Russian spies are the epitome of cool.
They can blend in with a community for years, extract valuable information and report back to their Motherland.
KGB agents are even known to speak American English while they’re at home. Now that’s dedication!
Sure, such kind of espionage makes sense during wartime.
But did you know that SEO is actually a Cold War between brands?
Keep in mind that the top three results on Google get over 50% of the clicks.
If you want your SEO efforts to be worthwhile, you either go big or go home.
You need to claim one of the top spots for yourself.
That means being on the offensive and stepping over your competitors in any way you can.
With competitor backlink tools, you not only identify valuable keyword targets in your market that you might be missing.
You also get to pinpoint where top competitors are getting their links from, so you can swoop in and take them for yourself.
So, without further ado, here’s how to spy on your competitors in ways that’ll make even Putin proud!
Win the SEO Cold War: 5 Competitor Backlinks Tools That Are Stealthier Than a Russian Spy
Just like KGB spies, SEO professionals need a complete toolkit to fulfill their duties on the field. When it comes to competitor backlink analysis, there are only a handful of reliable, standalone tools you can choose from.
In SEO, you don’t always need a platform that can do it all. Sometimes, the best tools are those that excel in one particular aspect.
When it comes to backlink research, that tool is Monitor Backlinks. It gives you a bird’s-eye view of a website’s backlink profile—be it yours or your competitor’s—and notifies you of changes in real time, such as gained or lost links.
To use Monitor Backlinks for competitor backlink analysis, go to the “Competitors” tab and click “Add new competitor.”
Next, type in your competitor’s domain URL or click the “Suggest” button to let Monitor Backlinks find your competitors for you.
Take note that the tool normally takes up to 24 hours to gather all the data. When that’s done, you’ll have a full view of your competitor’s backlink profile, including important information about each link such as its anchor text, status, source URL and target page.
With access to your competitor’s backlink profile, you can see where they’re getting their backlinks from and what content is earning them the most links.
Use this information to inform your own link building efforts. Are they getting backlinks from somewhere you haven’t considered for yourself? Can you create better content than what they have, and steal their links?
You can also use Monitor Backlinks to spy on your competitor’s search rankings, and discover valuable keywords that you may not be targeting in your own strategy.
With a strong focus on backlink monitoring (both yours and your competition’s), Monitor Backlinks makes it easy to know what your competitors are up to at any time in terms of their link building strategy.
Ahrefs is one of the most popular SEO platforms that anyone can use to track rankings, backlinks and keywords.
There are several ways to use Ahrefs for competitor backlink research.
The first is to run a side-by-side domain comparison by clicking “Tools,” and then selecting “Domain Comparison.” From there, fill the “Enter your domains” fields with the URLs of your competitors.
A domain comparison will give you an overview of each competitor’s backlink profiles. By looking at their Domain Rating and number of referring domains, you can determine which competitor to prioritize in your research.
To get to the nitty-gritty, you need to use the “Site Explorer” to uncover data such as their new backlinks, referring content, organic keywords and more. Just head over to the “Site Explorer” tab, type in the competitor’s URL and click “Explore.”
This’ll show a much deeper analysis of your competitor’s backlink profile, including anchor texts, referring pages and social reach.
In the “Site Explorer” overview, you can also use the “Referring domains” graph to detect spikes in SEO activity.
For example, from the graph below, you could say that pre-November is a lucrative timeframe for backlink analysis:
This feature is helpful to identify when your competitors are focusing strongly on their link building and SEO efforts. If you see large spikes like the one above, then you should carefully analyze their backlink activity prior to the spike to find out exactly what they’re doing.
Next up is Majestic, another popular backlink analysis tool with a more straightforward approach to competitor research. It lets you jump into your domain or keyword analysis right off the bat:
Similar to Ahrefs, Majestic comes with a domain comparison tool that summarizes important metrics. But what you really want is the Majestic “Site Explorer,” which divulges everything there is to know about your competitor’s backlink profile.
The analysis automatically begins once you enter the competitor’s domain. In the “Overview” page, you can find useful data visualizations such as the backlink breakdown, link acquisition and anchor text distribution.
To start the backlink analysis, simply click on the “Backlinks” tab on the main menu.
Here, you can view the referring domain, anchor text and target URL of each backlink. You can also check the Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores to help you determine link value.
In the “New” tab, you can see where that particular competitor got their latest backlinks from.
Lastly, Majestic lets you peek at the competitor’s anchor text strategy in the “Anchor Text” tab. By looking at the number of referring domains that use each anchor text, you can better understand your competitor’s keyword strategy.
The Moz brand is one of the most trusted and sought-after authorities in the SEO landscape. Apart from truckloads of learning resources, they also offer a comprehensive SEO toolset that has everything you need.
For competitor research, Moz has the Open Site Explorer—a backlink analysis tool that can be used for free. All you need to do is type in your competitor’s domain URL and click “Search.”
This’ll bring up the main analysis page for your competitor’s website. Everything—from Domain Authority to inbound links—is pulled almost instantaneously.
With Open Site Explorer, you can also view the competitor’s linking domains, anchor text distribution and most popular pages.
This tool is just one of the many tools in the Moz Pro solution, which also includes a standalone keyword analysis tool, rankings tracker, on-page optimization, website auditing and more.
Lastly, SEO Spyglass is the only tool on this list that comes with a downloadable component. It lets you analyze the backlink profile of competitors straight from your desktop.
After installation, launch the SEO Spyglass application to set up your first project. During the first step, just type in the competitor’s URL and click “Finish.”
After a few minutes, you should be able to see your competitor’s entire backlink profile on one page.
Since SEO Spyglass is a desktop app, the interface performs as fluidly and responsively as native software programs. In the left menu, you can switch between the backlinks, linking domains, anchors and summary pages with a single click.
You can also perform a direct domain comparison within the app. For this, select “Domain Comparison” from the main menu and fill in the rest of your competitors’ URLs.
So many tools—so little time.
Just like an international spy, you need to learn how to be quick and decisive.
To help you pick the best tool for your own competitor backlink analysis, here’s a wrap-up of each tool’s pros and cons:
- Monitor Backlinks – Monitor Backlinks has everything you can ask for in a backlink analysis tool, and the way it notifies you of changes to your and your competitors’ links is a huge plus. The biggest drawback is that it takes up to 24 hours before it can present you with useful data, but after this is done with the initial setup, data is continually updated in real time.
- Ahrefs – The main advantage of Ahrefs is that it has the largest link database. However, the interface looks a bit dated and cluttered, particularly the left menu. You should be able to get over this setback after familiarizing yourself with the tool.
- Majestic – While Majestic is comparable to Ahrefs in terms of functionality, it’s focused on quality links and has a better interface. Unfortunately, you may experience a few slowdowns here and there with the platform.
- Moz Pro – Moz Pro has a lot to offer in terms of SEO analysis, particularly with the free Open Site Explorer tool, which you can use without signing up. It does, however, have a learning curve, especially if you avail the paid package.
- SEO Spyglass – Finally, SEO Spyglass’s pro is a double-edged sword. While its desktop functionality is a nice touch, the initial download and setup process can be time-consuming. Still, the platform itself is a lot more customizable with dozens of settings to modify your experience.
Remember that every cent counts in the world of business.
All of the tools above can help you probe and out-maneuver the competition when it comes to link building.
But to get your money’s worth, review your options carefully and make sure you can maximize the strengths of the tool you choose.
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