What % Of Backlinks Can SEO Tools Really Find?

terry-kyle-thumbnailBy Terry Kyle, creator of WP BotWatch, Bluechip BacklinksCloudboss Pro, WP NavManager & WPX Hosting

My newly expanded SEO Traffic Hacks research team conducted this dangerous backlinks research in October 2016, starting around October 3:


We wanted to find out:

[1] What percentage of a site/domain’s FULL backlink profile does Google itself or Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) ACTUALLY show?

Remember the ‘official Google line’ for a long time was that GWT/Search Console showed you “pretty much” ALL of your known backlinks?

Well, Google’s CURRENT position on this is:


In short, Google now says:

Not all links to your site may be listed. This is normal. In addition, Google has recently made improvements (seo newsletter) to how we gather and display link data (for example, link counts now include links redirected using 301 or 302 redirects).

As a result, you may see a change in the number of links displayed for your site.

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/55281?hl=en

Let’s see though how FEW of the ACTUAL backlinks that a site/domain really has are REPORTED in Google Search Console OR are findable on Google.

[2] Same for Majestic – what % of a site or domain’s full backlink profile is it actually capable of finding?

[3] Same for Ahrefs

[4] Same for Moz Open Site Explorer

But tell me why on earth it even matters, Terry?


It matters HUGELY because, if you can only see a small percentage of a site or domain’s real backlinks, then:

  • expired domain checking for PBNs is much more guesswork than you may have previously thought
  • SERP competitor analysis will similarly be more about ‘the vibe‘ than hard data
  • negative SEO attacks are much harder to detect than you may have thought

So what about our methodology?

Around October 3, 2016, we bought these new domains from the super discount domain registrar, porkbun.com, not a bad platform for real cheap new domains for testing:


Price 10 x $1.48 = $14.80 (we had a 10th one but a silly typo here ruined that one’s test value when ordering gigs)

We then ran TWO cheap Fiverr gigs at them:

Gig 1: High Page TF Blog Comment Spam Links (which DID quickly manipulate Majestic TrustFlow by the way, contrary to this test finding):



Gig 2: High PR Tumblr’s (expired and reclaimed but with good PA supposedly):



You can see below how Google regards these recovered Tumblr blogs and it’s not too pretty.

Now before we get to the meat of the findings here, look at this Majestic issue that I’ve been banging on about for a long time – first the TrustFlow WITHOUT the http:// in front of the site URL:


that’s TrustFlow 10 on a new domain with some cheap spammy links and now WITH http:// in front, TrustFlow goes up to 17 from a TOTAL of $10 spent on Fiverr gigs per domain/site:



This Majestic issue catches out a lot of rookie SEOs but basically you can get up to TWELVE different results for the SAME site depending on the specific URL version you put into Majestic e.g.:

  1. domain.com (Fresh Index)
  2. www.domain.com (Fresh Index)
  3. http://www.domain.com (Fresh Index)
  4. httpS://www.domain.com (Fresh Index)
  5. http://domain.com (Fresh Index)
  6. httpS://domain.com (Fresh Index)
  7. domain.com (Historic Index)
  8. www.domain.com (Historic Index)
  9. http://www.domain.com (Historic Index)
  10. httpS://www.domain.com (Historic Index)
  11. http://domain.com (Historic Index)
  12. httpS://domain.com (Historic Index)

If you don’t believe me, check a few of your own sites and/or expired domains to see the differences.

And not only do the metrics numbers change but ALSO the actual backlinks for each metric vary.

The situation is much clearer at Ahrefs and Moz BUT Moz is junk basically IMO and a horrible company to deal with in my experience as a high paying API customer (though Rand Fishkin does write beautifully poetic mission statements that are about 7 million light years at maximum warp speed from the actual customer experience there – ironic huh?).

ALSO: Majestic’s Historic Index does NOT NOT NOT mean that those links no longer exist – usually they do! – it’s just that Majestic hasn’t crawled them in the last 90 days and that’s all!

Sounds like I’m down on Majestic but generally we like it a lot (above issue notwithstanding) and constantly use it here (in short, you need it for your SEO business IMO).

Right, let’s get into the RESULTS SHOW…





























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