Linkscape vs Majestic

Who has the best back link data in the world today? Discounting Yahoo, there are only two world class systems being developed that I can see. They are Majestic – which has been quietly link walking since 2004 and is only now revealing its hand, and Linkscape – probably the most well known in the US – which has had considerable investment from the Rand Foundation (SEOMoz).

I’ve been impressed with both and thought it was time to really put both systems through the test. Which one is better and which one is priced right?

To clarify – I am looking at the PAID versions of both systems. I covered the following areas:

  • Index Size
  • General Look and Feel
  • Manipulating data
  • Pricing
  • Global reach

Index Size

Both sides could shout about the size of their index. Indeed – Majestic certainly is, claiming that they now have 539 billion urls indexed – which they say compares to only 170 billion indexed by Yahoo and only 38 billion indexed by Linkscape. In fact Linkscape’s Meta Description puts their own number higher at 54 Billion+, but even at this level, Majestic’s data (if true) is 10 TIMES the size of Linkscape’s at the moment and about half the size of Google’s. So let’s test this with a few examples – from popular to unknown
Small site test: http://swanh.org/ (Software association of New Hampshire)

I chose this one for several reasons. The first is that I have never heard of them. I just went through the DMoz directory randomly starting with a state I’ve never been to. The second reason is that they 301 the www onto the non www so will avoid a potential flaw in results. Third, the site does not have an architecture that is built upon multiple subdomains.

Majestic found:  5,127 external back-links from 882 referring domains. with 229 unique anchor texts.
Linkscape found: 25 external links from 6 domains & subdomains. Linkscape only shows the top 50 anchor texts in this report.

Well on this basis – Majestic is absolutely crucifying Linkscape – but let’s be careful… Majestic may be giving so much data that we are not comparing like with like.

Big Site Test: http://BBC.co.uk (The UK’s most well known news brand)

Large sites will be especially interesting to compare because they tend to have many subdomains (like http://news.bbc.co.uk) I tried to find a big site without significan subdomains, but even Wikipedia uses them for language, so I think we need to accept that any link analysis tool needs to cope with subdomains. So what did we find with the BBC?

SEOMoz found:  16,424,105 links from 315,686 domains/subdomains
Majestic found:  345,383,557 links from 598,475 domains.

Again, Majestic shows considerably more backlinks. Majestic;s data, though, includes 23 million image links, 22 million nofollow links, 1 million, 15 million DELETED and 2.9 million mentions (links in plain text, without a hyperlink). On the other hand, SEOMoz’s number appears to count subdomains as seprate domains, instead of limiting their advertised number to the number of Top Level Domains (TLDs).

If we take all of Majestic’s deleted domains out, and even if SEOMoz’s data had already excluded these, (which it doesn’t) then I think we can safely say that Majestic’s index is considerably more developed than Linkscape’s at the moment.

How can Majestic’s Index be so much larger? Majestic started indexing in 2004. That’s a lot of crawling time that Linkscape needs to catch up on. In addition, Majestic’s method of collecting data was ingenious – using distributed crawlers, similar to the bit torrent idea of using multiple partners to use their spare computer downtime to crawl the web. This has given Majestic considerable processing power at a relatively low cost.

General Look and Feel

Majestic’s hands down win on the index size is entirely reversed when it comes to Linkscape’s considerably better “look and feel”. Linkscape looks usable – whilst Majestic looks like it is built by a techie who never quite got around to thinking about it all from the user’s point of view.

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Linkscape lays the data out logically, with a dashboard containing the most important information readily displayed and intuitive tabs to drill down to the referring domains or the URL anchor text. When you delve into the “links to domain” tab, SEOMoz lets you filter the result on the fly. This is an especially nice feature. For example, you can easily hide or include particular types of links. To do this with Majestic, you need to go right back to the options menu and force a new analysis of the data. You can get the same sorts of data, but it just takes more effort in Majestic and looks better in Linkscape.

By comparison – Majestic tries to display Top anchors, top referring domains and top pages all on the same page, offering a drill down on each table. It’s all too much data for a single screen. This has now also been augmented with some new graphs – which are nice… but MORE DATA! I also think people will be confused between the two graphs on this dashboard – entitled: “External backlinks discovery for domain.com” and “Referring domains discovery for domain.com”. I know the difference – but I guess you’ll have to look twice… and I would prefer if these defaulted to cumulative graphs.

Manipulating Data

The thing that strikes me between the two systems is that Linkscape only gives you detailed data about the 50 most common anchor text phrases, and the 50 most important links. Looking at www.swanh.org as my example, I also found that all the most important links were internal! Now that may be – but if I want internal link data I can use Xenu Link Sleuth… it’s external data that I want – and by comparison, Majestic gave me so much that I immediately need to start filtering out what I feel may not be appropriate.
Majestic gives 200 results to SEOMoz’s 50 per page on the screen. You can drill down to up to 3,000 l of SEOMoz’s results, page by page – but this makes it hard to extract the data.

