Monday, 21 November 2005

Link popularity checks for your blog






Bloggers are always interested in "Who links to me". Link popularity checkers show how many other sites the main search engines say link to your blog, with links to view the search results listing those sites. Some tools even show how popular your blog is (judged by links to you) compared with major Websites, and with some you can, if you really want to, compare your blog's link popularity with your friends' blogs', or indeed any other particular sites you choose.

This post reviews a few free link popularity check tools, and also there are forms to try checking your own blog's link popularity (which you can include on your own blog by adding the code to your template). Just scroll to the end if you're impatient to try the tools out! And feel free to bookmark this post if you want to get to those tools in one place quickly in the future.
(I've previously blogged about a few other tools to find out who links to you, e.g. backlinks via Blog Search, Technorati cosmos, Icerocket, etc, or who's bookmarked your posts on Delicious - and I'll be blogging about more.)

The free link popularity check tools I thought I'd look at are:
(yes, they've all got highly original names, eh?).

They all do the same thing - run searches against your blog URL on major search engines (though they don't all use the same search engines). But then they display the results in different ways. You could do those searches manually yourself, but these tools automate the process, running several searches at once and bringing the results back to you in one place, and, as I mentioned, even providing comparisons against other blogs or sites.

Link Popularity Check download

Link Popularity Check is the simplest and most basic, but pretty fast, and great for what it is. Once you download it you can just run it (make sure you're connected to the Net first and let LPC.exe through your firewall), you don't even have to install it. You get a popup window offering downloading of a trial of a more advanced version but if you're happy with this one just click Close Window.

Obviously you have to be connected to the Net before you run the searches. Click Add, enter your blog URL, make sure the line with that URL is highlighted and click Update Selected to run the searches. Then you'll get a list of the number of links to your site found via AllTheWeb, Altavista, Google & Hotbot combined, MSN, Teoma and Yahoo. It also automatically lists other websites and if you highlight them before you click Update Selected (or if you click Update All) it will search against those sites too, should you really feel the masochistic urge to compare your blog's link popularity with that of Amazon or the US Treasury, and then position your site in the results list according to your ranking.

There's info on what sort of link searches are run in their online instructions/help page and you can even export the results as a text file. Here's what my results look like - you'll see from the colour-coded key that, compared with Slashdot etc, my blog is not a major player, but at least I'm on my way…!

Uptimebot

Uptimebot's Link Popularity Check (which is an online service rather than a downloadable program) gives you more detailed results. For each major search engine (Google, Yahoo, MSN, AllTheWeb, Altavista, Hotbot, Teoma, Lycos, AOL, Alexa), it tries to show you the number of other webpages pointing (1) to your homepage and (2) (except in the case of Google) to any page on your site; the number of pages on your site/blog indexed by that search engine; and the number of mentions of your URL found by that search engine (slightly different things are shown for Alexa, such as your blog's Alexa Rating and average page loading time).

There is a helpful table below the results, explaining what each of those numbers means. You can click on a particular number (or even a red X - there are sometimes rather too many of those) to run a particular search engine search in a new window and see the exact list of search results. Here's a screenshot:


However I've noticed some peculiarities with this service, so I would take their results with a pinch of salt.

Often it won't return results from a particular search engine (the dreaded red X, see below), and from one minute to the next if you try the service again you may get a red X in different places - if you click a red X though, it will do the search successfully direct on the appropriate search engine, in a new window, so I suspect Uptimebot are just having problems with displaying the results properly, rather than that there was a "search engine error"!

Plus there are oddities in the results. For instance, when I clicked the link for the Yahoo "link:" search, I got a certain number of search results. If I clicked Search again in the new Yahoo window the number of results reduced and the results shown changed, at least for my blog URL. I never got this when I searched direct in Yahoo, the number of results stayed exactly the same each time (as you'd expect if you do the same search again immediately).

Finally, I've had occasions where the number of links to my main page, as shown by Uptimebot, is supposedly MORE than the number of links to ALL parts of my blog put together (on Yahoo and Altavista, the last time this happened). That surely can't be right…

Marketleap's Link Popularity Check

Marketleap's Link Popularity Check is the most sophisticated, in many ways. It uses a different and, admittedly, narrower selection of search engines: Google and AOL grouped together (who knows why), Hotbot, MSN and Yahoo/FAST/Altavista lumped together. But when you first use this tool, you can optionally enter the URLs of up to three other blogs or sites to compare your results against (you don't have to - if you don't, it'll just run the search against well known sites in the relevant industry, on which more later). And you can also optionally choose a sector to see how your blog ranks in that sector, again more on that below. Here's a screenshot:


As you can see, as well as returning results from the search engines mentioned (with clickable links to run those searches direct in a new window), this service automatically compares your results with those relating to other sites.

