You’re thinking about your competitors the wrong way.
The competition is not your enemy.
You can use those insights to assess your own strategy based on what your competitors are doing, and know which of their methods you should replicate and avoid.
In this post, I’ll show you how to find competitor backlinks quickly and easily with Monitor Backlinks.
Then, you’ll find out how you can use that backlink data to make strategic SEO decisions and inspire your next steps.
3 Reasons Why You Need to Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlinks
There are three major benefits to studying your competition on a regular basis:
1. Measure your SEO results against the industry
Have you been working on ranking a website for weeks? Not sure if you’re gaining ground?
While tracking your backlinks will tell you part of the story, you should also compare those backlinks to your competitors to get an idea of where you stand in your industry.
For example, say your website gained 10 backlinks in the past 90 days. That sounds pretty good, right?
But then you check on your two main competitors and find that they’ve gained closer to 50 backlinks in the same amount of time. That’s an early warning that your marketing efforts could be falling behind.
In that case, studying your competitors’ backlinks tells you that you need to ramp up your link building efforts and start attracting more backlinks, or you’re in danger of losing market share to your competitors.
2. Gain inspiration for new SEO campaigns
In SEO, sometimes you run out of ideas.
You can’t think of new keywords. You don’t know what to create content about. In short, you’re starting to feel burnt out.
Sure, you can take a break from your work to help with the overwhelm. But that won’t fuel you up with new marketing ideas.
Finding and studying one of your competitor’s backlinks for 30 minutes will give you plenty of fresh ideas for keywords, content and link building strategies.
3. Enhance your status as a well-informed marketer
Whether you’re working as a solo SEO professional or part of a larger team, your status and credibility matters.
When you lack knowledge regarding competitors, you look clueless in front of your clients and managers.
Instead, you should present SEO results in context by referencing competitors. Compare your backlinks to their backlinks, their top linked content to your top linked content. It gives you a more detailed picture of your marketing results.
You’ll look like a savvy marketer compared to your peers who lack insights on the competition!
How to Find Competitor Backlinks (and Benefit from Them) with Monitor Backlinks
Now you know why your competitor backlinks are valuable, let’s get that data for you and show you how to use it!
There are three steps to the overall process:
1) Find Competitor Backlinks
With Monitor Backlinks, finding competitor backlink data is as easy as a few clicks.
As well as putting all this info at your fingertips, Monitor Backlinks also tracks new and lost competitor backlinks as they happen. You can instantly see your competitors’ up-to-date backlink profile just by checking your account, or wait for the regular email updates in your inbox to stay across any changes.
Don’t have a Monitor Backlinks account? Sign up for a free trial here to get access to all these features and more, risk-free.
At this point, I’m going to assume that you already know your most significant online competitors and are ready to start finding their backlinks.
If you don’t know your top competitors, use a free tool like SimilarWeb or Owler to get suggestions for competitors and similar sites. Using your judgment, choose 2-3 top competitors that are relevant to you and of a similar size to you.
For example, if you’re a startup, you should be comparing yourself to other startups and small businesses. A large multi-national retailer, on the other hand, should be compared to other large multi-national retailers, and not small, niche e-commerce stores.
Then, once you’ve got your competitors, all you need to do is add them to Monitor Backlinks to see their full link profiles.
Do this by going to the Competitor Links page:
Click the “+” button at the top right-hand side to add in your competitors.
Once they’re added, you’ll see them listed on the Competitor Links page like this:
This page gives you a summary of your competitors’ backlinks, including their total number of backlinks and unique domains. From a backlink quantity perspective, we can see that Backlinko is our most successful competitor.
Click on any competitor from the list to see more detailed backlink data. This is what Backlinko’s backlink profile looks like:
Here are some things to pay attention to:
- Number of backlinks. Backlinko has over 7,000 backlinks from over 7,000 unique domains. If this was your competitor, look at how many backlinks you have in comparison. Are you significantly behind, ahead or keeping up?
