How To Do Competitor Backlink Analysis
Every website owner not engaged in paid advertising is interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the method webmasters use to attempt to get their sites listed on page one of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Because Google is currently the dominant player in search, this article will examine SEO backlink strategies based on Google. However, the techniques will work for other search engines such as Bing. SEO leads to free traffic for the website as users tend to click on the first free results offered by the search engine.
How to check backlinks of competitors free
This process is quite lengthy and requires that you be organized and focused if you wish to get the best results for free. However, this is one of many free tools that can help you find competitor backlinks:
What is a backlink?
A backlink is a link to the content on your website that originated somewhere else. They are “linking back” to your site, generally because they find the content that they have linked to valuable.
What is the importance of backlinks?
Google considers backlinks to be symbols of relevance or authority. This is one of the reasons that social shares are such an important ranking signal. The more your content is linked back to from social media, the more Google expects it to be high quality or entertaining content on the subject at hand.
Google’s primary intent is to find its searchers the most relevant answer to their searches for questions. Therefore, backlinks must, for the most part, be from relevant sites. Someone who Google’s “how to bake banana bread” wants to find a banana bread recipe. Therefore, backlinks from websites that do not have anything to do with cooking or banana bread would actually harm your SERP, not enhance it. This is one reason it is advisable never to buy backlinks as they are seldom relevant to the content on your site. Here is a visual example of a good backlink:
It starts with a keyword
The whole point of SEO is to rank on page one of the SERP for a particular search term. That search term is known as a keyword, or, more specifically, a long-tail keyword. A long-tail keyword is a three to four-word phrase (excluding stop words) on a particular subject. Stop words are common words such as pronouns, articles, and simple verbs that do not “count” when Google calculates SERP.
An example would be if the searcher types in “how do I bake banana bread,” the exact keyword is only “bake banana bread.” Adjectives are counted, however, so “best banana bread” would also be a good alternate keyword.
The importance of keywords in SEO
Because Google’s goal is relevance, returning results that satisfy the user’s intent is its primary goal. While it is difficult to determine where the searcher is within the buying cycle, some keywords may indicate the intent to purchase more than others.
Keywords that include “best price for X” send a stronger buying signal than “who makes the best X,” which is indicative of the research phase. When building your keyword lists for the content on your site, try to mix up the keywords so that your content ranks strongly for all phases of the buying cycle.
Understanding proper keyword usage
Frankly, most people get keywords wrong. They think that by hammering a keyword into their copy multiple times, Google will rank them high in the SERP. This could not be further from the truth. Google checks for primary keywords in a few specific ways. These algorithms are smart, and you do not have to keep beating them over the head to make them understand what your content is about.
- Using the meta tag for keywords — this is the most efficient way to identify the primary keyword for your content.
- In the title — this is the first place Google goes to look for your keyword,
- Leading paragraph — this is the next place Google looks for your keyword.
- Honorable mention — using your keyword in an H2 subhead or alt text for photos.
That is it, other than that, you should write naturally. Now, if your copy naturally includes use of the keyword, that is fine, but since we are talking about three-to-four word keywords, multiple uses of the same phrase over and over again can be seen as unnatural by Google.
Here is the other thing most people do not understand. A primary keyword is used only ONCE within your content. This means that once you use “best banana bread” in an article, you never write another piece using that keyword. This is because if you write other content using the same keyword, you are cannibalizing your own ranking. Next time write about “good banana bread” or “tasty banana bread.” Google will get a much better idea that your site is about banana bread that way, and your rankings will go up.
This is why it is recommended to come up with a list of 50 keywords to explore for competitor backlinks. You want to develop content for a year, and 60 keywords are a good start. You can publish approximately once a week with a list of that length. The Diib® Keyword Research Tool allows you to research the keywords of up to 6 of your most intense competitors. Here is what that tool looks like:
Develop a list of at least 50 keywords
Ubersuggest is a great tool for finding keywords. It is not a backlink checker. But because keywords play such an important part of your overall backlink strategy, it is included here.
Using Ubersuggest to develop your list of keywords to find your competitors will cut down on the time necessary to generate all the keyword ideas for future content that you desire. Bonus tip: Plug these keywords into a content calendar for your site. Here is what a content calendar might look like:
Identify your competitors
Now, using the list of keywords that you developed, it is just a matter of plugging each keyword into Google and seeing what sites appear generically (not the paid ad positions). There will be no more than ten listings on page one. For example, if I type tennis shoes, these are business (competitors) that show up:
Open a blank spreadsheet and enter the URL for each site on page one of the SERP. Do not worry about duplicates at this stage; they will be filtered out in the next step.
Once you have developed your initial list of competitor URLs, remove the duplicates (most spreadsheet programs have this feature). You have now generated your list of competitors on which to do backlink analysis.
Tools that allow you to find your competitors’ backlinks
If you want to know how to check backlinks of competitors for free, then you are going to be a bit disappointed. You want a tool that will still be around a year from now, not just some throwaway lead magnet to an SEO firm’s website, which is intended to get you frustrated enough to hire them to do your SEO for you.
A Google search for the term “free competitor backlink analysis tool” actually yields very disappointing results, as their “free” offerings are not permanently free. Instead, you are given the alternatives to sign up for free trials of the most popular backlink checkers from ahrefs, SEMRUSH, and BuzzSumo.
The ahrefs competitor backlinks tool offers a limited free version, and its paid version is very popular for this type of research. In this case, Ahrefs is a brand name, and not specifically linked to an HTML command. This is what that tool looks like:
SEMRUSH is probably the next most popular tool. You can do your competitor backlink analysis for free, but you are going to have to sit down and do it while you are under the “free trial” period of the better tools on the market. Later, as your site matures, you can decide if you wish to pay for any of these tools.
