How to Check if your Hard Earned Links are Still Live

Today I’ll show you 4 ways you can bulk check if a set of backlinks are still linking to your website; in addition to that, you’ll learn if they use the rel=“nofollow” tag and how to be updated automatically should either of those things ever change.

Checking if backlinks are live is one of those things that as SEOs we find ourselves doing a lot. If you’re still doing this manually, you’re doing it wrong. There’s lot’s of tools out there, that can automate this. Some are paid and some are free. BuzzStream is my tool of choice when it comes to monitoring links, so that’s the one I’ll go into more detail on how to use.

1 – BuzzStream (Paid)

BuzzStream is a paid tool but it’s well worth it. Even if you don’t use BuzzStream for the outreach part, you should still use it as a database for any links you build. If you get into the habit of adding any links you build into BuzzStream, it makes the monitoring process very easy. There are three parts of this tool, the import, running a check and then scheduling the check to run and automatically email you if there are any changes.

Importing Links

Once logged in, click the import button at the top of the screen.

Then select either import from CSV or just paste a list of URLs. You might consider adding a tag to the URLs if you just want to check a batch of links, this makes it easier to select only those links when doing the check. In my case I just added the tag “Craig”.

Checking the Backlinks

Once the import is complete, click on the “Link Monitoring” tool at the top of the screen, filter to show only those links that have the tag that you added, select all links, then finally the “Check Backlinks” button as shown in the image below. BuzzStream will send you an email when it’s complete.

The email you receive has details of all links but this is what the summary looks like:

As you can see, the report shows that 4 of the links I imported don’t link to Distilled and 2 of them have nofollowed links. This tool also checks changes to anchor text, significant changes to PageRank, unique visitors, outbound links, index status, “flagged words;” plus more, it’s amazing.

Scheduling Checks

Now that you have those links in the database, you never need to think about them again, all you need to do Is set up scheduling to email you should any changes be made to the site. The steps to do this are shown below:

1 – In the top right of the page click on the settings (shown by a little cog)

2 – Click on manage projects

3 – Click on the project you want to monitor – there are three buttons, click the one on the left, which is “edit”.

4 – A popup will appear, do nothing. Just click the button at the bottom that says “Next: Edit Backlink Tracking” and you’ll be taken to a screen shown below. You then have three options. Add the domain you are building links to, check the box that says you want to be sent a report every two weeks and select your name as the user. Finally add any words that you want to be flagged. As it says in the image below, adding keywords to be flagged can help pick up if any sites have been hacked or become spammy. That’s it, hit save and you’ll get an email every two weeks telling you if any of your backlinks have been removed.

2  Scrapebox (Paid)

In my opinion, Scrapebox unfairly gets a bad reputation for being a black hat tool. Sure you can use it for nasty things, but in the right hands, it’s a great productivity tool. The first thing you need is a license for the software, you can get that here

Next you need to install an add-on, it’s called “Scrapbox DoFollow Test”.

Select “add-ons” from the main navigation, show available add-ons, then select the ScrapeBox DoFollow Test” add-on.

To use the tool, click add-ons from the main navigation, select the DoFollow add-on, which should now be installed, and you’ll see a popup like the image below. From the bottom left select “Load target links” and upload a text document that contains the backlinks you want to test. Then enter your site in the “Your website” field and finally click the start button.

Within seconds you’ll have a report detailing which sites link to you and whether or not they are followed or nofollow.

For this demonstration I‘ve downloaded some of Distilled’s backlinks and mixed in a bunch of pages that I know don’t link to the site, you can see the result below:

3 - Screaming Frog (paid)

It’s no secret that I love Screaming Frog, if you’ve never used it, read one of my previous blog posts on how to use Screaming Frog.

Rather than repeat something already eloquently described elsewhere here, I’ll simply recommend that read this blog post on the Screaming Frog blog which shows in detail how you can use it to check your links are still live.

SeoTools for Excel (Free)

Checking if links are live is just one of SEOTools for excel’s many functions, but best of all it’s free. Before downloading it you might want to read this post on how to use SEOTools for Excel - it covers some of the most common tools you’ll use as an SEO.

One you have installed the plugin it’s very easy to use. For instructions on how to install, see this installation section on the site.

