marketing director at Majestic SEO, I'd like to jump in here and help out a little. Eric is certainly right that Google's link map and any third parties will not fully overlap. My personal last check (and it was only anecdotal, not a publishable study) was actually an 80% overlap, but this would change dramatically from site to site. The main tools, including Moz and Majestic SEO were originally designed to discover strong links first. However - at Majestic SEO we built the ability for users to upload links into our URL submitter... up to 100,000 URLs at a time! If you are indeed faced with a Penguin penalty, then I would urge users to take advantage of this service by uploading link urls that they know about from ANY source before they start a culling exercise. That can include Google exported data and Bing Exported data as long as you have the right to use it. We do not pull it directly for you because Google might object. Uploading these URL lists tells us you want us to check these URLs and we will within the next 48 hours or try our best to look at these and provide flow metrics for the URLs.

Morgan Akchehirlian

09/28/2013 05:34 pm

Dixon sorry I do not want to say you wrong.I do not want to say about MajesticSEO but I shall say that Moz just concentrate on authority backlinks only. I agree with his report.Every tool have its own limitation.


09/28/2013 06:06 pm

Morgan - Thanks for the input. No need to say sorry. You seem to be agree with me. :) You said >I shall say that Moz just concentrate on authority backlinks only. I Said > The main tools, including Moz and Majestic SEO were originally designed to discover strong links first. This means the same thing. You also say > I do not want to say about Majestic SEO That's all I really should talk about. I shouldn't really speak for Moz.

Mohamed Tarek Tarek

10/20/2013 03:02 pm

thank alot for this post ] but i think the right back link will be from the authorized website


10/24/2013 11:55 am

It Depends on the site structure, how it is working . We would recommend that natural tools are much better in link building so do the less use of all other SEO techniques

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