- Overall backlink quality. Monitor Backlinks gives you multiple metrics to evaluate backlink quality including Trust Flow, Citation Flow, follow/nofollow status and number of external links. Is your competitor earning high-quality backlinks?
- Anchor text. Read through the anchor texts being used to link to your competitor’s site. What keywords are they targeting? Is there a healthy combination of anchor texts including brand names (e.g. “Backlinko), generic phrases and longtail keywords (e.g. “will rank your site highly”)?
In less than 15 minutes, you can complete an intial competitive analysis for a key competitor.
At this point, you’ll have a good idea of some places you might be able to get backlinks from, and maybe even new keywords you can target.
But if you stop reading here, you might get the wrong impression. You don’t always want to find competitor backlinks and copy them.
You need to exercise your judgment based on the insights you discover with Monitor Backlinks and take these next steps, too.
2) Identify and Avoid Bad Backlinks
While your competitors will usually have some great backlinks you can replicate, keep in mind that they’ll probably have some terrible backlinks too.
To preserve the quality of your traffic, you need to stay far away from those bad links.
Luckily, Monitor Backlinks makes it easy to find the competitor backlinks to avoid.
From your competitor’s backlink profile, click the “Trust Flow” column heading to sort the list of backlinks by their Trust Flow score. Sort from lowest to highest, so that you’re seeing low Trust Flow sites first:
Backlinks from sites with a low Trust Flow (below 10) should be avoided. They can hurt your site’s success in two ways:
First, lower quality websites are unlikely to send quality traffic. And second, search engines are unlikely to take these backlinks seriously. If you have a lot of bad backlinks, your site is more likely to be penalized.
For additional insights, I recommend repeating the same filtering process for “Citation Flow” and also looking at sites with a low Citation Flow of less than 10.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analyzing your competitor’s backlinks. Other considerations include:
- Geographic relevance. If their website content is only available in English and they get backlinks from mainly non-English speaking countries, those backlinks are not that helpful.
- Backlink patterns over time. How are their backlinks changing over time? Are they attracting higher-quality links or lower-quality links? Are they earning more backlinks now or less?
Now that you have a good idea of the details of your competitor’s backlinks, let’s zoom back out to the strategic level and make that information work for you.
3) Adjust Your SEO Strategy Based on Competitor Backlinks
Your SEO strategy should always be grounded in competitive realities such as your backlink situation vs. your competitors’ backlink situations.
For example, when your competitors show significant increases in SEO results (e.g. number and quality of backlinks, increasing keyword rankings), then you’ll need to adjust your own strategy.
Reflect on your competitor’s backlinks and ask yourself these questions:
- Are you keeping pace with your competitor in terms of the number and quality of backlinks?
- Is your SEO and backlink strategy producing valuable outcomes in the form of leads, sales and opt-ins?
From there, you’ll take one of three directions based on how you compare:
A. Stay the course
If your SEO strategy is working well, maintain it! You simply need to keep at it and the good results will continue.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could consider diversifying into other marketing methods like PPC and social media to boost your results even more.
B. Ramp up your efforts
If your competitors are earning dramatically more and better backlinks, that’s a sign that your current SEO strategy isn’t working (or isn’t working yet). It’s time to take action to improve your results.
C. Start more experiments
In this scenario, your results are far ahead of your competitors and you’re getting satisfactory traffic and conversions. You now have more latitude for creative, long-term SEO experiments.
You can also check out this post for more advanced link building techniques to keep you ahead of the competition.
Final Thoughts on Finding (and Benefiting from) Competitor Backlinks
With the right approach, monitoring competitor backlinks is a helpful way to stay on top of your competition week by week.
That said, you need to know the limits of monitoring your competitors. Passive monitoring alone is not enough.
It comes down to a healthy balance of competition and creativity.
Yes, find out what your competitors are doing. But you need to keep coming up with your own ideas, too.
Monitoring your competitors’ backlinks is ultimately a helpful input to forming your wider SEO strategy.
Bruce Harpham runs Steam Press Media, a digital agency that helps B2B technology companies acquire more customers.