On both systems, you can export the data to a CSV file and then you get the whole lot! This is incredibly powerful, except that Linkscape limites their data to just under 3,000 URLs, whilst Majestic gives you the complete data dump if you want it all. There is, however, a considerable learning curve here for using Majestic. To get the data you REALLY want, you need to manipulate the “options” and then force a new analysis… THEN you need to download the data into a CSV. That gives you vastly superior information than SEOMOz, but it does take a while to be able to see the data from different perspectives.

Majestic also has some useful tools for power users. You can, for example, group your different accounts (SEOMoz calls them reports) into sub-folders. SEMoz let’s you compare two competitors side by side, but Majestic’s folders allow you to compare a whole industry sector if you had enough funds to collect all the data.

Pricing

I am not going to go into pricing for the real high end users, who may be spending several thousand every month to use the data. For mere mortals, the pricing models are very different.

Comparing the prices is like comparing apples and oranges.

Linkscape is part of my SEOMoz Gold membership. That start from 25 reports a month for about $80. When I run a report, I get the data for that domain, at that point in time. I get to keep it for as long as I want provided I remain a member of SEMoz. By contrast, on Majestic, I buy access to a domain’s data, for a given amount of time – from 7 days upwards.

Majestic similarly uses a “credits” system to get around the international issues, but the price of a domain can vary dramatically. In the examples I used, Swanh.org cost just a couple of credits, whilst analysing the BBC would cost 600 credits for seven days access (or 3000 for a year’s).

So which is cheaper actually depends on what sites you are analyzing and how you are using the system. If you only have $20 though… you probably only have Majestic as an option.

Functionality

Both systems are function rich and I probably have missed a few. If either Linkscape or Majestic think I’ve missed a trick here, they both know how to contact me and I will correct the table below – but only for functions available at the date of posting.

 

Linkscape

Majestic

Your own domain for free

No

Yes

Domain Quality Estimate

MozRank (trying)
MozTrust

ACRank (Needs work)

External Links list

Yes

Yes

Internal Links List

Yes

No

Links to URL

Yes

Yes

Ability to filter on the fly

Yes

No

Filter by images

Yes

Yes

Filter noscripts

Yes

No

Filter Nofollow

Yes

Yes

Filter Ofscreen links

Yes

No

Filter same IP number

Yes

Yes

Filter Same IP block

Yes

Yes

Filter same subdomain

Yes

Yes

Filter Same root domain

Yes

Yes

Filter by Frame

No

Yes

Filter by Redirect

301s shown

Yes

Filter Deleted Links

No

Yes

Filter in/out Alt Text

No

Yes

Filter Mentions

Not tracked

Yes

Filter by specific anchor text

No

Yes

Filter by crawl date

No

Yes

Filter by URL text

No

Yes

By given IP range

No

Yes

Summary

Linkscape is considerably more intuitive at the present time, but here is much more depth of data at Majestic and for professionals, the leaning curve will be worth the effort. By contrast, though, SEOMoz has a huge variety of other tools available within its membership fee which you will still need for Internet Marketing even if you do go for Majestic.

52 thoughts on “Linkscape vs Majestic

  1. Interesting stuff, Dixon.

    As you know, we work closely with Rand and the guys, so I’m claiming no degree of impartiality…! Having said that, I haven’t been involved with the building of linkscape and am in that sense just a user of it.

    I have found one other critical area where the services differ (and I’d love to hear your thoughts) – this is in the indexing of the fresh web. I have found Linkscape to be better here in two specific dimensions:

    1. having in their index more new links to existing websites and *any* links to relatively new websites – they are still not as good at this as I know they want to be, but my experience is that it’s getting better

    2. *not* having in their index too much out of date information – last time I played with Majestic I found many links being reported that I couldn’t find when I visited the actual site – an experience I have much less rarely with linkscape.

    I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on these things as I think they are pretty important (and neither has completely nailed them). They also affect the index size question – how much of the index Majestic has been building since 2004 is still relevant?

    I thought your article was useful – and I hope this doesn’t come across as me shilling for the ‘moz – just trying to add to the debate 🙂

  2. (Update) I managed to get some Word tags embedded in the post – so the first few hundred people may not have seen the functionality table. Sorry about that! Fixed (I hope) now.

    Hi Will – thanks so much for commenting.

    You are definitely right at the moment regarding fresk links prima facae, but I am not sure the problem is as described. When you pull a report on Linkscape, you get a static vesion of the report from what I see. So if you want a more updated version, you use another credit. I haven’t checked to see how different the second report is. By contrast, you are correct – Majestic is currently only updating its main index every couple of months, but during that time, you get “daily updates” in your control panel, which do not seem to be a part of the main index until the while thing updates. So once you have bought the data, you get the updates.

