Backlink Checkers: Four free options + How to Use Them

If you’ve been having trouble getting your quality content seen, there’s a good chance your pages aren’t receiving quality backlinks.

And if you don’t know about backlinks, you probably haven’t heard about backlink checkers.


Here’s the thing: quality content just isn’t enough to rise up the search ranks.


SEO content ≠ High Search Rank

SEO content + Quality backlinks = High Search Rank 

Backlink checkers are an essential tool for you to begin boosting your search traffic. We’re going to give you a list of our top four free backlink checkers and instruct you on how to use them. 

Unsure of what SEO is or means? Check out our article ‘What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? A Starter Guide’ to learn the basics.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Backlinks?
  2. An Overview of Backlink Checkers
  3. Conclusion
  4. All Links are not Created Equal 

Search engines treat backlinks as upvotes. The more backlinks your pages have, the higher search engines will rank your pages.




 Well, search engines compete for…searches!


Sure, that’s probably not news to you, but you probably aren’t thinking about that when you’re typing your query into Google.


Search engines work against their competition to provide the most useful, relevant, and accessible content for the majority. Backlinks are a key indication your pages are doing just that. So, search engines, being the people pleasers they are, will place content with the most backlinks high up the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).


Think about it: it’s a win-win.


Search engines keep their users returning. Your content gets organic traffic. Sounds like a good deal, eh?


Unfortunately, link building is a difficult and time-consuming process.


If only building links were like an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show…


Alas, reality disappoints.


However, we’ll get you on the right track with a quick guide on how you can use backlink checkers to find these coveted link building opportunities.

DEFINITIONBacklink checkers are tools showing the quantity, quality, and types of links any domain has. 

Simply put, all site explorers feature backlink checkers. The difference being, site explorers provide the valuable SEO data backlink checkers do, and then some. You’ll often find site explorers, as in the case of the industry-standard tool, Ahrefs, offer free, limited use of their backlink checkers to get you to buy their full product.


Using a free backlink checker is a great starting point for you to try out SEO without having to commit any money to a subscription. While backlink checkers won’t give you the value of site explorers, you can still use them to find some opportunities to build links.  

Top 4 free Backlink Checkers You Should Try Out

Free backlink checker by Ahrefs

backlink checker from ahrefs

As Ahrefs claims, you’ll be getting “the best backlink database in the industry.” We aren’t going to dispute that assertion, but just know you won’t be getting Ahrefs’ full features in their free backlink checker.


That doesn’t mean their free offering has nothing to offer. In fact, you can learn a lot of useful information from it.

checking backlinks of

The free version allows you to check the backlinks of any site’s top 100 backlinks, top 5 anchors, and top 5 pages. 


What does that mean for you? 


You can see (1) what sites tend to send backlinks to your competitors’ websites and (2) what content from your niche delivers the best traffic. You can, then, take these leads, study those top pages, and think about how you can provide a similar but better version of the content that’s performing well in search.     


The Ahrefs backlink checker provides a good sample of what you’ll get from their full product. While it may not be the best on this list, trying out this backlink checker will prepare you for the look and feel of Ahrefs’ paid site explorer.

Neil Patel backlink checker tool

find backlinks from neil patel backlink checker tool

Neil Patel is a trusted web influencer/SEO guru, and he has his own backlink checker that’s free for you to use. Turns out, it’s actually one of the most robust free SEO tools out there.

checking backlinks of from neil patel

As you can see, Neil Patel’s tool allows you to check backlinks while providing a bunch of extra features (keyword ideas, content ideas, site audit, and so on). His tool cannot compete with the paid versions of Ahrefs, but if you’re planning to practice SEO holistically, this is one of the best free options you can use.

Small SEO Tools

free backlink checker from small seo tool

Not the prettiest, but it gets the job done. Small SEO Tools—an affiliate of SEMRUSH (paid tool)—is the barebones option of the group. If you aren’t interested in trying out a whole bunch of features, then the Small SEO Tools allows you to check backlinks in a fast, no-frills manner.

checking backlinks of from small seo tool

Again, don’t expect anything pretty. This backlink checker offers just the basics. At the very least, you can see who is linking to your competitors’ sites. This is important for you to figure out what websites to ‘cold email’ to start building links.

