Saturday, January 21, 2012

Open Site Explorer Review: the SEOmoz Link Analysis Tool

More search engine marketers are relying on Open Site Explorer (OSE) to analyze backlink profiles. Is that a good idea? OSE, the backlink analysis tool from SEOmoz, is quite effective, although there are a few things that people should be aware of. OSE has become more relevant in the world of internet marketing since Yahoo! Site Explorer shut down towards the end of 2011. So, what is there to like about OSE? What are the drawbacks of using it to assess backlinks? Let's break it down!

Crawlability of Open Site Explorer

For starters, it is necessary to understand the tools' ability to crawl the web. Specifically, SEOmoz indicates that OSE crawls 58 billion URLS, and 9.2 trillion links. Let's compare those figures to one of OSE's main competitors, Majestic SEO. According to their website, Majestic SEO contains over 3.5 trillion URLs in their historical index, and over 110 billion in their fresh index (updated with higher frequency). So, as you can see, OSE doesn't necessarily match up volume wise in terms of crawlability.

But that may not be a bad thing. In fact, Rand Fishken, the founder and CEO of SEOmoz, has indicated that the goal of OSE is to crawl higher quality URLs and retain those URLs in their index. SEOmoz attempts to remove URLs of lesser quality from the OSE index at each update. What does this mean for link analysis? It means that the volume of links will be lower, but the ability to analyze higher quality links faster.

Features of Open Site Explorer

One of my favorite things about OSE is the ability to get competitor data side by side to your own site. You can analyze up to 4 competitors at one time. The advantage of this is to quickly identify what links you may be able to get quickly - which sites do all of your competitors have links from? Additionally, if you want to analyze one site at a time, the following metrics are available:

  • Page Authority
  • Domain Authority
  • Linking Root Domains 
  • Total Links
  • Facebook Shares
  • Facebook Likes
  • Tweets
  • Google +1

The social metrics were added by SEOmoz and updated throughout 2011, and are helpful for those that have recognized the increasing importance of social signals to Google's ranking algorithm. Additionally, for every backlink, you have the ability to see the exact location and the anchor text of the link. This is a great way for older sites to identify how and where to start improving their current backlink profile. What sites could be reach out to for improved anchor text? Are there any broken links? Are there any links pointing to URLs that no longer exist on the site? All great stuff for search engine marketers to consider.

Drawbacks of Using Open Site Explorer

Realistically, OSE is a great tool that anyone can take advantage of. However, keep in mind that one "drawback" is the fact that you have to be an SEOmoz Pro member to access the full data the tool with spit out for any website you are trying to analyze. You can start with a free 30 day trial, however, after that point the membership is $99/month. For small companies with small  budgets, this may not be possible. But if you are a search engine marketeer working for an agency, membership is a must. If you are not a member already, you are behind in the game and doing your clients a disservice. Finally, it is important to remember that like all backlink analysis tools, OSE's ability to crawl the web is limited in a sense. You can't expect to see every backlink of a site - it is likely that any low quality links won't be cached in the index.

I hope this review of Open Site Explorer has helped shed some light on the advantages of using this tool to improve your online marketing campaigns! Remember, if you have the resources to afford the Pro membership with SEOmoz, it is worth it. If not, unfortunately, you will have to pursue other avenues to assess your and your competitors backlink profiles.

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