You’ve probably heard about link building tactics before, but did you ever wonder where those backlinks come from? How do they get there? And how do you find them?
You must first know what your competitors are doing to rank higher on Google. You may think there is no way to find out who links to your site, but there is! Learn how to do it here!
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What Are Backlinks?
Backlinking is the practice of creating external links (incoming links) to your site from other websites. The idea is to increase traffic to your site and boost its search engine ranking.
The Importance of Backlink Analysis
A backlink analysis shows you all the links to your competitor’s site and gives you a better understanding of your site’s ability to rank well in search engine results. Backlink analysis also helps you identify bad links.
There are several ways to find out who has linked to your competitor’s sites. One way is to check their webmaster tools or Google Analytics. Another option is to look at their social media profiles.
In an increasingly competitive digital marketing landscape, competitor analysis is both wise and necessary. Competitors’ successes and failures can inform your strategies, from keyword analysis to backlink analysis and everything in between.
Backlinks, in particular, attract justified interest, as they demonstrably drive organic traffic. However, while each type of analysis will overlap conceptually, each will have its tools and best practices. As such, let us devote this article strictly to backlinks. Specifically, we’ll delve into how to find your competitors’ backlinks using some of the most prominent tools available today.You may think there is no way to find out who links to your site, but there is! Learn how to do it here! Click To Tweet
Building a Healthy Backlink Profile
Foremost, let us begin with the end goal, a healthy backlink profile. A healthy link profile is a key to search engine optimization (SEO) success, so aiming for one should frame your efforts.
A healthy, natural backlink profile consists of multiple factors, including the following:
- A mix of Follow and NoFollow links; only building Follow links for Page Authority (PA) gains may incur penalties. Natural profiles include both backlink types, and both effectively produce referral traffic.
- Natural anchors: backlink anchors should include keywords or search terms. A natural anchor should make logical and syntactical sense within its sentence.
- Anchor variety: being natural sounding aside, anchors should offer variety. Targeting the exact keywords through identical anchors looks unnatural, and it may incur penalties.
While these and other factors will not affect how you find your competitors’ backlinks, they will inform your competitor’s backlinks strategies. For example, as we will cover below, many backlinks checkers/backlink analysis tools focus on backlink types and linking domain authority score. This is partly because earning Follow backlinks may differ substantially from earning NoFollow ones, such as through a guest blog post or user-generated content (UGC). Thus, you may include such factors in your SEO strategy and competitors’ backlink analysis in advance for additional insights.What are backlinks? Backlinking is the practice of creating external links to your site from other websites. Click To Tweet
Finding Your Competitors’ Backlinks
Now, finding your competitors’ backlinks is, conceptually, a straightforward process. However, it does differ depending on who you identify as a competitor, the tools you use for competitor backlink analysis, and so forth. As such, let us explore the fundamental steps of finding your competitor backlinks in some detail.
Identify Your Competitors
You will need to identify your competitors as part of your link-building strategy. How you do so will affect the following steps – so a crucial distinction is in order here.
Competitors will typically be divided into two categories, each with its subsets. There are:
#1 Search Competitors
Search competitors are those who deliberately compete with you for specific keywords. One can then divide these into two subsets:
- Domain-level search competitors. These sites will compete with you on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) at a domain level. Even though they may slightly overlap with your field, your keywords will overlap significantly. Many tools we will discuss below use this keyword overlap as an analytic tool for backlink opportunities.
- Page-level search competitors. These sites may be unrelated to your niche but will compete with you at a page level for specific keywords. This may be due to a similar subject focus, even though your exact products and services differ.
#2 Traditional Competitors
Traditional competitors are your competitors by default, as they are direct business rivals. These we can divide into two subsets of their own:
- Same-industry competitors. These are traditional competitors within your field, regardless of their physical location. As such, they’re your search engine optimisation rivals regarding industry-specific keywords.
- Same-location competitors. Finally, these are same-industry competitors who are also in close physical proximity. Thus, since you share locations, you will likely need to compete in local SEO.
You may identify your competitors through market research, customer feedback, keyword research tools, a backlink analysis tool/backlink checker tool and more. However, different types of competitors will call for different strategies to beat. For example, approaching popular blogging sites within your niche requires a different strategy than enhancing local SEO. Thus, you will need to make this distinction early, choosing where it makes sense for your business to focus.A backlink analysis shows you all the links to your competitor's site and gives you a better understanding of your site's ability to rank well in search engine results. Click To Tweet
Analyse Your Competitors’ Backlinks
Having identified your competitors, you may then begin to analyse their backlinks. There are multiple reputable tools to help you do so, so we will only explore three among them. Namely, in no particular order:
- SEMrush’s Backlink Gap tool
- Ahrefs’s Site Explorer
- Moz’s Link Explorer
Each one’s process will differ, naturally, so let us go through each one.
#1 SEMrush’s Backlink Gap Tool
The Backlink Gap tool offers to analyse link gaps, as the name suggests. To use it in your link building strategies or link building campaign, you will need a list of your competitors, as outlined in the previous step. Then, you may find your competitors’ backlinks and analyse them under different scopes.
For example, you may want to find which of your competitors’ pages and content got the most links. To identify their most popular pages, you must go to the “Indexed Pages” section under “Backlinks”. There, after using a site’s URL to analyse it, you may sort through pages based on backlinks, domains, and more. Filtering this way will yield insights on which pages get the most valuable backlinks, which you may then analyse and replicate.
