When I get given a new website to work on, one of the first things I like to do is scrape and sieve through their competitors’ backlinks.
As well as flagging relevant prospects you might be able to get links from for the new prospect, it also give you a really good feel of the kind of natural links and forced link building strategies that exist in the field you’re about to start toiling in.
To manually put each site into OSE or Majestic can take a lot of time and isn’t a very thorough means of working.
(Some of the best links are buried deep in backlink reports and can be easy to overlook when you’ve been at the grindstone all day.)
Here is how I quickly scrape and sieve through my competitors’ backlink profile when I begin link building projects.
A lot of the techniques here are borrowed from Ontolo’s link building video series. If you’ve not seen these and you’re interested in link building, I recommend you clear a few hours in your schedule and watch them as soon as possible.
Firstly, you need a list of your site’s competitors.
Look who is ranking for all the terms you are optimising for as well as many relevant, related terms that you come up with.
I normally like to cherry pick the sites I want here, but if you want to get everything quickly you can use the scraper tool to take the SERP result pages to a Google Doc.
Tip: If you work in an agency, always ask your client who their offline competitors are as well as online.
Do not dismiss competitors who aren’t actively optimising their site. Often, the links to their site have all occurred naturally and, from my experience, are an opportunity that has not yet been mined by other SEOs.
Next you need to need a comprehensive list of all of these sites’ backlinks.
To get this data, you’ll need Majestic or OSE, both of which require paid subscriptions. Personally, I prefer to use Majestic as I find it casts its net a little wider than OSE.
(Although this does mean you’ll have to wade through a lot more gumpf.)
Export each of your competitor sites’ backlinks to CSV and then stack them on top of each other.
Make sure you remember to delete the top line from each of the exports when you are stacking them.
(This is important for when you remove duplicate URLs in step 4.)
Now you know who is linking to all your competitors, you should have a tens of thousands of linking domains.
As you can imagine, a lot of domains will occur more than once. We need to remove these if we want to save time when sieving through them.
To do this, you need to use Ontolo’s Remove Duplicates tool, which is free.
Copy and paste your prospects into the tool and click remove duplicates.
This will give you a new list of domains that only occur once. Copy this back into Excel.
Next we need to actually review the sites to see which are worth looking into and which we can discard.
To copy each each url in manually to the browser would take an age and be mind numbingly tedious.
This also makes it easier to organise my time. For example, if I have 9 hours to work on a site I can spend 3 hours sieving through opportunities, 3 hours making the outreach and then 3 hours following up.
That’s it then, chasing your competitors backlinks is just one string of your bow; however, it’s generally a pretty good place to start and get ideas.
I appreciate not everyone will have access to the paid tools here, so if anyone can suggest alternatives or has any other tips they’d like to add, please leave them in the comment below!