    For example – since I ran the review last week, on the smaller site, Majestic has found 9 new links from 6 new domains – over about 6 days. That’s quite good, given that Linkscape only had 6 domains to start with.

    On point 2, I must agree. An out of date index can create links that no longer exist. Infact I’ll go further… they keep dead URLs in the index. But… Majestic records that date of each crawl and also whether it existed on the recrawl. I said in the report that Majestic had a large learning curve and this is a big rerason… It is easy to remove “deleted” urls and force a new analysis. I would recommend doing this each time. That way you get a much fresher set of data.

  3. Very nice comparison.

    I use both (and you should, too ;)) For the reasons mentioned. I specialize in link building and for this MajesticSEO gives me more options. I do find however that when filtered the raw csv link data leaves about 10 % (on average) good link opportunities (to be investigated). The rest is crap.

  4. I agree Sasa – the raw data really has a load of poor stuff. I really should have made more of a point of saying that Linkscape makes a much better attempt at emulating a “page rank” equivalent… They at least attempt to define which urls pass juice and how much – whereas Majestic’s ACRank needs soem work, so again you need to know what to do to filter out bad data.

  5. First of all big thanks to Dixon Jones for writing this review! 🙂

    I’d like to just address a couple of important points:

    1) we keep actual crawl date on found backlinks when they were FIRST found – this is important because age of backlinks plays substantial (in our view) role in rankings: it does have undesired effect of giving impression that some data is out of date though. Also these dates allow us to analyse link velocity – http://www.majesticseo.com/comparedomainbacklinkhistory.php

    2) There are backlinks that no longer work due to 404s etc, it’s a natural process of “page decay” on the web, and usually it happens to the least important AND oldest pages. When we recrawl pages (we usually focus on most valuable from our point of view) and find that backlinks were removed we mark those as “deleted” rather than removing them completely, and it’s possible to filter those out in actual analysis. Why do we not remove them completely? The reason is that search engines keep this information and (in our view) still use it for ranking – this is particularly important for paid links that can appear on homepages of high PR sites and then disappear: if index does not keep track of them, then you won’t have this information.

    @Sasa: top 10% of anything often gives 90% of value 🙂

    The important part for us is to avoid pre-judging exact use cases for the data and eliminating potentially useful approaches that we have not even thought of. For example picking top 10% backlinks for link building to get better ranking is one use case, but if you look for nofollowed backlinks that can generate traffic but useless (allegedly) for ranking, then you’ll end up with maybe OTHER 10% of data.

    We view our role in providing FLEXIBILITY to work with the data and slice and dice it the way our customers deem appropriate – this is when having large number of backlinks/referring domais is essential because if you don’t have many to start with then you won’t have any left after some serious dicing.

    Best regards

    Alex Chudnovsky
    Majestic-SEO

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  7. http://swanh.org was since 1998 http://www.swanh.org so check backlinks and domains for both hostnames. Linkscape find 291 links and 122 domains for hostname http://www.swanh.org.

    When I check all free sources (search engines only) to find backlinks and crawl them to check if links still exist and filter all urls who are similar then I got 30 unique links for hostname swanh.org and 389 unique links for hostname http://www.swanh.org from 119 unique domains.

  8. Thanks for the review, Dixon.

    I’m going to check out these services. I’ve been relying on SEO Spyglass for link analysis and it works just fine for me. Have you tried this tool? I’d love to hear what you think of it.

  9. Interesting article, Dixon, thanks.

    We use the Majestic12 data a lot. in my view linkscape just isn’t a competitor (yet). True, M12’s interface takes some getting used to, and you need to think hard about what you are doing with the data and why, but the high value of comprehensive data more than makes up for any lack of prettiness. M12 allows the user of the data to make decisions about what is important and what is not, so gives us a greater degree of confidence that we are seeing a true picture.
    (I have also found Alex very responsive to interface suggestions, improved explanations etc.)

    To make the most of M12’s data you do need to know your way around SQL or some other way of manipulating large CSV files, but there is a lot of gold in that ore…

  10. I use linkscape and love the moz extras you get as a Pro member. I like the fact that you only get 3000 backlinks shown, as they are the best 3000. Who can can pick through a site’s 50,000+ backlinks…whats the point. Most would be poor quality links from a much smaller amount of domains.

  11. Thanks for doing this Dixon – been wondering about Majestic vs Linkscape and you definitely clarified the pros and cons. You definitely can get a bigger data dump from Linkscape but this costs considerably more – ie the “enterprise” package. But given your analysis, due to the relative age of each service, Majestic appears to still output more data, even if a portion is old / deleted.

  12. Sorry for the delay in respondin. Seofreak – thanks for putting that up. If my numbers are wrong then I bow to your better knowledge of Linkscape.

