How to get backlinks (the top referrers and what pages they link to) for a site, without having to hook it up to Google Webmaster tools first

It’s surprisingly hard to find out “what are the top links to my site?” Or more to the point, “what are the most-linked-to pages on my site?” This is probably because the SEO madness has turned all of this into an expensive battleground.

The syntax doesn’t seem to work in Google search anymore. Instead it wants to

… which requires your web site to be a ‘verified property’ with them first:

This defeats the purpose for being able to quickly help clients that don’t have any of that set up, without spending a couple hours helping them get a verification code on some old site they want to replace anyway.

This is apparently something that’s now a big-money business:

Ahref features their ‘Backlink Research’ tool prominently:

Backlink data The best backlink checker tool in the industry

Ahrefs is proud to run the World’s largest index of live backlinks. Every 24 hours our robots crawl ~4 Billion web pages and every 15 minutes they update our index with fresh data.

Put any website or URL into Site Explorer tool and you’ll see all its backlinks along with some useful SEO metrics.

Advanced reports and handy filters will let you dig real deep into the data that we have for you.

Given their name, that’s what they started out doing. Yup, they even feel the need to clarify that they do more:

Most people think of Ahrefs as a powerful “backlink checker” tool. But in reality, “checking backlinks” is just one of the many things that you can do with our huge data index.

If you look at the big picture, Ahrefs is a data company.

We collect data, we process data, we store data and, finally, we build all sorts of tools that let you use our data in your marketing.

Distant also-rans: