Do your competitors rank at the highest of Google for your target keywords? Then they likely have a solid backlinks profile.
Links are perhaps the foremost crucial piece of the SEO puzzle—you’ll struggle to rank without them.
How can we know this? Because Google told us.
But the very fact that your competitors have plenty of backlinks may be a bad thing, right?
If people are happily linking to your competitors, the likelihood is that they’ll be happy to link to you, too.
(This is particularly true if you create even better content than your competitors.)
In this article, I’ll run you thru seven actionable ways to work out who is linking to your competitors and the way you’ll replicate their links.
But first, you would like to spot who your competitors are.
How to identify your competitors (hint: there are TWO distinct “types”)
Do you think you have already got an honest idea of who your competitors are? Not so fast.
Most sites have two “types” of competitors.
You can steal links from both types, but the approach is going to be different for every.
But before we get to the reasons, make a replica of this Google Sheet—you’ll get to record your competitors as we undergo this section.
These are the sites that compete with you within the SERPs, on the entire.
By that, I mean they’re not just competing with you for one or two search terms, they’re competing with you for several search terms across many pages.
Go to Site Explorer -> enter your domain -> Competing Domains.
By default, this report shows an inventory of competing domains sorted by the number of common keywords (i.e., keyword overlap).
You can see that, unsurprisingly, moz.com is our most vital competitor within the SERPs.
But there are a couple of indirect competitors in there, too—backlinko. com, hubspot.com, wordstream.com, etc.
If they’re ranking for that a lot of keywords (which they are), they presumably have plenty of backlinks.
Domain-level competitors aren’t always your “traditional” real-world competitors. I.e., they’re not always competitors in a business sense; they’ll just be competing for several similar keywords.
Make a note of the five most-relevant competitors within the Google Sheet, like so:
That second-to-last column—i.e., the link to Site Explorer—will be filled in automatically as you add competitors.
IMPORTANT! That final column allows you to tag whether or not each site competes with you during a business sense—make bound to do that.
The aim is to loot backlinks from all of those sites. Stay tuned to find out how.
These are sites that, while perhaps not competitors on the entire (i.e., regarding sitewide keyword overlap), still compete with you on a page level for specific topics/keywords.
For example, we’ve got a post with 12 SEO tips, which targets keywords like “SEO tips.”
But here’s the thing: while entrepreneur.com isn’t a domain-wide competitor, they still compete with us for this term. Their list of SEO tips ranks within the top 10, above us!
Pick a page/post on your website, then paste the first keyword that you’re trying to rank that page (e.g., “SEO tips”) into Keywords Explorer.
Then scroll right down to the SERP overview.
All of those are page-level competitors.
You’ll see some overlap between domain-level and page-level competitors (e.g., searchenginejournal.com also showed up in our domain-level competitor analysis) but some—such because the ones highlighted above—are only competing on a page level.
Make a note of any relevant, page-level competitors that rank above you for your target terms, alongside the amount of referring domains to every page, like so:
Look at the anchor’s report for your domain.
Site Explorer -> Backlink profile -> Anchors.
You’ll probably notice that the overwhelming majority of links use branded anchors.
This is because people tend to link to home pages when making a general mention of a brand, instead of something more specific.
Thus, analyzing your competitors’ homepage links will tell you where they’re getting mentioned.
For example, Moz. com—one of the domain-level competitors from our spreadsheet—has been mentioned on 20K+ websites.
Because we all know most of those links are brand mentions, the question becomes this:
“Why did they mention them [Moz], but not us [Nummero]?”
This is what you would like to seek out out and fix.
Enter one among your domain-level competitors from the spreadsheet—ideally one marked as a “direct” competitor within the final column—into Site Explorer.
Then attend the Backlinks report (and add a dofollow filter).
You will now see all the backlinks pointing to your competitor’s homepage.
Next, sift through these and plan to answer the question above (i.e., “why did they mention, and link to, my competitor… but to not me!?”). you’ll usually figure this out relatively quickly by watching anchor text, surrounding link text, and therefore the page title.
Answering this question will uncover some link looting opportunities pretty quickly.
Guest blogging remains one of the only ways to create high-quality links to your site.
Your competitors are likely using this tactic immediately.
(You may have even spotted some guest posts when looting through your competitors’ homepage links.)
Below are three simple tactics you’ll use to pinpoint competitors’ guest posts with ease.
Your start line for locating competitor guest posts should be Google search.
There are several queries you’ll try, but I find this one to be the foremost effective:
You can use another search query which will often surface some additional results.
You can use Google’s reverse image search (right-click a picture while using Chrome) to seek out posts containing the author’s headshot.
Looking good, Benjamin!
SIDENOTE. This method is additionally useful for locating “expert roundup” contributions.
You can also use Ahrefs Content Explorer to seek out content written by a specific author. a bit like Google, this tool features a bunch of advanced search operators.
Let’s try the subsequent query:
author: Author name
Bottom line: if your competitor has already had a guest post accepted on a specific site, then there’s an honest chance you’ll get published there, too.
I’m an enormous fan of Ryan Stewart (Webris).
His SEO-related content is a few of the simplest on the online, in my opinion. (I think it’s his love of Google Sheets that does it!)
BUT, it seems I’m not the sole one—the remainder of the team also appear to respect his work.
That’s probably why we’ve linked to Ryan’s site, WEBRIS, a lot!
Long story short, we’re superfans!
But what’s the utilization of this knowledge?
Well, imagine if you’ll identify your competitors’ superfans, wouldn’t it then add up to create a relationship thereupon person?
Yes, it would. Here’s why:
If they’re linking bent your competitor (a lot!), surely you’ll convince them to link to you too, right? — this is often very true if you’re creating similar, maybe even superior content to your competitor.
If you’ll make them superfans of your brand, too, they’ll likely also link to you (a lot!) — We don’t link bent Ryan because he asks us to, we just read this content, enjoy it, and find yourself referencing it in our posts.
Go to Site Explorer -> enter your competitor’s domain -> Best by Links.
Then add an HTTP status 200 filters to wash up the results.
Copy the primary ten URLs and paste them into the Link Intersect tool.
SIDENOTE. Link intersect tool is out there on Standard account or higher.
IMPORTANT! confirm to pick “URL” within the mode drop-downs. and choose the “show me who is linking to any of the below targets” instead of “show me who is linking to all or any of the below targets.”
You can see that we’re a superfan, as we link to seven of Ryan’s top ten most linked-to pages. But it’s like Matthew Woodward is additionally a superfan, as he links to four of the pages, too.
It’s possible to create some great links by looting your competitors’ backlinks.
But, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll outrank them solely by doing this—they’ll always be one step ahead.
In reality, the simplest you’ll hope for when looting your competitors’ backlinks is to successfully loot an honest percentage (20–30%?) of their links. And if you simply have a fraction of the links that your competitors have, well, you almost certainly ain’t getting to outrank them.
That’s why you ought to use competitor links as a “base,” then utilize other link-building tactics to urge MORE backlinks than your competitors.
Do this, and you’ll be unstoppable!