    I’m afraid I haven’t used Spyglass, but I THINK that uses Yahoo’s API doesn’t it? That’s extremely useful backlink data if they do. Indeed, we use the Yahoo API for a few tools we built, but we couldn’t get backlink anchor text without scraping and so we thought we had better start using Linkscape and Majestic for more indepth investigations.

    I also agree that 3,000 backlinks – if they are the best – are more than enough for most of us to fall over with work.

  13. Dixon,
    Very nice review. We use Linkscape (along with some other tools) everyday, but will have to give Majestic another look. Sort of like drinking of the end of a fire hose though.

  14. I run a big SEO team for an online gambling company and I have been using Majestic for about 4 months. I think it rocks and they guy who runs the business is really easy to work with (Alex Chudnovsky) – we couldn’t pay by credit card (big company stuff) and so Alex company worked out an invoice only arrangement on a monthly basis with (reasonable use) unlimited usage. So were all set and I love it!

  15. I think either one is going to do the job. Both Linkscape and Majestic are good at what they do. Unfortunately, they do a very specific (sometimes too narrow) function. I started using SEOENG and although it doesn’t seem to have the amount of data that Linkscape and Majestic has, it helps me a lot more with my business of optimizing clients’ websites. For example, SEOENG has a link scorecard for every link on the Internet. ON the scorecard, it has hundreds of scoring factors (mind you this is for each link).

    Anyone who is interested in link architecture: its a tossup between the 3 (Linkscape, Majestic, SEOENG)
    Anyone who is interested in everything else: SEOENG

    my 2 cents…

  16. Time to add a Disclosure…

    Well – it’s two month since I wrote this and last week I announced that I’m joining forces with Majestic in a marketing partership. I wrote this article well before the deal.

  17. Linkscape is considerably more intuitive at the present time, but there is much more depth of data at Majestic and for professionals, the learning curve will be worth the effort. By contrast, though, SEOMoz [Linkscape] has a huge variety of other tools available within its membership fee which you will still need for Internet Marketing even if you do go for Majestic.

  18. Great write up! I have played around with both and so far Majestic appears to be a better fit for me. But I would love to see the Majestic more user friendly. I am sure you and someone like Rae could give them a ton of recommendations to make the site more usable.

  19. Just got back from PubCon in Vegas. Didn’t see seomoz or majestic, but SEOENG was there. Haven’t spent much time using it, but everyone was talking about it in the sessions. Of course most of the people were geeks, not the c-level people, but among the techies SEOENG was a hit!

  20. SEOBenz – were you at the same conference that we were all at? I thought Majestic got a pretty decent showing, and Linkscape/ SEOMoz even had a party! I know because I had fun beating Matt Cutts in a game of cards. I know that Majestic was mentioned positively in at least seven sessions. I was on two of them.

    I just tried to take SEOENG for a quick test drive. But unfortunatey got: http://www.seoeng.com/engine-maintenance.htm – Looks to be focussed on tools and analysis rather than data though – so quite different. Did you know where SEOENG gets its link data? Yahoo/BOSS?

    [Added]It is working again now and looks pretty neat. It’s much more an SEO Toolset than a link database – but there seems to be a lot of stuff there.

  21. Right now I trust majestic’s data more than linkscape (or open site explorer) because it seems to match up closer with the real numbers.

    Also linkscape seems to favor big websites, sometimes linkscape can’t find any backlinks or very few backlinks for a domain where majestic seems to have an easier time.

    Right now it’s more about the tool that’s going to provide me the most information.

    But linkscape is probably going to be the future of backlink analysis.

  22. I agree, I tend to trust majestic’s data over linkscape. I’ve experienced user problems with linkscape, not picking up backlinks that yahoo site explorer can easily do so…

  23. Thanks for this decent comparison, I agree with your conslusion and most comments here: Once you get used to it, Majestic is one step ahead.

  24. I have been using Majestic for a short time and have appreciated it’s capabilities. Especially with YSE going down soon. I don’t see the advantage in a service that returns LESS data. ?

  25. I currently use Majestic SEO (free version) and SEOMoz Linkscape (paid version) . Just watched http://blog.majesticseo.com/general/what-majesticseo-gives-you-for-free/ which is very informative and well worth the 30 minutes to watch.

    Now that Yahoo! site explorer is not officially online, this discussion will no doubt heat up on how to most cost effectively get competitor link data. Great post with excellent comments. Any chance you will update it as no doubt a lot has changed at Majestic SEO and SEOMoz since 2009?

  26. I stumbled upon your site searching for information on how to force Majestic to crawl a site and I got into a good review, although it might be outdated.
    Nowadays, with the Panda updates and the relevance of Trust Flow when trying to conquer/dominate a niche for a specific topic, my personal opinion is that there is no match for the value you get from the information delivered from Majestic. I always recommend it with closed eyes! 🙂

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