Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yahoo! Site Explorer Shutting Down

For years, Yahoo! Site Explorer has been the primary backlink and competitor analysis tool for webmasters in the search engine marketing community. If you wanted to look in to the backlink profile of a client's or competitor's website, all you had to do was plug the URL in to the search box of the tool and it would return that data instantaneously. Earlier this month, however, Yahoo! announced that they would be shutting down Site Explorer, ultimately due to the recent merger with Microsoft (Bing). This news wasn't all that surprising for many, but has others scrambling to determine what backlink analysis tool they can rely on moving forward.

According to Yahoo!, it didn't make sense once the alliance was formed with Microsoft to offer two backlink analysis tools, the other being Microsoft's (Bing) Webmaster Tools. The Bing Webmaster Center team has been working diligently over the past several weeks to add new features to that platform. Specifically, features that include detailed information regarding traffic sources, as well as a revamped inbound links feature, have been the primary areas of focus. The  question that nobody seems to know the answer to, though, is when exactly will Yahoo! Site Explorer shut down?

While an exact date has yet to be announced, we do know a few things at this time. First, the transition of the search engine alliance between Yahoo! and Microsoft's Bing has been executed in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and Brazil. Second, the tool will not be shut down until that transition is live in every other market. And finally, that transition is set to take place in the remaining markets by the end of the 2011 fiscal year. Yahoo! has reported that they will keep the world apprised of any updates on their blog. It may behoove those that are currently (and have been) utilizing Yahoo! Site Explorer to become familiar with Bing Webmaster Central.

In the meantime, as the Bing Webmaster team continues to prepare their webmaster tools for a world wide roll-out, I recommend supplementing any backlink research with SEOmoz's Open Site Explorer. While there are far fewer web pages in the SEOmoz index, the tool does allow you to analyze backlink profiles, as well as the anchor text of those backlinks, and competitor data as well. The one thing that I particularly like about this tool is the fact that it discriminates between total links and links coming from unique URLs.

This is something that Yahoo! Site Explorer fails to do, and one of the reasons I feel that at first glance the data being returned by that tool can be misleading. It is important to know how many backlinks are coming from unique sites compared to the number of site-wide links (multiple links coming from one sites). Yahoo! Site Explorer may report that your backlink profile is 1,000 links strong, but if only 20 of those links are coming from unique URLs, that typically is far less valuable than having 1,000 links from unique URLs. Understanding the difference is key, and SEOmoz makes it far easier to do this, as they have two separate tabs (total links vs. unique) on the Open Site Explorer dashboard. 

And while there have been many that are unhappy with the notion of losing Yahoo! Site Explorer for good, I feel that like with many things, most are fearful of having to become familiar with a new tool. Long term, I think this transition will be a positive thing for the world of search marketing, and I am confident that Yahoo! and Bing will work together to develop a stronger, more reliable backlink analysis reporting service for those that need one in the future.

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