Garnering backlinks your competitors have
Using ahrefs competitor backlinks tool, or another backlink checker of your choice, you will compile a list of sites that backlink to your competitors and enter them into a spreadsheet.
OK, you have got the list, now what? Now is the time to start attempting to get backlinks from those sites to your sites.
First stop: Social media shares
If you find that most of your competitor backlinks come from social media shares, then your strategy is just going to have to be to write engaging, entertaining, and useful content. You can also see if your competitors have groups devoted to their site, and if so, join the group and observe how they interact with their followers. For example:
Next up: Guest blogging
Guest blogging is at the heart of any backlinking strategy. More than likely, your competitors are generating their backlinks from guest blogging. Guest blogging is writing content for another site in exchange for a link to your website, generally included in the “about the author” bio.
The first place to start is with your list of competitors. See if they have posted any guest contact, or if they have published writer’s guidelines for their site. Even competitors are likely to accept your guest copy because websites absorb content like a sponge; any source of content that you do not have to generate yourself is desirable. Here is how to build a great guest blog request:
After you have checked out your competitors, see where they have written guest posts, and contact those websites as well with ideas for articles. Again, free content is always desirable.
Finally: News releases
If your competitors are receiving a ton of backlinks from news outlets, then they are more than likely issuing regular news releases along with content. There is paid software (PressCable comes to mind) that will blast out your news releases to hundreds of websites with a simple press of the button. Of course, you have to write the news releases as well. This is what the PressCable site looks like:
Strategies for getting backlinks your competitors do not have
This takes brainpower to find other sites relevant to yours that have not already been mined by your competitors for backlinks. One technique is to look for broken backlinks (backlinks leading to 404 not found pages on your competitor site) and contacting the linker and offering them a link to similar content on your site.
The importance of periodic reviews
Page one of the SERP is an ever-shifting landscape. If you’re doing well with evergreen content, and you’re not slipping off of page one, then you will not have to do as many reviews of your data as if you’re still fighting to reach page one.
Reviewing your competitors’ sites periodically will allow you to identify new sources for backlinks and stay in the game for those coveted first page rankings. Here is the Moz Pro competitor research tool:
How to do a periodic review
- Develop a new list of keywords (if desired)
- Extract a list of competitors
- Using your tool of choice, create a second spreadsheet of backlinks
- Turn the text a different color in this second spreadsheet.
- Merge the two spreadsheets, remove duplicates
- You will now be able to visually see the new backlinks by their text color.
Caveats, considerations, and conclusions
Free backlinks are the only sensible option. NEVER buy backlinks. Spammy, irrelevant backlinks are the death knell for SEO. A sound free backlinks strategy is the way to go. You want to control the sources from which your backlinks come as much as possible. In fact, Google will penalize you for backlink schemes, take a look:
The amount of results that appear on the first page of Google is dwindling. This is due to a proliferation of spots taken up by advertisers, which always appear at the top of the page, and Google’s penchant for displaying Videos over text-based content. You may find that you are fighting for very limited real estate. This makes the keywords you decide to compete for of monumental importance.
While ranking for evergreen content is best, getting a quick shot in the arm from some traffic tied to a current or trending topic is not bad either. Just keep in mind that this kind of dated content will not keep you on page one of the SERP forever, and it’s up to you to determine whether or not the effort to research competitor backlinks or the term is worth it.
While building your content using one primary keyword at a time may seem slow, Google indexes your site and finds other related search terms that naturally occur within the text, they are “milder” ranking signals. So while it is best to use only one keyword per article (mostly because you’re going to need hundreds of pieces of content over the life of your website), Google will probably find dozens of keywords within your long-form articles and blog posts.
If you are still struggling for rank, you may wish to hire paid authors to write for you if your content is not up to snuff. Or you can take writing classes. If you are not a native English speaker, it can be rough to get to page one. These are just the facts of the business. Even if you have mastered all the elements of SEO, you will need to produce high-quality content — grammar and spelling still count.
Diib®: Competitive Backlink Analysis Done Right!
Although a free competitor backlink analysis tool may be hard to come by, judicious use of free trials of paid tools can get you the results you desire. With the right keyword choices and the backlinking strategies mentioned above, you can improve the overall SEO of your website for free. Diib offers exhaustive analysis not only of your own backlinks, but those of your top 6 competitors. Here are some of the features of this analytics dashboard you’ll love:
- Keyword and backlink research tools to find what keywords you and your competitors are ranking for and create content around those keywords.
- Key metrics, like bounce rate and returning visitors, for your specific content.
- See how your Facebook page followers like content you share.
- Enjoy a monthly call with one of our growth experts.
Click here for a free 60 second site analysis or call 800-303-3510 to chat with a Growth Expert today!
First, use one of the free tools above to find your competitors most linked content. This will give you a list of websites to begin to build your own backlinks.
Backlinks are still a very effective way to improve your rank and improve the traffic to your website. Your overall SEO hinges a great deal on high quality backlinks. Don’t make the mistake of trying to buy low-quality backlinks, it never works out well.
Generally speaking, a ranking of 60-100 is great, 40-50 is marginal, and anything below 40 isn’t great. If you want to build high quality backlinks you should start by going to websites that have high domain authority and are relevant to your niche.
Building up to 10 backlinks per day is optimal for website traffic. Any more than that will only give you 10 valid do follow backlinks. Quality over quantity.
Backlinks can hurt your website if they are spammy, have low domain authority or low quality. Google uses backlinks as a ranking factor and this can seriously affect your ranking. Additionally, it can earn you a penalty from Google.