Good, effective links require the right context and the right audience. Competitor backlink analysis is a great jumping-off point for a link building campaign. If you are targeting the same audience, any links your competitors win should work for you too.
There is more than one way to go about using competitor link information. For the most successful link building, you need to understand the strategies and use a good mix of them. One link strategy that you may have overlooked is taking advantage of your competitors’ brand mentions.
Tools for Competitor Backlink Analysis
Researching what successful competitors are doing in SEO, to earn links, and to improve traffic and page rank is always a winning strategy. If it works for them, and they are targeting the same or a similar audience, why wouldn’t the strategies work for you? There is no reason to reinvent the wheel.
When it comes to backlinks, analyzing what your competitors are doing helps guide your strategy. Also, finding your own unlinked brand mentions in content is a great way to find sites willing to give you a link.
You can take this strategy a step further and find your competitors’ unlinked brand mentions. These may be on sites that don’t know about you yet but should. Harness these for links. There are several good tools for doing competitor backlink analysis:
- Ahrefs. Use Site Explorer to input a competitor site and check out the Backlinks report. This gives you all the backlinks to that site with useful data like the referring page, the anchor text, and the traffic. Find brand mentions with Content Explorer. Input your competitor’s brand name and exclude the domain to limit it to mentions on sites other than their own.
- Alexa. On Alexa you can first find your competitors using the Audience Overlap tool. This will show you backlinks for competitor sites if you run the Site Comparison report. Alexa can also help you sort the results by most links, authority of those sites, and keywords.
- SEMrush. Add competitor sites to SEMrush and get historic trends, trust status, backlink types, referring domains, anchor text, and indexed pages. It also provides geographic information, perfect for local SEO efforts.
- Majestic. Majestic also offers a lot of details on competitor backlinks. Get the referring domains, IPs, and subnets, and detailed graphs representing backlink history, link types, anchor text, and nofollow/dofollow status.
- Linkody. Linkody will give you a list of competitors with backlinks and information about those referring domains: country, anchor text, landing page, Moz domain authority, number of shares, and others.
These tools can give you a long list of sites mentioning competitor brands, but it’s important to prioritize them. You probably can’t target every site that comes up, and some are worth skipping. Filter results to target sites with higher domain authority, impressive search traffic, and relevant keywords.
How to Use Competitor Backlink Data
The purpose of doing the above research is to understand what competitors are doing, what works for them, and what doesn’t. With this information you can determine your own strategy for getting more backlinks.
For example, just by looking at the referring domains sending links to your competitors’ pages you get an idea of where to target your own outreach. Sites willing to link to competitors are likely to be open to links to your pages as well. Especially useful are those sites that have linked to more than one competitor.
Also use any of the research tools to dig deeper into the referring domains. Take a look at the actual pages that include the links. You should see some patterns that indicate the topics, types of content, and keywords that will be useful for directing links to your pages.
Also look at the anchor text that those sites are using for the links. This is another clue as to how you can direct links in your own campaign.
Competitor backlink analysis is a smart way to work on a link building, but there are many more things you can do with it. Find the brand mentions that aren’t actually linked back to your competitors and you have fertile ground for getting your own links where they missed an opportunity.
Using Brand Mentions
Brand mentions are so useful for backlinks because you’re targeting domains and pages that are already aware of and interested in the brand, a particular product or service, or a content topic. This won’t be a random link request. They are already primed to be more willing to give you a link.
Getting links using your own brand’s mentions is a no-brainer. But you can also harness the power of a competitor’s unlinked mentions. Those sites mentioning them are interested in your niche, but they may not know about you yet.
Finding the unlinked messages using SEO tools and prioritizing a list of prospects for links is the first step. To actually succeed in getting the link, you need to do outreach.
Outreach for less targeted, specific sites can be done in bulk with a tool like Buzzstream. But because you’ve done the work to nail down sites that are excellent prospects, take more time with outreach. You’re introducing your brand to someone who may not have heard of it yet take the time to make outreach personal:
- Look over the target site and get to know it. Make sure you understand the content, tone, purpose, and audience.
- Find information on the site owner, authors, or company.
- Knowing more about the site, find something to complement that is specific but not too over the top.
- Introduce your brand and explain why you believe they would be interested in it. This should not simply say that they mentioned your competitor.
- Show them the value your brand has for the prospect’s audience and readers.
- Also explain the value in the particular content you want to get a link to, why it would be interesting to their readers.
- Always follow up. You put a lot of work into this prospect, so it’s worth checking in again if you don’t get a response.
The Skyscraper Method
The skyscraper method involves finding your competitors’ content that gets a lot of mentions or links, writing something better, and then stealing those links and mentions. Use your list of competitor unlinked brand mentions to create superior content those referring domains will consider linking to.
Let’s say you have a content marketing site. You find mentions of a competitor site on a popular, high domain authority blog for freelance writers. The page with the mention refers to your competitor as a good source of information on learning content marketing best practices for beginners.
Now you have a relevant topic to tackle. Take a look at the type of content that competitor is offering and create something better. For example, maybe they have an article titled “What’s new in content marketing for 2019.” Write a better article with 2020 trends.
This can be resource intensive, but the pay off is potentially big. You are tailoring your content to appeal to your competitor’s referring domain for the best possible chance of getting a positive response to outreach.
And the next step is outreach. Put as much thought into this as you do in researching and creating content. Craft a personalized email and explain why your content is better, relevant, and deserves a link.
Find Your Competitors Broken Links
Sometimes a competitor brand mention is linked but the link is broken. This is another good opportunity for you to step in and offer the referring domain something better, namely a link that works.
This is an especially foolproof way to get links because no one wants to be linking out to dead pages. If you can find those broken competitor links and reach out to the referring domain with a better, working page to link to, they’ll likely take it.
Here’s the basic, four-step process:
1. Find the broken links that mention competitor brands.
2. Determine what the content was on that broken page. If it isn’t obvious from the URL or anchor text you can use the Wayback Machine to see the archived content.
3. Create similar, but better, pieces of content.
4. Reach out to the page with the broken link and suggest a link to your new, improved content.
You can find your competitors’ broken brand mention links with SEO research tools. Ahrefs Site Explorer is great for this research:
- Put the competitor URL into Site Explorer.
- Choose the Best by Links report.
- Filter results for HTTP 404 errors.
You get a list of pages that are broken and all the sites linking to them. These sites are relevant because they linked to your competitor, but now they’re left with a broken link. Reach out and offer a working page with better content to replace that link.
Getting Creative with Link Building
There are so many different ways to get links to your pages that go beyond simple outreach. Competitor analysis is just the beginning of several winning strategies. If you can find where other sites mention competitors, you’re halfway to getting a brand new link.