3 Steps to Analyze and Copy Your Competitor’s BacklinksPosted by Ben Sibley on Aug 27, 2011 | 30 comments
There is a philosophy for ranking webpages in the search engines referred to as “match and exceed.” The idea is that you get all of the same backlinks as you competitors, and then build more to surpass them in the search engines. It is hard to apply this cleanly and it ends up being a bit more haphazard in practice than in theory. However, the general process is quite effective and actionable.
You won’t be able to get all the exact same links, but you can replicate many of the links you can’t get with similar links on similar sites. What’s more, if you feel like you’re at a dead end with your link building on a page of yours, this is a great way to get tons of new places and ideas for building links. You never know exactly what you’ll find and you might even catch onto a trick your competitor is using. Plus, it’s always fun to get deep into your own research
Step 1: Finding Those Backlinks Outranking You
A lot of people (myself included) use SEO Quake to spy on competitors and analyze backlinks. However, this is a case where we want to get really in-depth with our analysis and use a program that is a little more stable, reliable, and easier to organize. I recommend the free version of SEO Spyglass which will find up to 1,100 of your competitor’s backlinks. For many cases, 1,100 is enough to find them all, but you might want to consider investing in the full version as well so you can find more and save your reports for later too. Using SEO Spyglass is pretty self-explanatory, just boot it up and choose one of your competitor’s websites to spy on. Let it find all the links and then have it find all the relevant details for each backlink. Once it’s done with that, you’ll have a page like this ready to use:
This is a display of all (or first 1,100) your competitor’s backlinks and a number of metrics for each link.
Step 2: Organize Your Analysis
We have all these backlinks to copy! Our next move is to organize them in an intelligent and practical manner. Since we are concerned only with SEO value, we will organize th
eir links by “dofollow” and only concern ourselves with these links. The other backlinks should certainly be checked out as you might be missing out on some good traffic sources, but that is all they will be, traffic sources. For now, we’ll concentrate entirely on SEO value and just look at the dofollow links:
The best part as that we can see if anchor text is allowable or not before we even visit the link. We also won’t have to waste anytime on anchor text links that get nofollowed like our competition did.
Here comes the fun part…
Step 3: Copying Your Competitor’s Links
There are some types of backlinks that are very easy to copy, such as
- blog comments
- profile links
- directory links
- social bookmarks
It’s pretty satisfying heading from site to site and copying a competitor’s links when they’re as easy as leaving a comment.
NOTE: When leaving blog comments, make sure to follow suit with the way everyone else is linking. If none of the approved comments have keywords in them then don’t use yours. Every once in a while you may be able to use a keyword when your competitor neglected to do so (thanks for finding this link for me, now let me get more value from it than you ).
Some backlinks such as forum profile links and directory links, while easy to copy, might just be the kinds of links better left to your competitor in these post-Panda days. You’ll also find harder to copy links such as guest posts. However, there’s no reason why you can’t do a guest post for the exact same blog. Promote yours a bit more and if the blog has gotten more popular since your competitor posted, you might stand to get a link on the same site that passes more juice.
The type of link that is always the most interesting to analyze are the root domain backlinks. Sometimes these will come from sidebar widgets like a “most recent post”. In which case, you can often make a coupleposts and bump off your competitor. Otherwise, these backlinks are usually of great value and relatively difficult to get for one or both of the following reasons:
- They are difficult to find
- The webmaster is unlikely to give you a link
You don’t know who your competitor has already contacted about getting a link and whether or not his/her practice was effective. What you do know is where they DID get a link. Hopefully, your competitor didn’t have to jump through hoops to get it and it was simply a site that had to be found. This means they did all the heavy lifting for finding it, and you can just get your link posted too which is usually pretty easy. It often only requires a quick email with a request.
Match and Exceed
Competitive analysis is always a good idea and using your competitors own backlinks is a great strategy for increasing your rank. After all, if they’re already ranking with these links, you can surely outrank them with their links AND yours. You can repeat this strategy for every site in the top 10 or even top 100 competing for your keyword.
BONUS TIP: You can use this same strategy for sites ranking for synonyms or related terms to your keyword. Their link sources will still be extremely relevant to you.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to take what you find in the backlink checkers with a grain of salt. You can’t see all of your competitors’ backlinks and you never will. In fact, there are steps you can take to hide your backlinks further and make sure your competition never knows about them.
Check out my post on how to disguise and hide your links to make sure your competition is completely confused when analyzing backlinks.