The clever thing is this. See the "Current Benchmark" dropdown near the top on the left? That lets you choose an industry or sector, like Books, Computers, Consulting, Entertainment, Government and Politics, Internet, Law etc. (If you don't choose one then it will be General). Depending on which sector you pick, Marketleap will show you how your blog compares with well known sites in that sector, as you can see from the screenshot (General in that case). And from the results page, if you choose another sector from the dropdown, it will redo the search to show your position in the new sector without your having to enter anything else.

There's colour coding to show your relative position again, e.g. my blog has an above average presence in sectors like General, Computers and Internet, but sadly I'm not a Contender yet (although Coke are…)! You'll see too that it not only shows you generally how you stand, but your exact position relative to quite a few other named sites. As I mentioned before, if you put in the URLS of up to 3 other named sites when you first ran the search, it will show their results in the list too.

Another cool feature is the Trend/History Report tab: "Marketleap's Trend/History report gives you a view of how your website's link popularity has performed over time. If you've run your link popularity reports here in the past, sample data from every day you have run a report is already available." It can only compare the data from when you first used their service, so if this is of interest to you, the sooner you do your first search, the better. An excellent way to get people to keep going to their site. Here's mine:


And here in more detail is my trend chart over the hugely long period of two days since I've been trying this service out:


There's also a tool to view your Search Engine Saturation - the number of pages a given search engine has in its index for your website domain. Here's a screenshot (MSN must like me, it reports more pages than I have on my blog!!):


Also Marketleap have a Keyword Verification tool which checks to see if your site is in the top three pages of a search engine result for a specific keyword searched for. Here's mine for the keyword "Technorati":


So all in all, this one is the most fun of all the link popularity checking tools I've reviewed. I should add though that the results differed from tool to tool as you may have noticed, so you shouldn't take them exactly as they are - they are interesting for a broad overview, but it might not be a good idea to treat them as definitively authoritative (especially the Uptimebot service with its occasionally odd and erratic results).

Check your own blog's link popularity and add the code to your template

As promised, you can check your blog's link popularity on Uptimebot here:

LINK POPULARITY CHECK
Using the Link Popularity Check script you can revise detailed
statistics of backward links for one domain in the most popular directories and search engines.











And Marketleap:



Enter your URL here:

(www.yourdomain.com)
Optional comparison URL:

Your ACCESS CODE:

Please enter the ACCESS CODE here:

(Results collected LIVE from the Internet)



If you want to include the above forms on your own blog or site, note that they say you aren't allowed to change the code so unfortunately you wouldn't strictly be able to tweak them to fit in your sidebar, though obviously you can include them in the main body of a post like I have.

You may notice from the Marketleap results that if you put their code on your blog, the one area where you are allowed to tweak their code is to add a link to your logo or pic and site. Cool. So for example if you run their search using the form above, the results page shows my logo. (Their page with their code, linked to below, has instructions on how to change the code to add your info, so I won't go into that further).

[Added 22 November:] A gotcha for Blogger users - Blogger doesn't seem to like <script language="JavaScript" src="linktoascript"> tags and you may get an error saying "Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not allowed" if you try the Marketleap code. If it won't publish, just tick the box "Stop showing errors for this post" and it should then work.

Also note that there is an error in the Uptimebot code, you have to add an extra </table> just before (or just after) the existing occurrence of </table> in their code, or else your background colour will go weird (so I had to do that despite what they said about their code - hopefully they'll fix it soon).

[Added 22 November:] Finally, for Blogger users, if you have Convert line breaks on Yes (in your Dashboard Settings, Formatting tab), forms can sometimes look weird in your posts, with boxes in the wrong place etc, if you have tags starting on new lines, as is usually the case with the code given by Uptimebot, Marketleap and many other sites - you need to run the code all together in a row with nothing (or just spaces) between tags. If it's a pain to edit the code they've given, feel free to view source on my post and copy/paste my code.

Here are the links to the code:
Enjoy!

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3 comments:

Amit Agarwal said...

I would also suggest http://ehlist.ca/ for checking backlinks in Google, Yahoo and Technorati.

Amit Agarwal

eTraffic Jams said...

You may want to get involved with a Web analytics prgoram / community in order to make sense of the traffic your getting. This way you can measure and understand how the link popularity is helping.

Improbulus said...

Thanks Amit!

I do have both Statcounter and Google Analytics, etraffic jams.