How to find ALL THE LINKS to that cool thing you made

There are several reasons you’d want to find all of the URLs that point to one page or another. Consultants often like to report on referring domains to a target page or tool they’ve created and webmasters themselves always love getting that warm, fuzzy feeling that only a high authority link can bring (sorry honey!). The following are a few actionable tips that should allow you to find, you guessed it, ALL THE LINKS to that classy new landing page you’re tracking.

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Method ONE - On-Page Script

There’s one sure-fire way to find almose ALL OF THE LINKS to your new online thingy and that’s placing some tracking code onto the page itself.  Luckily for most of us we’re already rolling Google Analytics so you probably won’t need much more setup if you’re comfortable with the results from the following tip.

Full Referring URLs to a Single Page in Google Analytics (Custom Report)

A few of you may be scratching your head and thinking: “Doesn’t GA already do this?” and while the answer should be “Yes”, unfortunately you’ll need to create a custom report to find all of the full referring URLs to a single page.  Here’s the closest you’ll be able to get without a custom report:

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Oh, cool the Huffington Post linked?!  I bet you’d like to see that article so you can brag to your mom, your girlfriend and everyone else in the office dutifully report the link and share credit with those involved in creating your amazing piece of content.  Without a custom report, though you’ll have to try your luck with a reverse Google search. Sometimes the link is easier to find than others.  But wouldn’t it be smarter to use a handy-dandy custom report?  Here’s how to do it (spoiler: it’s easy):

Log into Google Analytics and create a New Custom Report:

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Name the report, choose your metrics, add “Full Referrer” as the dimension and filter for your URL in question:

Picture3 Be sure to use the “relative URL” as the “exact” match included filter.  So for this post you’re reading right now we’d enter: “/blog/miscellaneous/how-to-find-all-the-links-to-that-cool-thing-you-made” omitting the top level domain of “distilled.net”.

Got it?  Guess what?  You’re done.  Hit save and start swimming the Scrooge McDuck pool of links you’re probably ogling right now.

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Mmmm there’s that sweet, sweet Huffington Post FULL URL.  Oh, and look!  There are a few others I may have missed as well.  Give it a try and report back here with a comment if you’re having troubles.

Aside from Google Analytics, if you’re willing to use another 3rd party javascript snippet, Linkstant does a great job of reporting ALL THE LINKS as well. Picture5

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Linkstant was developed by our very own Rob Ousbey and that other Critchlow brother, Tom.  Basically Linkstant logs referral info for each incoming visitor and posts all of them onto a single page for easy access (login with Google) along with Domain Authority.  You can even arrange to have an email sent your way periodically if you’re not keen on logging in to check your progress.  You’ll get data for every page that you put the code onto but you’ll be able to keep that all separated as Linkstant shows the full referring URL and the page being linked to.

A few small drawbacks include: having to use an additional external javascript call and the fact that you’ll probably need to skim the links for “real” ones as you can see above there are several entries for what is ultimately a single IMDB forum post.  But you WILL get all of your links in real time without a custom report.

Both of these on-page snippet options are limited in one way: you’ll only get data on links that receive at least one visit.  Otherwise, of course, the javascript won’t trigger.  You should be going after links that receive traffic anyway so this is unlikely to be a problem. On the other hand you may get a citation or photo credit that understandably won’t be clicked often, if ever.  For those types of links you’ll need to  cross-reference this list with one of the below options.

Method TWO - Paid Crawlers

So you’re not able to put a small piece of javascript onto the page and you’re not running Google Analytics for some probably stupid reason.  Don’t worry there are other options for you. There are several third party web crawlers designed to try and find ALL THE LINKS.  The most famous of which is Moz’ Linkscape.  If you’ve never used Open Site Explorer before it puts out link reports that look like this:

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Unfortunately nothing in life this cool is free (except Google Analytics) so you’ll need that $99 plan to get ALL THE LINKS from Moz.  There are several other paid crawlers to choose from or cross reference with one another including Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and SearchMetrics.  Each of these have their pluses and minuses but most offer much of the product for free so give them a try and subscribe if you find one or two of them particularly useful for finding ALL THE LINKS.

Method THREE - Google Webmaster Tools

I know, I know Google Webmaster Tools hasn’t been a particularly wonderful tool in the past.  But for the purposes of finding ALL THE LINKS you may want to give this a try.

Log into GWT, head to Search Traffic, “Links to Your Site”, “more”:

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You can either download links pointing to anywhere on the domain by clicking on “Download latest links” or you can choose one of the pages below that to get a report for that page alone.  From there you’ll click the same “Download latest links” button.  You’ll get a pretty little Excel spreadsheet that looks like like this:

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Of course GWT won’t give you “real time” data and this is by no means a “complete list of links that Google knows about” but I’d give this list particular importance since it’s clear Google does know about these specific links at this specific time if nothing else.

A couple of drawbacks: This is not a complete list of links and they don’t update quickly.  I’d give this list a look either way if you’re overly concerned with which links Google is aware of (in a reconsideration request for example) but don’t necessarily assume that anything not listed here isn’t known by Google.

Hopefully between these methods (and more, of course) you’re able to find ALL THE LINKS to that cool thing you made.  If you have any questions, something to add or comments on the tactics above please do leave a comment and we’ll hash it out.

Jacob Klein

Jacob Klein

Jacob spent the first 18 years of his life in the Columbia River basin of Washington State. In order to escape the confines of this rural existence he developed a healthy love affair with technology, especially preferring to explore the outside...   read more

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13 Comments

  1. There's another good way to found hidden links: it's almost a forgotten skill nowadays, but scanning through the web server logs you can (sometimes) find some hidden gems, like links from external pages which result in a "not found" status, because they were originally mistyped! :)

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    • Nice! You could also create a custom 404 page and throw GA or Linkstant onto those pages for the same effect. But the server logs will definitely get you all the links.

      One thing about Linkstant that I hadn't mentioned is that I've actually seen some links BEFORE they went live. So I'd see "www.example.com/admin/preview-post" pop up in linkstant and then a day later the link will go live of example.com. I've also seen webmasters fail to link but it's obvious they were referencing my posts via linkstant data. Could be used for some creative outreach there!

  2. Jessica Edmondson

    Very helpful! Thanks for the info, Jacob!

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  3. step by step guide- This is great!

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  4. Jacob You presented some very nice old scanning methods which webmaster rarely used now. These are hidden gems for me.

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  5. Good info on tracking those links!

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  6. Lindsay

    Good tips, but I was distracted by the Distilled logo on the "all the things" image. Anyone who gets it knows where it came from... so why the branding?

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    • Since this is the second comment on this issue I suppose I'll address it. Went ahead and removed the logo from the meme. To be honest I had used this image internally for something and just grabbed it again for this.

      Wasn't implying anything with the "branding" and certainly don't claim ownership for creating the meme.

      Sorry if this confused/distracted anyone else.

  7. Hi Jacob

    With the GA technique - will this show all links or just links that have driven traffic?

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    • Just links that have seen at least one visitor. Otherwise GA/Linkstant couldn't possibly know about them (the code is on your page).

      So yeah, you may want to use the report which should cover 98% of all links (usually the webmaster at least tests the link once or something!) But then check out OSE or Ahrefs later on to find other links that it may have missed.

  8. Thank you for this, I'm going to have to start using the GA method mentioned above. I've been having issues with OSE lately - it's not showing nearly all of the backlinks. Ahrefs has been my tool of choice lately.

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    • Yeah I love OSE for many reasons but have been frustrated with the lack of a complete link backprofile. It's a great list to correlate with several others though so don't give up on it.

      Just don't assume Linkscape (OSE/Moz) finds ALL THE LINKS by any means.

  9. Hi Jacob..

    With the Google Analytics Technique ( Custom Reports ), Can i get one report where i see all links for each Landing Page? Or i have to do it for each Landing Page, such as you did?
    Thanks a lot.

    reply >

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