Link build­ing can be tough at the best of times, so if there are any ways to shorten this process and find some quick wins then I’m always happy to try them out. I thought I would share some meth­ods that can be used to find rel­e­vant link tar­gets for your web­site. This involves some­thing that any link builder should be aware of: com­pet­i­tive link research.

Com­pet­i­tive link research essen­tially involves look­ing at the link pro­files of your com­peti­tors in order to find oppor­tu­ni­ties for you to build links. In a nut­shell, you’re look­ing at where your com­peti­tors have built links and then tar­get­ing these sites your­self whilst avoid­ing all the hard work that went into acquir­ing them. This could be through find­ing blogs  rel­e­vant to your niche that are tak­ing on guest posts, iden­ti­fy­ing higher qual­ity, rel­e­vant direc­to­ries to sub­mit your site to or by dis­cov­er­ing some really orig­i­nal, unique link build­ing ideas.

Analysing Your Com­peti­tors’ Back Links

There are a num­ber of tools that you can use to scout out the links that are point­ing to your com­peti­tors’ web­sites, but I am going to focus on Majes­tic SEO’s Site Explorer tool and SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer tool. Both of these tools need to be paid for in order to get the best out of them but they will def­i­nitely prove their worth over time.

Majes­tic SEO

Majes­tic SEO has to be my favourite link analy­sis tool and it has helped me to both iden­tify new oppor­tu­ni­ties for links as well as find­ing poten­tial issues with links com­ing into my sites. I have taken a snap­shot of the links to the Wow Inter­net web­site that I have been work­ing on through Majes­tic SEO’s Site Explorer, which we can look at in a bit more detail.

Majestic SEO Links

The first thing I always do is down­load this list to a .csv file so that I can fil­ter through the list of URLs that are link­ing back to the Wow Inter­net web­site. What I’m look­ing for is some sites that are bring­ing in par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful links and ways in which I could pos­si­bly take advan­tage of this.

Remove NoFollows

Once the .csv file has been down­loaded I will need to fil­ter through a few parts of the results. Firstly, I’ll hide all of the links that have been flagged as deleted and then also hide the nofol­low links so that I am only focus­ing on links that are pass­ing PageR­ank through to the web­site. If I then fil­ter the SourceCita­tion­Flow (this is a met­ric used show the qual­ity of the link­ing URL) col­umn in descend­ing order, I can see the higher qual­ity links at the top of the list.

Top Links for Wow Internet

Instantly I can see some poten­tial link­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that com­peti­tors of Wow Inter­net could take advan­tage of. The top link is from a blog arti­cle on the SEO­moz web­site and then the next is from the pro­file link on my SEO­moz account that points back to the Wow Inter­net website.

A guest post on the SEO­moz blog can pro­vide a web­site within my indus­try with one of the most valu­able links pos­si­ble. Now this is old news to many of you within the online mar­ket­ing indus­try but when you look at the sec­ond link (the pro­file link on my SEO­moz account) you will see that the ‘nofol­low’ has been removed from the link. The rea­son for this is that I have over 200 ‘Moz­Points’ on my account, which I gained by sim­ply answer­ing ques­tions on the forum and com­ment­ing on the blogs, etc. This could be a quick win toward your link build­ing if you are already pay­ing for your SEO­moz sub­scrip­tion. You will find that there are many instances of this in other niches among high pro­file com­mu­nity sites.

The third link is from a tes­ti­mo­nial that I wrote on the Word­Stream web­site after using their prod­uct. This rep­re­sents one of the best links going back to the Wow Inter­net web­site and can be a great strat­egy toward devel­op­ing links to any web­site. At the end of the day, every­one wants to good PR for their busi­ness. Just from a quick cou­ple of min­utes of scan­ning through the link­ing pro­file of the site it is clear to see that there are many oppor­tu­ni­ties that can arise from car­ry­ing this research out.

Open Site Explorer

For those of you who pre­fer SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer then you are able to do a sim­i­lar task. If I take a look at a com­peti­tor of the Wow Inter­net web­site then I can see this same type of analy­sis from a dif­fer­ent point of view.

Open Site Explorer Filters

Open Site Explorer has some handy fil­ter­ing options that mean you don’t always need to down­load to a .csv to get the best from the results; how­ever, I would rec­om­mend doing so. Through the fil­ter­ing options within OSE I’m able to drill down on only fol­lowed links from exter­nal sites and it’s also pos­si­ble to group the links by domain, which is a par­tic­u­larly handy option. We can then sort the results by domain/page author­ity to see the high­est qual­ity links going to the site.

Open Site Explorer

Tak­ing an instant look at some of the links that this web­site has, I have noticed that the top result goes to an open source SEO tool project where you can donate money toward the project and receive a list­ing on the ‘dona­tions’ page. This page has a page author­ity of 63 and a domain author­ity of 62 so it could be a quick and valu­able link prospect that would only need me to donate a bit of cash toward a good project. Win!

