This link building technique involves observing what your competitors are doing, understanding their strategy, and then applying the same to acquire the links that they have got.
Once you have got their links, you could be in a far better position than how your competitors are doing individually.
That sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Well, it should. Because it is quite easy to examine and analyze the backlink profile of your competition. This can all be ethically done using simple, free tools available online.
Suppose you are just starting out with an SEO campaign. And you have this site you want to rank better. How would you start?
You could randomly look at link opportunities using various link building techniques, which is not a bad idea. But I feel it would take longer in the initial stages to acquire sufficient links to rank your site fast.
On the other hand, using competitor link analysis reveals not only the links that are helping your competitors rank higher, but also the strategies they use to acquire those valuable links.
Why Use Competitor Link Analysis
- You get to know who your competitors are. Their strengths & their weaknesses in terms of rankings. The more you know about your competition the better you can equip yourself for success
- You understand your niche market better. The more you understand your niche market, the better you understand the efforts required to succeed. And exactly where to focus your energy for maximum returns
- You form an understanding of the links that drive your competitors' growth. You understand which sites are sources for links, and can use that knowledge to your advantage.
- Subsequently, when you analyze those links, you also understand the link building techniques used by your competitors. If they use one technique more than others, then perhaps that technique is more effective for your niche segment. And perhaps you need to concentrate on that one more than others.
Acquiring Your Competitor’s Links
Competitor link building involves:
- Looking at who your competitors are and making a list of them
- Creating a Master List of all the backlinks from your competitors.
- Analyse the link building strategy that your competitor has used to acquire a certain link. And then try to acquire that link using the same strategy
These steps can be completed using free tools, available online. If you opt for a paid link analysis tool, it might make your life much more efficient and easier. It is going to give you a lot more insight than just backlinks. You can setup link building campaigns and track progress. So, it is definitely worth it.
Some of the top paid tools include.
- Open Site Explorer
But all of them are seriously restrictive if you do not opt for a paid version. As I mentioned earlier, opting for a paid version is the best way to go if you are serious about link building.
But for our purpose, we will make do with another free tool called Open Link Profiler, which gives you information on the top 50-60 backlinks.
1. List Your Competitors
You want to know who your competitors are. One easy way to find out is to search on Google using the keyword you want to rank for. Suppose you run a plumbing business in New York, then you could search for “Plumbers in New York City” to see who your competitors are:
Look at the organic results and identify your competition.
Exclude the directories and you have a list of companies competing against you. You may be able to use the directories later for Citation Building.
Repeat the search with different keywords and keywords combinations. Build a list of at least your top 5 or top 10 competitors.
As mentioned, there are many paid SEO tools, like SEMrush, that can automate all this for you. You just enter your domain name, and it fetches a list of your competitors for you, along with your top keywords and their entire backlink profile. Paid tools save a ton of time and can make the entire process easier for you.
But you can easily use the step above to get an idea of your competition, without any paid tools.
2. Create A List Of Competitor Backlink Profiles
Create a spreadsheet listing the competitor businesses at the top, and then listing the links below it.
Or you can create a master list of all the incoming links to your competitor’s sites, and then remove all duplicates.
You can list additional columns to specify whether the link is achievable or not. The actions you have taken and the progress you have made so far etc.
There is no definite set format that you must use. Simply use your imagination and see what works best for you.
For our example, let’s check the URL profile for my site, i.e. raycreations.net.
So simply punch in the URL and click on “Get backlink data”.
You are returned a page with lots of usable metrics regarding the site and its backlink profile.
Scroll down a bit and you see the list of URLs pointing to the domain & its internal pages.
I clicked on the arrow next to the “LIS” column to arrange the LIS score in descending order.
LIS here stands for Link Influence Score. According to the tool, the score is calculated based on the quality and the number of links pointing to the website. The higher the quality of the inbound links, the higher the score.
You have to navigate the results page one at a time. And there is no option of exporting them either.
With paid tools, the process becomes very easy. The process would be very similar to what we have done above with the free tool. But when you get the results page with all the inbound links to your competitor site, you can simply click on export and get all the results in a CSV file format. You can then use that later to add other links, remove duplicates, and sort them as per your need.
But with a free tool, we have many limitations. But there are many that don’t have a paid subscription. So, we will stick with free stuff for now.
3. Acquire As Many Links As You Can
You can start your link building process as soon as you have your first set of inbound links to your competitor’s site.
When you see the backlinks that help your competitors rank, you can work on your link building technique to acquire links from those sites.
When you analyze each link, understand the link building technique that your competitor has used to acquire that link. It is fairly easy to understand how that link was acquired by just looking at it.
Was it a guest blog post? If yes, then you can offer to write a guest post for them.
Was it a comment on a particular article? If yes, you can write a sensible comment that adds value to that post.
Whatever the technique used, you can do the same to get that link.
It is important to understand that you won’t be able to acquire all the links from your competitors, or require much more work. A site may have linked to an article your competitor wrote. The only way to acquire a similar link is to either write something much better, and suggests the site links to that, or to write something else the site might like, and suggest that as a link. But there are no guarantees here.
In such cases, you can take advantage of other link building strategies to secure a link from that site. For example, you can offer to guest post on their site.
As I said, not all competitor backlinks will be achievable. And that is okay. Because when you repeat the process with all your competitors, then ultimately you will end up with more and better links.
It is a lot of hard work, and you'll need patience if you want to build up links ethically. Because that is what works best in the long run.
Caution: Do Not Build Links Blindly
When you are analyzing your competitor’s backlink profile, make sure to use your own good judgment. Don't copy them blindly; it could prove disastrous for your site.
Remember that you are only after high quality links from high authority sites.
If you see some shady, spammy links, it is better to leave them alone. It is very much possible that your competitor’s site is ranking despite and not because of those links.
So, a strong word of caution here. Follow your own better judgment. Do not copy blindly. Ensure that the incoming link is from a high authority, trustworthy site.
Top ranking sites have one thing in common. They have a very attractive incoming link portfolio that pleases Google.
These sites usually have high quality content, are optimized for speed and conversion. They have also taken care of their on-page optimization. True. However, still, the main driving force behind their growth are links from high authority, trusted sites.
Analysing your competitor’s backlinks is an excellent way to learn where they are getting their links from, and the strategies they use to get them.
Amrit Ray takes care of marketing at Raydez & Ray Creations, a web design company working with global clients. He is also a singer/songwriter. So, when he is not writing articles, he is probably working on a new song! He tries his best balancing both his passions giving adequate time to both. Follow him on LinkedIn