The function you need to use is the CheckBacklink function

It takes two compulsory arguments and two optional arguments. To use it, click the Backlinks dropdown followed by the CheckBacklink function. The tool will then guide you through the process as shown below.

You’ll then know which of your links are live and whether or not they are followed.

I’m always interested to know of other ways to make this task easier, so if you use a method I’ve not covered here, please feel free to share it in the comments.

Craig Bradford

Craig Bradford

Craig joined Distilled in March 2011. Originally from Scotland, Craig moved to London in search of becoming an SEO ninja. After spending 4 years at Strathclyde University studying Sports Engineering, he decided that he didn’t fancy designing sports...   read more

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  1. Hi Craig,

    Massive fan of Screaming Frog, except when it crawls exceptionally large sites and kills the server! Found your post very helpful as I have been checking my backlinks manually and did not realise the frog had these capabilities. Thanks!

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  2. said it on G+ already but very brave mentioning Scrapebox here being that it gets such a bad stigma. I love SB link checker + dofollower checker and have used Buzzstream in the past as well.

    A lot of these major web indexes with however many trillion urls in their indexes are filled with broken links etc.

    Good post.

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    • Craig Bradford

      Hi Patrick, in the wrong hands almost all tools can be used for evil. I think it's a great tool for one of tasks such as this. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Yougender

    Hi Craig,

    One of the tool that I use is raven tools link manager. Have you tried it? Also, the problem with SEO for excel is that you can't analyse a lot of links at a time because the excel hangs up (or does that just happen with me :P).

    Thanks for listing down these tools, wasn't aware that buzzstream can be used for analysing links. Learned something new.:)

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    • Craig Bradford

      Hi Yougender, thanks for commenting. I personally haven't tried the Raven tool although I know some of the Distilled team do use it. I'll take a look.

    • I've also used Raven for that purpose, and I liked it a lot. It displays a small image of the website where your link resides, which can be very handy. You also receive email notifications about any changes of your monitored link.

      I'm hoping SEOMoz will come out with a similar product soon.

  4. As an addendum to Niels Bosma's excellent tool. I use XPath to scrape the site looking for a live backlink

    If the website where your link is placed is in cell A1 (prepend http://), write following code in cell A2
    the placeholder named 'card' looks for links with the the word "card" in it. you could replace that by ie "distilled" or any other word it should look for
    =XPathOnUrl(A1;"//a[@href[contains(., 'card')]]";"href")

    Here you go :)

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  5. There is also, for $9 per month you can follow 50 sites or 5000 links.
    It's quite useful when you have plenty of small websites.

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  6. Good article! Oh, and finally a white hat SEO consultant that uses Scrapebox properly! I think that this great tool has received a lot of bad press from people that don't know to use it properly. In fact, I would bet that many of those people have never used it.

    Another good (paid) tool I'm using to determine if my links continue to be live is Inspyder Backlink Monitor:

    I don't have any connection with them; it's just another useful tool that complements your list nicely, imho.

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  7. I'm a BIG BIG fan of Scrapebox, used to use it a few years ago (yes I am ashamed to say for BH purposes, no it didn't work out well)

    It's an excellent tool and I can happily state that it's WH credentials are very very high!

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  8. Hey Craig,
    Thanks for a great article. I personally use Raventools, which has been mentioned earlier in the comments. But after they stop analyzing rankings, i'll consider other tools for keeping track of my links.
    For another purpose I use SEOmoz tool bar to see which links are nofollow and which are dofollow - i think that is very useful.

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  9. Thanks for this. I own Scrapebox but have not used it all that much, it may be time to get it cranked up again. Thanks :)

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  10. I tried screaming frog after reading the post and it rocks!

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  11. Dave Crader

    Scrapebox really is an amazing tool. 4 years after its release and it's still updated. A MUST have for any pro SEO.

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  12. Checking past backlinks isn't something that I've been doing as I can't really see much value in it. Have I missed the big point to it? Why exactly are you doing this? If a website is no longer linking to you, or they've changed the link from follow to no-follow, does it really matter? I'm not saying it's a pointless task - just that, up until now at least, it hasn't seemed like a worthwhile task when there's a bunch of other things to do.

    reply >

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