Arguably one of the most important assets in your SEO arsenal, backlinks have continued to be a critical ranking factor for organic search. If you’re wondering why your website is still not ranking on the first page of search engines, not having enough backlinks is probably one of the main reasons. Finding and analysing competitor backlinks is a simple and useful SEO strategy that you can use when it comes to securing those competitive rankings.
Read this guide to learn how to find and analyse competitor backlinks.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks are links from one website (the referrer) to a page on another website (the referent).
Google’s original PageRank algorithm has been heavily used to rank web pages based on backlinks as a sign of content quality.
Although its public score (Toolbar PageRank) was axed in 2016, PageRank still exists and continues to play a pivotal role in Google’s ranking algorithm. This means that SEO backlinks are just as important as before and they should never be ignored by digital marketers.
Why Backlinks are Important
In essence, backlinks represent a vote of trust from one website to another. They tell search engines that your content is credible, making it a valuable source of authority. The more quality backlinks you have, the higher your website is likely to rank.
At the same time, backlinks provide an alternative avenue for users to find your website. If someone is reading a piece of content which links to your site and finds it relevant to their research, they may click on the link and become your visitor. This is known as referral traffic. You can check your referral traffic in Google Analytics by navigating to Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Referrals.
For those looking to improve their rankings and organic traffic, acquiring backlinks should be a crucial part of their SEO and content strategy.
How to Find Competitor Backlinks
Before you start looking up competitor backlinks, you should always complete your keyword research. This will help you work out who exactly you’re competing against and what are the websites ranking on the first page for your target keywords.
Assuming you’ve already done this, here are three of our favourite competitor backlink tools that will give you an overview of where you stand.
One of our favourite backlink analysis tools, SEMRush is a user-friendly platform which will tell you in seconds how your backlink profile benchmarks against those of your competitors. You can compare your domain with up to 4 other websites by navigating to SEO Toolkit >> Backlink Gap >> Add your domain and your competitors’ >> Find Prospects.
The tool will show you the best and weakest links, as well as those you may be sharing with your competitors. SEMRush allows you to export the list in Excel or .CSV format and even start a link building outreach project.
You can find out more about using SEMRush to find backlinks in their What Are Backlinks blog.
Ahrefs’ free backlink checker uses an industry leading database of over 212 billion pages. To check backlinks for a specific website, simply go to Site Explorer, paste in the URL or domain of your choice and click on Backlinks on the left hand side menu.
You will then get a breakdown of backlinks pointing to the website or web page, including real time information on where the links are coming from (referring domains), anchor text, traffic and when the link was first seen.
One of the best features of Ahrefs is that you can set up alerts that let you know if your competitors have gotten any new website links since your last check. This essentially means that you can monitor backlinks without having to carry out a comprehensive analysis of their whole profile on a regular basis.
Majestic allows you to compare your website with up to 10 other competitors. To do this, enter the domain name or URL in the search box on the homepage, click the search icon, then click Compare.
Paste the domains of your competitors to get an overview of how many referring domains you have compared to other websites. You can then expand the menu on the left hand side and get a report of how many links you have, which you can then export into an Excel spreadsheet or .CSV document.
If you don’t want to use the comparison tool, you can just skip this step and simply enter the domains of each competitor in the search bar on the homepage.
Competitor Backlink Analysis
Once you’ve gotten all the information you need, you can start looking for opportunities. What you need is to focus on the links with the highest domain authority (DA) and page authority scores. Start small by selecting the top 5 to 10 links for each website you are analysing. This will ensure you only are going after good links which will add value to your rankings if you replicate them.
Don’t panic if you notice that your competitors’ have a lot more backlinks than you. Not all of them will be useful and some can cause more harm than good. Toxic backlinks are a common occurrence for every website and need to be disavowed as they can result in a Google penalty. Click here to find out how to remove backlinks that are lowering your rankings.
Why Competitor Backlink Analyses are Important
A competitor backlink analysis helps site owners create strong backlink strategies by “stealing” their competitors’ organic traffic from right under their noses. It allows you to improve your processes and create specific guidelines for what is needed to gain an edge.
As Birmingham’s leading SEO agency, Ricemedia can help you stay ahead of your competitors and boost your rankings by creating strong link building strategies. With 20 years of experience developing bespoke digital marketing strategies, we have an unparalleled record of delivering results for clients across a wide range of industries. Let’s get you started today!