Another link that I have noticed is an SEO/web design-specific online direc­tory that I could add the Wow Inter­net web­site to in order to get an extra back link from a related web­site. Online direc­to­ries shouldn’t be relied on for links, but if they are niche rel­e­vant then they can cer­tainly be quite helpful.

What You Should Be Look­ing For

Hav­ing access to all of this data is invalu­able toward build­ing an effec­tive link build­ing cam­paign. It allows you to under­stand what your com­peti­tors are doing and gain some quick insights into how to build some extra links. Hav­ing said this, just because your com­peti­tors are flood­ing blogs with spammy com­ments, doesn’t mean you should be doing it as well. Try to look for guest blog­ging oppor­tu­ni­ties by find­ing links that your com­peti­tors have gained by doing all the ini­tial out­reach ground­work and you’re sure to reap the rewards. Also, try and look for some of the more orig­i­nal ideas for back links, such as the Word­Stream review that the Wow Inter­net site had and the dona­tion page link that one of the com­peti­tors had. This is where you will find some real gold.

Also, keep in mind that your com­peti­tors may well be doing the same as you so keep ahead of the game and always be on the look­out for orig­i­nal link build­ing ideas. On top of this, try to focus on build­ing links that are hard to repli­cate by build­ing social com­mu­ni­ties or tak­ing advan­tage of offline rela­tion­ships. Either way, always keep an eye on your competition!


Post By Matt Barby (1 Posts)

Matthew Barby heads the SEO and social media divi­sion at Birmingham-based online mar­ket­ing com­pany, Wow Inter­net. He reg­u­larly blogs on the Wow Inter­net Blog and his per­sonal SEO blog about many dif­fer­ent aspects of online mar­ket­ing. You can get in touch with Matthew via or on Twit­ter.

Web­site: →


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12 Responses to Finding Link Building Opportunities with Competitive Link Research

  1. David says:

    Good post Matt.

    The one thing I usu­ally expand on when giv­ing this advice is the level of cau­tion need in regards which links you copy. I’ve seen it the past where peo­ple naively assume that because a com­peti­tor is rank­ing then their links must be gold (cue months of copy­ing the spammy links which will inevitably get the com­peti­tor penalised).

    Good com­peti­tor link research should always come with a dol­lop of com­mon sense (i.e if you wouldn’t nor­mally go after this link, don’t go after it just because a com­peti­tor has it)



    • Hi David,

      I have to com­pletely agree with you there. I think that com­pet­i­tive link research can actu­ally have a neg­a­tive effect if not done cor­rectly. If you’re going through and copy­ing all of those dodgey links going to your com­peti­tors then you’re ask­ing for trouble.

      Hav­ing said that, you can find some fan­tas­tic link build­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties this way.



  2. Victor Pan says:

    I use a very sim­i­lar work­flow when­ever it comes to data analy­sis. Until a bet­ter tool comes about, Excel seems to be the default go-to sand­box for SEO’s.

    We’re hon­ored to be men­tioned once more.

    Keep the good stuff flow­ing Matt, and don’t for­get to add in a link to that Word­Stream case study in case some­one wants the full details on how you got a link from us ;)


    • Hi Vic­tor,

      Appre­ci­ate the feed­back. I’ve been recently using the SEO Tools Excel plu­gin by Neils Bosma link here and this has been an absolute rev­e­la­tion toward com­pet­i­tive link analy­sis. If you haven’t checked it out, make sure you give it a quick download.

      Also, will make sure I get that linked up.

      Have a good week­end Victor!


  3. Hi Matt — It is very use­ful to analyse our com­peti­tors and copy their sources of link behav­ior but be care­ful. I agree with David you need to analyse each link against the prin­ci­ples of rel­e­vancy and author­ity. Rel­e­vancy to con­tent and keywords/ anchor text always rewards you.


    • Hi Vin­cent,

      Thanks for your com­ments. I agree, like I said in the arti­cle, you must be care­ful with what you are act­ing up here. This method should be used to under­stand and iden­tify pos­si­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties and it can often lead on to some really good finds.



  4. ReSEOlve says:

    Nice post I am look­ing for new ways to build up my link build­ing pro­file and get­ting use to excel is a great resource to pin down the best web­sites to tar­get and build­ing them relationships.


  5. Hi Matt — do you have any tools where you might get a list of 10 com­peti­tors list of back links and then com­pare them to see if they have dif­fer­ent sources in com­mon with each other?


  6. Hi Steve, I’m not sure about 10 com­peti­tors but you can use SEOmoz’s Link Inter­sect Tool to do this with 5 competitors.

    Hope that helps!



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