Google Search Console

google search console

The Google Search Console is more than just a backlink checker. It offers the functionality of a site explorer, but you’re limited to analyzing your websites only. That means you won’t be able to perform analysis of your competition whatsoever.


On the flip side, you receive in-depth metrics about your site’s performance. You will be able to monitor each of your pages, giving you a sense of where things may be going right or wrong. 


Through the Google Search Console, you can get your pages crawled and indexed faster. So it’s essential even if you aren’t trying to check backlinks.. 

A Short Checklist for Your Search

Checklist ItemsDefinitions

✓ Search your top competitors’ domains as well as your own


Not only should you be checking your backlinks, but you should also be checking your competitors’. 


Analyzing your competitors’ domains and/or URLs can give you ideas for backlinks you can pursue.


If you find you have ideas to improve a piece of your competitor’s content, why not create the better version yourself and take their backlinks. 


With your backlink checker of choice, input your competitor’s page and see what sites are linking to theirs. Then, reach out to those sites and present them your improved take on your competitor’s content. 


This is just a simplified version of something called the Skyscraper Technique. Follow the link to get a deeper understanding of how you can go about link building in the way outlined above. 


✓ Check referred domains and traffic


Checking your top competitor’s referred domains and traffic should give you a sense of how big your niche is. If you’re creating content on obscure topics, neither your pages nor your competitors’ will probably ever generate much traffic.  


Referred domains, in particular, will let you see what kind of sites are linking to content like yours. Consider reaching out to those sites. It won’t hurt to try.  


✓ Inbound vs. outbound links

Backlink checkers should show the inbound and outbound links of any domain. 


While backlinks are hard to build, you have full control over your outbound links. Use a backlink checker to see if the page you’re planning to link to is an authority in your niche. A bad outbound link will harm your ranking. Just make sure you’re doing your due diligence. 


✓ Check dofollow vs. nofollow links

Backlink checkers will show you a domain’s dofollow and nofollow link percentage. When you analyze your competitors’ data, you should take into account whether you want to spend the time pursuing a nofollow backlink.   


Nofollow links are not useless. 


While the search engine bots won’t be getting the upvotes, people will still be using those nofollow links to visit your pages. Keep in mind, that is still organic traffic coming in. With your quality content, you will be making those neutral users into loyal fans.


















Referred Domains is the number of unique domains linking to the target page or domain.


Traffic is a monthly estimate of organic traffic the target page or domain receives. 



Inbound links are another term for backlinks. Upvotes from other sites, remember? 


Outbound links are your links to other pages. Search engines look favorably on pages with outbound links to relevant and credible content.


Dofollow is the default status of any link. It means the search engine bots will crawl and index the linked page. 


Nofollow is an HTML tag added to a link. It means the search engine bots will not crawl and index the linked page 


Backlink checkers are really just one tool in your toolbox. There are on-page tools like Yoast SEO that can improve the other important aspects of search engine optimization beyond just backlinks. Check out our article on free SEO Tools to really build your toolbox and prepare yourself for future SEO audits you’ll need to regularly perform. 

Ultimately, SEO is easier than you probably think. You don’t need to rely on any professional SEO service for most of the process. You can even learn a bunch through an SEO course.


Backlinks, though, are a different issue.

You probably realized in the inbound vs. outbound links section that quantity AND quality links are required to rank higher in search. Inbound or outbound, your links need to be high quality. 


Here are the differences between bad and quality links:

Bad LinksQuality Links
Pages with a list of links and no contentPages with links and rich content
From irrelevant and unreliable sourcesFrom relevant and reliable domain authorities 
Potential ranking penalties for violating Google’s Webmaster GuidelinesNo risk of penalties

Those of you who are willing to take the time and effort to learn how to build quality links on your own, check out this link building guide (which is 20 pages long!). 


But many of you probably feel overwhelmed. You have your hand’s full juggling content creation, your social life, your job, and now link building. 


We know it’s a lot. That’s why we’re here to save you the headache of link building. 


Our link building service will bring your pages quality backlinks for reliable and effective growth.


We provide regular maintenance, so our backlinks consistently deliver organic traffic long-term.