In the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), competitors in the same niche are locked in an arms race to see who can rank highest in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). And it is in these highly-competitive conditions where having the best backlinks can make or break your company’s online marketing efforts. But while finding relevant, authoritative sites and convincing them to link to your website is always worth the effort, sometimes it’s easier to just take a peek on the other side and see what your competitors are up to. Keep reading below to find how you can reverse engineer your competitors’ backlinks.
1. Google your target keywords to identify your true competitors
Before you start pasting URLs into your favorite SEO tool, you need a clear idea of which websites are competing for the same keywords as you. Keyword research is a key part of a website’s SEO strategy; so, to gain a competitive edge, you’ll need to focus your efforts on targeting long-tail keywords.
Unlike seed keywords, which can be as short as a single word, long-tail keywords are highly specific— for example, compare a seed keyword like “pizza” with a long-tail keyword like”pizza stores near me” — and their higher conversion rates makes them ideal for small to medium businesses. Once you have a list of long-tail keywords that are highly relevant to your company, you can Google them to find who are your competitors.
Create a spreadsheet where you can add your competitor URLs. Look over advertisements, big brands like Amazon, pages like Wikipedia, and other websites unrelated to your searches. Organize your competitors’ URLs in your spreadsheet and put a star next to the websites which rank for multiple keywords, as these brands should represent your priority when analyzing their link profiles.
2. Use SEO tools to analyze your competitors’ links
After you have organized your competitors based on the search results, you can pick the top-performing ones and analyze their link profiles. To do this, you’ll need to use specialized SEO tools — like SEMrush or Ahrefs — to analyze your URLs and organize the results.
Depending on what software you use, you’ll have the option of filtering the results however you want. For example, you can breakdown the results by month, year, total backlinks, referring domains, types of backlinks, as well as the percentage of following links compared to the percentage of non-following links. However, the most useful data you will find is the authority score of the referring websites.
To build a strong link profile, you’ll need authoritative websites pointing to your pages and the best way to find these domains is by analyzing your competitors’ websites and organizing the results by authority scores. For example, if your website sells car tools, earning a backlink from an industry leader would help build your website’s visibility and trust score.
3. Use the Skyscraper Technique to steal your domain-level competitors’ links
When it comes to SERPs, there are two types of competitors you need to beat: page-level competitors and domain-level competitors. While page-level competitors have similar pages to your own, domain-level competitors are websites that closely resemble your own to the point of sharing the same topics or offering the same products or services as you.
Getting ahead of domain-level competitors is though. However, using the Skyscraper Technique can help you loot your competitors’ backlinks and traffic without having to optimize your entire website.
To steal your domain-level competitor’s links, you’ll need to find his most linked-to page and create content of the same topic in your site which is significantly better than your competitors. Then, all you have to do is reach ouch to the sites linking to your competitor’s page and explain to them why your content is worthy of their link. With a bit of luck, you might even get them to replace your competitor’s anchor text with your own.
4. Get one step ahead of your competitors by targeting their broken links
Links, like people, have a life cycle of their own. Once created, it’s only a matter of time before the domain owner updates, modifies, or deletes the page where a link is located. That’s why any backlink strategy should include monitoring and repairing broken links. However, if your competitor neglects to fix his broken links on time, you can take advantage of his tardiness by plundering his dead links for yourself.
To find your competitor’s broken links, you can use an SEO tool — like Broken Link Checker — and then replicate the content or find a piece of content on your website that resembles your competitor’s. Then, all that’s left to do is contact the referring domain’s owner and let him know that you have a page that is perfect for their broken link.
5. Write guest posts for the same blogs as your competitors
Guest blogging is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to build high-quality backlinks to a website. If your competitor ranks highly on a SERP, chances are that guest blogging plays a big part in his success. You can steal his links and capitalize on his success by targeting the same blogs he is writing for.
There are several ways you can find in which sites your competitor is blogging. The first one involves doing an advanced Google search with the name of your competitor’s website plus key search words like “guest post.” Alternatively, you can also use an SEO tool, like Ahrefs or Moz, to show you which guest posts point back to your competitor’s website and even filter the posts by a certain author.
Stealing your competitors’ backlinks can save you time, money, and effort. However, realistically speaking, you can only hope to loot 20-30% of your opponents’ backlinks. So keep building your link profile while also checking what your competition is doing every once in a while, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself at the top of your target keywords’ SERPs!