Conversely, you may analyse which pages lost backlinks by analysing your competitors’ shortcomings (e.g., broken links). To do so, you can go to “Backlinks” under “Domain Analytics” and sort for “lost” backlinks. Next, the tool allows you to export this list to a .csv. You may open this file in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets and sort URLs based on losses. This way, you can identify which pages lost the most quality backlinks and analyse them for errors you may avoid.
#2 Ahref’s Site Explorer
Ahref’s Site Explorer tool offers similar functionalities to similar ends. Again, you will need a list of your competitors to start building backlinks.
Initially, you can enter your domain in Site Explorer to verify your competitors under “competing domains”. This analysis considers the keyword above overlap, so you may better filter between domain-level and page-level competitors. If you’re particularly interested in page-level competitors, you may use such tools as Ahref’s Keyword Explorer for specific SERP overviews.
Then, to analyse specific backlinks, you may use the tool’s “backlinks” option under “backlink profile” for a competitor’s page. This section has the subsets “new”, “lost”, and “broken” for additional filters beyond link types, language, and so forth. The tool also features a (Do)Follow/NoFollow filter you may use, but remember that, ideally, you should analyse both. As mentioned above, you may find your competitors’ backlinks – their pages, branded mentions, and, most importantly, their sources.
#3 Moz’s Link Explorer
Finally, Moz’s Link Explorer tool offers similar features as well. While there are many other tools to consider, this one is arguably the best to round up such SEO tools overview lists.
To use this backlink tool, you will–predictably–first need to enter your competitor’s URL into it. Then, you may navigate to “Inbound Links” and filter their backlinks based on link type and link status. This section will also offer Domain Authority (DA) and PA information, which are invaluable toward Follow link analysis. However, it is worth reiterating that you will not just need Follow links for link equity – colloquially called “link juice”. NoFollow links will also produce traffic and make your backlink profile appear more natural for search engines.
As mentioned above, SEMrush’s Backlink Gap tool allows you to export data into a .csv file. You may thus use it in Excel or Sheets to filter by such factors as:
- Linking site/page DA/PA
- Linked site/page
- Link type, frequency, and anchors used
Such criteria, as above, will help inform your strategies for optimal results.Finding your competitors' backlinks is, conceptually, a straightforward process. Click To Tweet
Identify Sites That Link to Your Competitors
Finally, you may identify the specific sites that link to your competitors. Here, unlike identifying how many sites link to your competitors, you may identify which sites link to them most frequently. Ahrefs dubs these as “superfans” – a term that essentially stands for and offers value.
Each of the tools mentioned above and similar ones offer some way to do so. You may filter by linking domain, link frequency, and similar metrics in all cases. This matters because you may apply strategies to earn quality links or link building opportunities yourself. This is crucial for your SEO efforts and link building efforts.
The essence of all such strategies typically overlaps with Backlinko’s Brian Dean’s Skyscraper Technique. He outlines the steps to this technique as the following:
- Step 1: Find a link-worthy piece of content
- Step 2: Make something even better
- Step 3: Reach out to the right people.
Throughout this process, you should find “link-worthy content”; that’s the essence of finding your competitors’ backlinks. Then, analytical insights on said backlinks should drive your content creation strategies, the second step. It is here where content marketing and SEO overlap most substantially, at that. Finally, finding “superfans” and sites that regularly link to content within your niche covers the third step, the “right people”. Typically, you may reach out to propose link opportunities, presenting your guest post or another type of content as valuable for their readers. However, this may also include such practices as politely claiming unbranded mentions in cases where they already acknowledge your content. In all cases, this strategy hinges on finding your competitors’ backlinks’ sources and offers the next step forward.
Use these tips above to gain high-quality backlinks to boost your search rankings. Always go for quality links and avoid building spammy links at all costs. They are not worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I spy on competitors’ backlinks? There are several ways to do this, such as using Google Alerts, which allows you to set up alerts for specific keywords. Another way is to use the free MozBar extension for Firefox, which lets you search any website for links to other websites. This tool also has a built-in link analysis feature that shows how many times each page was linked to from another site.
- Can you find competitor backlinks with Ahrefs? Yes! With the new Backlink Explorer feature from Ahrefs, you can now search for competitor backlinks using keywords. So, if you enter a competitor’s site, you’ll see all their backlinks. This means you can easily discover which websites link to your competitors’ sites.
- How do I find my Semrush competitor backlinks? Yes! According to Semrush, to find your competitor’s best links and most linked to content, enter their domain in the Backlink Analytics tool. It gives you reports to dive into their backlinks.
- Can you check backlinks on Google Analytics? Yes! When it comes to Google Analytics, backlinks are commonly referred to as referrals.
In conclusion, external backlinks are one of the most critical ranking factors in determining whether or not your site will rank higher than another website. So, it’s worth learning about backlink strategies and figuring out what they mean for your business.
Analysing your competitors’ backlink profiles is a crucial aspect of competitor analysis that should not be overlooked. Conducting keyword research to identify your competitors for the target keywords of choice is the initial step to informing your strategies. Then, locating and analysing their earned backlinks yields more insights into their content’s quality, depth, length, format, tone, and so forth. Finally, you may identify a list of backlinks, i.e., sites regularly link to them so that you may reach out for backlinks as part of your content marketing. Fortunately, the market offers a vast array of tools, including those mentioned above, to help you throughout the process.
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